Wisconsin Accessible Travel Guide

Travel is for everyone. Travel information should be too. But far too often travel information fails to speak to the more than 26 million disabled travelers in the U.S. alone. And globally that number is obviously much higher. Connecting people directly to accessibility information is a vital part of making travel information for everyone.

Your time is valuable. It can be so frustrating spending hours chasing down details to help you decide what’s really worth investing your travel time doing.

Enjoy this A to Z list of everything you should know, see and do in the state of Wisconsin which includes direct links to to accessibility information so you can make the best travel choices for yourself and spend more time enjoying your experience rather than stressing about the uncertainty of accessibility details!

Consult the airport websites in Madison and Milwaukee to make your arrival/departure as smooth as possible.

A

Watch a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game at American Family Field

Take in a performance at American Players Theatre

B

Explore all the activities at Bradford Beach, which is one of the most accessible beaches in the country

C

Enjoy the atmosphere at a Wisconsin Badgers football game at Camp Randall Stadium

View the latest exhibits at Chazen Museum of Art

Learn all about the history of the circus at Circus World Museum

D

Check out all the state parks and recreational areas on the Department of Natural Resources website


Explore the world of science and technology at Discovery World

E

F

Watch a Milwaukee Bucks basketball game at Fiserv Forum

G

Take a road trip down The Great River Road which follows the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico

View the seasonal blooms at Green Bay Botanical Garden

H

Learn about motorcycles at Harley-Davidson Museum

I

J

K

L

Take in the atmosphere and history at a Green Bay Packers football game at Lambeau Field

See the art exhibits at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

M

Explore beautiful Mackinac Island

Plan your trip around Madison on the Madison Metro Transit website

Plan your trip around Milwaukee on the Milwaukee County Public Transit website

Get curious about the world’s natural and cultural diversity at Milwaukee Public Museum

Take in the atmosphere at Monk Botanical Gardens

N

Experience the migration of over 230 different species of birds at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

O

View the gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

P

Step back in time at Pabst Mansion

Stay up north at Pine Forest Lodge in Mercer

Q

R

S

Check out Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for excellent birdwatching

T

U

V

W

Learn about the state’s history at Wisconsin Historical Museum

X

Y

Z

Visit the animals at Milwaukee County Zoo

Recommended Reads: Disability Edition

These were all shared over on Instagram throughout Disability Pride Month in July. What are your favorite books from disabled authors or with disabled characters?

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig

Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Flight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson

Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Flight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

The Pretty One by Keah Brown

The Pretty One by Keah Brown

Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair by Nujeen Mustafa

Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair by Nujeen Mustafa

A Place For Us by Cassandra Chiu

A Place For Us by Cassandra Chiu

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Girl at War by Sara Nović

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Sound of Blue by Holly Payne

The Sound of Blue by Holly Payne

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

My TBR

15 Powerful TEDx Talks About Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion

Society likes to shy away from the topic of disability. Learned behaviors, misconceptions and misunderstandings abound. However, in order to create a world where all people are valued and accepted we need to have open and respectful conversations about disability. It is then that we can deal with breaking down physical and attitudinal barriers at all levels- individual, organizational and systemic- which hinder disabled people from fully participating in society.

TED Talks and TEDx Talks are a great way to learn about a range of topics about disability. To help you get started I have compiled fifteen TEDx Talks addressing a variety of disability related topics. TEDx Talks are TED-like events that are organized independently by volunteers all over the world.


Creating Inclusive Workplaces by Caterina Rivera

Creating Inclusive Workplaces by Catarina Rivera

One in four adults in the United States is disabled. What does this mean for employers and leaders have a lot of disabled employees that they don’t know about.

Catarina Rivera

Rivera poses the question of what if employers ask how can we create a workplace culture that is accessible and inclusive for everyone rather than asking disabled people to disclose. Disability inclusion is a competitive advantage and addressing accessibility from the beginning makes your workplace better for everyone.


Inaccessibility in the Diagnosis of Neurodiverse Individuals by Saoirse Lynch

Inaccessibility in the Diagnosis of Neurodiverse Individuals by Saoirse Lynch

This diagnosis [Dyslexia] only gets me so far. To get the same level of help that I would need at university [as in secondary school] I would have to have a clinical psychologist diagnose me and from here it gets trickier. We were told that for a formal diagnosis it would cost up to $1,300 and have a wait time of at least three months. But we already knew I had dyslexia so why should we have to pay a lot of money and wait a long time simply to gain access to the support that I needed?

Saoirse Lynch

Saoirse Lynch lays out the complicated process of getting a neurodiverse diagnosis. Believing people when they say they are neurodivergent, learning about neurodiversity from people who are neurodivergent and talking to politicians about increasing funding for diagnosis are all ways we can determine how inclusive our society is to thousands of neurodivergent people.


Why We Need to Talk About Disabilities by Mary Dillard

Why We Need to Talk About Disabilities by Mary Dillard

It’s true that many people with disabilities were instrumental in the passing of the ADA. However, in the years since, it’s become clear that we’ve become significantly less involved.

Mary Dillard

Dillard points out numerous examples of what happens when disabled people aren’t included in the planning process and that it’s ok to ask what is needed for participation.


Including the Disabled Perspective in Advocacy by Angeline Dziegrenuk

Including the Disabled Perspective in Advocacy by Angeline Dziegrenuk

We value personal connections and social belonging more than physical gifts or random words of praise. It may be important to consider before performing a kind action why you are doing it.

Angeline Dziegrenuk

Angeline shares about a time when a random man singled her out in a store to give a Christmas gift. Some good deeds are misguided. It’s important that disabled people share their experiences and perspectives. Doing so increases the credibility of inclusivity related resources.


Patterns and Disability: Ethical Failings of Designing for Normal by Adrian Petterson

Patterns and Disability: Ethical Failings of Designing for Normal by Adrian Petterson

Dark Patterns are systemically used design techniques that result in negative experiences for users which are against their best interests and likely happen without their consent or awareness.

Adrian Petterson

Dark Patterns are commonly used on e-commerce websites and apps. The experience of neurodiverse users is rarely taken into account. Adrian Petterson explains this fascinatingly complex area of design and how this relates to neurodiversity.


Let’s Reconsider Our Biases on Disability by Askash Lakdawala

Let’s Reconsider Our Biases on Disability by Askash Lakdawala

As a society we should question ourselves why are success stories of disabled people such a rarity? Why do we not often find them at our workplaces, schools, institutions or seldom shopping alongside us in malls? What are we doing wrong or rather what should we do right to increase this inclusiveness?

Akash Lakdawala

Akash Lakdawala raises key questions to think about when it comes to creating an environment that will help disabled people flourish. A person is only as disabled as the society around them has failed to cope with. Society needs to take responsibility in creating those environments.


The Psychology of Ableism by Kathleen Bogart

The Psychology of Ableism by Kathleen Bogart

My research shows that educating people about facial paralysis and to look for alternative expression […] reduces ableism. People with facial paralysis have developed skills to communicate without facial expression and now the general public is being invited to rethink communication as well.

Professor Kathleen Bogart

Professor Kathleen Bogart shares what her psychology research related to disability reveals about ableism in society and also how the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized adaptations that have long been used by the broader disability community.


Empowering Disabled Students in the University System by Rebekah Lamb

Empowering Disabled Students in the University System by Rebekah Lamb

[Disabled people] are tenacious, intelligent individuals. They are a value in the classroom and the university system makes it difficult for them to be successful. The solution to this is really simple. You have to go forward; you have to open your eyes and your ears and you have to listen when people tell you that they need help. Open communication is the solution.

Rebekah Lamb

Rebekah Lamb outlines how open communication is essential to student success. Yet it often doesn’t happen. Opening up the lines of communication leads to student empowerment.


Disabling Ableism: The Modern Pathway to Inclusion by Alycia Anderson

Disabling Ableism: The Modern Pathway to Inclusion by Alycia Anderson

We don’t always have the right answers but we will never ever find the right answers unless we are willing to put in the hard, collective, uncomfortable, ongoing work that it requires to learn about one another.

Alycia Anderson

Alycia Anderson offers insights into the causes and effects of ableism and what it will take to dismantle this belief system that is so ingrained many don’t even realize it’s there.


Disability is Not the Problem… Fear is the Problem by Becky Curran Kekula

Disability is Not the Problem… Fear is the Problem by Becky Curran Kekula

I invite every single one of you to question your fears. What are you afraid of? Fears are really hard to challenge and in order to do that you also have to change some of your behaviors. Create a culture of inclusion means overcoming the fear and intentionally providing access and including people with disabilities in every conversation. Inclusion means planning to build physical, digital, learning and work environments so that they are usable by a wide range of people.

Becky Curran Kekula

Becky Curran Kekula shares how fear and lack of understanding are the problem, not disability. Disability can be an asset if people without disabilities step out from behind their fear.


The Complications of Kindness by Rebekah Taussig

The Complications of Kindness by Rebekah Taussig

But what if actual kindness, like the kind of kindness that does good and feels good and makes tangible difference is more complicated than we like to think?

Rebekah Taussig

Rebekah Taussig masterfully shares how the relationship between disability and kindness is complicated. Disabled people are consistently flattened into one-dimensional stereotypes in stories about disabled people. These stories center the deeds of non-disabled people. These “feel good” stories are shaping how we interact with each other. If we want to be genuinely kind we need to listen.


Why Businesses Must Be Fearless with Disability Inclusion by Delaina Parrish

Why Businesses Must Be Fearless with Disability Inclusion by Delaina Parrish

I, like many others, am afraid that without a fair opportunity to be seated at the corporate table or even invited through the door of employment that an entire talent pool will be lost, leaving crucial innovation to assumption rather than truth. The time is now for us to hear the voice that says diversity inclusion is also disability inclusion.

Delaina Parrish

Delaina Parrish lays out that as the dynamics of our global workforce and population shift it is vital that we attract, develop and retain diversified talent. Disability inclusion in business brings an exciting dimension to industry. Many of the issues affecting business can be solved with skills already associated with disability. A collaborative effort with colleges, employers and students communicating the same message that diversity inclusion is disability inclusion is needed.


Disability Right and Equality by Obanye Frances Chizoba

Disability Right and Equality by Obanye Frances Chizoba

[Disabled people] need involvement and inclusion in the social and economic activities of a nation.

Obanye Frances Chizoba

Obanye Francis Chizoba shares her experiences finishing high school and attending university after acquiring a facial scar. She wants to see people with all kinds of disabilities accepted in society with the same rights and opportunities.


How We Can Stop Failing People with Disabilities by Joshua Tseng

How We Can Stop Failing People with Disabilities by Joshua Tseng

My hope is for people with disabilities like me to no longer feel inferior like outliers or like society has failed us and we can achieve this through three core pillars: accessibility, inclusivity and self-advocacy.

Joshua Tseng

Joshua Tseng outlines how the digital world is often inaccessible and how this has happened. But there are practical ways that individuals can make tangible improvements that impact digital and physical environments.


To Tick the “Disability” Box or Not by Chelsea Williamson

To Tick the “Disability” Box or Not by Chelsea Williamson

The term ‘disabled’ carries such a deep rooted stigmatization and as a result I have personally chosen not to tick the ‘I have a disability’ box out of pure fear for the labels that are attached to my disclosure.

Chelsea Williamson

Chelsea Williamson points out how society can be disabling to people with disabilities. Disclosing disability shouldn’t result in others further disabling an individual through accessibility and attitudinal barriers. But, it does happen. It doesn’t need to be that way though.


Event Organizers: We Need to Talk About Inclusion

I know, I know. You’re busy and there are so many factors that go into putting on a successful event. Give me 5 minutes to talk about something that I’ve felt desperate to tell you about for years. Please. I promise it’ll be worth it. Just keep an open mind and hear me out. Okay? Great, thanks!

Inclusion is a big word with a lot of meaning. But it’s an abstract concept and to be inclusive means to implement concrete ways that support the concept of inclusion. There are so many ways for an event to “be inclusive”. But have you stopped to think who you’re being inclusive of? Obviously, you’re hoping to be inclusive to everyone. But what does that even look like. There have to be actionable steps to achieving the goal of inclusion. Have you considered if those actionable steps you’re using to achieve inclusion are really communicating inclusion to your audience?

Inclusion includes disability. I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to point out but as a disabled person I’ve seen plenty of times where that seemed to be forgotten. In other words, the actionable steps an event used didn’t effectively communicate inclusion of disabled people.

I get that there are already lists out there about how to implement (communicate) disability inclusion. But, as with anything else there comes a time when we need to look with fresh eyes to achieve new results. Let’s talk about some actionable steps to communicate disability inclusion that maybe, just maybe you haven’t fully considered yet.

Every single one of these points comes from real world experiences and conversations that throughout my life I desperately wished an event organizer would have with me in the moment but didn’t. You see, when people are attending events we are interacting with what I’ll call “frontline workers” rather than the organizing staff. That means there’s room for miscommunication between what those two groups of staff understand and expect and also room for messages from visitors to not be relayed to the organizing staff at all.

  1. Consult with people with a variety of accessibility needs throughout the planning process.

It’s so important to verify that what you think will work for people with various access needs actually works for those people. You don’t need to keep wondering if your intentions are effectively meeting needs. You can consult with people who live with those access needs and find out! Connecting with disability organizations in your community is a great place to start.

2. Understand that people with similar disabilities may prefer different strategies to meet their needs.

It’s the classic don’t judge a book by it’s cover. While there are times that people with similar disabilities will have the same strategies to meet their needs this is not ALWAYS the case. It’s important to be open to the individual. I know what my body can and can’t do. Someone who is just meeting me doesn’t know that better than me. Sadly, I’ve gone to events and met people who communicated like they did know better than me what my body could and couldn’t do. That doesn’t make for a positive experience!

3. Language matters

I know this one gets talked about a lot but it needs to be said again and frankly shared with staff and volunteers. It doesn’t need to be complicated though. But, if I’m in a high stress situation where accessibility is less than great and then I’m interacting with a staff member or volunteer who is being shall I say sloppy with their language it heightens the emotions and makes the feeling of being excluded and frankly, unseen even worse. In contrast, a staff member or volunteer who uses polite, generally accepted language in a less than great accessibility situation can at the very least not make it worse and actually make me feel seen and heard even if in a small way. I once was in a less than accessible situation and the staff member I interacted with kept referring to ‘wheelchairs and scooters’ as ‘carts’. That seemingly small word choice made a world of difference in the emotion in the situation and just added to the feeling of me being invisible.

4. Staff/volunteer training needs to be detailed and not just pointing out an accessible seating section, ramps and an elevator.

The disability experience is complex. Everyone’s individual experience is unique and yet when non-disabled people speak about it it tends to be a fairly watered down version of reality. Not terribly helpful but unfortunately many non-disabled people don’t realize how unhelpful it really is. Of course, there are basic things like like where the accessible seating, ramps and elevators all are. Keep including that! But don’t stop there.

5. Make sure that guests with disabilities are able to successfully contact other team members about accessibility if the guest feels the accessibility coordinator hasn’t met their needs satisfactorily.

This, at first glance sounds like a hard, potentially scary one. But it’s really important that disabled guests can have their experiences heard and sometimes that may mean talking to someone other than the accessibility coordinator. I’ve given feedback in the past and seriously doubted if my feedback was heard by the planning team. Obviously, the hope is that the accessibility coordinator will share that feedback with the rest of the planning team but in practice that doesn’t always happen. If a guest reaches out to another part of that planning team with accessibility feedback, welcome that feedback! Don’t simply relegate that feedback to one person. Collaboration is essential to progress.

6. Strive to create an environment that provides an equal amount of autonomy and freedom of choice for disabled guests as non-disabled guests.

Implementing inclusion is not only about gives people with varying abilities access to the event, it’s about the overall experience which includes autonomy and freedom of choice. Containing disabled people in certain areas while everyone else is moving around generally has more choices gets noticed by disabled people. As much as possible, reimagine spaces and scenarios that allow people with varying abilities to experience the event on their own terms to the same level you think about non disabled people experiencing the event on their own terms.

7. Team members’ names should be visible on the website. Guests who make inquiries should know who they are talking to.

For some of you this is going to sound really obvious and you already do it. Thank you! But personal experience has shown me this is a practice not all events practice and it’s an important one to not overlook in it’s simplicity. Being personable goes a long way in building positive relationships which effects event growth. If you’ve had a negative experience and you share it, even if the feedback you get isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for knowing you’ve share your experience with a real person who you can name can give a positive feeling. In contrast, simply knowing the name of the one you’re talking to can add to the negativity.

8. Follow up intentionally with people who share their experience or offer advice.

It’s sad the number of times I’ve shared feedback and either gotten no response or a very generic response. Even when I’ve asked to be kept informed or offered to give more information people won’t follow through. It’s incredibly frustrating and disheartening. Don’t lose out on valuable information by not genuinely following up. Genuine follow ups foster good relationships.

9. Make sure that accessibility upgrades are part of long term growth of an event and therefore the budget and communicate that to the public.

Stop kicking the can down the road! Make accessibility upgrades a priority by including them in the budget and how you grow the event. Change takes time and the sooner you start take actionable steps the sooner everyone gets to see the benefits. It’s not enough to desire accessibility upgrades. It’s not enough to keep things in the hypothetical realm of someday. Put those upgrades in the budget and get moving now so you can reap the benefits you know are there when an event is inclusive.

How things get communicated to the public always varies. But if you’re already in the habit of sharing about upgrades then don’t keep accessibility upgrades a secret. Heck, even if you aren’t in the habit don’t keep accessibility upgrades to yourself. If seen events with publicly known budgets over one million dollars that had accessibility upgrade needs and when their annual upgrades were announced to the public accessibility was not on the list. Doesn’t get disabled people excited for next year! Get as many people excited for what’s to come by sharing about these things through the marketing.

Remember that disability is part of diversity. It’s a problem when an event talks about a commitment to diversity but makes glaring errors in disability inclusion. Rethinking the different aspects of inclusion and remembering that its about tangibly communicating that people with diverse abilities are welcome and valued are vital to future success.

Minnesota Accessible Travel Guide

Travel is for everyone. Travel information should be too. But far too often travel information fails to speak to the more than 26 million disabled travelers in the U.S. alone. And globally that number is obviously much higher. Connecting people directly to accessibility information is a vital part of making travel information for everyone.

Your time is valuable. It can be so frustrating spending hours chasing down details to help you decide what’s really worth investing your travel time doing.

Enjoy this A to Z list of everything you should know, see and do in the state of Minnesota which includes direct links to to accessibility information so you can make the best travel choices for yourself and spend more time enjoying your experience rather than stressing about the uncertainty of accessibility details!

A

Take in a Minnesota United soccer game at Allianz Field.

Learn about Minnestoa’s Swedish heritage at the American Swedish Institute.

B

Learn about the history of electricity and see some of Benjamin Franklin’s experiments at the Bakken Museum.

Visit the beautiful Basilica of St. Mary.

Visit the planetarium at the Bell Museum.

C

The Minnesota State Capitol Building

Watch the horse racing at Canterbury Park.

Learn about Minnesota’s history and government at the Capitol Building and don’t miss the monuments along the paths throughout the capitol grounds.

Take in a St. Paul Saints baseball game at CHS Field.

See the animals and relax in the beautiful indoor gardens of the Como Zoo and Conservatory.

D

Check out the Department of Natural Resources website for specific accessibility details for parks throughout the state.

Explore the northern city of Duluth!

E

Consult Minnesota Monthly’s Events Calendar for the latest on what’s happening around the state.

F

Visit the Farmers Market and make yourself a picnic!

G

See the animals at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Enjoy the theater scene at the Guthrie Theater.

H

Entrance to the Minnesota History Center


Learn about history at the Minnesota History Center.

Check out the replicas of a Viking ship and Norwegian stave church at the Hjemkomst Center.

I

At the water’s edge at Itasca State Park

Go to Itasca State Park to see where the Mississippi River begins. There’s a paved path from the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center to the waterfront. It’s sandy towards the water’s edge.

J

Go back in time by taking a tour of the beautiful James J Hill House.

See Native American sacred rock carvings at Jeffers Petroglyphs.

Eat a Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Club or Matt’s Bar, both claim to be the place the burger which is stuffed with molten, bubbly cheese, was created.

K

Rent accessible kayak equipment in St. Paul.

L

Explore the home of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum.

M

Shop til you drop at the Mall of America and check out the indoor amusement park, Nickelodeon Universe, formerly known as Camp Snoopy.

Check out the Metro Transit website for everything you need to know about getting around by bus or light rail train.

Learn why Minneapolis is nicknamed the Mill City at the Mill City Museum.

See fabulous art from around the world at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Consult the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport website to make your arrival/departure as smooth as possible.

See the famous painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. Only one other copy of this iconic American painting exists and it’s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

N

Enjoy the shopping and people watching along Minneapolis’ pedestrian street, Nicollet Mall. Look for the statue of Mary Tyler Moore while you’re there.

O

Experience a musical performance at Orchestra Hall, one of the most acoustically acclaimed venues in the world!

Enjoy a show at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

Indulge your love of the arts and history at the Orpheum Theater.

P

Take a picture with the huge statue of Paul Bunyan & the Blue Ox in Bemidji and while you’re there check out the accessible playground located right by the statue.

Q

Take a self-guided tour by car of the barn quilts in Caledonia.

R

Enjoy a river boat cruise down the St. Croix.

S

Have some fun with science at the Science Museum of Minnesota and while you’re there take in an Omnitheater film!

Walk through the paved paths of the outdoor Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis and take a picture with the iconic Spoonbridge and Cheery.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have extensive downtown skyway systems, particularly great in winter!

T

Cheer on the Minnesota Timberwolves or Minnesota Lynx at a basketball game at Target Center.

Enjoy a day at the ballpark cheering on the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

U

See one of the newest NFL stadiums, US Bank Stadium, and catch a Minnesota Vikings game.

V

Have fun riding the rollercoasters at Valleyfair!

W

Check out the art at the Walker Art Museum which is also home to the outdoor sculpture garden.

The Weisman Art Museum is another great option for the art enthusiast.

Book an accessible outdoor adventure trip with Wilderness Inquiry!

X

Watch a Minnesota Wild hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center.

Y

Take an adaptive yoga class.

Z

Visit the animals at the Minnesota Zoo.

Unlocking an Inclusive Business Mindset

We can all agree that inclusion is good for business; that it’s the right thing to do. But why do inclusion efforts fail and even more frequently, why do inclusion efforts fail to include people with disabilities? It all starts with mindset. Unlock and inclusive mindset and you’ll move forward to actually implementing inclusive practices.

Evaluate the Beliefs that Build Your Company Culture

What would happen if you regularly looked at the beliefs that are building the culture of your workplace? How many of those beliefs would you find that you’re holding onto because they are familiar rather than because they’re effective? Outdated beliefs can be stifling the creation of inclusive environments.

Make a Conscious Commitment to Action

Our actions don’t come about by chance. They reflect our deepest beliefs and values. When we are intentional about getting specific results we take action to get those results. That’s goal setting 101. Without taking specific actions towards disability inclusion then disability inclusion remains a goal without a plan. And we all know that a goal without a plan is just a wish. You will not build a disability inclusive business without conscious commitment to those actions that are disability inclusive.

Inclusion at All Levels

Inclusion in business is not just about employment. That’s one element. But businesses must reflect the communities they are a part of. Inclusive businesses means inclusive hiring at all levels, inclusive marketing, inclusion related to customer support/relations and product/service development. Inclusion allows businesses to unlock innovation that is otherwise impossible. Holding back disability inclusion from any area of business activity is a surefire way to inhibit innovation. Sadly, most businesses don’t even realize that.

Communication Inside and Outside of Organization

Disability is part of diversity and inclusion. Simple. But I can’t tell you how many times diversity and inclusion are addressed and disability is left out of the conversation. This shouldn’t be happening.

Inclusion of people with disabilities should be as visible to those in the organization and outside the organization as other minority inclusion. It’s not helpful to leave people wondering if the organization realizes the value of disability inclusion.

If people are left guessing that translates to a business losing out on money, talent and opportunity. Why would a business want to do that? But if I don’t feel welcome through how your business is communicating (marketing) why would I do business with you? Then you lose money and the opportunity to innovate and reach a new market.

And if your business isn’t communicating internally about the value of disability inclusion it’s going to have the same effects. If employees aren’t reminded of the value of disability inclusion then the work is far less likely to reflect disability inclusion and you lose opportunities to innovate and reach a new market.

Stop assuming “someone else” can do it better or is more qualified to implement inclusion

This is a thought process that sabotages so many individuals and creates big problems. There are more people buying into this idea than just you! You’re not the only one who feels inadequate and unqualified. That being the case translates to people with disabilities being turned down for jobs, being denied services and countless other experiences that others so easily take for granted.

It takes one individual, one business to create change. Yes, we need consistency from all individuals and businesses. But you have no idea the power individual encounters have in shaping our life experience. A bad experience marked by someone not being inclusive in one way or another can effect someone in ways the other person never would have realized. Likewise, a good experience marked by being inclusive can effect someone in ways the other person never would have realized.

You can create situations where people with disabilities are included by simply doing it, making the effort and not worrying that you can’t do it as well as “someone else.”

Rethink the word Inspiration

Inspiration is a word that is thrown around in connection to disability All. The. Time. And it’s not very helpful. I don’t exist to inspire you. People with disabilities are real people living in the real world.

Here’s the thing about inspiration that nobody is really talking about, it’s easy to be inspired to feel good. What isn’t easy is being inspired to action. And it’s action that makes an impact, not nice inspired thoughts.

Disabled employees don’t exist in a business to make people feel good. They exist in a business to do a job and reflect the way society is. Now, disabled employees can bring new innovative ideas based on their life experiences that in turn allows the business to grow and have new opportunities to connect with the diverse world around it.

There’s Always Room for Growth

The thought that prevents many from even making an initial effort is inadequacy. Just like we can think that someone else can do it better we also think about how inadequate those first actions can seem. It’s especially common to think that when you’re comparing your situation to another you see as being ‘better’ at building inclusive practices.

If you don’t start, you won’t grow.

If you don’t start being inclusive now, nothing changes.

If you start being inclusive then you will find more opportunities.

Unlocking an inclusive mindset isn’t as much a matter of learning more as it is a matter of putting into practice the principles we already know. Of course, some of those principles might be more buried than others and learning will happen along the way. Intentionality is key to unburying those parts of our current mindset and transforming our mindset so that we can create an inclusive reality. In the words of Green Bay Packer great, Jerry Kramer, “You can if you will.”

Disability Inclusion for Global Businesses

1 billion people live with some form of disability, that’s 15% of the world’s population. The global employment rate for people with disabilities is half that of people without disabilities. Do you realize that the disabled community represents a spending power of nearly $7 trillion? No? For some context, that makes the disabled community the third largest in the world in terms of purchasing power behind the US and China.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that disability inclusion is the right thing to do. You found your way to this article and according to a recent study conducted by Business Disability Forum more than 90% of businesses in the study stated it was important.

But, there’s still a disconnect between knowing it’s the right thing and doing it. Let’s talk about that.

Moving From Nice to Have to Must Have

Disability inclusion in global business is an issue of inclusion at all levels; both employment and client/customer engagement and is vital to business sustainability and growth. That’s why it’s a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. It is crucial that business leaders see the connection that both of these areas being disability inclusive is integral to business sustainability and growth. It is a key step in making lasting and tangible adjustments that actually make inclusion an everyday reality rather than a pie in the sky idea that we merely hope will happen someday.

In practical terms, this looks like moving away from disability exclusively as an initiative topic. That might sound scary. It doesn’t need to be. I’m not proposing a scenario where we don’t highlight disability topics. I’m saying that its possible that when we think in terms of initiatives businesses may be prone to some burnout on the topic or think that when the initiative ends and we find a new initiative to spend time on we can drop the ball when it comes to the details of past initiatives.

Disability inclusion should never be a one and done; single point in time type of concept. For example, you may implement a specific initiative for disability employment awareness month in October. But that shouldn’t mean you’re not still talking about inclusive hiring practices in May! Thinking about these issues is a year round priority because the opportunities are year round.

Diverse employment is part of attracting diverse clients/customers. But inclusion needs to be at the heart of every aspect of business activities. Disability must be a visible part of client/customer marketing plans. Marketing is about attracting the clients and customers a business wants; people with disabilities are found in every other kind of demographic. Businesses must understand this intersectionality.

Businesses Driving Social Change

Businesses are drivers of social change. When businesses lead, society will follow. Greater equality in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation has made great progress and businesses have played a role in that change. But one area of diversity and inclusion has been neglected: disability. In other words, inclusion is really only being done halfway. Disability is another dimension of diversity and inclusion but that doesn’t make it completely separate from the other dimensions. Let’s stop acting like it’s separate!

Making the change to greater inclusion shouldn’t be a chore; it’s an opportunity; an opportunity to unlock innovation. People with diverse experiences have different approaches to problem solving which drives increased innovation in any area of business. Looking at the potential dividends that the disability experience can offer for future success is a vital growth step.

Addressing inclusion across all systems/departments of an organization is crucial because without a consistent approach pockets of good and bad practice may arise based on dynamics within specific departments or in the case of organizations spread out across the globe, local leadership teams.

Changing the Work Culture

Change can be scary. The familiar is, well, comfortable and familiar. Change can be risky even when we can admit it’s necessary and even long overdue. A lot gets said about evaluating your current practices and how disability inclusive they are. There is a lot of information out there about steps businesses can take to be more disability inclusive. Those are great pieces of information that you’re probably already familiar with. The specifics will look different for different businesses.

The pandemic has caused us to look at how we all work together rather than taking a more siloed approach. It’s an opportunity to see disability as part of a new culture of work.

What I want to challenge you to think about is whether the practices you’ve implemented are ‘best practices’ or just practices that seem to work and are the way we’ve always done them.

Now, some practices that fall into the latter category may also be a “best practice”. I’m not suggesting that everything about your current practices needs to change. I’m saying there’s a common pitfall that we think because something has been the common practice for a long time that it makes it a best practice. However, in reality, they may be archaic practices that we’re still using simply because that’s what we’re accustomed to. This reevaluation process involves an open mind and listening to people who have been impacted by these practices.

When we continually remind ourselves and each other of these guiding principles we can all move forward into more inclusive workplaces.

The Conversation I Should’ve Had BEFORE the Faculty-Led Study Abroad

This season of reflection has brought me to unpacking my experience on a faculty-led study abroad to the beautiful country of Tanzania. This trip was a required part of my master’s program.

From the information we we given I did what I could to prepare. I disclosed my physical disability when I was asked to on an electric health information form that the International Education office asked all of us to fill out.

And that was it.

No personal conversations. No inquiring about additional details. No asking directly about accessibility. No organizers asking me for clarification.

The professor leading the trip was the head of my degree program and my advisor. I had been in the program for a year leading up to this trip. He knew I used a wheelchair and I thought that already knowing that would mean accessibility was part of the planning process.

And throughout our time in Tanzania it was obviously to me that accessibility was not planned for as much as I thought it would and frankly could have.

Having grown up with a physical disability I’ve always danced between speaking up about my needs and shrinking back and saying nothing, as if speaking up may be seen as a problem or inconvenience to the non-disabled people around me. That’s called code switching.

Surprised to hear that diversity term used in relation to disability? You shouldn’t be. Disability inclusion isn’t completely separate from other diversity topics. It’s not a medical term; it’s a subtopic of diversity. If we’re talking about diversity in terms of the other subtopics of race, gender and sexual orientation then there should be an expectation that disability is talked about comparably.

Code switching is the act of modifying your behavior in an interaction in order to accommodate different sociocultural norms. People with disabilities are constantly working to assimilate into the majority culture aka the non-disabled world and code switching is one of those strategies.

I like being as self-sufficient as possible. That’s my comfort zone. Going abroad involves getting out of our comfort zones. For me, and I think a lot of disabled people, being intentional early on about having detailed conversations about accessibility is part of getting out of our comfort zones.

I didn’t fully come to that realization until after I returned home and processed my experience.

Learn from my experience! Speak up and have that more detailed conversation beforehand. Everyone stands to benefit from it.

Knowing what I know now I should have initiated a conversation. If you find yourself in a similar situation and need some help thinking through what that conversation could look like, keep reading! If you’re in a position to support someone with a disability, keep reading!

Here is an example of how this conversation could go. I hope this helps you have the best possible experience!

What I should’ve said!

I’d like to talk about the upcoming experience and get a better understanding of the plans.

I’m really looking forward to the experience and want you to be aware that planning is an important part of having a successful experience. It’s going to be different than my day to day life here at home. It would be helpful to me if you were aware of that. It’s somewhat difficult for me to anticipate all of the specifics right now but I will likely need help in ways I don’t at home.

  1. Where are we staying? Specific names would be great. What do you know about the accessibility of each place?
  2. What transportation will we be using? What do you know about the accessibility?
  3. What specific sites/venues are going to be part of the program? What do you know about the wheelchair accessibility?
  4. Are you working with someone in country to make arrangements? Do they know that wheelchair accessibility is a factor? Accessibility might mean some different to them based on their cultural experience.

Thank you for filling in these details for me. It’s given me some context to share what I anticipate my needs to be in this situation.

What do you wish you had said before you studied abroad or what do you wish your students would ask? Leave a comment and let us know!

11 Travel Reflection Questions to Spark Positivity Right Now

The world feels so upside down this year. We don’t know what normal is right now. We want things to go back to how they were but have no idea when that might happen. At times it feels like we take a step forward but then the next week we take two steps back.

And the travel industry has taken a brutal hit. As I write this in early fall, some travel is coming back but it’s nothing like it once was.

In a year with so much loss and abrupt change, self-reflection might seem especially painful. Self-reflection doesn’t mean descending into a pit of despair over plans that fell apart or longing for the past. Reflection can be a profound experience that points us in a positive direction by giving us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and look at our circumstances in a fresh way.

A lot of people have a lot to say about what travel means to them, what the advantages of travel are and what you’re “supposed to” learn from it. An overarching theme is gaining cross-cultural skills.


But travel doesn’t automatically translate into cross-cultural skills. It does give us the opportunity to develop these skills. Cross-cultural skills help us work in harmony, building better relationships in cross cultural interactions. Cross-cultural competence means you can be effective in your interactions with people from other cultures. It is about your ability to understand and engage with people from different cultures effectively. Cross-cultural competence and the skills that build that competence is a necessary part of achieving professional goals.

Let’s clarify what cross cultural skills actually are. Curiosity, being informed about the world, interpersonal communication, flexibility, patience, inclusivity and understanding your core values & how they impact your attitude/behavior are all examples of cross cultural skills.

Traveling teaches a lot of people a lot of things but what did it teach me and why does it still matter in a season or seasons when I’m not traveling internationally?

Continuously reflecting on past experiences at different points of life means that different things will stand out at different times. It’s easy to forget that reflection can help us reframe our experiences and grow. Our experiences form the stories of our lives but without reflection it’s hard to find the words to express those stories.

Don’t shy away from the powerful growth opportunity that is re-entry but don’t stop at the initial re-entry phase. There is always more to learn by revisiting past experiences through the reflection process.

 

Honest self reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success and freedom.

 

Trudy Vesotsky

Seasons of life where we take a detour and nothing goes the way we envisioned it are rough and scary for so many reasons. One of those reasons that I’ve felt is the pressure to always be growing in order to stay relevant. And it’s easy to fall for the idea that growing means doing. It doesn’t actually mean that. We can grow in any season.

It’s also easy in the quiet seasons where perhaps we know we need to transition to something else such as a new job or career to feel pressure to say the right thing about our experience or skills and yet have no idea what the right thing is in any particular new or future interaction.


When we’re feeling stuck and anxious self-reflection can feel scary and create even more stress. How do we get past that mental roadblock and actually put in the work to get positive, potentially life-changing results?

If you need someone else to tell you that it’s worth it, here you go. I’m telling you it’s worth it.

Still not convinced?

By reflecting on past experiences, you can make changes that lead to more harmonious relationships, and other positive changes in any area of your life. Self-reflection and knowing yourself more intimately can help you become more confident in yourself and your actions. With greater certainty comes less stress and anxiety.

Processing past travel experiences should help you appreciate your past and give some clarity to move forward with a greater sense of confidence in understanding yourself and what you have to share with the world.


These events are part of my story regardless of how long ago they happened. They will always have an impact. It’s in the reflecting that I reconnect with their significance in my life again and again.

There’s no one size fits all approach to how to put self-reflection into action. Do what makes sense to you. Some like journaling and letting words flow naturally. My personal favorite is working through structured prompts. In this guide I’m sharing 11 questions that have really helped me to see my past experiences in a fresh way and find new words to apply what they showed me and how they shaped me to work in my current reality.

I hope this helps you refocus and reframe your experiences no matter what your current reality looks like!

Self-Reflection Question Guide

How have I stayed connected to travel and international experiences when not traveling?

How have I used travel to develop new habits?

What have I learned about people as a result of travel?

How has travel helped me improve how I react to difficult situations?

How has travel been a window to me?

How has travel been a mirror to me?

How has travel helped me figure out what I’m passionate about?

What would I include in my personal travel manifesto right now?

What Can I draw from my past travel experiences to help me in my current circumstances?

If you could use five words, how would I describe myself based on these travel experiences?

What soft skills have I gained that can be connected or represented in travel?

Disability Inclusion as Part of Your International Education Brand

Disability is a natural part of diversity. But could it be that it’s such a natural part that we’ve nearly forgotten it at times? Or perhaps there is an unconscious bias that influences the lack of disability inclusion? Why is it that even when diversity is discussed the conversation rarely addresses disability?

Why is that when these omissions are pointed out there is often an air of defensiveness taken. Are individuals or businesses as likely to be defensive if it’s pointed out they omitted a different minority group as they are towards people with disabilities? I would say absolutely not. Society (which is made up of individuals) is far more vocal about failures to include other minority group than people with disabilities.

What potential biases are at play? What holds people back from actually practicing disability inclusion and how can we break through those barriers? Why in 2020, do we struggle to re-examine why we don’t talk about disability inclusion let alone actually be people who are disability inclusive?

If we say we communicate what we value, what are we saying when we don’t communicate about disability? Seriously. What are you communicating by continuing to shy away from communicating about disability; by continuing to only talk about it on a case by case basis? Hint: it’s not that people with disabilities are as valued as anyone else or that the issues that effect us are as valuable. Yikes! That’s a dangerous message.

Individual Ideas Working Together

Do we stop and think about how individual ideas (or bias) ultimately work together to create group ideas, company ethos, and brands. Individual ideas have power. Committing to understanding diversity and inclusion requires a group effort and a group understanding. Group dialogue about the importance of disability inclusion and the practical implications is an important step. Taking stock of what bias exists in the group is essential to working through the bias and embracing new ways of thinking.

Embrace the Power of Welcome and Information

Everyone wants to feel welcome; like they belong. Marketing campaigns are created based on the idea of making people feel welcome. If a person doesn’t relate to see themselves represented in the marketing campaign then they’re probably not going to interact with that brand in the future.

And why would they?

Your brand should say people with disabilities are welcome. You’re probably nodding your head right now. Of course, we want to be welcoming but how exactly do we do that on a practical level. After all, it’s usually those practical steps where our intention to be welcoming to a diverse audience falls flat and our actions end up not matching our intentions.

What Are You Communicating Without Saying Anything

Are you really communicating that a particular group of people matters when you aren’t addressing them particularly when talking about diversity topics?

Inclusion is about valuing individual contributions and providing the opportunity to participate. Simply put, an inclusive International Education office or any other business provides meaningful involvement and equal access.

Inclusion means everyone is accepted, welcomed, and has a sense of belonging.

Let’s be specific about goals rather than simply saying we are working to diversify out staff or the students we work with we should be more specific about what that diversity actually is and make sure that in that conversation people with disabilities are included. This change in perception can result in more substantive conversations and strategies.

Why is diversity part of our values? For whom are we creating an inclusive environment? How will we ensure that inclusion is not just a talking point?

Provide with resources in the pre-departure process that help them understand their own identity and prepare them for differing cultural norms and viewpoints in their host country.

Assess Specific Inclusion Challenges that Exist to Increase Diversity

What specific challenges do you face in making inclusion a reality? Is it lack of education? A small budget? Physical barriers? Small staff? Something else…?

The first step is always to broaden your awareness (education). The best way to educate yourself on disability topics is by listening to people with disabilities. It is absolutely vital that the people who live it everyday are the ones sharing their experiences and recommendations with the world.

When it comes to budget/staff constraints and physical barriers always keep an open mind. Inclusion inherently involves all of us. Solutions can exist in the most unlikely of places and can be far more simple and inexpensive than you originally thought if you keep an open mind and actively commit to the value of inclusion.

Images and information/stories posted to websites, social media and in printed media needs to communicate disability inclusion! Website accessibility or lack there of communicates inclusion too!

Small changes can make the difference in terms of who is able to access your message. Don’t underestimate that!

It’s time for people with disabilities to be recognized as valued members of the global community. Commitment needs to be shown through action right now. Not at some point in the future when we think it will be easier. 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we need to adapt to change. Let’s take that attitude of adapting forward into the future.