The birth of a dream... TravelinWheels
Hi! I'm Michell Haase, Founder of TravelinWheels. Welcome to our very first blog entry!
What is TravelinWheels? I'll skip the marketing lingo and get to the point ... It is the culmination of years of wondering what it would be like to have one place to get information about disabled travel accessibility and be able to share that information with others.
Let me give you a little history...
My daughter, Kelsey, is a disabled athlete, and I have wanderlust to travel the world. Between us, we have logged thousands of miles around the globe. I'm also a research junkie. When we travel, I try to know as much as I can about where we are going, how accessible it will be, etc. My friends will tell you I'm nearly obsessive in my research. They never have to worry; I will know where every train station, bathroom, and good restaurant is, and have learned key phrases of the language of every country we go to so we can get where we need to go.
However, I don't have tons of time to spend all day on the phone or doing Google searches. Needless to say, the information about handicapped accessible travel is scattered and sparse. I've spent my time reading blogs and reviews scattered around the internet, and I've called well-meaning front desk clerks at hotels, who didn't have all the answers I needed about accessible hotel rooms, bathrooms, etc.
We've also had our share of mishaps. I remember standing out in the rain in Philadelphia because the car rental company that was supposed to have a "wheelchair accessible" shuttle didn't. I also remember flagging down another company's lift bus to take us to get a car, and them being so very helpful. Guess who has continued to get my business since then??? Yeah, that company with the lift bus.
I talked to many other disabled friends and families, and they said the same thing! Why can't there be a place where we could get this information easily?
My daughter and I joked that we should write books about our travels. We could be the "Rick Steves" of disabled travel, have our own show, and travel the world! Ha! What a brilliant idea!!! Of course, we don't know anyone who has a production company, and well, we were a little busy working and going to school, so that was going to have to wait for a while...
So, a few years ago, I bought the website address TravelinWheels.com and put it on the shelf because we didn't have time to devote to it, yet. However, we never forgot that dream. As I worked in the world of technology and the internet, I purposely got to know those who had come from the online travel world. I also talked to more and more of our disabled friends to find out what information they needed to confidently travel. What would a powerchair user need that my daughter in a manual chair didn't? What does a sight, hearing, or stature impaired person need?
I wrote down the key points they made, and began building that database in my mind. Someday, I was going to get this thing running!
So, fast forward to 2011! My daughter is almost 18 now, and I figure it's time that she and I work together to get our dream going. A few months ago, we brought some people together to help, encourage, and challenge our ideas. Sure enough, we had something! So, very soon, TravelinWheels will launch.
It will be a place to get specific information about accessible travel. We will answer questions like: "How high is the bed in that hotel?", "How big is the bathroom?", "Do I need to bring my shower chair?", and many, many other questions about accessible hotel rooms. We will also look at restaurants, attractions, tours, transportation, stores, and medical needs. "Does that great restaurant have an accessible bathroom?" "Where is the nearest hospital?" "Is there wheelchair repair in the city I'm going to?" After we have answered those questions, you will be able to book your travel directly from our site through our affiliate relationships with travel providers.
Also, it will be a community to share information. This site belongs to you, our visitors! We want your stories, your reviews, and your pictures! We want to get it started, but we want you to keep it alive with us! We need you to inspire others to travel the globe!
Our first cities are being loaded into the database, and the site is being built as I write. We plan to launch the first three cities in April. You will have information on Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. to start. We won't stop there! We have several other places to visit, including Maui and London, to name a couple.
In the meantime, I'll continue to share stories of our progress, and travel in general. I'll keep scouring the news waves for information on disability travel and organizations that are there to make travel and adventure more accessible to all. I'll keep posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on this blog.
We hope that the dream we started to build will be your dream too! Please follow the adventure and see how our dream unfolds!