As travelers, we want to believe that the world is an open and welcoming place, accessible to all. We may never stop to think about how someone in a wheelchair would approach the kinds of adventures we take — and that’s where Cory Lee comes in. Not only did Cory learn to travel the world with a wheelchair, but he also became a successful blogger in accessible travel. Today, he makes a living while traveling. His goal is to inspire other people to try traveling in a wheelchair and to believe that anything is possible when we set our minds to it.
In his blog, Curb Free with Cory Lee, he writes about how it feels to travel in a wheelchair and answers questions about accessible travel like: how can you fly with a wheelchair? What cities around the world are the most chair-friendly? His goal is to help other travelers in a wheelchair learn how to travel, where to travel, and why traveling as a person with a disability is possible.
“Traveling with a wheelchair isn’t always easy. There are many challenges. When it gets difficult, I get motivated by the feedback I get.”
Cory’s traveling journey started early on in his life. Despite receiving a diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, Cory went on his first trip to Walt Disney when he was four. When he turned fifteen, he traveled internationally for the first time and this sparked in him an interest in international traveling. Cory strongly believes today that traveling is the best teacher.
From Traveler to Acclaimed Blogger
Cory started his blog in 2013 when researching for a trip to Australia. He realized that there wasn’t any information about wheelchair accessible things to do in Australia. Doing further research, he realized there wasn’t a lot of information about wheelchair accessible traveling in general and wanted to offer resources to other wheelchair users for their travels. Cory is now based in Atlanta and travels extensively every year for about four months.
His blog has grown extensively and Cory now has an audience of about 60,000 followers. 80% of his trips are oriented towards reviewing destinations that invite him. He then gives them input about what they can do better and what they are already doing a good job at.
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Today, after experiencing many adventures and writing on the blog he launched in 2013, Cory has become the leading blogger in the accessible travel space. His blog won the Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Blog in 2017 from the Society of American Travel Writers and he was named the 2018 person of the year by New Mobility magazine. Curb Free with Cory has been featured on the Travel Channel, CBS News, Forbes, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and many more.
Cory is a very goal-oriented person. Despite experiencing many challenges during his trips, his goal is to travel on all seven continents. He has traveled in six so far and wishes to travel to Antarctica very soon to reach his goal.
Accessible Travel: A Growing Priority
According to Cory, in the past six years, there has been a huge increase in the number of destinations offering more accessibility. He visited Morocco last year, which Cory says wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. “More and more destinations are opening up and welcoming travelers with special needs.” When he writes about a destination he chooses to consider the positive sides and examine what is accessible. He wants his blog to be an uplifting, positive place for other wheelchair users so that they can see what they can do within the destination, rather than what they can’t.
The continuous feedback he gets from his followers gives him the motivation to keep traveling. He loves when someone tells him that they booked a trip to Las Vegas for the first time, that it was their first time flying, or that they went on a cruise for the first time as a wheelchair user. “Traveling with a wheelchair isn’t always easy,” Cory explains. “There are many challenges. When it gets difficult, I get motivated by the feedback I get.”
Cory always dreamed of going to India and he was finally able to reach this goal when a new accessible tour opened up. “In India, it was interesting. Everywhere I went, a group of people would come and gather around me and take photos of me. I felt like a celebrity in India.”
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Cory likes to meet up with local wheelchair users. “In Finland, I met up with a local wheelchair user who showed me all about Finnish sauna culture. I love meeting up with followers, and how enthusiastic they are. If I post on social media that I’m going to be in a place, I instantly have community members to reach out to.”
Apart from his blog, Cory’s life is filled with projects; he will soon be releasing a children’s book about traveling with a wheelchair and has started recently organizing meetup tours with followers. Today, Cory is also asked to attend speaking engagements about traveling in a wheelchair and blogging.
When asked about the costs of accessible traveling, Cory explains that traveling with a wheelchair can certainly be more costly. “For example, for a tour, rather than paying $50, it can cost up to $300 to get a car accessible to a wheelchair. When I go to a hotel, I have to pay for pricier accommodation. I can’t go to a hostel for example. However, some destinations like Costa Rica and Ecuador are cheaper.”
“You should always do a lot of research before going on a trip. The more research you do, the more your trip will be accommodating,” explains Cory. He himself always travels with a companion that can help him – often a friend or family member.
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Cory’s Top 3
Here are the top 3 most accessible destinations for wheelchair users according to Cory:
- Sydney, because every transportation is wheelchair accessible, even better than the USA;
- Washington, D.C., because public transportation is wheelchair-friendly, so it’s very easy to get around;
- London, UK, because all the black cabs have a ramp for wheelchair users.
When asked what destinations are least accessible, Cory mentions Paris, where the metro is not accessible and where he was only able to find one accessible taxi during his visit. However, he adds that he went in 2018 and has heard that things have improved since then.
When he gives reviews about destinations on his blog, he likes to be completely honest. Not only does this help travelers but it also helps to improve the accessibility for the locals.
Cory wants to spread the message that as wheelchair users, “we are out there and if destinations will become accessible, people are adaptable.”
To follow Cory’s accessible travel adventures, you can go to https://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com/.