Langley Profiles: Learning to fly

Langley Profiles Learning To Fly

Langley Profiles: Learning to fly

Langley Profiles Travel

The first thing you’ll notice when you meet David Lyons-Black is his smile. He’s always smiling. It’s a trait that he has developed over many years of having, in his words, “the best job in the world.”

As a Langley-based travel agent (Flight Centre Independent Agent, to be precise), David works, seemingly, tirelessly to help his clients plan exceptional journeys for work or play. We know because he’s planned at least a half-dozen trips for us over the past few years and he’s become our go-to for everything that requires us to pack an overnight bag.

But just being a solid travel agent isn’t why we’re featuring David in our new Langley Profiles series highlighting exceptional local residents. We’re featuring David because of the incredible work he is doing helping people with disabilities overcome their fear of travel by coordinating accessible travel opportunities.

“Many people with a disability think that travel just isn’t an option for them. That it’s a part of life they can’t take part in anymore. I’m living proof that they are wrong.”

What doesn’t kill you…

Unless you meet him in person – or follow him on Facebook – you would never know that David spends the majority of each day in a wheelchair.

In his late twenties, David was diagnosed with encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain and spine which can often lead to death. While not the same in all cases, for David, the virus left him with extreme muscle weakness in his legs which can make walking very difficult and even painful. While it’s yet to be determined whether David will lose his ability to walk altogether it’s a case of “not until I let it”, as he often says.

In mid-2006 David was an active traveller, working to build his travel agency in Walnut Grove when he was struck with acute headaches and fever. Within days, his symptoms progressed and he was admitted to the hospital, spending weeks in intensive care while doctors battled the infection. After more than three months in recovery, David was finally released to go home but, having walked in on his own, the virus had seriously affected the nerves in his spine leaving him in need of a permanent wheelchair.

“It’s kind of surreal when you realize that you may need to use a wheelchair for the rest of your life,” says David. “Most people don’t think twice about simply walking around; I certainly didn’t. When you lose your ability without any warning, it leaves you in a state of shock.”

Finding his wings

David Lyons-Black in Mexico
Enjoying the hotel in Mexico.

Faced with a new reality, David had to come to terms with his desire to keep travelling and the limitations of life in a wheelchair.

“I didn’t think that I would be able to travel anymore. I thought that flying, being a tourist, and hotels were out of the question for me now that I had to use a wheelchair.”

However, David couldnโ€™t keep his feet on the ground for long and, despite his fears, booked a trip to visit friends who had moved to Chicago.

“When I got on the plane, I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know where my chair would go, or how I would get off the plane when it landed. Immediately, the stewardesses started helping me and made sure I had what I needed for the flight. It was so easy that I forgot about having any issues from that point forward.”

Since that trip, David has continued travelling to over 25 different destinations around the globe, including Australia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany, Mexico, Montreal, San Francisco, Tulum and many more that he didn’t think were possible when he first started using a wheelchair.

Making the world accessible

David and Dale CN Tower
David and his husband Dale taking a walk on the edge at the CN Tower Edge Walk.

Today, as a Flight Centre Independent Agent, David runs his travel agency out of his home in North Langley with a special emphasis on helping people with disabilities discover how accessible travel really is.

“Many people with a disability think that travel just isn’t an option for them. That it’s a part of life they can’t take part in anymore. I’m living proof that they are wrong.”

David offers his clients a wide range of destinations where accessibility has become part of the norm. Popular destinations like Disneyland, Hawaii, or various cruises to ports around the world provide options where physical limitations have already been taken into consideration.

“Another misconception is what ‘accessible travel’ means,” notes David. “For some, like me, it’s needing to make sure that a wheelchair can make it where I want to go. For others, it’s support for impaired hearing, sight, or even issues with arthritis that may need to be considered. There are also incredible travel options available for children with learning or behavioural needs. The options are quite endless once you look into them.”

To date, David has planned over two hundred vacations and work-related trips which have required various levels of accessible support. “At least one per week,” he boasts.

When asked where he plans to go next, his smile gets even bigger. “I don’t ever plan to stop travelling. It’s what makes me who I am!”

To get in touch with David, or to learn more about accessible travel, visit dlbtravel.com or http://www.flightcentreindependent.ca/DavidLyons-Black.

David Lyons-Black Swimming
Enjoying the pool

Know someone who should be featured in our next Langley Profiles? Send us a note about who they are and why you feel they should be featured to hello@experiencelangley.ca.

Comments

  1. I am extremely proud and honoured to be Davidโ€™s friend. I have known David since grade school and he always created a calmness around others. It is his calling to make others at ease with life challenges. We are all very lucky to have him.
    Tracey Froats-Rousseau
    LaSalle, ON

  2. Congratulations and keep smiling David! We also have had the privilege of David assisting us with our travel and trips for many years and always are grateful for his insight and guidance. He has always gone above and beyond for us.

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