Cory Lee Woodard of Lafayette, Georgia, has won the most prestigious award in American travel journalism for his accessible travel blog Curb Free with Corey Lee.
The 27-year-old blogger with spinal muscular atrophy type 2 took gold for Best Travel Blog in the 2016-2017 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition sponsored by the Society for American Travel Writers Foundation. The awards were handed out on October 30 in Portland, Oregon. The competition included 1,190 entrants in 24 categories for a total of 89 awards that split nearly $20,000 in prize money. For his win, Woodard received a gold plague and a check for $500.
“Really, the award just validates that I’ve been doing a good job and hopefully inspiring people to get out there and see the world,” says Lee.
Woodard started the blog in December 2013, just before he graduated from the University of West Georgia with a degree in marketing. He began the project as a way to remedy what he found to be a lack of online resources for wheelchair-using travelers.
“Out of all the bloggers, a blog focused on accessible travel won, so I think it really says a lot that people are starting to focus more on accessible travel, and hopefully destinations will see that and want to become more accessible as well,” Lee adds.
Named for Lowell Jackson Thomas — the visionary broadcaster and explorer who first publicized Lawrence of Arabia — the awards were judged by members of the faculty at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. In their assessment of Curb Free with Cory Lee they wrote:
“Travel isn’t — and shouldn’t be — only for the nondisabled. Curb-free with Corey Lee is a treasure of useful information on wheelchair-accessible locales and attractions. From reviewing hotel rooms to hiking in the Amazon and up Masada, making the most of a tiny airplane seat and introducing other travelers rolling around the globe, this blog will leave everyone inspired to take off and try it all.”
But traveling with a disability isn’t easy. Woodard has had some crazy travel experiences. His wheelchair battery knocked out the power in a hotel in Germany, he has been trapped in on a burning bus in Washington, D.C., and he was attacked by a hippo in South Africa. Through it all, he keeps a cool head by following his own simple advice:
“Do a lot of research in advance, always request photos of accessible hotel rooms and just go for it. A lot of people are really scared to take the first step, but once they take the first step I know they’ll love it.”