I wanted to take a quick moment and express my gratitude for all of the wonderful support and cross-promotion that I have received for my new service All-Access Battlefield Tours. From Troy Technologies and the Civil War Trust, to the Fredericksburg Tourism Bureau, I am blessed to have so many outstanding folks in my corner. AABT is already receiving international press-coverage and the buzz is growing. After months of preparation I am beyond excited for the official launch on September 1, 2011. I am also grateful to have the participation of battlefield guides Mark Jones and John Cummings.
It’s no easy thing to start a small business in Virginia, especially a tour guide service that caters specifically to wheelchair travelers. You need to create an LLC, obtain a business license, get your NPS tour permit, and find affordable commercial liability insurance. Then you need to get accessibility expertise, petition for the proper equipment, create all of the necessary media materials and advertise with both history and disability-focused publications. Next you plot your tours, prepare client handouts, hire assistant guides, and study-study-study your material. It takes a lot of money, and time, and effort, but if you do it right, the benefits are priceless. I love hiking battlefields and giving tours, so that part of the job is not “work” in the purest sense. All of the ‘other stuff’ that goes along with being a small business owner is.
So why did I decide to open a weekend business during one of the worst economies ever, in an area that is struggling to maintain its tourism dollars, doing something that no one else is doing? I guess it was a simple case of supply and demand. I saw a need and felt that I could fill it. People immediately saw the same potential and supported me in any way they could. My goal was to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy our area’s hallowed grounds, regardless of their mobility issues. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of others I can now do that. Everyone with a disability should be able to visit these battlefields and have an enjoyable and safe experience, not just during the Sesquicentennial, but from here on in.
I am already looking at expansion options to include incorporating the CWT’s new Fredericksburg Battlefield Apps into the narrative of my tours. I would love to use the program’s outstanding maps and video to compliment the guide's photo book that I have already created. This capability would be especially beneficial to guests who may also have sensory or comprehension concerns. *If you know of anyone willing to donate or lend us an iPad for this purpose, please email me here.
We are also planning on working with the Wounded Warriors Program and the Paralyzed Veterans of America and will be appearing in their publications such as PN Magazine.
The next couple weeks will be filled with final preparations, but just as with my book or film projects, the end result will be a culmination of the expertise, generosity, and support of others. Tours will begin booking on September 1 for the month of October. Each wheelchair traveler will receive a special guest packet that includes historical maps, information on NPS site accessibility accommodations, travel wheelchair literature and more. I ask that you spread the word to whomever you feel may be interested. You can follow the evolution of this venture over on the AABT’s blog.