Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rains defines the big picture of travel by people with disabilities

Scott Rains, the ultimate inclusive travel blogger, had an inspiring post at Disaboom. It's worth reading in all (his keyote speech at Presentation to ICAT 2007 held at the UN in Bangkok, Thailand). But the best part is the conclusion, which I quote at length here:

"People with Disabilities, when we travel we represent more than ourselves because we are part of a community. As a person with a disability you carry two items of unusual value -- especially in combination. Both tend to surprise those you meet as you travel. The two items are money and pride. By money I mean more than the change in your pocket. By pride I mean that confident self-determination of knowing who you are beyond any economic measures of worth.
"The very fact that you have a disability and travel suggests something about your economic condition. It indicates that you have credit, savings, education, maybe a profession that requires travel. It demonstrates more importantly that you have the ability to make decisions about the course of your life for yourself. That combination of means and dignity are potent tools of social transformation.
"Travel the world today and you will find that there is a hunger for community and solidarity among people with disabilities. As an exchange student, backpacker, business or vacation traveler, your identity as a person with a disability gives you access to faces of the tourism industry that others may not have. Some are positive. Some need improvement.
"The next two years will be a surprise to those in the industry who have not yet prepared their profit-based approach to disability. Some will be asking you to help. You have an opportunity to contribute and to shape the travel industry. That may be with the rights-based emphasis through government, education, or policy. It may on the profit-based side through invention, construction, marketing, or business creation.
"Whatever opportunity you choose, take your pride - and your money - on the road. Travel. Teach the industry and level the path for the ones who come after you!"

I can't even begin to say anything on this better than Scott already has. But I will remember his words when we travel with our son, a wheelchair user: "People with Disabilities, when we travel we represent more than ourselves because we are part of a community. As a person with a disability you carry two items of unusual value -- especially in combination. Both tend to surprise those you meet as you travel. The two items are money and pride."

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