My Journey to Accessible Travel Advocacy After a Life-Changing Accident
At age 14, I was paralyzed in a horrible car wreck that took the life of my father, severely injured my mother, and injured my younger sister. That one moment transformed my entire world, but it could not dampen my spirit. I graduated high school on time and received a full scholarship to the University of Southern California where I graduated with honors.
After high school, a group of friends and I traveled to Greece. It was tough getting around, but for 14 memorable days I had the time of my life. Years later, I went to Berlin and had a totally different experience due to increased accessibility. Those two trips lit a fire in me to discover more. I wanted to see the world! Now that I was paralyzed, I wondered, “what can I see and do now?”
After college, I first interned at an indie music management company followed by four years of employment at Wente Vineyards where I was the Executive Marketing and Production Assistant for the Concerts; performers from George Carlin to Crosby, Stills and Nash to Ray Charles graced the stage.
During this time, I never forgot my love for travel and in 2006, I founded wheelchairtraveling.com. Three years later, I decided to leave my job to work full-time on my passion, to become a travel resource for people with disabilities. The website was designed so that not only I but anyone around the world could share their travel experiences — from basic travel needs to thrill-seeking adventures.
Finding accurate accessible travel information can be challenging and sometimes non-existent, and I wanted to change this. Plus, we all have different interests, abilities, and things we are or are not willing to put up with, and all these perspectives need to be represented when it comes to the world of accessible travel. The mission of wheelchairtraveling.com is to empower people with limited mobility, their friends and loved ones to access and experience the world of leisure and adventure travel.
Breaking away from boundaries and testing our limits takes courage, which makes the journey of life all that more satisfying. That is the main reason I started the website — to remove mental and physical barriers surrounding travel. My role has crossed over into many areas of life to empower people. I am an advocate for reasonable accessibility on many fronts, from hotels to airplanes to city-planning to healthy lifestyle options. I have traveled to many countries on five continents, personally experiencing the diversity of accessible travel.
I work with both the CA State Parks and the National Park Service to improve access to parks, which has been transformed into the May 2015 launch of the Access to Parks Project. In 2020, I traveled to New Zealand to assess access at parks across the country. I also lecture about accessible travel around the country for all different size groups, mentor newly injured people with spinal cord injuries, write for national magazines, am an ambassador for the Abilities Expo, and more.
Ever since my injury, my eyes have been opened to the beauty of life, from the grandest of scales to the tiniest little parts. Now 15 years and a college degree later, I welcome life with open arms and remember that all journeys begin with an open heart.