Ji Xun: Alumna Promotes Accessibility for Disabled Tourists

World traveler and journalist created startup to advocate for rare disease patients, accessible tourism.

While Ji Xun (’12, M.A., International Education) was at UCLA, she was offered the use of an electric wheelchair for the first time in her life. As a Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) patient in China, Ji did not have access to technology that allowed her to live independently. CMT is a neurological condition that causes muscular degeneration; because it had attacked her hands, she could not push her own wheelchair and had to be escorted anywhere she went. Earning her Master’s Degree at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies gave Ji the confidence and freedom to explore the world on her own. However, this newfound freedom made her acutely aware of how inaccessible many buildings and vehicles in her native China are.

In 2018, Ji launched a new startup, Rare N’ Roll, that is focused on promoting accessibility in the tourism industry in China. The project is designed to engage both travelers and professionals in the new care-based economy by providing both online and offline workshops meant to educate on disability services, encourage disabled travelers to explore the world and experience cultural activities in both China and overseas destinations, and more. The online platform is bilingual (English and Mandarin) and utilizes both Chinese and European online communities such as Facebook and WeChat.

As a journalist and world traveler, Ji has spent much of her career focused on rare disease patient advocacy. She has worked with some of the most well-known media outlets in China, including FT China, Vice China, Caixin, NetEase, and Tencent. Ji works with Lonely Planet as a translator of their guidebooks into Chinese, as well as a contributor to their Accessible Travel Phrasebook. She is currently the columnist in accessible tourism for Vice China, where she has accumulated over 4,000 followers. In all of her endeavors, Ji’s ultimate goal is to make stories of people with special needs available in the mainstream Chinese media.

Despite many setbacks as a result of her disease and difficult language barriers, Ji has been able to travel to more than 20 countries and has spent time living in the United States and France. She has been invited to speak at several EU events and meetings, sharing her experience as a disabled Chinese traveler in Europe, and worked with the Chinese Organization for Rare disorders for two years as a project officer. Through these experiences, Ji has built an extensive network across private and public sectors in both China and Europe.

“Globally, many developed countries are experiencing rapid population aging and a consequent rise in the number of people with disabilities […] It’s time for the rest of China to follow suit, writes Ji in a recent Sixth Tone article. “It is disappointing that I can hardly go anywhere in my own country because of my condition, but as soon as I go abroad, I feel like the whole world is open to me. Even minor accommodations can help people with disabilities lead fuller, more enjoyable lives by allowing them to participate in a wide variety of previously off-limits activities, including swimming, skiing, and skydiving.”

To learn more about Rare N’Roll, visit this link.