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Panaji, UMOJA, an online travel platform for accessible travel

(UNI): The event would include water sports for wheelchair users such as aquatic beach chair, beach bowling, wheelchair cricket, kite flying, sand castle competitions, and wheelchair dancing. Yeshwant Holkar, Co-Founder and CEO, UMOJA, said, ''We have always believed that every individual has equal right to access public spaces. Enjoying a day at the beach along with family should be possible for everyone irrespective of whether such people are differently-abled. Together with our partners, we are working to turn this into a reality by collaborating with the Government of India and other local partners.'' Ms Anuradha Joshi, State Commissioner Disabilities, Government of Goa, said, ''As India's leading state in socio-economic development nationwide, we have always supported every initiative which endeavours to provide differently-abled individuals their rightful position in our society. The Office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities fully supports the aim of BeachFest to provide an inclusive experience for the differently-abled to enjoy the beaches of Goa with their families. We hope this event will serve as a model that can be replicated across the state and country, and our office will fully support any such initiatives.'' Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) General Manager Gavin Dias said, GTDC is happy to partner with UMOJA on this pioneering initiative to develop Goa as India's premier destination for accessible travel. BeachFest will act as a pilot to study how beaches and the surrounding environment can be made more accessible to differently-abled individuals and their families. This pioneering approach that can emerge as a model for Goa and be replicated in other states as well. Disability Rights Association of Goa President Avelino de Sa said being differently-abled does not mean differential treatment in terms of access to public spaces. ''Since long, we have tolerated discrimination in terms of access to public spaces. It is our earnest hope that this novel initiative will bring about a societal change towards addressing this important issue. As it is an unique event happening for the first time in Goa where there will be sports and entertainment for wheel chair users we appeal to all wheelchair users to attend the event and make it a grand success as it would help in putting forth our demand to make public places accessible to wheel-chair users. Frederika Menezes, author and wheelchair user, said, ''It is heartening to know that an initiative is being spearheaded towards unchaining our differently-abled brethren through easier access to public spaces such as beaches. This novel initiative will strengthen them from within towards breaking down societal barriers and reaching their true potential in life.''
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