Podcast | Travel with René
Andre du Toit: Welcome to the Accessible South Africa travel podcast. This is a podcast where we discuss travel in South Africa and beyond for persons with disabilities and special needs with our host Lois Strachan. Join us as we share inspiring stories of people who travel, exciting accessible travel experiences and showcase service providers who will accommodate those with special needs. And now on with the show.
Lois Strachan: Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of the Accessible South Africa travel podcast. I’m your host Lois Strachan you know. Most times in this podcast. I interview people online so I don’t really get the chance to get to chat to them or get to know them that well. But today. I’m going to be sharing an interview with a lady who I got to meet in person. Rene Moses, the owner and founder of Travel with Rene, a tour operator accommodates the needs of travellers with disabilities. Then, we’re going to be going on safari. But a safari with a difference. To find out more you’re going to have to listen right to the end, until you get to the service provider spotlight. Remember if you’d like to contact us, you can do so on e-mail at email@example.com, or you can find us on social media mostly under Accessible South Africa, except for Twitter which is @AccessibleSA. We’d love to hear from you to you who you feel we should be interviewing about accessible travel. But now, come with me as I go to visit Rene Moses of Travel with Rene. [00:02:09][84.7]
Lois Strachan: Today on the Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast we’re interviewing Rene Moses who is the owner and founder of Travel with Rene. Welcome to the podcast Rene, how are you doing today?
Rene Moses: Hi Lois. Thanks very much. I’m very good today. No complaints.
Lois Strachan: Good to hear that. Great. Before we start the interview could you just give us this short introduction to yourself and a little bit of your story.
Rene Moses: Well I’m a born and bred Cape Tonian born in 1969 when the earthquake hit Cape Town. I was raised in the apartheid era lived under the Group Areas Act. Ja, I’ve been in Cape Town all my life.
Lois Strachan: And Rene you yourself live with a disability?
Rene Moses: Yes I do. I had a car accident in 95 which left me a C6 C7 quadriplegic.
Lois Strachan: And this is one of the reasons that you started the company that you have. Before we get on to your company and and the services that you offer perhaps you can tell us a little bit about your own travel experiences both within South Africa and abroad.
Rene Moses: Yes. I’ve travelled quite a bit with South Africa. Mostly local mussel Bay ham on US West Coast Accenture my first international trip was in 91 where we visited Holland, Paris, France, and then we travelled over to England where I had family staying. And then the first time I travelled after my car accident was in 2004 when we visited Bali just before the bomb blast.
Lois Strachan: How did you find that experience.
Rene Moses: Well it was quite traumatic. It was the first time going overseas after my disability. So it was quite an adaption but I found Bali very accessible and the people really made the holiday very fantastic.
Lois Strachan: I think so often that is the case when we travel that yes it’s a little bit about the places, but most of all for me it’s about the people. So let’s move on then to a little bit about Travel with Rene. How did the company come to start and what does Travel with Rene do.
Rene Moses: Okay. It was, I’d been living with a disability for a number of years, finding how accommodation often doesn’t take into consideration the needs of people with disabilities, wheelchair users I’d get things like “Oh but it’s only one step, or it’s only this or only that.” And then of course transport was always difficult. My late husband would have to sometimes pick me physically up put me in the car dismantle the chair and this would happen quite often especially on a Saturday when you went shopping. So we looked at this need and we thought but there’s a lot of people out there who have got similar issues to me. Why not get an adapted vehicle and in getting an adapted vehicle why not offer that assistance to other people as well. And that’s how Travel with Rene got started.
Lois Strachan: That sounds like a wonderful story. So what are the services that you offer to travellers with disabilities.
Rene Moses: Well besides the evidently, the fact that they need transport from point A to Point B, I offer accessible private tours which I think people with disabilities really value The privacy that they have not having to share the vehicle with another person. I also will give advice and source accommodation for them whether they need medical assistive devices, cushions, wheelchairs, linen savers, catheters, and then I could also help with care givers.
Lois Strachan: That’s quite a considerable number of services and I’m sure is a very great service to your clients. Through your own experience the experience of your company and the experience of your clients. What would you say is the biggest challenge or the biggest challenges faced by people visiting Cape Town.
Rene Moses: The biggest challenge is a challenge which I still face on a daily basis and that’s the mental blocks that people have. For example I approached a company in Hout Bay to find out about how we could get the wheelchairs on the boats for the Seal Island Cruises. I couldn’t even get one of them to come to me because there was a step in between us and I had to say you know what, “It’s not contagious you can approach me”. And so this is the predicament that many people suffer visiting our country. For many years I think people with disabilities were institutionalised and so we’ve still got that mental block to breakdown within the tourism sector.
Lois Strachan: And there when you use the term mental block, would you also say that that’s interchangeable with the word stigma or are they slightly different?
Rene Moses: Mental block, stigma, I’d say it’s the same thing. You sort of categorize people and you put them into the little blocks – you obviously disabled so you have to be mentally retarded as well and then you do have a low income or pay person. I mean oftentimes I go to the shopping mall and they say oh you come in to collect your all-pay. And so it’s automatically because you’re in a wheelchair you must fit into that category. I’ve gone to places in the tourism industry where I have been the speaker and you can see people looking at you like “Aah, shame!” And then when you get onto the podium it’s like “Oh my word, what are you doing on stage?” So that’s mental block stigma that unfortunately I think it’s just ingrained in so many of us and it’s difficult to break down.
Lois Strachan: That I imagine is something that is not just something that we encounter here in Cape Town I think it’s an account to a greater or lesser degree pretty much anywhere in the world. We do find, and that’s one of the things that I’m really feeling optimistic about through interviewing people for this podcas,t and with the work that the Accessible South Africa platform is doing increasingly we’re finding that there are people who are willing to engage and to try and make their services more accessible to those of us with special needs. What advice would you give to someone as a service provider about how to go about making their services, their products, more accessible to us.
Rene Moses: I’ve often gone to hotels and the advice they get is always seems to be the most expensive option. The most expensive adaptive devices. On the other hand I’ve visited a beautiful self-catering complex in Tulbagh, and I said to them if I can just get two bricks and put in this piece of wood and this will be accessible. Yes it’s a short term thing, but better than sending me away or any other traveller. So one just, it’s the mindset about how small adaptions can actually just make somebody’s life so much more convenient.
Lois Strachan: And to those service providers, how should they go about understanding what types of adaptions or accommodations can be made simply? What advice would you say about investigating their options for these views.
Rene Moses: Well there are various disability organisations. I’m thinking for those that’s visually impaired or wheelchair users, try and approach these organisations or even if it’s individuals that you know and try and get the advice from them. Sometimes we find contractors are more out to make the extra bit of money than to actually make things accessible. I mean many times I encounter ramps that the angle is way too steep, and I think what one of our mayors did by getting in a wheelchair himself was a perfect example. I mean blindfold yourself. See how you would feel. Does this feel comfortable? How does this make me feel? And that’s what you need to get in touch with. Trying to avoid I don’t know how you’re going to earmark those sharks out there who want to make a bucket of money but try the personal touch and it has helped.
Lois Strachan: Rene, so what’s in future for your company, Travel With Rene, in the near future?
Rene Moses: Well I really can’t say, Lois, you know the future’s very unpredictable. I want to continue to see Travel with Rene, and what’s very important to me is not that I grow and become a millionaire but rather that I improve in the service that I render. I treasure the relationships that I’ve developed through my business and I wish to continue that.
Lois Strachan: And one of the things that I think does to sound so amazing about your company is the personal touch that you bring. Can you tell us about your philosophy of business and how that impacts on your services.
Well I’ve never really been one to go out and try and find business or to try and cut somebody else down to make money. It’s always what the customer gets out of it. I’ve been in the customer service industry I think for over 30 years. It’s something that I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about helping people. I remember one of my first clients was brought home from Vincent Palotti hospital, traumatised and I found great reward in the fact that I could say to him, it’s going to be fine. And when I look back now and how he has managed to cope with his newfound disability I am thankful that I could be a part of that life. So that’s what I really want to do. I want to make it a memorable experience in visiting Cape Town, a memorable experience travelling with Travel with Rene.
Lois Strachan: I so love that philosophy and I wish you success with the business. For anyone who’s listening to the podcast who wants to contact you and your company how can they do that? How can they reach you?
Rene Moses: Okay I’ve got a website, it’s Travel with Rene, www.travelwithrene.co.za, and then I’ve got an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. And then finally my cell number, 082 770 9430 or landline 021 703 2002.
Lois Strachan: And just to confirm the spelling of your name Rene is R E N E.
Rene Moses: That’s correct.
Lois Strachan: Great. So then as a final question, so often we find that people with disabilities are anxious when they think about going out and exploring the world around them. What advice would you give to someone about getting past that anxiety and going out and seeing parts of this amazing world in which we live.
Rene Moses: Well I think whatever disability we are living with I think the worst has happened to us. And so we can only move on from there. Don’t let your disability limit you, which it is already doing, but rather use your opportunities to see the world. When I took my first travels abroad I was so scared. But I enjoyed it and I can share the experience with others. So disability can happen at any time of your life. Make use of that life and use it to the fullest.
Lois Strachan: That’s wonderful advice. Thank you Rene. Today on the Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast we’ve been talking to Rene Moses who’s the founder and owner of Travel with Rene. Rene thank you so much for your insights and sharing some of your story with our listeners and we wish you and your company every success going into the future.
Rene Moses: Thank you very much Lois has been a pleasure chatting to you.
Lois Strachan: It was really great to have the opportunity to meet with Rene Moses of Travel with Rene, and to talk to her briefly about her story and about her business.
Now it’s time for the service provider spotlight. This is where we try to spotlight an organization or service provider who are accommodating the needs of persons with disabilities. This week we’re taking you on a safari – with a difference. Horse rights at Pete’s Adventure Farm is situated in Stellenbosch which is about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. Horse Rides at Pete’s enables you to go on safari on horseback in a wildlife reserve that has animals like giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, and many others not to mention a myriad of birdlife. The rides are catering for people with any experience level of riding and any person with a disability can be accommodated provided you are able to sit unassisted for a minimum of one and a half hours. Usually the guides will l take you on rides of either an hour and a half or three hours depending on what you prefer. For those who are unable to sit unassisted for an hour and a half other activities can be arranged. Like engaging with the horses, grooming them, feeding them carrots, and perhaps even a short assisted ride can be arranged. To find out more about. Horse Rides at Pete’s, lease pop onto the accessible South Africa website at www.accessiblesouthafrica.co.za and look under the activities tab. There you’ll find more information photographs, a map, and reviews, and be able to contact them directly to ensure that they can accommodate your specific needs. And to set up a safari on horseback. That’s it for this time. So, until next time – happy travels.
Andre du Toit: That’s it from us for this time. You can find Accessible South Africa on the web at www.accessiblesouthafrica.co.za. We’re on Facebook and Instagram @accessiblesouthafrica, on Twitter at @AccessibleSA. You can also e-mail us at email@example.com. Editing by Deirdre Gower, and our theme music is by Lui Chee Chau based on a motif by Lois Strachan.Credits read by Andre du Toit, The Big Positive Guy. Thanks for joining us on Accessible South Africa Travel Podcast. We’ll see you next time. And until then happy travels.