Aya Aghabi: “My Accident didn’t extinguish my passion and Adventurous Spirit!”
Aya Aghabi is the founder of (Accessible Jordan) initiative, an ambitious young lady who is very passionate about Human Rights and Social Development. In 2009 Aya had a car accident that left her with a physical disability and the need to use the wheelchair, but that did not extinguish her adventurous spirit.
On the contrary, she made a point after sustaining her injury to still do everything she used to do and wanted to do. She had studied International Development at UC Berkeley and being part of the Berkeley community that is constantly fighting for change and justice lit a fire in her to want to do the same in her own country, Jordan. She was raised to never let anything get in the way of her dreams and goals in life. While her dream is to see Jordan become the inclusive country and community.
We asked Aya about her Journey as the Founder of Accessible Jordan, and here are her answers:
- Can you tell us a little bit more about Accessible Jordan?
Accessible Jordan is an initiative that I launched to help find places that are accessible for people with physical disabilities, elderly citizens, parents who use strollers for their babies and more. The aim is to support businesses and organizations that do take into consideration accessibility and inclusiveness and at the same time, raise awareness about the lack of accessibility in Jordan and how we can easily solve this issue as a community. I also help owners of places and events who want to become accessible to everyone.
- What inspired you to start this initiative?
In 2009, I was in a car accident in Amman that left me with a physical disability and the need to use a wheelchair. All of a sudden, I could no longer go to any of the places I used to go to because none of them were wheelchair accessible. This was eye opening to me and I started seeing Jordan in a whole new light.
I never used to think about accessibility before and I barely ever saw people with disabilities in Jordan, to begin with (that’s an entire issue on its own). Every time I wanted to go out, find a place that is wheelchair accessible was a daunting task. I would have to call every restaurant or business to ask if they have stairs, ramps, or elevators to see if and how I can access them. When I went to the US for the university, I discovered that you could easily find this information online (never mind the fact that all business have to be accessible by law). In addition, people always used to call and ask me for places they can go to that are accessible or they would say how hard it is to find places that are accessible. These experiences sparked the idea to start a website (www.accessiblejordan.com) that lists all the places I go to that are accessible with pictures and descriptions so people can know exactly how to access these places.
- Your role model?
My family is my biggest source of support and inspiration; they are definitely my role models. My parents’ love for Jordan inspired me to want to work in Jordan and make a difference. My father’s dedication to working in the tourism industry inspired my love for travel and tourism and wanting to promote Jordan and see it develop.
My mother’s continuous charity work and community development projects inspired the launch of Accessible Jordan. My mom is the only reason I am able to go anywhere and do anything for this initiative. She gives up all her time to make sure I can do everything I want and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today, and Accessible Jordan would only be a dream.
- What was technically the most challenging part of starting this initiative?
Educating people about the importance of accessibility has been the biggest challenge and reaching the areas that are most in need of such education has been difficult. Many people don’t understand that accessibility isn’t an issue for just people with disabilities, it also affects the elderly, parents with babies, someone who breaks their foot or hip, and more are all people who need easy access to live their day-to-day lives. I’ve been trying to spread the message that with the right accessibility anyone can be an equal and contributing member in our society.
- What is your motto in life?
“Nothing is impossible. When there’s a will, there’s a way.”
- What are your future plans? personal level and professionally?
I want to turn Accessible Jordan into a company and scale it to serve all the provinces of Jordan and start working on larger projects that promote and improve accessibility. Hopefully, this will be a successful business model that can be implemented in other countries in the region. We are working on a new website that will come out by the end of the summer that will hopefully do just that!
- If you were asked to send people one message through Accessible Jordan what would it be?
Be accepting and understanding of people who are different than you. Always think of people around you and how you can help make our community inclusive for everyone of all abilities.