It’s important we give disabled people the chances to travel. Chances that others take for granted. Many businesses are scared of what ‘accessibility’ really means. With an open and friendly attitude, the details just fall into place.
artyn Sibley writes about living life with a disability, he is a life/career coach, and advises organisations on inclusion. He’s Co Founder of Disability Horizons / United / Academy. In 2016 he published his travel memoirs and is now trying his arm at some fiction writing. You can read more about his adventures on his blog.
As a wheelchair using travel blogger I’ve experienced the good, bad and ugly of tourism. From London to Sydney, Mexico to Tokyo, Helsinki to Barcelona. I’ve loved every single place I’ve ever seen. But what makes a trip truly accessible?
I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. This means I cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book, nor shower myself. So when I travel my 150kg wheelchair must come, along with carers, my lifting machine (hoist) and shower chair.
Although this is starting to change a little. Tourism providers are seeing
the social and business opportunities of accessibility. I’ve been lucky to stay
in a few properties that had hoists and shower chairs as standard.
In places like Barcelona and Tenerife there’s even a care support team available.
Whilst perfection is good to strive for, it sometimes puts us off growing in the right direction at all. For me wheelchair access is a must. However the care and equipment can be brought with me or hired in from nearby companies. The biggest factor for me is attitude!
Once I visited Aviles in the region of Asturias in Spain. I was accepted on a project with the European Commission to volunteer and live abroad for 2 months. We had the time and money to alter the shower in my room, to hire in equipment and source an adapted taxi from the airport. There was one thing that couldn’t be arranged perfectly for my needs though.
Everyone said how much I should go up into the Asturian mountains. I’d see stunning views, meet amazing people and learn about sustainable living. However without any form of accessible transport we had to improvise.
So after a train journey that went well, I was greeted in the pouring rain by a group of eager project coordinators from the mountain commune. My carer lifted me into the front seat, my chair was lifted by 4 people into the boot, and off we went. Powered by vegetable oil!
I was nervous. I was excited. I was pushing my comfort zone like a true traveller. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Now, I’m not suggesting disabled people should all go up a mountain in a hippy van. Nor am I suggesting tourism providers should try to replicate this either. What I am saying is that if everyone has this ‘can do’ attitude, accessible tourism would indeed be for everybody. No matter what needs or preferences a person may have.