On July 20th, 2018, I had the privilege of joining the Majd Initiative on a trip to assess the accessibility of Petra for people of all abilities. The group was made up of 40 participants from Amman, 20 of which had various disabilities ranging from visual impairment to limited mobility and 20 volunteers to assist when needed. The idea of this trip was to get feedback from all the different participants on how their experience in Petra can be improved depending on their abilities. This was the first trip planned from a total of three. The next two trips will be for groups from Zarqa and Irbid.
Before I tell you about the day we spent in Petra, I want to introduce you to the Majd Initiative. The Majd Initiative, founded by Abdel Rahman Salameh, is an initiative launched in honor of a little girl who had muscular dystrophy and was refused admission to school, and later passed away during a surgery to treat her disability. Abdul Rahman decided to launch an initiative in her honor that will focus on promoting accessible tourism for people with disabilities in Jordan and work with interested parties to improve accessibility in tourism sites so all people can enjoy the experiences Jordan has to offer.
I met with the group at the Petra Visitor Center were arrangements were made to facilitate the trip. I was happy to learn that the museum on the site was wheelchair accessible and the Visitor Center had several accessible bathrooms available, which is something not very common in Jordan. To reach the treasury, participants were given the option of riding golf carts that would drive them through the Siq directly to the Treasury. Unfortunately, the golf carts are not wheelchair accessible and some of the participants needed to be carried on to them and have their wheelchairs stowed in the back of the cart.
I opted out of riding the golf carts to have the full experience of the Siq and walk to the Treasury. Even though it was a rough journey, it was definitely worth it. The terrain to the treasury varied in difficulty. I had someone with me at all times pushing me because the pathway varied in its composition. At some points, it was paved and easy to be pushed on but at other points it was soft sand or huge rocks that needed extra strength to get through or be lifted over.
However, with the assistance available, we were able to reach the Treasury! For many of the participants, this was a first time experience and they were so happy to finally be able to see their country’s world wonder that people from all over the travel to Jordan to see.
Accessible Jordan has partnered up with the Majd Initiative to write a report based on the reviews and recommendations of all three groups’ participants on how to improve the accessibility and experience of Petra for all people. This report will be presented to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Higher Council on the Rights of People with Disabilities so they can take the necessary next steps to make Petra accessible for all.
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