We received the following press release from Tours Around Michigan, which is owned by a Lowell resident.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI, February 28, 2023 – “It’s not easy finding family outings when you have special needs.” Caledonia’s Melinda Shaver knows exploring in her wheelchair can be a challenge. She’s not alone.
Today 1-in-4 Americans have a disability, physical or invisible. For people 60+ years, 46% already have a disability (Source: World Health Organization). As people live longer, more accessibility concerns emerge from illness, injuries or accidents. Sadly, many businesses don’t go beyond what’s legally required to help all visitors feel welcome. Travelers who need accessibility generate $16-billion worldwide, but still get too little attention.
Organizations like AbleVu share businesses going beyond the norm. Co-Founder Meegan Winters says, “We help people of all abilities have the information needed to experience their best life. We’re so excited to include Tours Around Michigan as our first tour company, providing equitable tours, accommodations and experiences.” Tours Around Michigan welcomes guests seeking barrier-free fun or different communications. “We always try to do better for our guests who rock life on wheels, use sign language interpreters, love a guide dog, or see life through neurodivergence or a mental (dis)ability. We are also LGBTQ+ and pet friendly… we really just want to be friends with everyone,” says Candice Smith, Owner, Tours Around Michigan.
Tours Around Michigan is proud to also be Accessible Travel Press Online’s 1st U.S. tour company. While there’s always more to learn, simply actively seeking accessible options is key. “If only there were more companies like Tours Around Michigan! Candice wants everyone, regardless of (dis)ability, to enjoy a tour. She sees that as normal, but it really is exceptional,” says Marlies van Sint Annaland, CEO & Founder. Smith adds, “With so many historic buildings and unique experiences, it’s common to have barriers. We’re always checking for alternative routes, how to get someone onto a Lake Michigan cruise or join us in a haunted building.”
Challenges finding accessible experiences means the average adult with a disability travels about half the distance of someone without (Source: England Department of Transport). Tours Around Michigan makes it easier to explore. Shaver says her family enjoyed the historical facts and hauntings, “but more importantly was the wonderful attention to my accessibility needs and including my dog. I was barred from nothing.”
Local organizations aren’t surprised Tours Around Michigan is getting kudos for accessibility. Erin Murphy from West Michigan Tourist Association says, “Whether folks are visiting or exploring their own backyards, tourists should get to enjoy local attractions. Candice is paving the way for other local destinations to improve accessibility.” Circle Michigan’s Lisa Kukulski adds, “Tours Around Michigan is always willing to customize an experience for any interest or ability, to rave reviews. Everyone has positive experiences exploring with them.”
Tours Around Michigan loves to share the joys of Michigan, including people who need a unique style of communication. Smith adds, “When leading adults who are neurodiverse, we minimize information, and focus on visuals, smells, and what they can touch. It’s so fun when faces light up connecting to something new.”