Rolling Without Limits

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Being a Positive Role Model From a Wheelchair
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Being a Positive Role Model From a Wheelchair

My name is Susie Twydell and I have been in a wheelchair since 2012.

I have been nominated as a Positive Role Model for Disabilities in the UK National Diversity Awards and I would like to ask my fellow wheelchair users to add to my nominations! This is the link to nominate. I have a profile set up so you can just search for me, Susie Twydell, and nominate me. There is a profile on my page but I would like to share some of my story with you.

One of the most poignant commentaries came from a fellow person living with disabilities. He has lived with disabilities all his life and he said that he thought the most difficult thing would be for somebody who became disabled later in life because life has to change so dramatically. This is the situation for many of us and I have learned that I was as guilty as the next able-bodied person who assumed that being disabled was a lifelong condition, thought that using the disabled toilet was a great way to skip the long queue for the toilet, and quite possibly would aim my conversation at the wheelchair user’s companion and not speak directly to the wheelchair users themselves.

It has been a steep learning curve. Fortunately, my experience as an erstwhile able-bodied person taught me that traveling is very doable and now I relish reading about the experiences that other wheelchair users have had around the world. When I first started traveling in my wheelchair, I scoured the Internet for examples or information from other wheelchair users who had visited the destination. Later, when I went on my next trip, I would invariably find reviews or resources that I wished I had found before my previous trip. Thus, the idea for wheelchairworld.org was born as I realised how invaluable the experiences from other wheelchair users were. Initially, I put a lot of effort into encouraging other wheelchair users to review directly on wheelchairworld.org but this was an unsustainable effort and I was uncovering a huge amount of websites that were already set up by wheelchair users sharing their reviews.

This is where my determination to succeed stepped in and pushed me in a different direction. I found it and still find it immensely rewarding and psychologically beneficial to read about the exploits of other wheelchair users and get in touch with them and link to their reviews on wheelchairworld.org. Doing this, I was able to amass a massive amount of reviews and resources and turn wheelchairworld.org into a fantastic resource. It currently features over 90 countries and links to wheelchair users around the world as well as Ministries of Tourism and other useful sources of information.

I have run 2 reasonably successful fundraising campaigns, found a website developer that would work for my budget (based in India,  and now I am working with them to get wheelchairworld.org improved and allow me to share information on non-country related topics, such as airlines and hotel search engines. I also had a fantastic idea for very quickly increasing the amount of information and reviews to which wheelchair users have access by harnessing the power of Internet translator tools to make a visitor able to select a profile language and then access and read reviews that were initially written in any language. This is the video of my idea.  I submitted it to the Tech4Good Awards but wasn’t successful, so now I need to approach other sources of funding because this is such a great idea and I really want it to happen!

If you watch the video you will see that I also talk about another issue. The proliferation and silos of information that is being created. It is absolutely fantastic that a lot of apps are being developed and a lot of work is being ploughed into creating a community of wheelchair users who regularly review access. The problem comes when somebody from one area takes a trip to another area but reviews places and submits the reviews to their original review site. Confused? Let me give you an example. In the UK, one of the leading access review sites is euansguide. Let’s say somebody who regularly reviews places in the UK for euansguide takes a trip to somewhere in Canada. From my research, I have found a large review site called Accessnow which is based in Canada. The UK based traveler reviews accessibility of places that they visit in Canada and submits them to euansguide. The silo is created. These apps do a fantastic job engaging their community and encouraging people to provide accessibility reviews. What I would like to do is take this to the next level and ensure that everybody can see everybody’s reviews by linking them all together on one umbrella map that shows you the review and the website on which it is hosted. Thus, a location may be peppered with flags that point to myriad different websites. And if we add in the translator option, we could be looking at hundreds if not thousands of wheelchair user accessibility reviews for a destination!

As you can see, I am massively motivated and inspired to make things better and make the world a more accessible place for wheelchair users. Please nominate me for the National Diversity Awards  and do get in touch if you have any ideas how about potential funding sources for the development of these great ideas! My email is wheelchairworld@gmail.com. Till then, keep watching!

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