Schaumburg mom Michell Haase has traveled around the world with her 19-year-old daughter, a Paralympic hopeful. In 2011, Haase left her job to start TravelinWheels, a website that serves those who looking for accessible travel. She talked to Chicago Special Parent about what she’s learned about traveling with someone who has special needs.
Why did you decide to start TravelinWheels?
We found it was very difficult to find information about accessibility in destinations. There were blogs, subjective information, but it was very hard to find details about hotels, restaurants. I would spend a lot of time researching things. So a few years ago, I came up with the concept. … We give people our tips and tricks, the resources available to them, what their rights are. And we’re working with the hospitality industry to teach them what the needs are in the accessible market, beyond compliance. …We want to see more people feel they can travel and teach them how to do it effectively and also teach those who are providing the services.
If you had one piece of advice for families, what would it be?
My biggest piece of advice is you have to have a sense of humor. You have to know your own limits. You have to take a deep breath, laugh and pace yourself. It’s really important we try as parents to stay calm, laugh it off, make the best of it, be assertive when things aren’t right. Sometimes the worst things can turn out to be a funny story later on.
What’s the best place to visit if your child has special needs?
It all depends. It depends on what the disability is, what you want to do. Everyone says Disney World is nirvana, but if you have a child that gets over stimulated, it’s not nirvana for you. If you have a nature lover, our national parks have really started to get it, so there’s wonderful places to go. … It’s a changing world with a lot more understanding, or at least the beginning of understanding.
If a family has decided to go on a trip, how do they find out this information?
They come to us! If it’s not on our website, we have an information email, and I answer all of those personally. We have lot of resources. …. We change lives, and I don’t take that lightly.