On top of travel expenses such as airfare, hotel rooms, museum tickets, and those churros at Walt Disney World that sell for $6.39 apiece, people who use wheelchairs have a whole other set of costs to factor in.
Necessities like accessible transportation—whether that means taking taxis or renting a specially outfitted van—or the need to have a family member or care attendant along for every step of the journey can gobble up a vacation budget fast.
“It made me think there needs to be some sort of scholarship or a grant or something that can help people with disabilities be able to actually take bucket list–worthy trips,” says Cory Lee, a travel blogger and accessibility advocate who has been “sharing the world from a wheelchair user’s perspective” at his popular site, Curb Free with Cory Lee, since 2013.
(Photo courtesy of Cory Lee)
Having identified the need, Lee is now doing something about it. His new Curb Free Foundation, launched last month, is a nonprofit organization that will distribute travel grants to wheelchair users so they can take their dream trips.
“We’re aiming to give out at least three [grants] within the next couple months,” Lee said in an interview. “We would love to give everyone who applies a grant but it really depends on how many donations and how much funding we can get.”
How to Apply
The application process is simple. Wheelchair users who are interested simply complete an online form asking for info such as contact details, accessibility requirements, where the applicant wants to go, and why.
“We will have at least five board members reviewing the applications,” Lee said. “We’ll look at every single one, trying to pick the ones that really stand out.”
Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis and, according to the application form, submissions remain in the running for a full calendar year.
Lee encourages applicants to propose trips they truly want to take, cost notwithstanding. “If it’s their lifelong dream to go to Italy,” he said, “then they can definitely apply for that trip. There are a lot of applicants who really just want to go to Florida and sit on the beach. It’s totally up to the applicant.”
So far, the response has been brisk, according to Lee.
“Within three days of launching the foundation, we had 160 applications,” he said. “I’ve been reading a few of them. It’s overwhelming to see so many people who want to travel but they just don’t have the budget. I’m really looking forward to giving out some grants and making those dreams come true.”
For the record, Italy, Japan, and Florida (both for its beaches and theme parks) seem to be at the top of most grant-seekers' lists, according to Lee.
Beyond wanting to fulfill wishes, Lee is a proponent of travel as a means of opening a world of possibilities.
“I grew up in a small town in Georgia and didn’t really travel internationally until I was 15 years old,” he said of a formative trip to the Bahamas—“just a couple hours away on a plane. But I thought if the Bahamas can be this close to the U.S. and this incredible and different, then what would somewhere like India be like? Or what would Australia be like?”
Thanks to his globe-trotting blog, Lee would eventually find out—and now, thanks to the Curb Free Foundation, other wheelchair users can find out, too.
(Photo courtesy of Cory Lee)
To apply for a travel grant from the Curb Free Foundation or make a tax-deductible donation to help fund trips for travelers with disabilities, visit TheCurbFreeFoundation.com.