On this episode of All Inclusive Jay speaks with travel blogger Cory Lee. Cory was diagnosed with muscular atrophy at a young age, but that never affected his passion for travel. He now runs the blog Curb Free with Cory Lee which has been featured on CBS, New Mobility magazine and received the 2019 Society of Travel Writers Award.
Jay Ruderman (0:00)
Travel blogger Corey Lee was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the age of two, but that never stood in the way of his love for traveling. To date, he’s traveled to all seven continents in over 30 countries.
All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation and social justice with Jay Ruderman.
Jay Ruderman (0:31)
Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman, and welcome to All Inclusive with my guest, Corey Lee of the website, curb free. Corey Lee, welcome to All Inclusive and thank you for being with us today.
Cory Lee (0:46)
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here and chat with you. So, thank you.
Jay Ruderman (0:52)
Great. I look forward to talking to you and about you know who you are and your ambitions and how you started your travel blog curb free. So let me just start off by asking you, when you began your blog or website, and it started to take off and you began to do featured interviews in Forbes, and you were invited on television interviews, were you surprised by people’s experiences and reactions?
Cory Lee (1:25)
I mean, I was definitely surprised, especially just when things kind of first started taking off because I started the blog, really, as just, you know, a resource to hopefully, you know, show maybe a few other wheelchair users or people out there with disabilities, you know, like what was accessible in Australia or wherever they went that I’d previously gone. And so I mean, I hope to have a little bit of an audience but I never expected for it to, you know, grow to the scale that it is now and for it to receive what recognition and Forbes, and National Geographic numerous times and it’s really like mind blowing like almost when I sit down and like look at my media page of like, where all of them featured I was actually just in National Geographic this morning in a new article that came out so it’s always just like such a shock to me whenever I receive those emails and even like from your podcasts like that was an honor as well. So, thank you for that. And but Yeah, I would say it’s always definitely a good surprise.
Jay Ruderman (2:30)
Well, thank you and I would imagine that there are millions of wheelchair users around the world who like you have a desire to travel and have to do their research before they go out and travel to make sure that you know where they’re going is accessible. So just tell me about how all this started. How did you decide that this is what you wanted to do? You know, we know that it’s Americans, as opposed to the rest of the world don’t travel all that much. And only 42% of Americans actually have a passport. So just tell me how this idea came about for you.
Cory Lee (3:14)
Yeah, I was actually researching like accessibility for an upcoming trip to Australia back in 2013. And it was in December of 2013, when I was just like online searching for accessible things to do in Sydney and accessible taxis in Melbourne, Australia, things like that. And when I started typing that into Google, I noticed like almost immediately that there was a huge lack of information in regards to accessibility within Australia. And so, then it got me thinking, well, if there’s not really information on Australia, then is there information on England or on all these destinations in Europe or even on the US? And so, I searched numerous destinations and felt that it was pretty much the case all across the board, there really just wasn’t a lot of accessibility info out there, there were maybe only two or three other like, accessible travel blogs at the time. And so, I wanted to create a resource and a website where other wheelchair users could go to and really learn, you know, what, what they can do. And all of these destinations that I’ve been to at that time, I’d really only traveled in the United States and a couple places in Europe and I was going to Australia, like two months after I started the blog. But you know, I really didn’t have a ton of experience, but I knew that I had enough that I could hopefully do something with it and show others you know, what Australia would be like when I finally got there. So that’s really where the idea was born. And then after the trip to Australia, I started just documenting everything from that trip and all of my past trips and about a year later it finally started like gaining a good bit of traffic and kind of taking off.
Jay Ruderman (5:06)
So how often do you blog? How often are you talking about you know, traveling and, art, hotels and airlines and tourist sites? Are they contacting you and asking you to write about them?
Cory Lee (5:20)
Yeah. So, I would say about a year to two years after I started the blog, I started like, pitching press trips and trying to work with hotels and destinations. And now that the blog has grown and I have like followers on social media and things like that, places will reach out to me and want me to write about the accessibility of their destination or attraction or hotel in exchange for like a complimentary stay or something like that. So I have definitely been doing a lot of that in the past few years. But I usually blog at least once a week, I’ll publish a new blog post and sometimes twice, you know, I’ve got a lot of content to write about or, but otherwise, I mean, I am posting every day on my social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and trying to you know, keep spreading the word and getting the word out there that travel is possible for anyone.
Jay Ruderman (6:20)
And so, what is this time of COVID-19 been like for you when travel is very difficult. I mean, you know, road trips, there’s some planes flying but, you know, travel has really been curtailed. So, so what does this period been like for you?
Cory Lee (6:39)
Oh, I am ready for it to be over with no doubt about it.
Jay Ruderman (6:44)
Like all of us.
Cory Lee (6:45)
It’s definitely been a struggle in the travel industry as a whole. I mean, the New York Times they got rid of their travel section. I mean, a couple of magazines closed down and it’s definitely been a struggle across the whole industry. But for me, I’ve tried to, you know, just use this time at home to really crank out a lot of quality content and catch up on, you know, writing posts about past trips and staying really active on social media. So about two months ago, I launched a weekly Facebook Live series where I interviewed different destination representatives and PR people from that destination. And we talked about accessibility within that destination. And so that’s been a lot of fun. I actually did my last one, I think last week, so I did eight episodes of that. And it was a big success and so much fun. And I have actually taken two weekend trips though, within the past four months and so I went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.
Jay Ruderman (7:56)
Cory Lee (7:57)
Yeah, it’s gorgeous and only like a few hours’ drive from where I live and found an accessible cabin there. And then a few weeks ago, I went to an alpaca farm in North Carolina, and stayed in an accessible cabin and got to hang out with alpacas all weekend. So, it hasn’t been all bad, but I’m definitely ready to get back on a plane.
Jay Ruderman (8:15)
So, let me ask you, hotels and airlines, travel companies, are they looking to attract people who are wheelchair users? Is that a part of the industry that they’re looking to attract?
Cory Lee (8:34)
I mean, some are, but I feel like most of the industry doesn’t really think about it. So, I mean, whenever I’m speaking at like a conference or giving a keynote or anything like that, always try to you know, really tell them why they should be focusing on this market. So, people with disabilities spend over $17 billion per year, just on travel. So, you know, we are out there, we want to spend the money. And I mean, a lot of places just don’t realize really how big the market is. But as soon as I say those numbers, I’m like speaking at a conference, everybody’s eyes in the audience, they widen and they’re like, Oh my god, like, they’re really out here spending money, like, why are we not trying to make our destination accessible and really, you know, like, become inclusive because they’re missing out on a huge market. And so that’s really like, my overall mission, I guess, is to just really put the information out there and teach, you know, destinations, why they should be inclusive.
Jay Ruderman (9:41)
Right. This is so true. I mean, money certainly gets people’s attention.
Cory Lee (9:47)
I hate that it does, but it definitely does the trick.
Jay Ruderman (9:52)
Have you had experiences? Well, basically, let me ask you when you’re traveling, are people usually accommodating? And are they friendly to you and accepting or, you know, have you had the opposite experience?
Cory Lee (10:06)
I mean, everyone that I’ve encountered pretty much has been really nice and accommodating. And I mean, I remember when I went to Iceland back in 2015, and I was in Reykjavik and a lot of the shops and restaurants are not accessible. So, they had to step to get inside but the chef actually came out from the kitchen and helped like lift my wheelchair up into the restaurant, like over a pretty big step. And some of the kitchen staff did so. And my wheelchair is not light I mean, it’s like 350 pounds. It’s a big, heavy duty powered wheelchair. And so that really meant a lot to me. And it’s like, little experiences like that, that I really love. And I think it shows you know, that there really are kind people all over the world if we’re just willing to look for them and seek out those experiences. So that’s been my overall experience, I guess. And I’ve been pretty fortunate in that regard.
Jay Ruderman (11:08)
And how often is it that you travel to someplace and they’re like, Oh, yeah, there are hotels accessible or airlines accessible, and you show up and it’s and it’s not.
Cory Lee (11:17)
That’s definitely happened a few times, mostly in my earlier travel days. So, the first time that I ever went to Europe, I called the hotel to see if they were accessible. And they said that they were and I was only like, 18, so I didn’t, I knew nothing. I was 18 years old. Um, so I called the hotel they said they were accessible. And then after a few more questions, it turned out that the only accessible feature they had was an elevator. And so, I wouldn’t have been able to, you know, get into the room or you know, even go to the bathroom. The doorway was too narrow and there was no rolling shower. So just because they had an elevator, they thought that meant they were accessible and they could accommodate me. So, I think you’ve really got to ask the right questions, you’ve got to think about, you know, what all accommodations do you need at home and your everyday life? And then how, you know, useful are they and how can you have those when you’re traveling. And so now whenever I call a hotel, I really like quiz them and grill them on their accessibility, request, photos of the accessible room and bathroom just to be 100% sure that it will work and since I’ve started doing that, I’ve had much more success.
Jay Ruderman (12:40)
So, I have some stories for you. There’s a friend of mine Yuval Wagner in Israel and he once was going away for a weekend. He’s also a wheelchair user and showed up at the guest house and he was told it was accessible but it wasn’t and he made them break down the doorframe in order for him to get in and to use the room, which is sort of radical, but you know, he wanted to stand up for his rights. You know, I also remember an example our foundation, the Ruderman Family Foundation has been very involved in advocacy. And we had a gentleman who was flying from Scotland, down to continental Europe, and he said, he called them up and said, “Listen, I have a massive wheelchair, and, you know, is your plane accessible because I’m going on my honeymoon.” And they assured him as it was accessible. He showed up, they wouldn’t take his wheelchair and he ended up suing we got involved in some of the advocacy. It happened eventually. But I hear this time and time again, that airlines, hotels, they say yes, we’re accessible. But they’re really not. They haven’t completely thought through every aspect of how someone with a wheelchair can enjoy the facility.
Cory Lee (14:09)
Yeah, I mean, for sure. And I think airlines, I mean, they have the longest way to go. I mean, that’s really the part of traveling that I dread more than anything is actually flying and getting on the plane because I have to be transferred physically, like lifted out of my wheelchair by the airport staff and I’ve been like nearly dropped several times. And you know, then once I’m actually on the plane, finally, I have to worry about my wheelchair getting damaged throughout the flight because I can’t stay in it. So, I always have to worry about that through the whole flight and it’s been damaged a couple times but luckily never anything like too major, but it’s always like a real concern. Whenever I’m traveling and so I mean, yeah, I think the airline industry definitely has a long, long way to go. And hopefully one day, you know, I’ll be able to just roll on a plane like I can, you know, an accessible taxi or a city bus that’s accessible and stay in my wheelchair and have a comfortable experience like everyone else. But until then I’ll just keep, you know, do what I got to do. But I heard that, you know, it’s worth it once I get to the destination and so if I could just suffer through the flight, it’s worth it when I get there.
Jay Ruderman (15:29)
So, and I would imagine that your wheelchair, you know, cost several thousands of dollars, so any damage can be extremely costly.
Cory Lee (15:40)
Yeah, my wheelchair is like $32,000 I think so when they damaged it, I mean, it’s a big deal. One time they damaged the joystick and just replacing that like, they paid for it, but I mean, it was well over $1,000 you know, just for the joystick, so which is not a big part of the wheelchair. I mean, it does enable me to drive but it’s a rather small part I should say.
Jay Ruderman (16:07)
And how do you deal with when you’re when you’re traveling to some, you know, place that’s extremely old, like, you know, parts of Europe or Israel, and the streets are really not, you know with the cobblestones and the stone streets. I mean, that must just be a further obstacle in order to getting around.
Cory Lee (16:28)
Yeah, some places are pretty brutal. I’m not gonna lie. So, the probably the worst cobblestone that I’ve experienced was in Tallinn, Estonia. And their cobblestone is massive and I mean, it’s pretty rough. I mean, I needed a chiropractor when I got back home I felt like but we usually try to travel with like a tour company that specializes in accessible travel whenever I’m visiting a destination and by doing that they use usually know more of like the accessible routes. So, when I was in Israel, I toured with a company called Israel for all. And they knew all of the accessible routes through the Old City. And we were able to, you know, tour Jerusalem and it really wasn’t very bumpy because they did know the right places to go to and the correct route. So, you know, always touring with a tour company that specializes in accessibility, you’re going to have a better experience overall.
Jay Ruderman (17:31)
And with these tour companies can people find out about them on your website?
Cory Lee (17:35)
Yeah, definitely. They’re all on my website with the different destinations and I mean, even Lonely Planet. I think they published an accessible travel resources book a couple years ago, and it lists out every tour company in the world that specializes in accessibility. So, it is a phenomenal resource and no matter where you want to go, you can find out you know if there is a tour company there for you.
Jay Ruderman (18:03)
So, I noticed that you travel a lot from the pictures that I’ve seen of your travels, you travel a lot with your mother. That must be a great experience. But can you just talk a little bit about, you know how that came about and does she travel with you on all your trips?
Cory Lee (18:20)
Yeah, so my mom does go with me a good bit. We, if I’m traveling internationally, she usually always goes with me. And she definitely has the travel bug just like I do. So, when I was younger, she was a schoolteacher. And we would really use the summer months to kind of explore domestically here in the US and we would go to places like, you know, Disney World or DC or New York City and places like that. And then when I turned 15, we started going on more international trips, and we would to the Bahamas and then eventually to Germany and Austria and England and places like that. And so, we’ve done definitely traveled a lot together over the years. And we really know you know, what each other likes, when we’re traveling, what kind of experiences we want, what kind of attractions we want to go to together. And so, it’s a really cool experience. And we’ve actually visited all seven continents together. So yeah, it’s been a pretty remarkable journey. But if it is more of just, you know, a trip here in the States or an easier one, then I’ll get like a friend or a care attendant to go with me on some of those so, and my mom does work a full-time job. So, it really depends a lot also on if she can, you know, get off work for those trips.
Jay Ruderman (19:38)
It sounds like you, you have a really special relationship with her which is, you know, super nice. And is this your, is this your profession now? I mean, your website, your blog, is this what is what you’re doing, you know, for your contribution to the world.
Cory Lee (19:58)
Yeah, it is my full-time job. So, yeah, it’s probably way more than 40 hours a week, actually. But yeah, it’s the full-time gig.
You’re listening to All Inclusive with Jay Ruderman. You can learn more, view the show notes and transcripts at Rudermanfoundation.org/all inclusive.
Jay Ruderman (20:22)
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Jay Ruderman (20:28)
So, I’m going to ask you a tough question. I don’t know if you’re going to be able to narrow it down. But what are some of the favorite destinations that you visited in your travel?
Cory Lee (20:40)
I should have a good answer to this by now. But I mean, it’s it changes almost every week. I feel like I mean it, there are so many amazing destinations. But if I had to pick three, I would say number one that just like immediately comes to mind is Morocco. I went there two years ago for the first time, and I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot like I didn’t really know anything about Morocco before I went there. And then I went and we went to like Fez and Casa Blanca and Merrakech, and went out into the Sahara Desert, and I rode a camel. And it was just like, experience after experience that I never imagined that I would have in Morocco. And it was probably my favorite trip of all time. I mean, it’s so incredible and vastly underrated, I think. And then I would also say, probably India, I went to India in 2018, December of 2018. And it was wild. I mean, India is a wild country to visit. It’s definitely sensory overload. It’s loud, it’s smelly, it’s just a wild environment to be in, but I mean, it really blew my mind and it’s unlike any other travel experience I’ve ever had. I mean, it is remarkable. We were able to get to the Taj Mahal and then to Shahapur and to Delhi, and it’s just an amazing country with some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet. And then if you’re going to make me pick one more, a third, I would say, probably like Finland. I really love like Finland, Sweden, the whole Scandinavian region of Europe. I mean, it’s one of the most accessible places in the world, I think. So, in Finland, they actually have over 300 wheelchair accessible taxis. And I was super surprised about that when I was in Helsinki. And I mean, most American cities don’t even have that many. So, the fact that you know, Helsinki could get it together and get that many it just is really an amazing place to visit.
Jay Ruderman (22:52)
But well, I’ve been to Helsinki and it’s an amazing city, Morocco and India are on my list of places that are really like to visit? Let’s talk about your book. You wrote a children’s book. “Let’s Explore with Cor Cor“. How did this come about? Why did you decide to write children’s book and what was the experience like? And how’s the book done?
Cory Lee (23:16)
Yeah, I’m super excited about the book. And about three years ago, is when we started on the book. So, it’s been a long process of, you know, finding the right illustrator to do it, and, you know, getting the words down and making it come to reality. But growing up, you know, I never really saw another character in a book or in television that used a powered wheelchair like I did, and I wanted to create, you know, just something for today’s children with disabilities, so that they can hopefully see themselves you know, represented and feel included. And so, I hope that you know, when they say “Let’s Explore with the Cor Cor“, that you know, they see the themselves and know that you know, if Cor Cor can go to all these destinations and they can go too. And every destination in the book is one that I’ve actually been to myself. So, they are all accessible places to visit. It’s totally possible for anyone in a wheelchair to go there. And I can’t wait for everyone to check it out.
Jay Ruderman (24:21)
Yeah, I mean, I think authentic representation is so, so important. You know, we’ve been involved as a foundation for the past six years in, in authentic representation entertainment. There’s been some progress, but it is such an empowering tool. And again, you talk about money, there’s so much money for the entertainment industry to be made. Because we’ve conducted white papers and studies that show that people really want to see authentic representation in entertainment. So, I think you tapped into something there.
Cory Lee (25:03)
Yeah, the response so far. I mean, the book actually comes out on July 26, which is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the response so far has just been incredible. And I hope that you know, we would sell some copies but I never expected for it to you know, be this many so it’s really been awesome so far and I can’t wait to see how much more it grows over the next month or so.
Jay Ruderman (25:29)
Great gratulations on that.
So, you’ve been to seven continents which is completely amazing. Antarctica is a place that most people have not visited. So, can you talk a little bit about you know, traveling I assume you left from Argentina you know, which is usually the jump off point. But you know, what was that like? Were the seas really rough. Did you actually get to you know, go on to the continent?
Cory Lee (26:02)
Yes. So, I went to Antarctica this past February. It was right before the pandemic and I really went at the perfect time. So luckily, I got in one last trip, a big trip. And we cruised with Holland America. And so, since our ship was a bigger cruise ship, we were not able to actually go on to land. But I contacted like before that like several years ago, all of the other like smaller cruise lines like cork expeditions and National Geographic. Their smaller cruise ships and none of their cruise ships were accessible. So really, Holland America was the only accessible option with an elevator on the ship and accessible rooms. And so, I knew that you know, if I wanted to visit Antarctica, and that was really my big goal before I hit 30 years old was to visit all seven continents. They mean I just had to do what I had to do and go With Holland America, even though it meant that I couldn’t, you know, get off the ship and go explore on land. But it really, you know, was so much more than I ever expected it to be. We saw whales every day, we saw hundreds of penguins every single day, and seals and I mean, icebergs that were like bigger than our cruise ship almost. So, Antarctica was absolutely amazing. And I just, it’s such a different experience. And it feels like you’re on another planet when you’re seeing icebergs that are that big and the whales breaching out of the water. So everyone needs to do it, you know, and sometimes, I mean, that trip really taught me that, you know, travel isn’t always going to be, you know, like you maybe want it to be or like you expect it to be so even though I couldn’t go on land, it still managed to blow me away. So, I think if you’re just you know, open to the public experience and willing to put yourself out there and try it out then it can really surprise you.
Jay Ruderman (28:06)
Sounds amazing. I had the opportunity to travel to Alaska a few summers ago and that was amazing but it sounds like Antartica is like Alaska on steroids.
Cory Lee (28:19)
A there’s no Drake Passage in Alaska. So, if you want to really experience the Drake Passage, the Drake shake you got to go to Antartica.
Jay Ruderman (28:29)
Right. So, tell me on your website you have dedicated page to some crazy experiences you’ve had with traveling. You mentioned being attacked by a hippo, your chair battery exploding, being pickpocketed
Cory Lee (29:00)
Yeah, I mean, the craziest travel experience was by far the hippo incident. So a few years ago, I was in South Africa. And we went to meet this hippo named Jessica and she was actually abandoned by her hippo family like a young age and some humans found her like in a river bank, and they brought her in their house and raised her and like she has a bed in their house and they widen the doorways so that she can come inside the house now that she’s fully grown. And so supposedly she was really friendly, they told us beforehand, but when I went to meet her, they handed me a potato to feed her. And I was kind of having some trouble actually reaching over far enough to get down to feed her because she was in the water. And only her head was sticking up out of the water. And I was having trouble reaching over that far and she got really agitated that it was taking so long for me to give her this potato so she decided to launch up out of the water, and she grabbed the side of my wheelchair with her teeth and started pulling me into the water. And as like, right before I became her lunch for the day, her human dad came over and like started yelling at her to stop and trying to you know, pull me back. And luckily, she stopped right before I went in the water and was eaten. And so, I’m here today to tell the story. So, it definitely made for a good blog post. But it was a terrifying experience.
Jay Ruderman (30:33)
Yeah, well, I’m glad you’re here and safe that must have been terrifying because they say that in Africa, the most dangerous animal is the hippo. That more people are killed by hippos than any other animal in Africa.
Cory Lee (30:50)
Yeah, I read that before going and I was like a hippo like they look so cute and cuddly like they couldn’t hurt anyone. And then, of course, I experienced that.
Jay Ruderman (31:01)
So, I’m sure you’ve faced your fair share of diversity in traveling and can you talk about? You know, I know you talked that most people are generally very welcoming and helpful, but does the view of disability change from country to country? And, you know, have you faced blatant discrimination, you know, in places that you’ve gone?
Cory Lee (31:30)
I mean, it absolutely changes from country to country. I mean, when I was in India, for example, we were talking about India a little while ago, but when I was there, every time that I would unload out of the wheelchair accessible van, people would like flock over to watch me go down the ramp and get out of the vehicle because they had never even seen a powered wheelchair before. And I mean, at first it was like, like, just I guess little annoying, like, I hate to use that word, but I really just didn’t know what to make of it because I’ve never experienced that before. But then I got to talking to the people and like really understood, you know, they were only doing that, because they didn’t know what a power wheelchair was, they didn’t even know that it existed. And they some of them actually said that they had friends and family back home that needed a wheelchair and they had to make a homemade wheelchair for them to use. And so, I mean, something like a power wheelchair, could change their life and enable them to finally go out of the house and, you know, have a normal almost normal life. And so, just after, you know, I got to talking to them and really learned why. I mean, it really became evident, you know, I guess but they were still wanting to take selfies and everything but they were really just fascinated and cool with it. But as far as like experiencing blatant discrimination I mean, I luckily, I don’t think I’ve ever had like a bad experience in a country. I mean, aside from like airlines, I mean, I guess the flying issue sometimes in the airports, they will, you know, like, not want to the help me transfer out of the plane depending on the country or they’ll kind of put up a little fight about the transferring off the plane and getting on the plane and what to do with the wheelchair during the flight and stuff like that. So that’s really where I’ve experienced the most discrimination, I guess.
Jay Ruderman (33:32)
Do you find that experience humiliating, you know, to rely on others and, for them, maybe not at all times to treat you with the respect that you deserve?
Cory Lee (33:46)
Yeah, I mean, sometimes it can be humiliating, I mean, especially when I was just starting out traveling, I mean, transferring on the plane and it is quite a sight. So, it’s like a three person job to get from my wheelchair to the plane seat, and I’m usually loaded first. So, you know, none of the passengers have to say that process. But I mean, every now and then, like an airline will load the other passengers first and then load me just like during the middle of it all. And so, then people do have to see every step that goes into it. And so, when that used to happen, I would get like really ashamed about it and like, just be nervous about it, and you know, hate it. But then I started thinking like, you know, this is really a good opportunity for them to see what it takes for someone in a wheelchair to travel. And so I started trying to change my mindset to you know, teach others and show them what all goes into the process because maybe they’ve never seen that happen before and now they finally get the chance to and so now I’ll even like sometimes want to be last, just so that everyone else on the plane can see what goes into it and hopefully that’ll inspire them to you know, fight for change when the time comes and, you know, make flying more accessible, hopefully.
Jay Ruderman (35:08)
Right. And once you’re in the seats, even on long haul flights, you’re there is no moving around for you in the plane.
Cory Lee (35:17)
I’m done. There’s no going to the bathroom. I flew 17 hours nonstop from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa. And we go and I mean, there was no going to the bathroom. There was no getting up. None of that. So usually about two days before I fly, I’ll start like dehydrating myself and like stop eating like any foods that I think might would upset my stomach. So, I mean, there’s a whole process and I’ve luckily like mastered the art of it within the past few years and I know like what else can I do now before flying to you know, not need to go to the restroom on the flight or how can I handle it, but sometimes if it’s a long flight, it’s definitely rough and I’m ready to, like, get there and just be done with it. But throughout the longer flights, I’m trying to just remind myself why I’m going to that destination and what all amazing things will be there. And I just keep telling myself that.
Jay Ruderman (36:24)
So, you know, one of the I think the equalizing factors is that people in America and perhaps around the world react to injustice. So everyone has a camera, on a plane or in any situation, and I think that, you know, if you ever have, you know, a rough time, I think videotaping it and releasing that, you know, puts a lot of pressure on getting airlines and other industries to really, you know, improve their disservices.
Cory Lee (36:57)
Yeah, I’ve done that a couple times. And one of my videos from a few years ago got like 500,000 views. And the airline was not happy,it regarded one of their employees and they were not happy at all. So it was a debacle that you know, and it inspired people to be vocal and, you know, speak up. So I’m happy that it happened, I guess.
Jay Ruderman (37:25)
Sure. You travel with many, I mean, I’ve seen you in different chairs. I’ve seen you in chairs that that can float. I’ve seen you in chairs that have different configurations where you could be on the sand or your jetskiing are you carrying different wheelchairs with you when you travel? Or are you accessing them wherever you end up.
Cory Lee (37:49)
I only travel with my everyday powered wheelchair. And then when I get to the destination, I’ll frequently rent like a beach wheelchair. Or, you know, the sand chair, the water chair, any other any of those like specialty chairs, I’ll just rent when I actually get to the destination because it would be difficult to carry that much equipment with me through the airport and I already travel with a lot so I really cut out another bag.
Jay Ruderman (38:23)
So, you are now on your website, you do a bunch of interviews with people who are also wheelchair users. How did that start? What’s the goal? What are you trying to accomplish with those interviews?
Cory Lee (38:35)
Yeah, I started doing my Wheelie inspiring interview series. Like right after I started my blog because I knew that I didn’t want my blog to just be my voice even though you know, it is named after me. It is Curb Free with Cory Lee and it is like the main voice but I want to you know more people to really share their stories. Because I don’t have the same experiences, as someone in a manual wheelchair does, for example, or someone with cerebral palsy or, you know, whatever other disabilities there are out there that require someone to use a wheelchair. We all have different travel experiences. And I really want my readers and followers to get to know all of our experiences, not just mine. And so that’s kind of where the idea for my interview series was born. And I have a couple more in the works right now. So hopefully, we’ll have some more up very soon.
Jay Ruderman (39:36)
Great. Congratulations on that. You know, we’re approaching very, very soon. This week, the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which in America is the is the landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. How, has the ADA affected you and what do you think needs improvement.
Cory Lee (40:02)
Yeah, I was born in the year 1990, which is actually when the ADA was passed. So, I was kind of born at the perfect time, I guess only a few months before the ADA came into effect. And so it’s had drastic improvements on the life I mean, buildings being accessible and me being able to, you know, go inside and then even traveling, I mean, even internationally, just airlines do have to, you know, have staff there to help me on the plane. I mean, some laws are in place, even though there could be more but, I mean, the ADA has helped me immensely and I’m forever thankful for it. But there are definitely some areas where it could improve. So, I think you know, and I guess it just needs a bit of an update, just I mean, there’s so many levels of accessibility. And the word accessible means something different to every person and so how can we be more inclusive for everyone, instead of just meeting the minimum, like accessibility threshold. And so there are some areas where it can improve I guess, and even with like school discrimination I wrote about this yesterday on my Facebook and Instagram pages about some of the discrimination that I experienced in school with my teachers not wanting to get like the bus with the lift on it to take me on field trips, and just little things like that. So, there are definitely things to improve with it, but I mean, it has changed my life and I’m grateful for it.
Jay Ruderman (41:44)
And around the world, I know most countries have signed on to the convention for the rights of people with disabilities. Do you see things a little bit better in other countries or a little bit worse or does it depend on where you are?
Cory Lee (42:02)
In some countries, I think it is better. So, in Australia and Sydney, I think it is probably the most accessible city in the world. Every ferry is accessible. There are accessible buses, accessible taxis. I mean, it was so easy for me to get around the City of Sydney, and Melbourne also in Australia. So, I’ve really never experienced such great accessibility and it allowed me to be, you know, more independent and have a better overall experience. But then I go to places you know, like, I like Austria, and it’s like in Salzburg, Austria, it was difficult to get a wheelchair accessible taxis so and then a lot of places in Europe it’s really great and even better than some places in the US so I guess it really just overall depends on the destination or even the city because some Americans Cities are better than others. For sure. So, it really depends on the destination.
Jay Ruderman (43:06)
So Cory, where after COVID-19, in there’s a vaccine. What’s the first place you want to travel to?
Cory Lee (43:15)
Oh, that’s a tough question. I would say New Zealand. I was supposed to visit New Zealand this past April. And it unfortunately got canceled, of course, and so I can’t wait to finally actually get there. And then I’m supposed to be going to the Paralympics in Tokyo next month also, and that’s been canceled. So, I would say New Zealand and Tokyo, Japan are my top two.
Jay Ruderman (43:41)
Cory Lee (43:43)
Yeah, I can’t wait.
Jay Ruderman (43:44)
Cory. It’s been such a pleasure having you as a guest on All Inclusive, you lead a really interesting life. And I think you provide, you know, a service that helps so many millions of people around the world. So, I want to wish you a lot of luck. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about you in the future. And thank you so much for joining us today.
Cory Lee (44:08)
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was a lot of fun, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Jay Ruderman (44:13)
Thank you be well.
Cory Lee (44:14)
All right. Yeah, you too. Thanks.
All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find All Inclusive on Apple podcast, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts or to learn more, go to Rudermanfoundation.org/all inclusive. Have an idea for a podcast? Be sure to tweet @jayruderman.