Years ago, before I even started my blog, I always went to TripAdvisor first to start researching a destination. It was a nice place to learn more about popular attractions, hotels, and restaurants within the city, but it was tough to find accessibility information. I always wished that there was a similar website for accessibility reviews of attractions and the like.
Well, there now is a website like that! It’s called brettapproved and is a fantastic resource for any wheelchair users that are planning to travel in 2018. I recently got the chance to interview Brett Heising, founder of brettapproved, for my Wheelie Inspiring Interview Series and I’m happy to share what he had to say. Everyone, meet Brett and I hope you enjoy this interview…
Please tell us about yourself and what you do/how is brettapproved helping disabled travelers?
I am originally from a small town in Ohio. I graduated from The Ohio State University and then made my way to Phoenix, Arizona, one of the more accessible cities in the United States. After a successful career in journalism and public relations, I decided to start brettapproved, Inc., home of brettapproved.com.
Predicated on user-generated, accessibility-focused content, brettapproved.com provides travelers with disabilities access to reviews, for hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues that may meet their needs.
As you’re probably well aware Cory, one of the most challenging aspects of traveling for individuals who navigate the world in a wheelchair or with a mobility device, is the great unknown. We often have no idea how accessible our hotel or surrounding restaurants will be until we arrive. All too often, the great unknown robs us of the ability to joyfully anticipate our next adventure.
Our goal at brettapproved is to eliminate some of that trepidation by telling people what to expect when they arrive at a given hotel, restaurant or entertainment venue. Things are never going to be perfect from an accessibility standpoint, but knowing what to expect before we arrive certainly helps.
In addition to facilitating a review platform that’s free to join and use, we also provide travel services. Whether you’re traveling an hour away for the weekend, or around the world for a month, we make sure that all of your accessibility needs and travel plans are covered.
How did your passion for adventure begin?
For me, life is all about experiences. We spend a lot of time and money accumulating things, but ultimately I believe experiences make a much more lasting positive impression on us. Getting outside of your comfort zone and meeting people from other parts of the world is as good as it gets as far as I’m concerned. After all, the greatest gift we can give someone is to examine life from their perspective.
What is the most wheelchair friendly place you have been to?
A lot of people may not realize this but Phoenix, Arizona is extremely wheelchair-friendly. For the most part it’s very flat and everything is fairly new so most of the curb cuts are in pretty good shape. It never snows and it only rains a few days out of the year. It’s not a mystery as to why I chose to move here more than 17 years ago. In terms of traveling, I’d say the most accessible place I have visited is the island of Kauai. It’s fantastic.
What is the least accessible place you have visited?
Hmmm…that’s a tough question. I have been quite a few places that were less than ideal when it comes to accessibility. We often take it for granted but for the most part the United States is easier to navigate with a disability or mobility challenge than a lot of other places around the globe.
What I’ve found though is that it really doesn’t matter where you are or how difficult things are from an accessibility perspective just so long as there are a few helping hands available. As I often say, anywhere is accessible with the right people around.
What kind of problems have you came across while traveling in a wheelchair? How did you overcome them?
I have been fortunate to travel all over the world and if you do so in a wheelchair you’re going to run into challenges from time to time … The hotel doesn’t have the roll-in shower they promised you. The restaurant doesn’t have a ramp. The hallway isn’t wide enough for me to reach my hotel room. Sidebar: That actually happened to me in Dublin, Ireland! We do the best we can in these situations. I have found that for the most part people are willing to help try and find solution no matter where you are. And sometimes you just have to laugh.
What are some of the top items on your bucket list?
There are so many awesome places around the globe that I’d love to see. Again, I’m drawn to locations that most others wouldn’t be. I’ve been fortunate to experience Mexico and the Caribbean and parts of Europe. I think visiting the Middle East would be really interesting. I would love to spend some time in southeast Asia as well. As far as my ultimate road trip though, I’d love to spend a few weeks traveling through Russia and into China via the Trans-Siberian railroad. Talk about an adventure!
Do you have any tips for other wheelchair users who might think traveling is not possible?
I think one of the traps we fall into when we’re talking about travel is the assumption that it has to be complicated and time consuming and involves going to some distant locale. For some of us, travel can be as simple as taking a day trip to the far side of town to experience a restaurant or entertainment venue. You don’t have to leave your state or even the city to experience the joys of traveling.
When accessibility is a priority, the most important thing I would tell anyone is that there is no substitute for planning ahead. The more research you do ahead of time the better the chances that you’ll have a fantastic experience with limited hiccups.
If you want a stress-free experience, let a professional handle the planning. At brettapproved we consider every detail so that you won’t have to worry about a thing. Even better, we’re available around the clock while you’re abroad and we’re available to tackle any problems that may present themselves.
Most importantly, where to next?
Well, I have a couple trips coming up for fun. In March, I’ll be hitting Orlando for a long weekend with some great friends from my days at Ohio State. Then, I’ll be going to Vancouver, Canada with my wife Claudia for some much-needed R&R this August.
Professionally, together with El Sol Travel and Celebrity Cruises, brettapproved, Inc. will be hosting cruises to the Caribbean in January of 2019 and the California coast in later in 2019. Stay tuned to the brettapproved Facebook page for details.