By Rachel Chang
Aug 11, 2021
THE CHALLENGES OF NAVIGATING the world for people with disabilities have long been a barrier, but Wheel the World‘s new website hopes to open up the possibilities of accessible travel further.
While the company has become a leading resource to empower seniors and those with disabilities to see the world since its founding in 2018, the site’s new accessibility mapping system (AMS) aims to take that a major step forward. Now, users can customize their own personal accessibility profiles, and the site will match them up with compatible trips — including places to stay, things to do, and multiday tours — that cater to their specific needs in more than 50 destinations. Those details can include wheelchair accessibility, specific transcription requirements, braille signage, adaptive equipment availability, building entry specifics, bed heights, and special room needs.
The information is crowdsourced through mappers who visit more than 200 data points and log specifics on the Wheel the World app.
“Thanks to our volunteer mappers, we have the most thorough and up-to-date accessibility information of any online travel site,” the company’s cofounder and COO, Camilo Navarro, said in a statement. “Having this information so readily available is a game changer for travelers with disabilities. What might have taken them hours to research in the past, can now take just minutes.”
Wheel the World was started by a group of University of California, Berkeley students who got the idea after crowdfunding for a special wheelchair so that their friend, who was left a quadriplegic after at car accident at the age of 18, could join them on a trip to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, according to Reuters. The company has since helped thousands of travelers with disabilities from more than 10 countries to visit more than 40 destinations, including aiding those in wheelchairs navigate Machu Picchu.
Now, they hope the new site will expand the offerings even more and make adventure vacations within reach of all. “The redesign of our website features a user experience focused on our travelers’ needs and expanded information to empower seniors and people with disabilities to travel with confidence,” fellow cofounder Alvaro Silberstein added. “Accurate accessibility information and customer support representatives who understand the needs of this community are key to breaking down barriers to travel.”
All photos courtesy of Wheel of The World