Accessibility November 10, 2021
Wheel the World helps people with disabilities experience the world like anyone else
Wheel the World is a social enterprise with the purpose to make the world accessible. They believe that people with disabilities should experience the world like anyone else. Governments, travel companies and tourism professionals are all joining the accessible travel movement given the exponential growth of people with disabilities traveling around the world. Wheel the World helps people find and book accessible travel experiences including accommodations, tours, and multi-day trips with the accessibility they need in the most amazing destinations in the world.
Alvaro Silberstein (Co-founder & CEO), always dreamed of visiting Torres del Paine in Patagonia. After he had an accident, that left him paralyzed from the chest down, this seemed impossible. Torres del Paine wasn’t accessible. One day, Alvaro and his friend Camilo (Co-founder & COO) came up with the idea of traveling there together anyway. They realized that no wheelchair user had done that trip before, but that with a special hiking wheelchair and the right information about the accessibility of accommodations and transportation, it was possible.
This was Wheel the World’s “aha!” moment: Let’s be the first people to complete the W trek in Patagonia in a wheelchair, and communicate it through videos and photos to inspire others to do it too.
The trip was incredible. Alvaro, Camilo, and a team of friends completed the W circuit in Torres del Paine. The story went viral and hundreds of people with disabilities started to reach out wanting to take the same trip. So, Camilo and Alvaro began to organize this trip for others, using the information and equipment from their own journey to encourage others to explore without limits. While helping over 50 people and their companions explore Patagonia, they discovered that there is a lack of information about accessible travel services in destinations around the world. So, they co-founded Wheel the World, a Benefit Corp with the purpose TO MAKE THE WORLD ACCESSIBLE.
Online Platform Offering Accessible Travel Experiences
Wheel the World is building an online platform, gowheeltheworld.com, that offers accessible travel experiences including places to stay, things to do, and multi-day tours. It provides accurate information and confidence to travelers with disabilities when booking a trip through the platform in three steps.
- First, they map detailed accessibility of travel partners (hotels and tour operators).
- Next, they advise the partners on how to create an accessible service.
- Lastly, they organize the relevant information into their systems which is then offered to travelers as an accessible experience.
The first challenge was the lack of information. When everything started with the first trip in Patagonia there weren’t answers for the questions they had. Also, the information is hard to find. It’s not in one place so people with disabilities have to search everywhere to find it.
The second challenge was infrastructure. That’s why Wheel the World team visits the destinations, looking for and testing out accessible transportation and accommodations to make sure that every person with disabilities can enjoy the experience they want. However, through their technology Wheel the World is developing systems to map out all the accessibility information to cover the entire world.
Lastly, fundraising was tough.
The Value Proposition
- The dedicated team at Wheel the World collects a detailed data about accessibility of accommodations and tours. For example: door width, type of shower, type of transportation, etc. This is information that no other player in the industry has that is crucial for a traveler with disabilities to know. The goal is to create the largest database of accessibility information in the travel industry and they are doing this through their systems and crowdsourcing through their community of over 40,000 people.
- They are also building a user experience totally focused on allowing people to understand the accessibility of the services offered through gowheeltheworld.com. This is complemented by experienced customer support with knowledge about disabilities. The product is 100% focused on accessibility for people with disabilities.
Since 2018, 1,200 travelers with accessibility needs have booked trips through this platform. They’ve traveled to places from New York to Machu Picchu. Today, Wheel the World offers travel experiences in more than 100 destinations. With its continuous efforts Wheel the World aims to give great experiences tailored to everyone’s needs and wants, around gorgeous destinations in the world.
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