An inclusive summer: Meet the creators of Viaje sobre ruedas.

An inclusive summer: Meet the creators of Viaje sobre ruedas.

By: Yarimar Marrero Rodríguez

In this interview we will meet the brothers José David and Diana Carolina Colón Vega, both with Muscular Dystrophy, content creators and founders of Viaje sobre ruedas. We accompany these three brothers, 8 wheels and a traveling family through their experiences where they tell us about the inclusive options to enjoy the summer in Puerto Rico and some tips to keep in mind when planning a trip with a person with functional diversity.

YMR: What is muscular dystrophy?

José: It is a degenerative condition that affects the muscles. There are more than 30 different types of dystrophy and depending on the type, it is the area of the body that will be most affected. It can be diagnosed at different stages, in our case it was diagnosed early in childhood and due to its degenerative nature, with the passage of time the condition manifested through the loss of motor skills. At this stage in our lives, Diana is 29 and I am 31, we are both in wheelchairs.

YMR: Viaje sobre ruedas began by recording their training experience in Atlanta Georgia to learn to drive, after that experience what need they identified that made them continue with the project through the networks.

Diana: We started by telling everything, from the process of getting on the plane, getting to Atlanta, the places we visited, the process of learning to drive, coming back, and we uploaded it to our channel. We began to see people's positive response because people were very struck by the fact that we were sharing these challenges from the perspective that they are real challenges that we suffer from, but we overcome them and share it with hope and that to the people found it different.

José: The idea of recording the videos came from our other sister Salli. What arose as an idea to document our experience became a platform to educate people about functional diversity and make visible our challenges and those of our community in Puerto Rico. We found an extraordinary platform to change the image people have of people with functional diversity, which in our culture is an image of pity, of pity, that perhaps people with diversity who have managed to get ahead are not seen.

YMR: What places do you recommend Puerto Rican families with members with disabilities to visit this summer?

José: A few weeks ago we were in Ponce at the Second Symposium of Entrepreneurs with Functional Diversity and the experience was very good. The hotel where we stayed was in front of the Plaza, which is spectacular at night and is very accessible to dine, eat a shortbread, visit the first level of the Parque de Bombas, which is very open. For example, we live in Vega Baja and for people with mobility challenges, accessible beaches are excellent options. Some are the one in Puerto Nuevo that has wheelchair access and the beaches in Aguadilla, Ponce and Luquillo that have Mar Sin Barreras. We have had the opportunity to visit Old San Juan and although it does have its architectural barriers because the sidewalks are very small, there are accessible places. we have done the tour del Morro, that of the Castle of San Cristóbal. Another option is the cinemas that in Puerto Rico have the Cinema for All service, which is an alternative to have a room that adapts to people with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. (This service is offered in theaters in Arecibo, Caguas, San Juan, Ponce, Carolina, Bayamón and Mayagüez, upon reservation).

Diana: A traveler recently shared with us that the Rincón Lighthouse is quite accessible for wheelchairs and soon we are going to share some videos because the lighthouse also has a stage and a passive park. What we do, as additional efforts that we have determined are necessary and advise them, is to search for the place they want to visit and call, check the internet beforehand and always find a way to have information beforehand.

YMR: And when we refer to summer trips outside of Puerto Rico, is there any advice for the plane, for transportation, as well as the enjoyment of hotels and attractions?

José: First, let them do it! because it is possible. For example, in 2018 we went to the Disney and Universal Studios parks. You have to communicate with the places you want to visit, the places where you want to stay and do all the paperwork and be up front with the information to get all the services you need. We traveled to Disney with other family members who had already visited it, so we had their experience on our side. We looked at the maps of the attractions to see which ones were wheelchair accessible. Both parks have a fairly up-to-date accessibility policy. Some of the challenges of the trip was renting a vehicle to get around the city of Orlando because we had to rent a bus with capacity for two wheelchairs. An advantage over Puerto Rico is that in the United States there are several suppliers of wheelchair accessible rental cars. With the airline they cannot be satisfied with doing the process on-line but to make a call and say the specific needs such as the weight, the type of chair, the measurements and the size so that they can make the space. Something very important when we are going to stay in a hotel is that the bathroom be roll-ing shower that for us is a mandatory necessity.

Diana: It's being aware of your needs and being very communicative in the process. The message to families is that even if they have a harder time doing it. Traveling opens our eyes to other experiences, it allowed us to enjoy with the family, to be able to feel like free people and to enjoy our right to insert ourselves into society.

YMR: What advice would you give to young people who see you through your social media platforms and who share their diagnosis?

José: We are well aware of our mobility challenges and that there are things that we cannot do, being clear about that is part of good mental health. With that in mind, we have a responsibility to move out into the world and try to enjoy it as much as we can, always opening paths for others.

Diana: That's why it's a trip on wheels, it's a life trip itself. Where we share what we have managed to do for us to feel like people, regardless of our functional diversity, so that we can enjoy our lives to the fullest in our different stages. Not only in tourism or in our jobs, but in everything that makes us José David and Diana Carolina.


You can follow them on their platforms Youtube, Facebook, instagram Y link tree like Journey on Wheels.