For anyone planning a multi-city trip in the United States, the task can be daunting but also be a lot of fun. When coupled with research for a handicap accessible vehicle, accommodations, and parking permits, it’s important to plan in advance. This challenge was an opportunity for Harvard students Kunho Kim and Brad Riew to break ground on something unprecedented—an accessibility guide about traveling across the United States. Kim, who uses a wheelchair, Riew, and two of their friends embarked on a seven-week journey with a wheelchair accessible SUV during the summer of 2014, documented their experience in a now available free eBook, inspiring similar travel plans for people with disabilities.

The Birth of 20 States on Wheels

Kim, an adventurous student, always dreamed of roving around the United States and seeing different landmarks and cities. When a skiing accident in 2010 paralyzed him from the waist down, he held onto his unwavering wanderlust. Meeting Riew in Harvard Yard set the wheels in motion for their projected cross-country road trip when they discovered their shared affinity for travel and adventures. From there, they started their initial research for a wheelchair accessible vehicle and hotels and were stalled when accessible traveling information wasn’t readily available. Through numerous phone calls, they learned that although some hotels were marked as “accessible” online, some were not while others did not know what that meant. Even with the Americans with Disabilities Act, their search highlighted the lack of resources for wheelchair users and spurred them to create one of their own.

Turning Research Into 20 States on Wheels

During the spring semester, the team passionately researched every possible necessity—from having a viable route their funds could support to options for an accessible vehicle. After reaching out through a fundraising campaign on, sponsorships, grants and support flooded in to make their trip possible. Equipped with a rented wheelchair accessible SUV, which Kim drove for half the time using hand controls, the group set off to camp in the Grand Canyon and experience other marvels in the United States. Creating an evaluation form for their mobile devices before embarking on the road, they were able to document every accessible and inaccessible experience on the fly.

Their project, 20 States on Wheels—A Wheelchair Accessible Tour Guide to the United States, is the fruit of their labor and acts as a journal and resource guide geared for other wheelchair users. Taking the reader through tips on how to rent a car and acquire necessary permits for an accessible car to reviewing hot spots through the United States, the book is a comprehensive guide for accessible traveling. The destinations in their compendium include Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other popular places in the United States. Available for download now, the eBook aims to leave no question unanswered for any wheelchair users wondering about cross-country travel with an accessible vehicle in America.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with renting, converting or buying a handicap accessible car, truck or van, please consider one of our Quality Assurance Program mobility equipment dealers.

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