Name Surname : Małgorzata Tokarska
Country : Poland
City : Warsaw
Nationally : Polish
Background : Secondary
Sector : Culture and Sport/Services
Position : company owner, organization/company: Accessible Poland Tours – Tour Operator for people with disabilities and elderly people.
Company name + url : www.accessibletour.pl
I have been a disabled person from birth, currently I am moving with a special walking sticks. In 1975 I have graduated from primary school. I continued my education at high school J. Dąbrowski – receiving my secondary school certificate in 1979. In 1979 I undertook studies in a 2-year post-graduate school in Economics - specialty: technical and economic documentation and information. Two years later I went to Britain to study English - this was my first trip alone. But I had to interrupt studying to undergo hip surgery. At that time I become close with the British community of people with disabilities. After returning to the country in 1984, I started working as an English teacher at the “Lingwista” Labor Cooperative in Warsaw, one of the few language teaching centers in the country. I taught children and youth in schools and clubs. In the meantime, I was raising alone my son Piotr. In 1991, I took up work in primary school G. Narutowicza in Warsaw as an English teacher. In 1998, due to my deteriorating health, I became disability pensioner. Still, I remain socially and professionally active. In the years 2000-2003 I was associated, among others with the Foundation for Assistance to Mathematicians and ICT Specialist with physical disabilities, in 2007 – I was employed at FMiINR on an assignment contract as an English language teacher. Since 2009, I have been professionally pursuing my life passion: I have founded and I still run the first licensed Internet Travel Agency for the Disabled and Elderly People - the Accessible Poland Tours. Thanks to this activity several hundred people with moderate and significant disabilities were able to go on a few days trips to many European countries. For some years I have been bringing disabled people from abroad to Poland. Since 2012 I have been a representative of the ENAT / European Network for Accessible Tourism in Poland. Since 2012, I have hold a travel guide license. In 2014-2016, I participated as partner in the international travel and tourism project called “Europe without Barriers” and “ Design, Implementation, Promotion and Marketing of Accessible Tourism Itineraries” financed from EU funds. I have been invited as an expert for national and international conferences. 2009 I was acknowledged to be a Barrier Free Man in the 2009 edition of the competition organized by The Friends of Integration Association. 2017 -I have been presented in the book “ LISTA MOCY ( the list of power)” among 100 people who are considered to be the most powerful active people in Poland I have visited over 55 countries, including Australia, India, Madagascar, Thailand, New Zealand, Japan, and from the closer countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Sometimes I write articles from my travels. The magazine “Integration” published two my memories from Hungary and Thailand and other countries. I write a blog: World according to the lame blonde: http://swiatwedlugkulawejblondynki.blogspot.com/
Traveling is my passion. In 2003 I went for a private trip to Australia. I organized the trip by using the Melbourne Travel Agency for the Disabled. Upon arriving in Australia, when it came to meeting with the office representative, it turned out that he is even more “lame” than me. Then I thought to myself: “Maybe I could start doing what I love the most and start an travel office in Poland?” I could show the disabled that they can anywhere they want. Such travel offices exist all over the world - disabled people are the same tourists as able bodied people, they only need some special facilities and logistics to plan their trips. From idea to implementation, however, it took several years. Running an travel office also has therapeutic value for me – I do not think about my disability. The work gives me “power”, positive feelings and allows me to overcome the disease. : It was the only travel agency for people with disabilities with an emphasis on wheelchair users and people with walking problems. As a woman with disability I understand the needs of this group of people. I have counted on the great interest of this group and for foreign clients. Ability to work from home and combine work with passion for travelling. Threats: High cost of running a company, social security fees and a small number of trips organized during the year. Most people with disabilities cannot afford to travel in Poland and abroad due to lack of work or low pensions. In addition, non-governmental organizations such as foundations or associations are not willing to cooperate with me, and they organize the trips by themselves for their clients-people with disabilities. Tours are organized from April to October. People with disabilities are reluctant to travel in the winter.
I am the first licensed travel agent for people with disabilities and older people in Poland. I do not rent premises - I run internet activity at home. It is a sole trader company. I manage everything by myself.
I have accomplished everything by myself through the trial and error method. At first, my acquaintance with tourism issues was from the perspective of the traveler. It took me several years to gain clients and their trust and now they keep returning for next trips. The family was initially skeptical of my activities and did not believe that I could lead such a project myself as a disabled person. At first it was difficult to convince the disabled themselves to travel. What helped you the best in your path to where you are? Deciding factors of success. First and foremost, perseverance in what I do. I have always been open to people and I easily establishes contacts. I built trust in other people. I am credible in what I do. I not only organize tours, but I also pilot them. This way, customers feel more secure and trust me that everything will be well organized. Thanks to the knowledge of English I was noticed by other foreign organizations dealing with tourism of the disabled. I am invited to the EU projects, I participate as a speaker in international conferences. Did something give you inspiration for your enterprise? I travel a lot myself. I have been to over 55 countries in Europe and in the world. During a private visit to Australia in 2003, I met Edie, a travel agency representative for the people with disabilities who turned out to be even more “lame” than I was. Then I thought to myself: If he can manage such an travel agency then maybe I could start a similar activity in Poland. From idea to implementation, however, it took several years.
My skills: group management, Word and Excel skills, writing articles, knowledge of English, persistence in reaching goals, responsible, firm, open in contacts with others, economical. I can quickly search for offers, hotels and other services that make up a tourist event. Thanks to the fact that I know the needs of people with different disabilities, I can choose the right hotel and service. I know what to pay attention to and what to require when booking. Thanks to the completion of the course for travel guides I can pilot the groups themselves. This is important because the trips are then cheaper for this group. I also work in the office, contact with clients and other services, write tour programs, invoices. Thanks to my knowledge of English I can communicate almost anywhere.
Hints and tips: • Strive for the goals; • Take the small step method - before you start a company- explore the market and create a business plan and be consistent in its implementation. • Good organization. • Do not give up - the beginning is always difficult. • Do things that you are passionate about, work is not only about making money. • Find solutions that reduce the cost of running a company. • Use various forms of training, personal development, networking, advertising. What do you think about entrepreneurship in general? Any idea, business starts in our heads. Initially we think that our idea will not work and we will encounter various barriers: lack of finances, high costs, our family and friends will not support us, etc. Until we try, we will not know what entrepreneurship really is. In Poland, unfortunately, there are big costs connected with social security fees, which most often discourage people with disabilities to start their own business. State help is really non-existent. Assets to be developed: Develop the ability to adapt and accept change, gain further position and trust in new customers, and increase the number of customers using my travel agency services. I wish I owned transportation adjusted for 20-25 people - thanks to this vehicle I could also organize trips around Poland. I would like the trips for the disabled to be funded as rehabilitation stays. Also, to make healthy people not afraid to travel with people with disabilities. Weaknesses to overcome: Do not be discouraged by the initial failures. Systematic in office work. Do you have experiences in mentoring, coaching and/or job shadowing? If yes, please describe it. No