On January 5, 2014, I took my first trip as a wheelchair user – to Los Angeles, California. My alma mater, Florida State University, won the college football national championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Two years, 311 flights and more than 300,000 air miles later, I am now one of the world’s most traveled power wheelchair users.
I was a passionate traveler long before the fiery car accident that left me a triple amputee. In the days, weeks and months following the accident, I was told that my weekend trips across the world would no longer be possible. My disability was just too severe, they said. I was determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
The photographs above depict my evolution, in both health and travel – from the first trip in January 2014, to my recent trip aboard KLM’s inaugural Boeing 787 flight.
WheelchairTravel.org is the product of my travels around the world. Its scope is limited, but ever-expanding. What started as a few notes on accessibility in a handful of cities has turned into one of the best accessible travel resources for cities in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The Bucharest, Dubai and Moscow travel guides on this website broke new ground, as the first legitimate sources of accessible travel information available for each of those cities.
Here’s a quick look at my travel stats, in my two years as a wheelchair traveler:
- Visited 18 countries on 3 continents.
- Transited 55 of the world’s airports.
- 311 individual flights on 16 airlines.
- 324,407 total miles flown with a power wheelchair.
Although I am still a “recent addition” to the disability community, I believe that the frequency of my travel in a wheelchair sets me apart as a person who understands well the challenges to our accessibility and freedom of movement. Although I have been criticized for not waging war on the travel industry from this blog, I have privately gone head-to-head with airlines, hotels and local governments, fighting hard for both your rights and mine. Despite the challenges, travel is possible for us all – with the proper information and an understanding of what to expect. This website is proof of that.
About a year ago, when I commissioned the design of the logo which represents this blog, I chose the slogan “Open Your World.” The phrase accurately explains my mission: to share my experiences and empower readers of all abilities to access the world through travel. As I wrote in my 2015 blog post, Reclaiming the Disability Community’s Travel Voice, accurate information is critical in planning an accessible trip or vacation. The consequences of bad or false info can be significant for those of us who rely on a wheelchair to get around.
As such, I have made a commitment to write only about cities I have visited and experienced in my wheelchair. This website is a work in progress. It is not a business. The blog is a catalogue of my travels, a service to our community, and an avenue to share joy and wanderlust.
Check out the top 5 blog posts from 2015:
- Flying With A Power Wheelchair: How To Prevent Damage
- Top 5 Most Wheelchair Accessible Cities in the United States
- Guest Post: How Studying Abroad In My Wheelchair Changed My Life
- Guest Post: Why Airlines Must Adopt This Aisle Chair Replacement
- Meet Chen Zhou, The Legless Street Performer Who Inspired Me In Shanghai, China
Now that the new year of 2016 is upon us, I am looking for ways to expand the website’s content, reach and value. I hope to encourage more of you to share stories of your own travels. Your stories will widen the perspective of this website, thereby opening the world (and more of it!) to a greater number of people.
As always, thank you for joining me as I travel the globe. Together, we can make this beautiful world more accessible to all.