Pushing Yourself in an Inaccessible World

American wheelchair user surrounded by rural Ghanian children
Sometimes those contacting us want to know “Where is most accessible to travel with my disability?” to narrow down where in the world to go or at least make the planning easier.

How do you advise on access in any country? We find two of the best places to start:

  • Connect with disability organizations at that location, and
  • Get advice from other travelers with disabilities who have been there.

The disability world is networked enough that one link leads to other referrals until you find what you went seeking. Although accessibility is growing thanks to disability advocates worldwide, what you need may not exist yet in your destination. Don’t let that stop you!

“Since my accident I had sought out the places that were ramped and the parking spaces that were reserved and the bathrooms wide enough to use, all in the pursuit of my own personal, physical freedom,” wrote journalist John Hockenberry in his autobiography, Moving Violations.

“I could feel the creeping dependency on those physical details, and the smallness of that wheelchair-accessible world. It was a tiny fraction of the world at large.”

To try to capture access and disability cultural details in every location is an immense task. We’ve seen well-intentioned regional efforts and business-driven travel websites pop up that give reviews of international locations from the disabled travelers' experiences.

These online destination guides can dispel myths about access in a certain place and be a central forum to hear directly from those who have been there. More often than not, these websites encounter the daunting issue of staying up-to-date and most importantly struggle with being comprehensive.

If this happens, does it end up looking more limiting than it is in reality? There are people with disabilities living in most communities, and they are making it work. Even if the way to make it work looks different than you are used to at home. Check out our Flickr Slideshow "Creative Ways to Get Around Abroad".

Hockenberry has been “drawn to places where access hadn’t been thought of,” and it made him “face what is really possible in life rather than what is permitted” – not that it didn’t make him nervous.

Before counting out any location, we can try to connect you to people who know the place and give you creative options for how to make it work anywhere, which may help ease the nerves. Like the international journey itself, sometimes you have to go in with uncertainty and openness to what you will encounter and the belief that you can adapt. Maybe it won’t always be easy, but it’s likely it will be worth it in more ways than you could imagine.

And by going to inaccessible places and educating people you meet along the way on how it could be improved – it paves the path for others with disabilities to have a smoother journey and builds the possibility of a more accessible world.


Michele Scheib