travel

Toyota’s $4 million competition to re-invent the wheelchair

Phoenix Ai is an ultra-lightweight, self-balancing, smart wheelchair
Phoenix Ai, a finalist in the competition, is an ultra-lightweight, self-balancing, intelligent wheelchair.

Toyota announced five finalists for its Mobility Unlimited Challenge at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas yesterday. Launched in 2017, the Mobility Unlimited Challenge is a contest that invites engineers, inventors, and designers from around the world to rethink the conventional wheelchair and develop a new way for people with lower-limb paralysis to get around. Each of the finalists will receive a grant of $500,000 to develop their concept further, with the final winner receiving $1 million in Tokyo in 2020.

Click here to read more about the competition online, or click here to download a PDF file of Toyota’s press release.

New law requires airlines to disclose how many wheelchairs they break

wheelchair at airport

Beginning in January 2019, airline passengers can search the U.S. Department of Transportation website to determine an airlines’ track record of handling wheelchairs and other mobility devices. A new law sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., requires air carriers to be more transparent, obliging them to provide monthly reports that are publicly accessible and which detail the number of wheelchairs, checked bags, and motorized scooters lost, broke, or mishandled during flights.

The law was actually passed two years ago, but the Department of Transportation delayed its implementation until Duckworth–a veteran and wheelchair user herself–urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to force airlines to make the data — which they already collect each month — available to the public.

Click here to access the article on the Chicago Tribune’s website.

Free accessible phrasebook for travelers

Lonely Planet’s Martin Heng has created the first-ever accessible phrasebook.
Accessible Travel PhraseBook features disability-specific words and phrases translated into 35 different languages, pronunciation guides, vocabulary related to hotels and transportation and even food allergies.

With this free book downloaded onto a traveler’s device, they can ask, Hay escalón en el baño (Are there steps into the bath?) while in Mexico, or, Pues-je visiter La Tour Eiffel en fauteuil roulant (Can I visit the Eiffel Tower in a wheelchair?) when touring Paris.
free accessible phrasebook

Resources from Mobility International USA for travelers with disabilities

Mobility International USA promotes disability rights by facilitating international exchange for travelers with disabilities. They have several media publications including 1) a general “News & Events” page with travel blog posts from around the world 2) “A World Awaits You (AWAY)” periodical about specific regions such as Africa, and 3) “Ripple Effects,” a podcast of interviews with recent exchange travelers.