Traveling can be stressful and hard enough, without adding obstacles to it. But imagine how difficult it would be to travel from a wheelchair. One Valley man is paving the way within and trying to make travel a pleasure for those with physical challenges. His name is Brett Heising. He saw a need and is filling it.
It's those everyday details you might take for granted, he's actually scouting and on the look-out for. He's doling out what he calls "Brett-Scores" and now has a leading travel website for people with disabilities called BrettApproved.com
"You can see this is a zero entry shower," he shows us. And while sitting at a desk, "this is good too because these are within reach," he says as he demonstrates how easy it is to reach a cell phone charging station. Traveling through a hotel with Brett is eye-opening. Even if it means getting out of his wheelchair, on his hands and knees, he'll inspect spaces most people take for granted. "I was seeing if there was space enough underneath this bed for a Hoyer lift," he tells us. "This bed is a good height," he confirms.
Born with Cerebral palsy, Brett uses a wheelchair for mobility, along with 50 million Americans, who are also dependent on wheelchairs. "That number represents more than the entire population of Canada," he explains. adding that it equates to $34 billion dollars being spent by this clientele on travel and entertainment. "People with disabilities do have money to spend, we are very loyal consumers."
But exploring new destinations, something he loves to do, even going out to dinner, he says isn't easy. It takes him more time and extra planning. "I have bruised my knees for years because your trying to roll up to a table for dinner and you just can't do it." Navigating a flight of stairs on a cruise ship is another obstacle he has faced, and something he only achieved with the help of staff who lifted him and his chair up the entire flight. It's these types of obstacles he is searching for to let others know what they can expect while on vacation.
Four years ago, he put the power in your hands. "We're trying to take the guesswork out of travel." He created a website called BrettApproved.com
"When you visit the site, it says rate this place. It will basically guide you through it." Here, you provide the feedback on hotels, and restaurants to generate what he calls a "Brett-Score" based on what you've experienced.
"Traveling with a disability is already very challenging, so if we can help level set those expectations, and then when a challenge does arise, we help to teach hotel staff, how do you interact with someone with a disability," he explains. From the ease of parking, maneuverability through a property, to room access, your opinion counts and can help others decide to either enjoy says or steer clear.
Brett now speaks internationally and does training all around the country to help properties go beyond the ADA requirements for accommodations and accessibility. He is also a board member of the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona, one of Arizona's oldest non-profits. Brett says he feels the ADA has done a good job but believes those requirements are the minimum, and that there is always room for growth towards excellence.
For more information about Brett and Brett Approved, click here.
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