No better way to introduce our latest feature but this video,
Meet Wheel The World. They are enabling accessible travel adventure. They promise to tailor one’s experiences, based on their disability and wishes, with the necessary accessible equipment. We caught up with Arturo Gaona, Experiences Officer at Wheel The World, to know more about this platform.
we striving to create a unique atmosphere of unity among people with disabilities, their companions and nature.
Inspiration behind setting up Wheel The World
We started as a social project between friends, mainly by the two Co-Founders, Alvaro Silberstein and Camilo Navarro. They know each other since they are five years old, they went through elementary and high school together. Since 18 years old Alvaro has a physical disability and uses a wheelchair to move. Even growing up in a country with limited accessibility, Alvaro managed to keep the direction that he wanted for his life. In 2015 Camilo did a solo trip to Torres del Paine and came back super inspired telling the group of friends to go back together but with Alvaro!
In December 2016 Camilo and Alvaro decided to travel together as any friends would do. They wanted to hike Patagonia completing the W circuit, something that nobody had done before in a wheelchair. They obviously faced a number of challenges e.g. the routes were not accessible, a regular wheelchair would not fit in the paths, etc. Finally, no advice was available because local tour operators had no experience with travellers with disabilities. After they successfully executed this ambitious expedition, hundreds of people reached out to them asking how to replicate the trip they did, so they started organizing this trip for others. (Check this link to see a video on on our journey)
Shaping up Wheel The World
After that trip things started to shape up, we did a second expedition to Easter Island (the most remote island on the planet) and the project started to consolidate as something even more serious.
From there we have created travel experiences in places like San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Machu Picchu (Peru), Oaxaca (México) and some others you can see in our website.
Our purpose is to empower people with disabilities to explore the world without limits. we focus mainly at areas the people would not imagine can be accessible.
We are trying to democratize the way people with disabilities can book and experience a trip, the whole experience: local transportation, accommodation, activities and special equipment, plus a team for customer service.
What Accessible Travel entails and the typical challenges faced
We believe that that first barrier is the lack of information or incomplete information. There are lots of questions and fears when you want to travel with a disability, our world is “disabled” for this community.
So, first of all, we put a lot of effort in providing as much information as possible.
We produce lots of videos and documentaries to inspire disabled people to travel by showing them how it can be done.
There are a lot of physical barriers, everywhere! So we always try to find the best accessible accommodation and transportation for the travellers.
The only way to deliver all this knowledge is to go by ourselves first. So that we are aware of all the challenges.
Issues Wheel The World helps out in while ensuring an accessible experience
We partnered with hotels to make them a bit more accessible for accommodation for disabled travellers.
Besides that, of course doing the type of experiences we do represent a challenge but we always find the best way to do it, with the right equipment and with safety.
Popular packages offered
This would be:
- Torres del Paine
- Easter Island
- Machu Picchu
One destination which is a role model in making accessible infrastructure available
From our experience, in Easter Island, something special happened. we went there and got involved with the community.
we activated a lot of different types of activities (trekking, biking, scuba diving).
The municipality did sidewalks more accessible. This is perhaps a very particular example as we are talking about a very remote place in the world.
But thinking about world destinations, there are many interesting efforts around the world. As we are based in Bay Area (US), a role model for accessibility would be San Francisco and it’s surroundings, even though it is a hilly city it can be explored in a wheelchair (mostly powered for obvious reasons), the public transportation network plus the excellent accommodations available at tourist attractions are amazing.
This year is very important for our expansion and consolidation as international entrepreneurship. In the next months, we will keep activating experiences in Chile (it has been our outdoors lab).
we are going to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Alaska, Riviera Maya in Mexico.
we are still developing a plan for Europe.
We are looking for tour operators and local guides that already have accessible travel experiences, so that we can host them at our platform gowheeltheworld.com and allow disabled travelers and their companions to have more options to explore the world without limits. The idea is to keep building the largest marketplace in world for accessible travel experience.