On June 3, 2019, Holman Prizewinner Stacy Cervenka launched the Blind Travelers’ Network, an online platform to connect blind and visually impaired people with information and resources for non-visual accessibility in countries around the world. The platform hosts blog posts, reviews, discussion boards and event listings to help users expand their horizons, leave their comfort zone behind and explore new places.
Never before has there been a website exclusively dedicated to the global travel opportunities for blind people; the Blind Travelers’ Network underscores the growing ability of blind people worldwide to explore independently.
Cervenka, who is blind, birthed the idea for the platform after she and her husband Greg, who is also blind, sought to enjoy a leisurely horseback riding lesson at a ranch, only to encounter obstacles and disrespect in response to their blindness. The staff infantilized the couple and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act; Cervenka took legal action and wanted to share her experience with other blind people.
“I wanted to post about our experience on Yelp, but I knew that it could be months or years before another blind person wanted to go horseback riding at this stable and, by then, my review would likely be hundreds of reviews down the page,” Cervenka said. “I wished there was a centralized place where I could post a review of this stable where other blind people who needed to see it could do so.”
With the creation of the Blind Travelers’ Network, there now is, and it contains information about traveling with a cane in China, paragliding in Torrey Pines and beach-going in Sydney.
The platform was also influenced by Cervenka’s experience planning a cruise for her honeymoon, where the largest online aggregate of cruise information provided her ample detail about various cruise lines, cruise ships, and ports of call, but none about non-visual accessibility.
She realized that there was a need for a central platform with this information. Cervenka has also used social media to share her travel experiences with other blind people, who have historically contacted her directly with questions. Now, she hopes to scale this level of communication and community-building with the Blind Travelers’ Network, and also to make this information publicly available.
The Holman Prize, of The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, selects three winners a year to challenge conventions of blind ambition and perceptions of blind ability. Created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration, the Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits. To visit the Blind Travelers’ Network, go to blindtravelersnetwork.org.