Have chair, will travel: Local blogger wins national travel journalism award

Cory Lee Woodard is pictured during a recent trip to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Like many new college graduates, Cory Lee Woodard, 26, was looking for a way to build a career using his degree. And, like most successful entrepreneurs, he decided to also use what he knows and to find an unsatisfied niche.

After graduating with a degree in marketing form West Georgia College in 2013, Woodard started Curb Free With Cory Lee, a travel blog that focuses on wheel-chair bound travelers. The website has not only attracted 50,000 readers, it has earned Woodard, a LaFayette, Ga., resident, the 2016-2017 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition gold award for Best Travel Blog.

Other winners in the competition include Christopher Reynolds, travel writer with the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, which took 12 awards, including gold for best Newspaper Travel Coverage and two other gold places.

Woodard said he created the blog after realizing that others might benefit from his research.

"I started it just because I had been researching for a trip and noticed there was not a lot of information about travel for wheelchair users," he said from Portland, Ore., where he was attending the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation competition.

photo Cory Lee Woodard is a 26-year-old travel writer who created the Curb Free With Cory Lee blog to provide information for other wheelchair-bound travelers. It was recently named best travel blog by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

The competition drew 1,190 entries and was judged by faculty members at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Eighty-nine awards in 24 categories were handed out, along with $20,000 in prize money.

In presenting the award to Woodard, the judges said, "Travel isn't - and shouldn't be - only for the able-bodied. Curb Free with Cory Lee is a treasure of useful information on wheelchair-accessible locales and attractions. From reviewing hotel rooms to hiking in the Amazon and up Masada, making the most of a tiny airplane seat and introducing other travelers rolling around the globe, this blog will leave everyone inspired to take off and try it all."

Woodard, who always travels with a companion who helps him get around, said he does quite a bit of traveling, sometimes on his own dime and sometimes as the guest of whatever hotel, resort of destination he is writing about. He's written about his trips to all five continents including visits to Israel, Thailand, Estonia and Mexico.

"I try to cover a broad range," he said.

His passion for travel started at age 15 after a trip to the Bahamas. He said that the tourism industry around the globe seems to be getting better at accommodating travels with all types of limitations.

"Off-road wheelchair places are becoming more and more accessible, for example," he said.