Samuel Koch Rewrites the Rule Book for Travelers with Disabilities

Nothing seems to hold Samuel Koch back. It would be an understatement to say that the 30-year-old actor, author and activist, who was paralyzed on live television eight years ago, has faced enormous challenges. But Samuel has achieved more in those several years than most people could ever dream of. His latest adventure took him, his wife Sarah and a small film crew to the US where they recorded Sam’s experience of traveling with a disability. They stayed on Airbnb during their trip and told us all about their adventures.

“It’s not easy but nothing is impossible,” explains Sam when talking about his attitude when organizing the trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The first part of the planning involved finding the right accommodation. It is such a simple thing, but the couple find it incredibly helpful when hosts clearly state how accessible their listing is.

Samuel explains: “You can’t expect hosts to completely convert their spaces to make them wheelchair accessible. But it’s really helpful when hosts describe their homes as specifically as possible. Information such as “there is a step in front of the house” is crucial information for wheelchair users. Hosts might also include details like an elevator or a ramp or an indication for which floor their apartment is located in the listing description. Many hosts already offer an accessible listing without being aware of it. Awareness is really helpful.”

Airbnb recently introduced 21 new accessibility search filters, which make it easier for hosts to showcase their home’s accessibility, and for disabled travelers to find Airbnbs that meet their needs. The new filters include features like step-free access and wide doorways, and specialist equipment like a mobile hoist or electric profiling bed. The couple say they are very pleased with this development as they love traveling on Airbnb. “It’s like staying at a friend’s place or almost like being in your own home. It’s more comfortable and cooler than staying in a hotel – you’re just more a part of the city. The homes are more unique and different all across the world.”

Once they had checked in to their Airbnb, they could focus on the important things: like flying in a biplane over the Grand Canyon or taking a road trip along stretches of the famous Route 66. Sarah explains: “It was an unforgettable trip and one of the best experiences we’ve had so far – apart from our honeymoon, of course. Starting with the national parks to Palm Springs and then to Los Angeles. We love to tell everyone about this trip and are still in awe about how spectacular this world is. At times, nature felt like we were on a different planet. We soared over the Grand Canyon, over the loud city of Las Vegas and the desert with its far views. It was a very diversified holiday.”

The couple were not simply visiting for fun, however, and managed to squeeze some important appointments into their busy schedule. The main purpose of the trip was to film their experiences of traveling with a disability – and potentially use the footage for a film or series to be released next year. Sarah, also an actress, even managed to secure some small acting roles. “It was an exciting experience to audition for a role in a different language in a different country and then in the city of Los Angeles. And…surprise, I secured three roles!”

Now that Samuel and Sarah have settled back home, their next plan is to do some post-production on the videos they shot during their trip. Sam’s parting message for anyone with a disability who is nervous about travel? “Go outside and travel. Don’t hide! Traveling is still possible. The world is open and awaits you.”