Friday, December 28, 2012

Ten years of adaptive travel went by in a blink...

When we first started this quest in 2003, after returning from a trip to Alaska with a completely jaded viewpoint of accessibility, there wasn't much out there for people with disabilities (PWD) looking to travel, or more specifically, for us, adventure travel in a wheelchair.  There were pockets of information at the many adaptive programs throughout the country and the few medical and rehabilitation centers, but as for guidebooks, travel agents, and paths to follow, there were only a handful back then.

Times change quickly however.  The landscape is completely different now.

Back then, we felt a calling to help change the horizon, and began writing our guidebook on Colorado in 2003.  Ten years later, there are countless guidebooks on traveling with a disability, even one written by Rick Steves.

Soon after our guidebook was published in 2005, we joined the network of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH), who at the time, were THE central hub connecting all the few spokes of the accessible travel wheel. It was eye-opening for us to meet travel agents from South Africa, Ireland, Egypt and New York who specifically catered to PWD.  Again, the list was short.  But in this decade, that list has expanded so vastly that we gave up trying to keep up with our Resources page.  Now when you search "access travel" on Google, you get a world of information on any location you desire. ANY.  What a blessing!

We've watched adaptive travel magazines and websites come and go, change titles, change editors, change content, all trying to keep up with this once-completely-new and now vastly-growing market of the travel industry.  The statistics of this market are staggering; we heard them at our first SATH conference from the Open Doors Organization (ODO) and knew immediately that this was the company we should keep our eye on.  In just a few years, we would be working with ODO on many projects, trainings, and educational pieces to help shape that horizon and landscape before us. Also a cherished blessing!

We were torn between the travel industry and the adaptive sports industry, paving a local path for accessibility here in Steamboat Springs, while traveling to events throughout the country networking, selling our guidebooks, and watching the industry grow.  We were regulars on the Abilities Expo circuit for several years, we still attend the amazing No Barriers Festivals (bi-annually since 2007), we were invited to join the Continental Airlines Disability Advisory Board in 2008 (now the United Airlines Accessible Travel Advisory Board), and we helped ODO train 8000 Amtrak Employees with their Handling Customers with Disabilities trainings in 17 cities throughout our great country in 2011.  All the while, forging out a place for Steamboat in the headlines: consulting with Haymaker Golf Course on purchasing a SoloRider adaptive golf cart (2003) and Steamboat Ski Area on purchasing an accessible gondola car (2004), starting our adaptive sports camps with Adaptive Adventures (2006), working with countless favorite local businesses like Cafe Diva on improving their access and recreation companies like Wild West Balloon Adventures market to these visiting customers.

It soon became apparent we might have to choose between the two worlds of travel and recreation as they pulled us in two different directions.  As STARS took over our adaptive camps in 2010, Craig was hired as Program Director, and I had to make a choice: continue Access Anything or follow my own path that has always included writing, photography, sustainability, and metaphysics.  It was a bittersweet choice because after decade of helping to expand this amazing industry, it would be hard to walk away.  Yet I am, and I know it will continue to improve, grow, unify, open eyes, doors, hearts, and pocketbooks... all for the better, for which, we will still benefit until Craig no longer needs that ti-lite wheelchair, hopefully someday within in our lifetime.

What will the next ten years look like for adaptive recreation and accessible travel?  I can only imagine... and hope.

Happy Holidays to our global network, may 2013 and the next decade be a bright one for all of us!!  Thanks to all of you mentioned above and those not mentioned (you know who you are!) who have helped us through this amazing decade and who have helped make Access Anything the online asset it has become. We will always try to keep this site live for those who want to Go Anywhere, Do Anything!
- Andy Kennedy

2012 Highlights: 
  • For skiing highlights this year, follow us at In the Deep, although I don't get to follow my monoskier as much as I used to, we still both love to post when we get powder!
  • Follow our videos on our YouTube page
  • And for our 5th annual holiday video of where we've been check out our BipTV page