For Harvard University students, Kunho Kim and Brad Riew, what started as a simple trip to explore the United States (well, 20 states of it) on a summer road trip, turned into the opportunity to make a difference.
As the pair began making plans for their summer break trip, they figured that finding an accessible travel guide, hotels, wheelchair van rental, and tourist attractions would be as easy as picking out a book online and making reservations for nightly accommodations and attraction visits.
What they started to realize was even big cities like San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles weren’t necessarily as accommodating as one might think they would be.
The Big Deal with Accessibility
While it might not seem like a big deal for most, when traveling with a wheelchair or even a wheelchair van accessibility shouldn’t be but can turn into a hurdle.
And, when Kim and Riew set out for their summer adventure, they didn’t imagine they would run into as many barriers as they ended up running into.
That’s because many tourist attractions, lodging locations and even rest stops list that they’re fully accessible to wheelchairs, even when that isn’t always the case.
The Problem with Accessibility
Just like no two people are exactly alike, no two wheelchairs are exactly the same. It’s for this reason that some attractions, hotels and rest stops have accessibility problems.
Yes, their bathrooms may have grab bars, but are they in the proper location for use for every wheelchair user? Likely not. And, is the restroom door accessible by automation or will the wheelchair user need assistance to open and close the door? For the roll-in shower stall, does it have a raised edge? If so, some wheelchairs may not be able to access the stalls at all.
Do the hotel rooms have enough space on either side of the bed to allow for a wheelchair user to get in and out on his or her own? Do they have a roll under sink, so they can wash their hands?
Kim and Riew ran into many of these issues on their journey and started to realize that accessibility isn’t necessarily black and white, and no two locations approached accessibility the same way.
Paving the Way for the Future
Kim and Riew aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last travelers that draw attention to the accessibility issues we’re still seeing around the globe. But, through initiatives like their website and eBook, they’ll be able to help other travelers with accessible needs navigate unfamiliar territory and hopefully enjoy their travel experiences a bit better.