A break from work, a holiday, or a simple day trip, are important to our lives, giving us something to look forward to. People born with a physical limitation, activities such as traveling abroad, exploring nature, going on a hike or to the beach, are not as trivial as they are to most of us. Puzzle Israel has a fun and professional solution of making Israel accessible to all.
There are numerous children and adults dealing with different kinds of physical challenges that vary in severity, and affect their daily lives. Over recent years, awareness of their particular needs has grown tremendously and many establishments offer suitable support to those who need it. There have been advancements in providing proper accessibility solutions for wheelchair users in public spaces, developing special computer programs, providing better and more suitable personal assistance, special dietary options, and much more. However, advancements are yet to be made in the field of tourism. Many travel companies still lack the logistics, professional manpower, special gear, and dietary solutions, to handle the physically challenged desired specifications.
Nitzan Margalit, who has been working for many years with the physically challenged at Etgarim (Israel Association for the Disabled), points out, “Society has a tendency to underestimate and overprotect these individuals, creating situations that prevent them from accessing the world like everyone else. We believe nature possesses an essential restorative effect for all people, and should be easily accessible for the physically challenged so that they too can enjoy the outdoors. This would be much more valuable for them than remaining indoors.”
However, Nitzan also adds, “Society’s awareness of the physically challenged abilities and need to develop and be more exposed to the outside world, has grown over the past decade. Until recently, any place that was not properly paved, or had narrow passageways, was not particularly accessible to people with a wheelchair or for people with an assortment of other disabilities. The design of logistical solutions for outdoor activities for the disabled is a growing field.” Nitzan explains, “There are new special devices which enable disabled people to go anywhere and do almost anything they wish.”
Puzzle Israel has collaborated with Ziv Demeter, a logistics professional, who has been working with people with special needs for the past 6 years, to provide a unique way of traveling with one or more physically disabled family/group members.
Ziv has worked with a variety of people with disabilities, helping them accomplish activities that would otherwise be impossible without assistance. Over the years he identified the growing need to provide solutions in making the outdoors more accessible. Ziv purchased several specially designed wheelchairs suitable for hiking on non-paved paths and narrow spaces. Together with Etgarim and these special wheelchairs, Ziv lead a group of physically challenged participants on a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
Ziv points out that there are many benefits when traveling with the physically challenged, especially in Israel. “There are many open-to-the-public spaces that allow wandering in the vast nature. The paths are well marked and mapped (Israel is 4th in the world), and this provides a great deal of flexibility when designing a trip that includes special needs participants.”
Netanel Yehuda, has been in a wheel chair his entire life. He suffers from SMA (Spinal muscular atrophy) but does not allow his disability to hold him back. Netanel had served in the Israeli army, traveled abroad, and today manages to experience many things that in the past were unavailable to him. For Netanel the implications of being able to travel abroad and experience exiting new activities, are extremely important and have a great impact on him, especially when in a relationship with a person who is not physically limited, “you want to have the possibility to travel and do things outside of your ‘comfort zone’ where everything is adjusted to your physical needs. In the past, I could only go on a date to a restaurant, but now, I can plan a trip with my girlfriend abroad, as well as enjoy exciting new activities in my own country.” He adds, “My plan is to help Puzzle provide innovative accessible tours, offering new services that include a fun new way of experiencing the outdoors, the way I dream for myself.”
Planning a special trip for the physically disabled has to be done with great care and professionalism. When planning a trip, it is essential to envision the tour through the eyes of the disabled. Nitzan, Netanel, and Ziv explain, “Even before we face the physical obstacles of the trip, we face the mental obstacles. Some of these people have great difficulty leaving their comfort zone, including leaving their familiar indoor environment, or even being lifted out of their wheelchair.” Netanel adds, “It is like being in the passenger’s seat in the car and allowing yourself to relax the entire ride while someone else is driving, knowing that the driver is in control. This is very difficult to do at first.” This is why expectations are coordinated in advance between the participants and the Puzzle team. Ziv notes, “It is important to explain to the disabled participants what is planned for the trip. When the physically challenged are out of their comfort zone it is paramount to avoid situations of uncertainty which can bring to stressful feelings, such as panic, along the way. The more extreme the trip is, the more important it is to prepare the travelers for the potential circumstances that may occur during the excursion. In addition, the type of trip planned determines the number of supportive team members and the costs of the tour. All these calculations must be taken into account during the planning stages of the trip.”
Puzzle Israel and Ziv Demeter are excited to offer a pioneering tourism experience particularly tailored for those with special needs. We will proficiently design every excursion according to the individual requirements and requests of each customer, and deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience of the innovative and exciting world of accessible tourism in Israel.