Yes Virginia, I Do Have Standards!


Here’s an interesting question I received today.

“Do you have accessibility standards regarding what you cover in Emerging Horizons and in your columns and books?”

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with how I work, here’s my reply.

I don’t have any real “set in stone” formalized access standards. I cover destinations worldwide and my readers range from slow walkers to power wheelchair-users. I usually try to describe the access so my readers can make appropriate choices.

What is accessible to one person may be filled with obstacles to the next, so I find the term “accessible” very misleading. So instead of saying a place is accessible I say (for example) that it has a level entry with a wide doorway and plenty of room inside to navigate a wheelchair. I will cover things that have 2-3 steps here and there, but I don’t think any of my readers can do a whole staircase.

That said, I have covered historical buildings that only have stairway access to the upper floors but have photo albums or some other alternative experience available. At a lot of these places a docent will sit down with the person unable to visit the upper floor and give them some personal insight on the sight — something you will miss out on a large group tour. In the end, I ask myself , “Can someone with a mobility disability really enjoy this attraction even if they can’t see a few parts of it?” If the answer is yes, then I usually cover it (if it works into the theme of my feature ) but of course I describe the access.

I spend a lot of time researching destinations for my readers — I’m on the road now — and I try to come up with a good mix. I’m also working on my third book about accessible travel now, and it will include 101 destinations that I have visited in the past 10 or so years (with current access info of course). I do a lot of columns for other outlets and I follow the same procedure; I describe the access and tell readers why they may want to visit a place. I don’t waste my time dissing places (however I will point out access obstacles) as people want to read about things that they can access, not places that they can’t.

In the end my goal is to compile useful access information for my readers, and at the same time give them a good idea about what the destination has to offer.

So yes I actually do have standards. Granted they are not your “standard” standards, but they work well for my readers.