John Morris calls himself an “aviation geek.” He’s a frequent flyer who, in his power wheelchair, has traveled to 46 countries. His goal is to visit every country.
“I love air travel,” he says. From takeoff and to the way the engines cut off right before touchdown, “that joy that I get from that is just so incredible.”
Top 7 Accessible Adventure Travel Organizations
Despite COVID-19 getting in the way of everyone’s travel plans for the year, there is still plenty of time to daydream about your next adventure!
‘These medical devices are essentially a part of a disabled person’s body,’ says US senator
Airlines in America have damaged thousands of passengers’ wheelchairs so far this year, according to new figures.
Between January and September 2019, US carriers reported having mishandled at least 7,747 chairs – an average of 29 a day.
Wheel the World has unveiled a new online travel marketplace to provide accessible travel to those living with disabilities.
Backed by Booking.com, the accessible travel start-up has created a one-stop-shop for travellers with disabilities offering accessible tours and experiences, including accommodations and transportation by partnering with curated local tour operators who are trained and certified Wheel the World team members.
Through an extensive research process, Wheel the World identifies necessary accessibility requirements and equipment and trains its operators to develop inclusive trips designed to accommodate those with disabilities.
From multi-day trips with outdoor activities, such as hiking, scuba diving and kayaking, to single day activities like ziplining in Costa Rica and handbiking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or through Central Park in New York, the start-up currently offers more than 30 travel destinations through its platform, including accommodations, activities and transportation.
Destinations include Patagonia, Maui, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Santiago, Mexico, and Costa Rica, with plans to have 150 destinations and tour packages by the end of 2020.
The idea for Wheel the World came from the personal journey of two best friends, determined to see the world together. Co-founders Álvaro Silberstein and Camilo Navarro, both from Chile, embarked on the challenge of completing the W Circuit in Patagonia, with Silberstein, a quadriplegic, in a hiking wheelchair.
“We truly believe adventure is for all and that’s why we are committed to creating inclusive tourism and eliminate the barriers that keep people from travelling,” said Álvaro.
“While people might not think they have the opportunity to travel like this, we believe we can help everyone enjoy our amazing world without limits.
“We started promoting trips to isolated places like our original trip to Patagonia. However, we realised that people with disabilities still struggle to find even more traditional travel experiences that are designed to be accessible. So, we expanded to all types of travel including cultural, leisure, vacation and city explorations.”
Last year, Silberstein became the first quadriplegic to traverse an 11-kilometre section of the Inka trail. You can read more about that here.
Don’t ever call me ‘wheelchair bound’. My wheelchair doesn’t bind me — it liberates me
The wheelchair represents many different things, depending on the beholder’s personal experience. Many is the time I have been acutely aware that my wheelchair makes me the living embodiment of that blue symbol that adorns bathrooms and parking spaces.
I hadn’t really given wheelchairs much thought myself, until 13 years ago when I fell from a tree and sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI), causing instant and permanent paraplegia.
Founder and President of All Wheels Up, Michele Erwin’s interest in accessible air travel began when she realized traveling with her son who has a severe physical disability and uses a wheelchair was not safe.
As Beau Vernon scooped up the football one Saturday afternoon at Leongatha seven years ago, he was collected in the head by a Wonthaggi opponent. It wasn’t a big hit, he said, just “wrong angle and wrong time”. He could have added “wrong bloke”, but did not.
“I fell to the ground and knew straight away something was very wrong,” he said.
He could not move his arms or legs. Nor could he feel his limbs when trainers touched them. “That time laying on the ground was the scariest of my life,” he said. Thinking he had broken his neck, he warned teammates, including his younger brother Zak, not to touch him. Less than two hours later, he was in an induced coma in the Alfred hospital. His parents, then on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, flew home in a miserable hurry.
When Steve Dalton sets up at Yosemite’s Housekeeping Camp, a popular campground along the Merced River with views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, it takes him back to childhood camping trips with his parents and a time before his spinal cord injury.
“I love getting outdoors and I think, following my disability, adaptive sports and things that drew me back outside were the things that were most restorative for me as a person,” said Dalton, 51, an information technology systems administrator who is paralyzed from the chest down since a motorcycle accident in 2002.
The purpose of All Wheels Up, Inc. is to advocate for equality in air travel for those in a wheelchair for mobility and safe seating.
Our Goal is for all those in power chairs, as well as properly modified manual chairs, to independently maneuver themselves onto the plane with dignity. We plan to work with aircraft manufactures and air carriers to look to the future and make appropriate changes for the disabled, just as building owners and other transportation companies have already done due to the ADA.
Nina Wabra Jakič is the wife of Gal Jakič, one of the ambassadors of the Wings for Life World Run in Ljubljana