Tourism : An Endless Opportunity


Mariana at Day on the Beach in Santa-Cruz

I want to share something Scott told us when we were having dinner in Santa Cruz with other people that participated at the Day on the Beach. When Scott was younger he became a ski instructor, and not so long after he was paralyzed. And instead of being depressed because he wouldn’t be a instructor anymore, he said something like “A part of me still wants to live, and what is half of infinite opportunities that I have? It is still infinite, right?”

Let me tell you something about my experience in Santa Clara County. My name is Mariana Coelho, I’m from Brazil and I’m a senior university student in tourism back home.

A couple of years ago, I decided that Accessible Tourism would be an interesting theme for my final thesis. Since then, I’ve been developing my ideas and I also started paying more attention to accessible places and people with disabilities. One question that has always been in my mind is why I’m used to seeing so few people with disabilities outdoors in Brazil. What I am discovering is that, compared to California, we do not provide enough accessible infrastructure nor do we have a reliable healthcare system.

One reason that I am in the US is because the professor I’ve chosen to advise me in my final thesis encouraged me to come here and experience a different society to learn more about accessibility, tourism, universal design, inclusion and so on. That’s how I learned about Scott Rains’ work. We’ve been talking ever since. He told me about the Day on the Beach event, in Santa Cruz.

Basically, what first interested me in this area was the Day on the Beach, because I really wanted to experience it firsthand. One of the things I realized when I met Accessible Tourism expert Simon Darcy in Las Vegas, in June 2007 is that if I really want to help people with disabilities I have to at least try to understand their world and culture. And this is something that I believe that anyone should do when you want to develop anything: try to know and understand it.

Anyway, observing and being part of Scott’s life this weekend has already opened my eyes and my mind to a lot of details. It begun when I met him at San Jose’s bus station and started to learn how to set up a wheelchair (I’m starting to do a better job by now). Then I saw how hard it is to transfer and put a chair in your car on your own. What was also really nice to see an attractive accessible house.

Well, I could name many things I’ve noticed and places I’ve gone so far, but my point is that it is important for everyone to be able to go outdoors, have fun and experience the world, even if some special elements are required. I mean, who doesn’t need some special requirements to live and be happy? Everyone does. And that’s why I believe so much in tourism as an activity that deals with happiness, joy and fulfilling our lives.

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