What are the problems that inclusive tourism faces in Russia? Can we use the experience from Europe and Nepal? And how can a visually impaired tourist travel to Kamchatka? This is what we will cover in the interview with Renat and Nadezhda Anpilogov, the authors of the Globe4all web-portal.
Renat and Nadezhda met in Kursk, and it was there where the very idea of the project was born. That time Renat was offered to take the role of the deputy director for education in Kursk Music College for visually impaired. Organizing concerts, escorting musicians for the performances across Russian cities, giving sightseeing tours in St. Petersburg for the visually impaired musicians — Renat did all this and went deep into the tough work with visually impaired creative teenagers. On the other side, there was Nadezhda and her grandpa who, due to his illness, had to move around in a wheelchair and couldn’t go out. In order to pull the wheelchair down from the 2ndfloor you had to find a couple of strong men to help. That is why the grandpa usually walked, as Nadezhda says, by the open window.
“I guess, then we realized that there were very few activities accessible for the people with disabilities in Russia. Later, when we first went to Israel, we saw the streets that were a lot narrower than in Russia, especially because of all those street markets spread around in almost each and every alley. There were stairs and doorsteps all around, meanwhile people in the wheelchairs moved around Jerusalem easily. Then we went to Barcelona and at first couldn’t imagine the purpose of all those little glass towers built everywhere. The towers turned out to be elevators to Subway convenient for people in wheelchairs. And we gathered a lot of such stories and observations during our trips”, Renat Anpilogov concludes.
While frequently travelling to new countries, the couple decided to create a web-site aimed to describe how to travel around the world for the bright and exciting emotions. First they shared their stories and experiences with non-disabled viewers. Later, after watching how the level of accessibility for the people with disabilities differs from country to country, they began publishing articles that could be helpful for the travelers with disabilities as well. This was the beginning of the Globe4all (or “The world for everybody”) web-portal for the accessible and inclusive tourism.
The photo features the test of the touristic route named “The paths of the Victory” in Leningradskaya Oblast.
Audio description: group photo in color. Gloomy day. 7 people are standing in front of the Great Patriotic War memorial, all are smiling. There are 3 girls in the front row in wheelchairs. The rest are standing behind, and Renat and Nadezhda are among them. Everybody is wearing warm jackets, hats; some even have their hoods on. Behind the group there can be seen the small stairs and the cube-shaped Memorial with the commemorative inscription and bas-relief. There are some trees with naked brunches around the Memorial, and far in the distance the pine forest is seen.
“In other countries we often saw people with disabilities — happy, surrounded by the family or just travelling with their close ones. In Kursk, and in Russia in general, the picture was so different. During my 4 years as the journalist of the local newspaper I saw only negative things. People with disabilities came to complain, to tell how bad it was for them. In 4 years — not a single article, where the main character of the story could tell me “yes, I managed to overcome the obstacles and achieved something”. Not to mention travels. That moment Renat and I decided that on our web-site we would not only publish the information about accessible tourism, but also share the stories from people with disabilities, who could leave all the barriers behind, went out and flew to see the world’, Nadezhda Anpilogova tells.
The project developed step by step. The couple constantly needed money for everything — for the web-site development, its support, publishing columns, making new ideas come true. Renat and Nadezhda sourced them from their family budget, and each time they run out of money, the project got almost frozen. Despite the limited budget the guys continued to get more and more experience and knowledge about accessible tourism. They travelled to new countries, studied the information about most accessible cities and participated in the international conferences on inclusive tourism. The Globe4all pages got filled in with new articles and life-hacks for the travelers with disabilities, and the project attracted the attention of more and more people.
“We understood that our life-hacks could be interesting for people with disabilities. Still, that was not enough to encourage them to get over themselves, go out and set on a journey to another country. For this we needed true bright stories from those people, who lived an active life, travelled, did skydiving, flew the hang glider and could go far anywhere in the world because they had managed to get beyond their borders. We began to invite such people to cooperate with us. This is how we got Marina Kozikova in our team — she is a writer and a wheelchair traveler, who got all the possible prizes at dancing competitions and visited dozens of countries. And Evgenia Malushko, too, who is sightless, but actively leads a number of social projects and spends more time flying to different countries and business trips than at home. We are sometimes surprised by her activity. We call Zhenya — she is in Sochi, but then is going to regatta in Finsky bay, and now she is already diving in the ice-hole in Yekaterinburg. We ask her — hey, and when we gonna work?” Nadezhda laughs.
One of the most important stages that the web-portal went through was winning the competition organized by The Russian Association for the Disabled. That moment the Globe4all creators made sure their web-site is needed and appreciated by the disabled people.
Time passed and soon the web-portal started offering not only life-hacks and stories from the experienced travelers with disabilities, but also accessible tourism products.
“The main goal of the project is to allow those, who can offer an inclusive tourism service (like, a sightseeing tour for people with disabilities), and those seeking for such a service meet each other. Moreover, now we are sure, that if you are preparing a sightseeing trip for the disabled, you need to invite the disabled tourists to participate in the very creation of the trip, since they will walk the whole route themselves and point out all the problem areas. Same, adapting the museums for visually impaired people requires cooperation with the visually impaired people. This is the only way to create a quality inclusive product”, says Renat.
The portal also lists the products that were fully created and built by the people with disabilities. “There is a great project by Svetlana Nigmatullina named ‘The dream travel’. She moves in a wheelchair and she is fond of travelling herself, so she was able to create high-quality touristic routs to explore Kaliningradskaya Oblast. Since she knows herself all the needs and particularities of a trip for the disabled, she made the travel to Curonian Spit, excursions around Kaliningrad, visits to Cathedral’s organ concerts and museums accessible for the tourists with special needs”, tells Renat.
EXPO 2020 in Dubai
The photo shows Renat and Nadezhda in the EXPO Live summit in Dubai.
Audio description: photo in color. Renat and Nadezhda are making selfie in front of the white stand with logotypes and black scripture in English, saying “Global Innovation summit. Passion meets Capabilities”. Renat is wearing blue suit jacket and white shirt, Nadezhda is dressed in blue jacket and blue blouse. Both are wearing glasses and smiling.
In 2018 Renat and Nadezhda learnt about EXPO Live — the program of the World EXPO-2020 in Dubai, which was designed to support social entrepreneurs — and decided to take a risk and apply. The number of applicants, who desired to share their experience with the world community, was huge, but Globe4all was shortlisted for the finals. Renat was invited to Dubai to present the project.
Nadezhda admits that this fact was both exciting and stressful. The project must be presented in English, and during this presentation there might appear complicated questions from the jury, while Renat was not that good in English.
“I built my presentation in Russian, and Nadya, who knows English brilliantly, translated my extensive sentences. I learnt my speech by heart and went to Dubai”, — says Renat.
It was quite a worrying experience, but the jury was impressed by the idea of the project and the amount of work already done, so Renat came back home with the development grant and the invitation to participate in EXPO-2020 in Dubai. Globe4all got the chance to attract new people into the project and ensure further growth.
Today the Globe4all web-portal for the inclusive tourism aggregates articles, interviews and life-hacks from the travelers with disabilities. Everyday news from around the world and from Russia specifically is published there, touching upon the topic of the inclusive tourism. Besides, this is a platform to provide inclusive services, excursions and trips, accessible for all. For instance, a sightless tourist can book a sightseeing tour in St.Petersburg, Budapest or Prague, and a traveler in a wheelchair can go sightseeing to Poland, accompanied by the Globe4all associates from Warsaw. Today the portal lists dozens of accessible excursions around the world, and literally everybody can enjoy the services, as the portal exists in Russian and in English.
Kamchatka for all
The Globe4all team is also supporting custom inclusive tours. In September Renat and Nadezhda will send a group of tourists to the associate partner — touristic club “Wolverin” — to conquer Kamchatka volcanos and relax on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
“Last year the group of tourists with disabilities from Volgograd traveled to Kamchatka. This is a harsh, almost inaccessible land, still one of the most beautiful Russian regions. With the support of Alexander Meschankin, the establisher of the one and only accessible camping base in Kamchatka, the guys in wheelchairs and with prostheses had a chance not only to look at the volcanos from aside, but actually climb them”, shares Renat.
And Nadezhda adds: “This year we hope to reproduce the achievements of our colleagues and send a new inclusive group to Kamchatka. Everyone from the group will be able to see this wild and spectacular land. The tourists will go up the hills, fish, take a boat trip, step on the beach with black volcano sand and swim in the Pacific Ocean. This trip will show them the treasures of Kamchatka: they will eat enough of the local treats — caviar and crab, and they might even see the bears fishing!”
Currently the portal is looking for the participants. The trip costs 70 thousand rubles, and according to the feedbacks from the travelers from Volgograd, Taganrog and other cities, who visited Kamchatka last year, it is worth every ruble. You can learn how they managed to conquer the wild Kamchatka in the movie called “Social tourism: 1+1”.
“The travelers often say that at least once in a life you have to see all the Seven Wonders of the World and visit Paris or Lake Baikal. Kamchatka is a place with tremendous energy and mesmerizing beauty, almost as good as the Wonders of the World, but until last year it was hardly accessible for travelers with disabilities. Alexander carefully worked on all the nuances of a comfortable journey: there are cozy cottages, designed for people with disabilities, cars with extreme off-road abilities and volunteers ready to help tourists”, tells Renat.
Inclusivity and future plans
Audio description: photo in color. Gloomy day. The picture shows the Pisa Cathedral and in front of it — a pillar with colorful pointers showing the directions towards cashier, toilet, book store, Camposanto necropolis. The “Toilet” and ‘Camposanto Necropolis" pointers feature pictograms depicting a person in a wheelchair. Part of the three-tiered Cathedral is covered with scaffolding.
Barcelona, Dubai and San-Marino are ones of the most accessible cities that Renat and Nadezhda have seen during their travels. “While travelling in Europe we realized, that even some of the narrowest streets, medieval castles and fortress towers with spiral staircases can be accessible. Although the majority of the objects belong to UNESCO World Heritage list, they still get adapted for the visitors with disabilities via ramps, lifts, audio guides, plates with descriptions in Braille and tactile models, while in Russia the main excuse for not doing anything same is the belief that the face of a historical building shouldn’t be corrupted. But for some reason Europe is okay with it. Sometimes we learnt truly unbelievable examples of the accessible routes. Let’s take Nepal, which is, by the way, one of the most mountainous countries in the world — there exists the very first accessible tracking route. And a travel agency in Katmandu offers its assistance in organizing an inclusive tour to Katmandu’s nature parks and to the mountains, of course. But it would be fair to mention, that more and more of the accessible touristic destinations appear in our country as well”, Renat Anpilogov admits.
The creators of Globe4all portal mention, that architectural accessibility is an important thing for a touristic route for people with disabilities, but not the main one actually. They say, that personal desire for change is what matters the most. Yes, it means stepping out of your comfort zone, but it also brings you to greater heights and independence from the circumstances. In practice, even the most difficult routs resign to a man in a wheelchair or a visually impaired traveler, and it happens mostly because of the travelers themselves and their irresistible desire to do it.
“Today a lot of options of accessible tourism exist in many countries of the world. The issue here is that many people with disabilities aren’t even aware that it is quite possible to travel in a wheelchair across Poland or Nepal or that a lot of museums in the world do provide tactile models for the sightless visitors. The social tourism business is growing bigger and bigger, ready to offer accessible tours. The Globe4all portal aims to become a bridge, an informational marketplace, where everybody could find his or her dream tour. There is a lot to be done still; now we plan to develop a mobile application for tourists with disabilities.
Our dream is to see the whole world using our portal. For example, a person from India could easily access our web-site and book a travel to Machu Picchu in Peru. Foreign travelers would be able to travel to Lake Baikal or Kamchatka, and Russian citizens would go to accessible excursions in Europe, Asia and America”, Renat Anpilogov concludes.