Martyn Sibley is the CEO of Disability Horizons, and a wheelchair user with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Martyn is an experienced traveler, and on March 30 is launching Accessible Travel Week. He hopes it will help more disabled people take on the challenge of exploring the world. In this blog he shares some of his top travelling tips.
Have you ever wanted to travel the world but let your disability stop you? Do you fear that travelling with a disability will be too stressful, time-consuming and problematic so you just stay at home instead? Do you wish there were some simple resources on accessible travel to make it smooth, effortless and straightforward?
I know exactly how you feel. For years I let that stop me from pursuing my dreams and travelling around the world. There were so many countries I wanted to visit. I was constantly jealous of seeing my friends and family boast and show me pictures of where they went on their adventures, but the thought of travelling with all the extra equipment (like my wheelchair) and all the extra arrangements I needed was just too stressful and overwhelming.
There are so many aspects to consider when travelling with a disability. Accessible travel can cause some real difficulties. I’m not going lie to you and say accessible travel is a walk in the park and you have nothing to worry about. I’ve faced countless problems, barriers and difficulties when travelling. Here are just a few examples that might sound familiar:
- Just simply getting on and off the plane. I’ve travelled with countless airlines, and some just haven’t thought about those travelling with a disability. The worst start to your holiday would be realising that your airline can’t fully cater for your needs, or they’ve lost or destroyed your wheelchair.
- A hotel they say is accessible but isn’t fully accessible. There’s nothing worse after a long, uncomfortable, stressful flight than arriving at your “accessible” hotel and realising there are in fact a few “small” steps, a bathroom not big enough for a wheelchair or even a bed that’s too high.
- Not knowing which venues or sights are accessible when you arrive at your destination. Numerous times I travelled and didn’t fully research the area, which resulted in not knowing which attractions were accessible while I was there. Not only did this stress me and my carer out, it also wasted a lot of time, meaning I wasn’t able to visit as many places as I initially hoped for.
- Not knowing how to travel around the destination. This is something many people don’t think about before they travel, but is essential. My first holiday abroad I had absolutely no idea how to travel around, I didn’t know any taxi numbers and had no idea of the bus systems. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realised that many of the paths were cobbled, making it extremely difficult to travel in a wheelchair.
- Arriving at your destination and realising you don’t have or can’t access some vital equipment such a manual hoist, a shower chair or a profiling bed. Trust me, this is the worst thing that could happen on your holiday, and unfortunately it’s happened to me! In my circumstance it wasn’t a case that I had forgotten to bring one, but the fact that my hotel ensured they would be able to provide one, and then let me down.
Introducing Accessible Travel Week
I am here to help you follow your dreams and go on that holiday you’ve always dreamt of going on. In order to do that, I’m running an awesome social campaign called Accessible Travel Week, where we will give you the lowdown on how to travel with a disability in order to have a stress-free, easy and relaxing accessible holiday.
Throughout the campaign I will specifically help you through the various aspects of planning a holiday of a lifetime. I’ll provide you with vital information on:
- How to find accessible accommodation in your chosen destination; what to look for and what questions to ask to make sure you have everything you need. We have an interview with Holiday Inn, who have agreed to show us some of their awesome accessible accommodation, so we can show you what’s possible when you find the right place
- How to get all of the information on the best way to travel around your destination
- How to go about air travel with a disability. We have an exciting collaboration with Virgin Atlantic to show you all the various equipment and solutions there are for accessing air travel with a disability, regardless of what airline you use
- Information on how and where to get all of the equipment you need, so you don’t go without your disability home comforts
During the campaign you will also find handy tips and advice, words of warnings and at the end, I’ll introduce you to something I’ve been working on that may help you take the holiday of a lifetime.
Because after all, why should we hold back on a holiday of a lifetime just because we have a disability? Travelling is not just about relaxing by the pool, it’s also a time to find peace, happiness and solace.
It took me years of persuasion, courage and determination to start travelling, but I can honestly tell you it’s the best decision I’ve made, and I am here to ensure you create memories that last a lifetime.
Accessible Travel Week is part of something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s my dream to make travel, accessible to all disabled people, so it would mean the world to me if you could check out the campaign. I sincerely believe it will help you.