Enhancing travel for people with special needs


A wheelchair accessible van is part of Ace Altair Travels’ Travel Assist services for disabled travellers

WHO Incorporated in June 2004, Ace Altair Travels is licensed with the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism to conduct inbound, outbound and ticketing operations. The Kuala Lumpur-based firm boasts a central location at The AmpWalk in Jalan Ampang, attracting a lot of walk-in customers from the surrounding offices, residences and diplomatic communities in the area.

WHAT In January 2013, Ace Altair Travels expanded its range of inbound tour services to include travel products catering to the disabled and the elderly. Travel Assist, which has been trademarked and registered by the company, is a service specially designed to provide travel assistance for people with special needs, including the blind and hearing-impaired, in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas.

Services include arranging suitable disabled-friendly accommodation, providing accessible transportation to the disabled, crafting tailor-made itineraries for guests with special needs and arranging trained personnel to assist the traveller on vacation. Upon request, the company is able to arrange for rental of equipments such as wheelchairs, ramps, hoists, portable toilets and portable shower chairs.

Late last year, the company has also purchased a van fitted with an automatic wheelchair lift, which is used to serve wheelchair-bound passengers during airport transfers and tours.

WHY Travel Assist is the brainchild of Ace Altair Travels’ managing director Antony Leopold, who has post-poliomyelitis syndrome in both legs. He said: “My travel experiences as a disabled person has inspired me to provide a dedicated disabled service as I sincerely believe that travel should be all-inclusive, encompassing the able-bodied, the disabled and the elderly. There have also been requests for such services from my travel partners overseas that have FIT clients with special needs.

“What I find sad is that Malaysia presents a great challenge for travellers with mobility impairments. Sidewalks are often in disrepair, curbs are high and curb cuts are often missing or inadequate. Wheelchair users will frequently find their path of travel obstructed due to poorly designed walkways, parked cars, motorcycles, stairs and trees, and will rarely be able to travel more than 50m without having to backtrack or divert to the road. In many areas of the city, it is virtually impossible to travel without some assistance.”

TARGET The company plans to expand its Travel Assist tour services to Penang, Langkawi and Johor Bahru within the next three years.

Leopold said: “This will involve working with tourism players such as hotels, restaurants and airlines as well as government agencies to ensure that their products and services are disabled-friendly and have trained staff to cater to the needs of our disabled clients.

“We also plan to start hands-on training programmes for the hospitality industry in the near future on how to assist the disabled person, as well as theoretical lessons on communicating with the disabled. We are currently working on the syllabus and hope to start this by this year-end. We will collaborate with the various associations working with the physically-challenged, the blind and the hearing-impaired in Malaysia.”

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