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Vlogger Spotlight: Vineet Valentine Victor
@wheelchairtravelswithvineet

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Hello, I’m Vineet Valentine Victor from the beautiful land of India, and I’m a 24-year-old wheelchair musician. I was born with spina bifida, and my love for travel blossomed thanks to my parents. They believed I should start exploring the world with them before I outgrew their arms and before they became too old to travel. So, believe it or not, my first journey was when I was just one day old! Well, that was a visit to the hospital for my back surgery – just kidding 🙂 Here we are now – I’ve grown out of their arms, and they are getting older, yet our love for travel persists.
Accessible travel remains a challenge in most parts of the world even in 2023. But I can say we’re making progress. Things are improving, and attitudes are changing. It all starts with us—when the disabled community steps forward and shows the world that we exist, there are people who are willing to listen and make our lives easier. Even in our country, positive changes are happening, especially with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. Many improvements are being made to the accessibility of public places, not just for wheelchair users. Of course, there’s still a long way to go. My mom and I run a wheelchair travel channel on YouTube where we share our past trips, focusing on the accessibility of places. We also review new places and share them with the disabled community. We draw inspiration from Cory from Curb Free with Cory Lee, a renowned wheelchair traveller from the U.S. We hope to inspire our Indian counterparts to venture out and travel if they wish. I want to show them that they too can do it! Travel is something that liberates your mind from the mundane aspects of life, even if only for a brief period. It rejuvenates the spirit, creating beautiful lifelong memories with your loved ones.

P.S. Fun fact: Did you know we made a beach wheelchair at home because the ones available online were too costly?

Your best travel experience

While no place in the world is entirely wheelchair-accessible, I must say that my best travel experience so far was in Switzerland. Although I couldn’t ride the Ice Flyer or go up to the Glacier Park on Mount Titlis, the fact that I could reach a height of 10,000 feet above sea level, all while in a wheelchair, was truly unbelievable for me! We weren’t adequately prepared for the trip in terms of accessibility, so we couldn’t take advantage of the Euro-key system for lifts and elevators at some tourist locations like the Rhine Falls and the Chapel Bridge. However, we heard that it works well. Speaking of Rhine Falls, it was heartening to learn that there was an accessible boat for the ferry ride. We also found out that there are accessible cruises on many lakes in Switzerland. And how can I not mention the trams there? They were incredibly easy to roll in and out of, and if I remember correctly, people in wheelchairs didn’t have to pay for the ride in 2017! Well done, Switzerland!

Your worst travel experience

If you visit my YouTube channel, you’ll see that countries like Germany also have inaccessible places. However, I had disappointing experiences when I visited the state of Rajasthan last year. It wasn’t just due to inaccessibility, but also because my dad and I were separated from the rest of the family as they continued with the normal tours with the guide. I missed out on hearing stories about the beautiful palaces, their kings, and their lives, which the others got to hear. This saddened them as well. Some places had ramps, but some were too steep for my comfort, and some didn’t go all the way up. I wish the people in charge understood that there is a ramp standard that needs to be followed, and they should be tested by wheelchair users before finalizing them. So, I won’t label this experience as the worst; I’ll call it the saddest among all the places I’ve been to.

Your must-return-to places 

The heading certainly brought a smile to my face! In my YouTube videos, you’ll notice that in almost every place we’ve visited, my mom and I have a tagline – “We have to go back for the . . . ” Haha! I would love to revisit most of the places I’ve already been to because I might have missed a spot, an activity, or simply because I want to check if the accessibility has improved, if at all! I’m aware that some places in our country have significantly improved in terms of accessibility since my childhood visits. I am so happy and thankful to our central as well as state governments because now, another young kid in a wheelchair won’t face the difficulties that my parents and I did. If you want me to name a few places, it would be great to go back to Goa and see if there is any accessible beach yet among the many beaches there. I’d also like to return to Disneyland Paris and enjoy an accessible ride, or maybe revisit Mount Titlis and check if the Ice Flyer and the Glacier Park are accessible now. My list goes on!

Travel and/or equipment advice

My family and I have learned a lot about accessible travel since I was about two years old. As I’ve grown, my needs have changed, but one thing we never fail to do is raise our voice. We’ve come to understand that it’s challenging for the able-bodied society to comprehend our needs and the problems we face unless we express them. Fortunately, there are people who are very willing to listen and make changes for us, so always speak up.

Next comes the wheelchair. I have a travel wheelchair that is lightweight, foldable, and easy to store. Usually, my dad pushes me, but in our recent trips, he got exhausted, so now my caregiver accompanies me. If you have to go somewhere where your caregiver cannot accompany you, the next best option would be a foldable power wheelchair. Always carry protein or food supplements that can be mixed in water and consumed whenever needed. There are places where I don’t get to eat due to my dietary requirements being a bit different, and I learned this the hard way.

If you need a cushion, backrest, or even your customized seat for a long trip, make sure to carry them. Don’t forget your medical supplies at any cost and carry your prescriptions too. Some places require you to show your disability ID, for example, you need it for the DAS pass in Disneyland, without which you won’t be allowed on a ride (we learned this the hard way) and also for the Euro-key (I think).

Always check the website of a tourist attraction for disability-related notes beforehand. Sometimes the accessible routes for one place are different from others. My favourite tip is this last one. So the next time I’m travelling to a snow-capped mountain, I’m carrying a few metres of the beach wheelchair mat just to see if it works as well as it does on sand. If it does, voila! You have a new wheelchair hack for wheelchair travellers!! There’s this portable, lightweight, manual lift available in a few countries now that enables easy transfer of a person in a wheelchair to airplane seats, beds, etc. My parents have purchased one for me, and I should be receiving it in December.

Check out his Switzerland videos on @wheelchairtravelswithvineet

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