Travel & Holidays

Accessible Tourism: the movers, shakers and influencers

The Bimblers describe themselves as the UK’s most unlikely travel bloggers. Rob together with his partner Bridget travel in a wheelchair, reviewing access as they go. Driven by the mantra “Access For All” Rob has joined us to share his thoughts, observations and ideas to make travel easier for people of all abilities. In today’s post… the movers, shakers and influencers within “accessible tourism”.

There’s a tradition in the blogging world, at the end of the year we like to write a roundup post which gives us the opportunity to look back, reflect and take stock. As this is my first year writing for Disability Horizons, I’d like to share my roundup of accessible tourism movers, shakers and influencers, these are the folk who’ve inspired me to keep going when times got tough.

They probably didn’t know it, but these guys have been hugely influential in helping me and The Bimblers carry on. Travelling in a wheelchair is not the easiest thing to do and these people on my list understand that. They work tirelessly throughout the year to keep accessible tourism at the forefront of people’s minds, it’s only fair I publicly recognise them and thank them for their often unrewarded efforts.

If you’ve read my last post What is Accessible Tourism and who cares anyway? You’ll know I asked the question; who cares about accessible tourism anyway? Hopefully, I made the case that we should all care but I want to go a little deeper, I want to introduce you to people who do more than care, it’s their passion – here are my accessible tourism movers, shakers and influencers from 2015.

The Movers, Shakers and Influencers

Martyn and Srin – Disability Horizons

Martyn and SrinIt’s only fair I start with two of the most influential people on the UK accessible tourism scene. I know it’s getting a little bit obsessive, but I really do tip my hat to the amount of effort Martyn and Srin put into keeping accessible tourism on the agenda.

If you think about it, right here on Disability Horizons they let the likes of me write about it, they’ve engaged the services of other key figures to write about it and they’ve built a whole new platform in Accomable to make booking accessible accommodation easier.

If I remember rightly, my first introduction to Martyn was him being hauled up a tree in his wheelchair (here’s the video) and my first conversation with Srin was a revelation, I honestly didn’t know lawyers had a sense of humour. Together Martyn and Srin are a force to be reckoned with, their love of travel and passion for accessible tourism is a blessing to us all.

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Carrie-Ann Lightley – Tourism for All

Carrie AnnNext on my list is Carrie-Ann who’s also a #DHguru. Carrie-Ann is the friendly public face of Tourism for All the UK’s national charity for accessible tourism.

In her role as Information Services Manager, Carrie-Ann is quite influential when it comes to policy and ideas and has been since 2005. She regularly shares useful information not only from “Tourism for All “but from around the web.

I had the pleasure of meeting Carrie-Ann at the mobility road show earlier in the year, it was refreshing to find she is as friendly, helpful and knowledgeable as her online persona suggests.

Obviously travelling in a wheelchair is close to my heart and I love reading Carrie-Ann’s posts about her travels, especially her city guides which are in-depth and useful when it comes to planning a trip. I particularly liked her blog post on Rome in a Wheelchair – check it out.

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Brian Seaman – Accessible Outlook

Brian SeamanAnother key figure in our first year as travel bloggers was Brian of Access New Business. I’ve yet to meet Brian in person, I nearly did at the World Travel Market, but sadly I had to pull out for health reasons.

Brian in my opinion is an access guru, not only will you find him carrying out access reviews, but he’s also found working with tourism boards to help them shape and implement their strategies. He is a very important advocate and ambassador to have on our side.

I cyber met Brian on Twitter, he’s prolific at sharing accessible tourism.

From a personal perspective, through his tweets and recommendations I’ve gained a ton of knowledge and met many other people who are working to promote access in the tourism industry.

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Euan MacDonald – Euan’s Guide

Euan MacDonaldI really can’t remember the first time I came into contact with Euan’s Guide, but I think it was the first time I realised people actually cared about access.

Euan has created an access directory where people leave access reviews about places they’ve visited. On the surface it’s a bit like TripAdvisor for disabled people, but when you dig a bit deeper it’s so much more.

In reality, it’s a selection of first-hand experiences from people who understand the practical difficulties we face whether travelling or going to the local shops. The guide is also perfect when you’re travelling because it’s also available as an iPhone app.

Euan is also the lead sponsor of Disabled Access Day which is now an annual event where people are encouraged to get out there to try something new and places are encouraged to get involved by promoting their access credentials.

When you think about it, its genius because it opens up a whole new world to people with access problems and by default participating establishments are forced to assess how accessible they are and make adjustments where necessary.

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Ross Calladine – Visit England

Ross CalladineLast but by no means is least on my UK list Ross Calladine of Visit England. I’ve never actually had a conversation with Ross, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t played a part in my development as an accessible tourism blogger.

Whenever there’s something going on to promote access in the UK tourism industry his name is usually attached to it.

We are lucky in the UK because our national tourism boards actively encourage accessible tourism. Ross and the team, with their Access for All initiative are leading the way. They’re making the UK one of the most welcoming and inclusive destinations in the world.

Accessible tourism isn’t just important to us in the UK, it’s a worldwide issue and it would be remiss if I didn’t mention these international movers, shakers and influencers:

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Cory Lee – Curb Free With Cory Lee

Cory LeeCory Lee is fast becoming the most travelled and influential wheelchair travel blogger in the world. At such a young age, he’s taking the travel blogging world by storm and leading the way with his fantastic blog Curb Free with Cory Lee

My introduction to Cory was when I read his post 10 of the Most Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in the World. I was also touched and inspired by a comment from Cory’s Mum, she said to him:

“If you can’t stand up standout”

What beautiful words and boy is he doing just that!

Out of the blue, Cory reached out to me and asked would I be interested in contributing to a post he was writing 8 Wheelchair Users Share Their Most Accessible Places obviously I was honoured to be in such good company and jumped at the chance.

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Martin Heng – Lonely Planet

Martin HengThe last person on my list is Martin Heng. Martin is Lonely Planet’s global accessible tourism manager. If you haven’t had the chance to engage with him yet I suggest you do, Martin is a gentleman with a seemingly endless amount of knowledge about accessible destinations.

What put Martin on my radar was the community he created on Google+, sadly this community is now archived. Travel for All was a brilliant place to share ideas, get advice, meet like-minded people and find out what’s happening in accessible travel around the world.

Martin has continued his Travel for All work and can be found on Lonely Planet’s Travellers with Disabilities forum where you’ll often find him sharing his knowledge. If you need specific travel advice this is the place to ask!

So, there you have it, a list of people I’m particularly grateful to for their advice, guidance and support. Needless to say, there are many more who’ve played a part in my accessible tourism education.

I’ve also noticed there are many more resources popping up which is great news. It means the accessible tourism message is gaining traction and becoming an important sector in the tourism industry.

With your support, the people on this list and the countless others I haven’t mentioned will continue to drive the message home. If you get the chance, visit their websites, follow them on social media and engage with them because collectively they are the reason travel is becoming more accessible for all of us.

By Robert Obey

If you’re planning your next holiday, why not visit our new travel site, Accomable, to find accessible accommodation not just in the UK, but across the world.

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