Photo Credit: BLD experiences
Traveler Story: Being A Black Queer Disabled Woman In London Is Where It’s At
Being Black, queer, disabled and a woman has taught this traveler much about safety, accessibility and pure enjoyment in her travel experience. In this interview, Travel Noire speaks with a London-based travel blogger about the realities and nuances of traveling in the body of a Black queer disabled woman.
Travel Noire: Could you tell us who you are?
BLD Experiences: Yes, I am a Black, lesbian and disabled woman (BLD) UK traveler, blogging about my experience exploring the world.
TN: What inspired you to start your travel blog?
BLD Experiences: My aim was to highlight places where people like me can go and enjoy themselves abroad because a lot of the time that information is lacking. As a wheelchair user, there are so many things that I have to consider. For instance, I use my blog to speak on the subtle differences between being a manual and an electric wheelchair user abroad.
The blog was a long-time coming because traveling is so important to me and my family. If it wasn’t for COVID, my 90-year-old great Grandma would be traveling right now. I wanted to be the one to guide people searching for information on traveling while Black, queer or disabled so that it wasn’t an irritating process looking for all the information.
TN: Could you tell us about where the most and least accessible trip has been for you?
BLD Experiences: I would say Belfast was my most accessible trip. I went with my friend, and it was great because we were in the city center. In that sense it was accessible as it was centrally located and the hotel was wheelchair accessible too, which isn’t always easy to find. It made the trip much more relaxed, I didn’t have to do much of the usual worrying. I really liked Belfast for allowing us, two hard-working, stressed out university students, to let our hair down. Of course there were little things like I had to pay attention to which pavements were safe or inaccessible for my wheelchair which I am used to at this point.
There was a moment where I needed to be extra aware of my safety on this trip. My friend and I were in a pub and there was a Stag Do a table or so away from us. One of the men came over and started to touch my hair and my leg, which obviously made me feel unsafe. My friend and I made our way to the bathroom and when we returned, security had kicked the group out and apologized for not intervening sooner. I think it rattled me because what if I was solo, tried to leave and saw the situation escalate? I can’t run anywhere, so then what? It brought up a reality for me that solo travel isn’t something I can comfortably enjoy or participate in at all.
Tangier, Morocco, was amazing but my least accessible trip. Everywhere had stairs, and my friend who I was travelling with wasn’t able to push my manual wheelchair everywhere. Some of the pavements were at least 10 cm high with no drop curve. This is the tricky thing about being a wheelchair user, I have to deeply analyze things before I book my flight, and then I have to deal with the flare-ups while traveling, it’s exhausting. There are always certain things you can’t foresee. In this instance, what was I supposed to do, Google Map the roads before arriving? This is an issue I even have in some parts of England too where I’ve had to spend an extra half an hour going the long way because the pavements are not wheelchair accessible.
TN: Are there any other trips that stand out to you?
BLD Experiences: Barbados always feels like home. We go regularly as a family, so it is always a stand-out trip for me. The hotel that we usually stay in is wheel-chair accessible and the people are very familiar to me, I always feel looked after. The only thing is, unless you’re willing to spend around £4000, for 3 weeks in an accessible hotel, it isn’t an option. My main struggle is finding accessible accommodation that doesn’t cost too much because an able-bodied person could go for around £500 and find somewhere easily. I just haven’t found the perfect accessible and inexpensive country yet.
TN: What would you say is high on your travel list?
BLD Experiences: I want to go back and experience Atlanta as an adult, especially Atlanta Pride. Finding a LGBTQ+ community in another country is on my list. I know how hard this is to find because sometimes there are sodomy laws in place or the communities are super underground, but once you find them it is really fun.
TN: Would you say that London lives up to what you need in a city?
BLD Experiences: I would say that because I have grown up here, it feels natural. As A Black queer disabled woman, London is where it’s at. I also know a lot of the Black LGBTQ+ community, especially disabled people, in London, which makes it extra comfortable for me. As long as I’m living in the UK, I’m not moving out of London. There is a lot to love. I really like LICK events, a non-binary and women only rave in the city, Bad Axe in BOXPARK and Black Pride. Other accessible places that I enjoy visiting include Black Eats LDN Market in Hackney and my current taste of the month is Sticks’n’Sushi.
TN: What changes would you most like to see in travel to make the industry more inclusive?
BLD Experiences: Personally, I need more work to be done on accessibility. There are pockets of Black travelers enjoying a lot of the countries I want to visit, but I would like to see where I can travel on a budget as a disabled person, where is the accessible Black nightlife in the area, where can I go and safely enjoy myself as an LGBTQ+ person. I could write an assignment on how inaccessible countries are and how little information is provided, but what I really want is to reverse that. There is a lot of disappointment and struggle in not knowing where to go and how to get about. I don’t want myself or anyone with my wants or needs to be left out and stuck in the hotel for the whole trip. So ultimately, I am going to build these resources and be the accessible Black directory while traveling.
This interview has been shortened for brevity.