Jordan, accessible for all
This smiling girl in the photo is called Aya Aghabi. She lives in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Aya is an experienced traveler, she has visited many countries including the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and has had several years of life in different places like Europe and the United States. Aya literally "wheels" around the world and across her native Jordan, trying to make this country friendlier for tourists using wheelchairs.
“My name is Aya Aghabi. I am the type of person who loves to go out and discover new places around Jordan with friends and family. In 2009, I was in a car accident that left me with a physical disability and that's when I realized the lack of accessibility and accessibility resources in Jordan. Every time I wanted to go out in Amman, it became a hassle to try and find a place that is accessible and I would have to call place after place to ask if they have stairs, ramps or elevators. There was nowhere I could look online to find out the accessibility of places. I would sit on my laptop for an hour going through Google images of places to figure out if they are accessible or not…”
Not long ago, Aya launched her own website called Accessible Jordan, where she collects information on tourist places that travelers with special needs can visit. Jordan is full with sights of world importance - there is tan ancient city of Petra, hidden in the rocks, and the "eastern Pompeii" - the lost Roman ruins of Jerash, the black pearl of Umm al-Jimal, and numerous citadels and amphitheaters, and the majestic red desert of Wadi Ram, more than once served as a backdrop for the Martian chronicles of Hollywood directors, and Mount Nebo, and the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea - all and not to list!
However, all these places can not be called easily accessible if at the disposal of the traveler instead of a comfortable car - on four wheels.
"Imagine what a challenge the journey around Jordan is for a person using a wheelchair," Aya said in an interview with Globe4all. "I'm just one of many people in the country who face this problem every day. Many tourist attractions, especially archaeological sites, are inaccessible in Jordan, but in fact, there are some places that you can visit. Accessible Jordan is an initiative that I launched to help find places that are accessible for people with physical disabilities, elderly citizens, parents who use strollers for their babies and more. The aim is to support businesses and organizations that do take into consideration accessibility and inclusiveness and at the same time, raise awareness about the lack of accessibility in Jordan and how we can easily solve this issue as a community. I am also developing an accessible tourism guide through Accessible Jordan to help tourists plan their trips around Jordan.”
Aya Aghabi: “My hope is that this website encourages the Jordanian government and all business owners to work on the accessibility of spaces to make Jordan inclusive for all people. I also hope that this website will make it easier for people with disabilities from all around the world to come and visit Jordan”
Aya says that the project is very much helped by social networks, volunteers and caring people who send her information and photos of places accessible to people using wheelchairs.
"I have been to so many places in Amman so far and have also been able to visit Madaba (this city, 35 kilometers from the capital of the country, was founded more than 4,5 thousand years ago, it is famous for its mosaics and Christian churches - ed.), I spend a lot of time in Madaba, I love the historical sites there and the great food. I also visited the Dead Sea, and Jalad. The Citadel in Amman also has a breathtaking view of the city that I love experiencing at various times of the day. I’m hoping to be able to visit all the major tourist destinations to create a complete accessible tourism guide.”
Three questions for Aya Aghabi from Globe4all:
- What impressed you most of all in other countries?
- I think living and visiting more developed countries like Germany and the United States opened my eyes to the importance of universal design and accessibility. I learned a lot about different options and designs that make it easier for people with mobility impairments to live a normal life and be productive members of society.
- What lifehacks or technical means help you while travelling (maybe, you could recommend useful mobile applications or websites)?
- It’s always helpful to join accessible travel groups on social media and get input from people who have already visited the places you want to travel to or connect with locals who can recommend hidden gems that not all tourists know about!
- Would you like to visit Russia someday?
- I would love that!
Follow Accessible Jordan project and Aya Aghabi on Facebook
Accessible Jordan on Instagram