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We Carry Kevan: an epic tale of friendship, inclusion and accessibility

3 min read

Good Stuff
Source: Facebook/WeCarryKevan

Having traveled through Europe as a ‘human backpack’, Kevan Chandler and his friends challenge preconceptions of what is possible for the differently-abled.

Overcoming inaccessibility: the seven friends designed a rucksack to carry Kevan on their backs

In the summer of 2015, a group of friends decided to set out on an adventure together. They wanted to go to Europe, but it was going to be a bit trickier than just that, as one of them was in a wheelchair. Kevan Chandler was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a neuromuscular disease which limits his mobility, and the group wanted to visit some specific places that were not exactly handicap accessible. The seven friends spent a year working toward their goal to travel, including a fundraiser and designing a backpack to carry Kevan on their backs.

Four of the guys took turns carrying Kevan while two filmed the experience After all, if you're going to do something so crazy, you should probably document it, right? Kevan and his posse met adventure around every corner of their journey. From dance parties in France to monastic climbs in Ireland, these friends saw the world for what it truly is - big, wild, wonderful, and open to their footsteps. Source: Facebook/BrightVibes

The future and the bigger picture? Accessibility for everyone, everywhere

As plans for the trip came together, the story spread. Word got out about a new backpack for disabled folks and some guys who were breaking the mould of accessibility. People from all over the world reached out to team, asking about the backpack and travel experience. Whether it was inquiries for help or how to get involved, the conversations circulated and a need became clear. There are limitations set on the disabled community, based on social and personal expectations. 

Kevan and the team saw two things that needed to change: mindsets and opportunities. So, they are working toward these changes through the establishment of a nonprofit, appropriately named We Carry Kevan. The nonprofit aims to inspire both the disabled and able-bodied communities to reimagine accessibility, then empower this change by providing resources and training for collaborative adventures.

Source: WeCarryKevan

The special backpack allowed his friends to carry Kevan to all sorts of places he would otherwise never get to see.
Kevan got to see views otherwise inaccessible to wheelchair users The special backpack allowed his friends to carry Kevan to all sorts of places he would otherwise never get to see. Source: Facebook/WeCarryKevan

The group saw an opportunity to achieve something bigger

Kevan Chandler has a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy which leaves him bound to a wheelchair and limited use of his arms and legs.

Kevan’s ability to travel was limited to places that were wheelchair friendly, but, with the help of some determined friends, Kevan got to fulfil his dream of seeing Europe and is soon to visit China. Using a makeshift backpack, Kevan’s friends carried him around England, Ireland and France, visiting places that are usually inaccessible to people in a wheelchair.

“One of the most beautiful things about it was that I got to go on this adventure with some of my best friends and we could go anywhere and do whatever without having to think about accessibility. So in a way we redefined the idea of accessibility in that everything became accessible because we did it differently.”

As inspiring as this journey was, the group saw an opportunity to achieve something bigger. Through their nonprofit, We Carry Kevan, they challenge preconceptions about what is possible and make the world accessible to all. “We sort of redefined accessibility. We want to spread that idea that accessibility is not ramps and automatic doors and elevators, while those things help, ultimately accessibility is people helping people.” 

Kevan refuses to let his disability define him. There is a reality that we [Kevan and his sister] are disabled. It’s not a bad word, it’s not a misconception, we can’t walk. I’ll refer to myself as a cripple. I don’t care because that’s what I am, but I also realise that that’s just a part of who I am, that’s not entirely who I am, so I’m not defined by the wheelchair that I’m in or the strength that I have.”

 “We can’t do this alone, whether it’s a trip or it’s life, nobody can do it on their own, so, we need each other.”

Designs for the backpack are being fine tuned but already they seem to be gaining interest. Here, a family hike in Colorado with a backpack similar to Kevan's.
An inspiration to others: Kevan and friends are now helping others to do the same Designs for the backpack are being fine tuned but already they seem to be gaining interest. Here, a family hike in Colorado with a backpack similar to Kevan’s. Source: Facebook/WeCarryKevan
Make an Impact

Donate now to WeCarryKevan and help others broaden their horizons

Now, the team is helping those they've inspired to have adventures of their own and live the impossible. You are invited to be part of the story. Just as the friends carried Kevan, let's go on to carry others together.