Submit a story

Wheel the World Academy: Accessible Tourism Training

4 min read

Bailey Letson

Bailey Letson

Wheel the World Academy: Accessible Tourism Training

What is Wheel the World Academy?

Wheel the World Academy is an online training program created for professionals in the tourism industry. Participants will gain knowledge about disabilities, accessibility, and best practices in accessible tourism.

How it all began

In December 2016, we were part of the first expedition to complete the W circuit in Torres del Paine in Patagonia with a wheelchair user. Some called us crazy, others said it was impossible, and more than one person said it was irresponsible.

Well, thanks to that “irresponsibility”, Wheel the World is what it is today. It has impacted thousands of people with and without disabilities, allowing people to get to places they never thought possible. I can definitely say that the trip to Patagonia was the most powerful and significant experience of my life.

But we didn’t stop there. Our hunger to make the world accessible then took us to other places: San Pedro de Atacama, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, Italy, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and more!

As we began to visit these places, we grew our knowledge beyond mobility related disabilities. We started to learn more about accessibility for people with visual or auditory disabilities.

Every time we visited a new destination, we realized that people with disabilities face a huge barrier every time they travel. The barrier is the lack of preparation and knowledge about disability and accessibility within the tourism industry and the general population.

Diverse studies show that people with disabilities often opt not to travel, or to return to the same places, due to the lack of accessibility information about new destinations. According to a study done in Spain in 2018 by the organization Adecco, 56% of people with disabilities don’t travel because of a lack of accessibility information.

Many of our partners began to ask us how to acquire more knowledge and training about accessibility, so we decided to share our knowledge through a program called Wheel the World Academy.

Demonstrating a transfer at an in-person workshop

The first Wheel the World Academy

The very first Wheel the World Academy took place in Doha, Qatar in November 2019. 25 people, who worked for 3 different tour operators, completed the training program. It was a huge learning experience for both us and them. We discovered that many professionals in the tourism industry are willing and eager to learn about accessibility, what had been missing was the information, and a way to explain it.

Reaching new places

In December 2019, we traveled to Easter Island to train our friends at Mau Henua, the community in charge of Rapa Nui National Park. We explained theory and practiced skills and techniques in iconic places around the island, like the beach of Anakena.

In February 2020, just before we began to quarantine as a result of the pandemic, it was our partners in Machu Picchu and Cusco’s turn. We trained the team at PEAK DMC, tour operators of the various tours and activities that we offer in Peru. We also trained Inca Rail staff, who operate the train that runs from Cusco and Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the village at the base of Machu Picchu.  We also had the opportunity to travel to various destinations in Chile and train professionals throughout the country.

Unfortunately, the pandemic arrived with full force and the world shut down. However, our purpose to make the world accessible remained, and we found new ways to continue working toward a more accessible world. Unable to travel and train tourism professionals in-person, we decided to launch a virtual program, and WTW Academy e-learning was born.

Wheel the World Academy is an online learning journey, aimed toward professionals in the tourism field. Students learn about different accessible-travel-related topics: types and models of disability, interaction, universal design, accessible transportation, accessible tourism, barriers in tourism, good accessibility practices, sustainable tourism, and more.

Wheel the World also took part in a sustainable tourism accelerator program in Singapore with the Singapore Tourism Council. As part of this program, we partnered with the local Shangri-La Hotel and Sentosa Island. These partners were the first to complete Wheel the World Academy 100% online.

We currently have a long list of various tourism professionals (hotels, tour operators, transportation entities, and government agencies) signed up for Wheel the World Academy.

If you would like to participate in Wheel the World Academy online, read more about our partner certification and training plans here.

About the author

Bailey Letson

Bailey Letson

Author Description not provided

Do you have a story to tell?

We'd love to share it

Submit a story