I MAG E S C OU RTE SY OF W H E E L TH E WOR LD
Making Outdoor Adventure Accessible to People with Physical Disabilities by Emily Hopcian
t 16 years old, Alvaro Silberstein traveled from his home in
Silberstein, who cannot move his legs or hands, didn't initially think he could
Santiago, Chile to Cusco, Peru. In the Sacred Valley, Silberstein
go hiking, bicycling or kayaking. But with the emergence of new products and
boarded a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu and encountered
adaptive equipment over the past 15 years, his perspective has changed, along
a long delay due to a protest. When Silberstein finally arrived,
with the possibilities for outdoor adventure for people with physical disabilities.
he was left with just 30 minutes to explore the famous ruins. In 2017, at the urging of a friend and with a 12-person team in place, Silberstein
“I always said, ‘I’ll definitely come again,’” Silberstein recalls.
planned a trip to Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile to complete the W circuit using a special hiking and running wheelchair called the Joëlette.
Two years later, a car crash with a drunk driver left Silberstein paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
Following this successful trek, Silberstein says, “We started receiving a lot of requests from people wanting to repeat the trip. That’s when we realized
“When I had my accident, I said, ‘This [Machu Picchu] will not be a possibility
a need to start organizing the Torres del Paine trip for others and to replicate
anymore,’” he says.
what we’d done in other places, open new routes and allow people with physical disabilities to explore places that were previously inaccessible.”
Since his childhood at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Santiago, Silberstein, now 33, has been passionate about the outdoors. Following the
With this mission in mind, Silberstein and his friend Camilo Navarro founded
car accident, he craved nature but often found hiking trails and campsites
Wheel the World in September 2017 as a B Corporation tackling the chal-
inaccessible to people with physical disabilities.
lenge of accessible tourism by creating travel experiences for people with disabilities to explore with family, friends and others.
“There’s very limited access, especially in the places I’ve lived most of my life,” he says. “In Chile and South America in general, access is limited, and we
“We want to empower them to explore the world without limits,” Silberstein
have this mindset that if you have a physical disability it would be impossible
says. “Anywhere people dream of exploring, there’s a way of doing that for
for you to explore a national park or enjoy natural places.”
them like anyone else.”
Issue 10 - Winter 2019