Tag Archives: accessible accomodation

Blogging with Life of a Blind Girl

My name is Holly and I’m the author of the blog Life of a Blind Girl. I started my blog back in 2015 and it’s evolved so much since then, my blog has always been my corner of the internet but I didn’t realise how many opportunities it would actually give me including writing for Seable and other organisations and charities.

 

Life Of A Blind Girl Logo

I started my blog in the hope to share my experiences of living with a visual impairment, to educate others, to tackle the common misconceptions surrounding disability and visual impairment and to empower others living with a disability.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, that passion lead me to start my blog and I haven’t looked back since. My blog is a mix of educational related content on visual impairment and disability, sharing my experiences of going to concerts or places I’ve visited, giving people tips on accessibility, education, dos and don’ts to name a few, and I am passionate about all of these topics.

I am also very passionate about helping others and having a blog allows me to do that in a creative way, it makes me extremely happy when people tell me that my blog posts have helped them in one way or another, it really makes the hard work and dedication worth while.

Like everything, blogging has its challenges, as a blind blogger, I’ve faced a few which I thought I’d discuss. However, I have found solutions for these issues.

 

Holly Tuke

Finding an accessible blogging platform

 

There are two popular blogging platforms: Blogger and WordPress, personally I prefer WordPress. I did try Blogger, but as a screen-reader user, I thought that WordPress was the most accessible and offered better functionality, it’s also very easy to use.

In 2017, I went self-hosted, meaning that I now pay for my blog and have my own domain, it means that I have so much freedom with my blog, and I own it, rather than WordPress owning it. It was something that I put off for a while, as I didn’t know how accessible the process would actually be for someone with a visual impairment and also wanted it to be a worthwhile investment which it definitely was. I’m so glad that I went self-hosted and it was an accessible process using a screen-reader.

 

Making my posts as visually appealing as possible

 

As I have no useful vision, it’s hard to visualise what my blog posts look like through a sighted person’s eyes. I am also unable to get inspiration from other bloggers photos as I can’t see them.

I am very lucky as I have amazing parents who take my blog photos for me which I am extremely grateful for so that is my main way of how I get around that issue. I also look at Stock images so if I don’t have a photo myself, then I can use one of those.

 

Collaborating with brands

 

As I’ve learnt more about blogging over the years, connected with other bloggers and really thought about the future of my blog, one thing that I do struggle with is finding brand collaborations. As I predominantly talk about disability on my blog, with the odd lifestyle and beauty post thrown in the mix, I’m not your average beauty, fashion, lifestyle or travel blogger. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that brands don’t really have anything to cater towards disabled bloggers, or they just simply don’t think about collaborating with disabled bloggers, but I’m hoping that this will change in the future as I think disabled bloggers are extremely valuable and bring a lot to the blogging community.

 

However, I am extremely lucky that I get to collaborate and work with many amazing charities and organisations such as Seable, the RNIB and Scope to name a few. Working in partnership with these organisations has given me the chance to take part in campaigns, write guest posts and really get my voice out there and help others. I absolutely love working with these organisations and I am thrilled when they ask me to get involved with their work.

 

Seable Logo RNIB Employment Line

Gaining blog subscribers

This is something that I struggled with at the start, I saw bloggers that started around the same time as me had so many more followers than I did and I often wondered what I was doing wrong. As I started to connect with other bloggers and actually feel confident in my own abilities and writing, my followers seemed to increase and continue to steadily grow which I am so grateful for. I started to get more involved with the blogging community even more, and that really helps my blog, but also allows me to support other bloggers as well which I love doing.

 

Starting a YouTube channel

I’ve wanted to start a YouTube channel for a while now, as an extension of my blog. I knew the type of content that I wanted to film, but I had no idea about the filming and editing part as it can often be very visual. However, I didn’t want this to stop me from doing YouTube so like everything, I found ways around it. I created my YouTube channel, have started uploading videos and I am most definitely still learning.

In terms of filming, I get someone to help me set up the camera, making sure that I’m in the right position and that it’s at the right angle and then I’m all good to film.

 

In terms of editing, I actually do all of that myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really do fancy editing, I keep it nice and simple, but I’m pleased that I am able to do the whole process independently. I use iMovie on my Mac with VoiceOver and edit using shortcut keys. It’s a thrilling feeling knowing that I’ve edited my own video.

 

I wouldn’t change being a blind blogger for the world, I love blogging and it has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I couldn’t imagine not being a blogger as it’s such a huge part of my life. I have also made some of my closest friends through blogging and being part of the blogging community is wonderful.

 

There are thousands (probably millions) of bloggers out there, each offering something different and many giving unique perspectives on life through their writing.

To anyone that is looking to become a blogger, then I would urge you to just go for it. It is so worth all the hard work! Dedication and determination are key, but it is so worth it.

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

Masuma’s Adventure in Lanzarote with Seable

This week’s blog has been written by our guest Masuma who came with us on the magical island of Lanzarote, the northernmost and easternmost island of the Canary Islands.

 

Dragging myself out of bed on Tuesday morning at 1.45am was the least pleasurable part of the holiday! However, several hours later and over 1600 miles away from London I landed in a landscape described to me as black lava rock fields and white-washed houses. I was met by Damiano from Seable and Marialaura at the arrivals area of the airport. They were our guides for the trip. Whilst we waited for my friends to arrive we acquainted ourselves with each other.

 

With a jammed packed itinerary for the week ahead, knowing that all the planning and organising was being taken care of by Seable, my friends and I were in good spirits and looking forward to unwinding from the Monday to Friday work routine.

 

My first enjoyment came with the freedom of being able to go for a run on the sandy beach of Playa Los near our hotel without needing to be guided. The sound of the sea alongside me provided a sense of direction, and the wind in my hair and the changing texture of the sand on my feet was exhilarating. Knowing that our guides were nearby provided a comforting safety net.

Our visit to Timanfaya National Park involved an underground sensory experience simulating how it might feel to experience a volcanic eruption. After walking and exploring the Martian-like landscape we got to see the geothermal demonstrations. Steam gushed out of the ground with a whoosh sound a moment after water had been poured into a hole. Our guides provided us with running commentary throughout the day, but also allowed enough time for me and my friends to spend time together.

We also had the opportunity to do some sea kayaking. As it was something I hadn’t done before, I was a little apprehensive, but once I was in the kayak with my instructor the worries disappeared, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This day was a day of firsts for me as I also tried snorkeling. After I got over the fear and the panic I felt when putting my head underwater I came to like the sensation. The instructors on the day provided the right level of support and were not at all overbearing.

 

Other activities we took part in included horse riding and tandem cycling, which were equally thrilling. We also had the opportunity to make some bath salts, which I’m very much looking forward to using.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of travelling with my family to countries like India and Egypt, as well as with friends to European cities including Rome and Cologne.  However, I was yet to go on holiday with just my VI friends, until recently.  Having Seable to organise all the arrangements from excursions to travel whilst abroad, as well as having sighted guides meant I could fully relax and unwind.

Seable provides tailored holidays for blind and partially sighted people.  This can range from a relaxing break to something more active.  It’s your holiday, it’s your choice!

 

Article taken from: https://eastlondonvision.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/masumas-adventures-in-lanzarote-with-seable/

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

Places To Travel This Winter

Winter travel destinations can be tricky. Often, you feel as if you’re either picking a very specific winter destination – such as a place to ski – or avoiding the season altogether by heading somewhere tropical, or south of the equator. Both options are perfectly valid, but they really don’t narrow things down too much, and they also leave out plenty of cities and countries that are a blast to visit even when it’s cold outside. Naturally, there are hundreds of places you could find a reason to visit in the winter if you really thought about it. But the following should be a nice sampling of different destinations for different purposes.

 

Vienna, Austria

While the idea here is that there’s a variety of different types of destinations that make for nice winter getaways, we’ll start off with a more traditional option. Categorized as one of Europe’s most Christmassy cities and frequently cited for its gorgeous winter scenery, Vienna, Austria just about has to make any list like this. It’s one of the more striking cities in Europe regardless, thanks to its palaces, concert halls, wide open squares, and the general grandeur of a lingering Habsburg influence. Even so, the city comes alive in a different way for the winter holidays. Festive Christmas markets, decorations adorning old and beautiful buildings, cool weather and a deep-set charm that’s become something of a tradition work together to establish an air of magic.

 

Washington, D.C., United States

Washington, D.C. is a remarkable place to visit not just because it’s the capital of the U.S., but because its district of monuments and government buildings may be the closest thing in the world to a modern version of Ancient Rome. It’s a fascinating city to learn about as well. The aforementioned monuments were actually inspired by Rome in some cases, and in others have masonic elements and almost mysterious histories. They were designed to intimidate and inspire, and according to one site they only exists because of a Grand National Lottery, which seems almost unbelievable. At any rate, these monuments and the rest of D.C. are best explored in the winter when the oppressive heat of D.C. takes a break and it’s more appealing (if somewhat chilly) to wander between attractions. Another plus is that many of the main attractions are near street level and fairly wide open, making it one of the more accessible cities for tourism.

Auckland, New Zealand

Here we’re getting to the idea of getting south of the equator – in this case, well south of the equator – to enjoy some warm weather during the winter season. The idea is basically that a lot of people want to go to Oceania but have trouble making the time or finding the inspiration to make it happen. If you set aside some time during the holidays however you might be able to make a winter getaway at what happens to be the best time of year to visit New Zealand. Auckland is a beautiful, bustling city, and a natural point to start at, but this sort of trip is really about exploring the country more broadly. And while parts of the country and its more adventurous attractions may be less accessible to those with handicaps or trouble seeing, you can still experience a new culture, relax on world-famous beaches, and enjoy the legendary New Zealand wines, at the least.

 

Breckenridge, Colorado, United States

Heading back to the U.S., we’ll simply note that Breckenridge appears to be on the up as one of the more charming ski destinations around. There are plenty of other places in the American West that can also compete as top-notch winter destinations: Aspen and Vail in Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Lake Tahoe, etc. Breckenridge is at least a little bit less discovered though, with all the same ski town charms, excellent slopes for those who are able, and a little bit less of the exclusivity that is almost palpable in places like Aspen, or many of Europe’s top ski spots for that matter.

 

Cartagena, Colombia

South of the equator once more, Colombia is one of the trendier tropical destinations you could aim for if you’re looking for a warm weather option this winter. Accounts from those who have visited Cartagena specifically in recent years as the city has risen up the tourism ranks paint a picture of an irresistible town with boutique hotels, horse-drawn carriage rides, boating and swimming opportunities, island excursions, and even natural mud baths. There may not be too many over-the-top attractions in Cartagena, but it’s a place you can simply hang out and recharge for a week or however long you may have to get away this winter.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Five years of Seable

Five years of Seable

This week’s blog has been written by our blogger Holly Tuke, the award nominated disability and lifestyle blogger behind the successful blog Life of a Blind Girl.

 

It’s hard to believe that Seable is five years old this year, where has the time gone?

It’s been an incredible five years, so we wanted to reflect and look back on some of the highlights.

 

To give you a bit of an insight into how Seable was born, twelve years ago, our founder, Damiano La Rocca’s father, Carmelo, was hit by a drunk driver. While in hospital, he became friends a young man named Martino who had also suffered an accident and was recovering from a similar operation. As Carmelo recovered the use of his legs, Martino did not. During one of their many conversations, the topic of scuba diving came up and Martino expressed his desire to try this out. After looking into scuba diving lessons for wheelchair users, it became apparent that this was not something that was widely catered for.

 

As an experienced scuba diver, Carmelo took it upon himself to become an instructor and teach Martino himself. Martino enjoyed scuba diving so much that he became the first paraplegic man to dive 59 meters, this was a Guinness World Record in 2007. From this, both Carmelo and Martino decided that they wanted to help other people with disabilities and so set up an Italian based charity, Life (which stands for Life Improvement for Everyone).

 

Whilst studying at university, Damiano conducted some research and found out that there was a gap in the market for accessible tourism, so that gave him the motivation, drive and ambition and that’s how Seable was born.

 

We took on our first  charity holiday in September 2014 which was in partnership with the charity Victa, we still work with them today. On this holiday, blind and visually impaired young people got to experience new things such as an introduction to scuba diving, climbing Mount Etna and cultural experiences. The holiday was a huge success, so this gave us the building blocks to carry on and create even more memorable holidays for disabled people.

 

Over the years, Seable have been featured in a wide range of publications, why not check these out??

We have also won some awards over the last few years which we are extremely grateful for, these include the certificate for the commitment and improvement for people with disabilities, Unlimited Millennium Award and a social entrepreneurs award.

 

The publications that we have been featured in, have allowed us to spread our wings and get our voice out there and given us the chance for people to hear about us. Therefore, it has meant that we have been able to expand our Social Enterprise, offering more holiday destinations for disabled people to experience, activities for disabled people, giving us the scope to be able to Taylor their holiday to suit their requirements and needs.

This means that we are able to travel all over the world and give disabled people the best possible experiences in places such as Thailand, Cyprus, Sicily and Sauze,. Holidays in each of these destinations are unique, offering a range of activities means that we have been able to build up a rapport with tour guides and activity organisers, but also offer a wide range of activities to disabled people such as skiing, tactile museums and experiencing the local culture. Check out this video from Stephan who is a Paralympian to find out more.

We offer specific holiday destinations for people in wheelchairs and those with a visual impairment. Holiday destinations for people with a visual impairment include Sicily, Slovenia, Rome, and Cyprus and soon Lanzarote and Thailand. Wheelchair accessible holiday destinations include Sicily, Croatia, Portugal, Gibraltar, Greece, Cyprus, South Africa, Turkey, Mallorca, Canary Islands, Jersey, Malta, and Madeira.

We have worked extremely hard over the last five years to offer as many destinations as possible, our Founder, Damiano is always looking for new and exciting destinations for the future so the list certainly doesn’t stop there, and we are trying to continue to try and offer unique holiday experiences for disabled people.

Damiano La Rocca and the Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports Weerasak Kowsurat

We would just like to thank everyone that has been involved with Seable over the last five years, no matter your role, you have helped us continue to grow and offer our services to disabled people so thank you. We hope you will continue to support us, here’s to the next five years!

 

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

Four Ways to Make Traveling with Kids Easier for All

Our guest blogger for this week is Daniel Sherwin from the blog http://dadsolo.com/. Daniel is going to talk about how to make a trip with kids easier.

Traveling can be loads of fun, but kids can often find it tiring or anxiety-inducing. If you’re worried about how to keep your kids entertained and sane, don’t panic. Here are some tips and tricks to make traveling with kids easier and more fun for the whole family.

 

 

Bring Snacks

 Traveling can be disruptive and can leave any child restless. From its potential impact on regular meal times to having to rely on less-than-healthy options, it isn’t great. Yet food can alleviate travel stress, too. An empty belly can be a source of irritability for a child. Counter this by packing tried-and-true favorites for them to snack on. If your kids love PB&J or pudding cups, then stock up on them if you are going on a long car ride. Skip any treats that could cause a mess, and avoid perishables. Should your child’s favorites happen to be full of sugar, it’s a good idea to consider how that might influence them during the journey. Look to complement these with healthy travel snacks, like dried fruit. For flying, consider chewing gum or gummy bears, as these can help pop ears.

 

Comfort Items

It can be stressful or scary to leave home, even when the eventual destination is somewhere fun, like a theme park. To lessen any upset, bring some comfort items for the kids. If they have a favorite blanket or plush toy, then take them along to combat the chaos. Taking pieces of home with you can reassure your little ones when they are most anxious. They can cling on to their stuffed animal, play with their favorite handheld device, or read their favorite book on the way. If you’re traveling with the family dog, allow your child to sit next to Fido, who will surely provide comfort, joy, and distraction for your little one. (Be sure you’re keeping your pup safe and comfortable, too!) Little things can do a lot to make your children feel less afraid and distract them from the anxiety of travel.

 

Activities

 A teddy bear or comforting blanket may only achieve so much when it comes to keeping your children distracted. As a contingency, look to make use of fun activities. You don’t have to rely on electronic devices, either. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should discount the value of a tablet, as these can be indispensable on a long journey. Download a few movies or some offline apps, and you can keep them entertained. It may be a good idea to limit access to these devices, however, to ensure their effectiveness is not diminished from overuse. Supplement devices with options like puzzle games or coloring books with plenty of crayons. If you are worried about mess, you could opt for dry erase markers. They are easily removable, and if you feel that your child won’t get out of hand, you could even let them make a few drawings on their window.

 

Their Perspective

 While traveling might sound like oodles of fun, getting to the destination may be unbearable for little ones. Even with all their distractions, they may be restless. Given that, try to involve them as much as you can. Encourage them to pack a bag of things they want, but be sure to do it under supervision. If they’re old enough, you might ask them to take responsibility for their luggage, too. This may not be appealing to some children, but it’s another way to keep them occupied. Importantly, try to take as many rest breaks as possible, at least every couple of hours. You could use these breaks as opportunities to visit new places, like historical monuments or parks, or simply to get a bite to eat. If you are traveling by plane, make sure that your children go to the restroom and eat well before flying, as it could be a long wait to board.

 

It just takes a little extra prep and patience to make this a fun adventure. Give your kids a yummy snack, help them to feel comfortable, and don’t forget to take breaks when you can. You and the family will be on your way to having a blast in no time.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Accessible Tourism for All Comes to Thailand

In February of this year, Seable, aided by the Thai tour operator, Nutty’s Adventures, came to Thailand bringing a group blind and partially sighted travellers from Victa, a very well known charity from Milton Keynes, UK. Their 12-day tour took the  group of tourists to both the North and South of Thailand. The tour was definitely a wonderful and rewarding experience for the participants and also proved to Nutty’s Adventures, that with some careful planning and hard work Thailand could become a successful tourism destination for all people, regardless of any disabilities they may have.

While plans are being made to promote Thailand overseas as a “Tourism Destination for All”, the first course to train licenced Thai tour guides in the right way of handling blind and partially sighted guests has just been held in Ayutthaya from 19-21 June.

This training course was planned with the support and cooperation of the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA) and valuable assistance was provided by Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK. which was asked to act as a consultant and provide the relative manuals.  The course was conducted by Nutty’s Adventures and the Thailand Association of the Blind.

The course was fully subscribed and more guide training will be organised in the future and in October and November Nutty’s Adventures will go to Europe to promote Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All in Germany and then globally at the World Travel Market to be held in London in November.

Everybody involved sees a great future for accessible tourism for all in Thailand and are determined to work together to make it happen.

What Nutty’s Adventure said about SEABLE:

At Nutty’s Adventures we have just  completed our 3-day training course for guides working with blind and partially sighted guests. It was an enormously rewarding experience for all. Everybody learned a great deal and found time to have a good time too. Now we all look forward to developing Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All.

We wish to give special thanks to Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK and the Thailand Association of the Blind for their valuable assistance in making this course the great success that it was.

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project,  as it showed the world how much time, effort and passion Thailand as a nation is  devolving to the “accessible holidays” cause.

Thailand is indeed becoming an accessible travel destination that all Visually Impaired travellers should consider, and this is thanks to passionate individuals like the guys at Nutty’s Adventure,  at the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA).

Thank you all.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Are West End theatres accessible? We have asked SeatPlan.

For this week’s blog we have asked our friends from SeatPlan to share some thoughts about London theatres and what can be done to make them more accessible.

 

London Zoo? Check. The Tower of London? Check. The London Eye? Check. A West End show? Hmmm…

 

Though seeing a West End show is on many of London visitors’ to do lists, the beautiful, old buildings that are home to some of the best theatre in the world aren’t the most amenable to people with access requirements. Most of the theatres date to at least Victorian or Edwardian times. Theatre Royal Drury Lane, built in 1812, is even older – it pre-dates Queen Victoria’s birth by seven years. Architects back then didn’t consider accessibility in their designs and as many of these buildings are now listed, alterations are difficult and expensive – if they are permitted at all by planning regulations.

 

Exterior of Drury Lane Theatre

 

Luckily, rising levels of awareness and the wider theatre industry’s commitment to increasing access is bringing about change. Most West End theatres are now fitted with infrared hearing systems and removable seating, many offer dedicated access performances and downloadable Visual Stories, assistance dogs are usually permitted, and staff have been specifically trained to support theatregoers with their access requirements. When building regulations allow, ramps, lifts and step-free routes have been installed, as have low-level service counters at bars and box offices.

Many West End theatres are owned by one of four bigger companies, which enables access provisions to be standardised across an entire venue group. For instance, Ambassadors Theatre Group, also known as ATG, has a dedicated access team that can provide theatregoers for information and support with ticket booking across all of their venues, both in and out of London.

 

 

On the other hand, change just isn’t happening fast enough and there’s little financial reason for progress to be so slow. The West End is doing incredibly well – with record breaking numbers year on year, London theatre is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s a booming industry and there’s a lot of audience demand for tickets, but all audiences aren’t treated equally. Theatre seating is usually spread over multiple storeys so only certain areas of the theatre may be accessible, and many venues don’t have internal lifts. Main entrances usually have at least a few steps into the foyer from street level. Most theatres ask that patrons with access requirements contact the venue well in advance, and arrive at least half an hour early on the day of the performance they’re attending. Some theatres don’t even have adapted toilets.

Late last year, charity VocalEyes conducted an industry-wide access audit and their findings were disappointing. Out of the 659 researched theatres across the UK, 72% have access information on their websites. Whilst this is a lot, that still means more than a quarter of the venues surveyed didn’t provide any information about their access provisions at all. London is slightly higher at 78%, but Northern Ireland is the lowest, with just over half of its theatres providing access information on their websites. The report also states the amount and quality of the access information provided varies, from a few lines to detailed descriptions. Frankly, this isn’t good enough.

 

Nearly half of West End theatregoers hail from outside of London, indicating that seeing a show is clearly on the list of things to do for many people visiting the city. These visitors are less likely to go the West End theatres regularly, so they will be less familiar with individual theatres and the access provisions they provide. As VocalEyes’ survey proves, if information is provided online it’s not currently standardised across the industry as a whole, or even within the commercial theatre scene of a single city.

Another problem is the sheer amount of content about West End theatre on the internet. There are seemingly endless ticket retailers, news and reviews sites and other websites. Though it indicates how popular theatre is, it’s a confusing landscape to navigate even for seasoned audiences. Numerous third party ticket agents work with theatres to get bums on seats, and long lines of communication mean that information from the venues isn’t always displayed on vendors’ sites, or displayed accurately – and it may not be on the theatre’s website anyway. What with SEO optimisation that all websites use to rank higher in search results, the actual theatre’s website might be further down the list and may not be obvious, either.

Because of this resounding lack of comprehensive access information for the whole West End in a single resource, theatre website SeatPlan, in its aim to help audiences find the best seats, added an access page to each of the site’s venue listings. These access pages contain detailed descriptions of building entrances, numbers of steps in and around the theatre, bar seating, and so on. It also provides contact details for the theatres’ access teams at the West End’s major theatres and many regional venues.

These teams will be able to provide theatregoers with further details relating to your access requirements and assist with booking tickets or performances that best suit you. They can also advise on the availability of touch tours, audio description, captions, BSL interpreted and relaxed performances.

So whilst theatres still have a lot to do in order to improve their accessibility, they are taking steps in the right direction.  Independent resources like SeatPlan also help, by making the process quicker and more streamlined. Even though there’s still a lot of work to be done, the theatre industry as a whole is finally waking up to accessibility shortcomings so change is coming.

 

Blog written by Laura Kressly from SeatPlan, to find out more check https://seatplan.com/

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

VICTA / Seable Thailand Adventure Blog

For this week’s blog we are honoured to post an article written by the talented Matthew Clark, Parlaimentary Assistant at the Scottish Parliament, Trustee for Victa Children and keen traveller.

 

VICTA / Seable Thailand Adventure Blog

 

 

I consider myself lucky to be well internationally travelled. But this is only with family. Destinations and attractions have been numerous, but I have always craved something else; to travel with friends, peers, and experience richer, local cultural experiences than that family planned holidays deliver. Though I have many sighted friends though university, beyond hiking across the UK with friends from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Group, opportunity to enjoy any travel like this and with my own friends has been allusive.

Finally in 2017 I graduated from university – an extremely testing, and sometimes very dark time in my life – and decided it was time to seize more of the life I wanted. This includes travel. But, how, when I have tried, failed, or been too uncertain before?

 

 

Just at this time, VICTA advertised their latest international trip facilitated by Seable. On looking into the itinerary, I realised Thailand is nothing like the seedy image all too often portrayed by television. It is a large, tropical, majority Buddhist nation, with the unique history in Asia of having never been colonised. Our itinerary was to include temple ruin tours, visits to temples in rural hills and town centres, meeting (splashing with and being kissed by) elephants, visiting flower markets and bamboo gardens, voyaging on an overnight sleeper train, lake tour and rice barge, with the final days spent on an island beach resort. This simply is everything bundled into one trip that I could have wanted.

 

I couldn’t imagine better company to spend this trip in than we have enjoyed. VICTA staff and volunteers joined with Damiano from Seable, and two extraordinary Thai tour guides, to provide us all with expertise, assistance where required, but the facility all importantly to enjoy this itinerary to the fullest. When travel has so many times been dampened by planning around disability, or been concerned by the ability of friends to support me, this is such a relief; one I realise now in hindsight, looking back on all we did, and how wonderfully simple it felt to enjoy and accomplish.

 

 

For our Thailand adventure, I am happier today, having experienced and learned how I can travel and discover in the world what I wish to. I could do so with VICTA again, with Seable, and am closer to being able to do it of my own initiative too. But everyday, whether at home or away, I have strengthened, rebound and discovered new friendships, that this adventure can be remembered with, and new ones be made side by side with. .

Thailand here and now, writing this as I fly home, has come at a time in life where I needed refreshment, enlightenment, and purest pleasure. There are so many moments (and friends) to treasure.

 

Thank you one and all who have made this possible. Here is to all our future adventures, at home, away, maybe again in Thailand.

 

Article written by Matthew Clark

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze – Italy

The last article of the year has been written by Eeshma Qazi and it’s a resume of her experience on one of Seable holidays.

 

 

How do you feel about skiing? Are you a champion skier, gliding gracefully down those slopes every December. Or maybe you like me, are a complete novice, whose idea of a good winter holiday is more a mountain of food by a warm fire than flinging yourself unceremoniously down a mountain of snow. And so, it was to my very great surprise and to my family’s complete shock, that I found myself along with a dozen 18-29 year olds on this VICTA/Seable trip. All of us were destined for the ski slopes of Sauze d’Oulx, a charming village nestled in the Italian alps. Our only commonalities being our visual impairment and our appetite for adventure.

 

 

At the Thistle Heathrow terminal 5, amidst the thrum of newly minted conversation and warm chocolate brownies, we were introduced to our tour guides for the next week. For those of you new to the scene, VICTA is a charity which caters for the needs (both social and otherwise) of young visually impaired people) and which often works with Seable holidays (a social enterprise and travel operator) for disabled travellers. Between the two organisations, we had four dedicated sighted guides as well as a number of others in the group who could see enough to assist. Itineraries discussed, icebreakers exchanged and ground rules established, we all went to bed promptly in anticipation of our unseasonably early flight on Tuesday morning.

 

After a blissfully short flight to Geneva and a bus journey through rolling, snow dappled alpine vistas, we finally arrived at Villa Cary, our hotel. More B&B than sprawling resort, we found to our delight that we had almost free run of the place. After a filling but touristy meal of a full English brunch, we retired to our rooms for a spot of sleep before reconvening at the hotel bar for dinner. Food came in the shape of a typically Mediterranean 3 course meal which left us full to bursting and ready for bed once again.

 

The next 4 days followed more or less the same pattern minus the continual urge to snooze. After a breakfast of bread, cheeses, spreads and meats, we spent our mornings on the pistes skiing with the help of one-on-one instructorship from an amazingly friendly and competent team of ski instructors whom we all got to know on a first name basis.

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

Following an initial assessment, we were divided into groups according to our skiing expertise and took it in daily turns to do repeat rounds of the nursery, blue or red slopes with some serial skiers in the group choosing to return for some more skiing in the afternoons.

 

It is fair to say that sun burnt and windswept though we undoubtedly were, each one of us improved in our stamina and skill over the course of the trip, some by progressing to another slope, others by independently learning to stop, slow down and turn, and others still by simply conquering their fears of the piste enough to relax and enjoy the adrenaline that comes from controlled descent. For me, victory came in the entirely unflattering but completely honest observation of one of the instructors who informed me blithely that I must have improved, given that I was no longer so taut with nerves as to resemble a “penguin”!

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

A café located next to the slopes formed our daily lunch haunt, serving a hearty fair of local delicacies such as rich polenta with sausage and veg, grilled burgers with fontina and gorgo, rustic soups, gloriously cheesy gnocchi and beautifully gratinated crespelle (soft pancakes liberally submerged in béchamel and topped with crispy mozzarella. For those of us who chose not to ski in the afternoons, free time included going sledding or to a local spa for massages, gym, facials and an enticing array of other treatments including Turkish baths and the exotic sounding Lomi Lomi. Evening meals included in our hotel stay were all served in the hotel’s bar-restaurant area. We made friends with the waitress and chef who were always happy to take requests and recreate our favorites from a few days before. A surprisingly diverse group of individuals, we all bonded over the leisurely dinners peppered with self reflection and tired contentment as well as the card games and competitive team quizzes which followed.

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

As is the way with all good things, we were sorry on Sunday morning to have to wave goodbye to the quaint cobbled streets of Sauze, it’s beautiful snowcapped slopes and even our high vis florescent orange tea shirts which declared to the world in no uncertain terms that we were “blind skiers”. Bundled up warmly against the chill,we took a transfer back to Geneva where the promise of a swanky hotel awaited us. Highlights in Geneva included chocolate shopping and in particular, a mammoth 4.5 kg Toblerone (the size of a small toddler), meltingly delicious gruvyère and Emmental fondue, crispy potato Rösti and the lightest of mascarpone pizzas. After a general meander around the strangely quiet and orderly streets festooned with a muted, civilised sort of Christmas cheer, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a sumptuous dinner,a Swiss pick and mix of the best of Italian and French cuisine, from tartars to risotto, steaks to pasta.

 

 

We returned to England on Monday exactly one week later, better friends and less floundering skiers than we had left it. Each of us glad of the opportunity and already planning our next potential VICTA/Seable experience. As for me, how do I feel about skiing now? Good enough to want to try it again, this time head held high, shoulders bent with intent, feet arched snow-plough like and stomach firmly concave.

Essential Tips and Tricks for a Family Friendly Accessible Holiday

If you or a family member is disabled, the idea of heading off on holiday probably seems a little daunting. While having a disability can make life a little more complex, it doesn’t mean you have to forgot the joys of an adventure altogether. You may even have lots of questions regarding a trip away – especially if it’s your first time.

 

Today, let’s provide some clarity on the subject, as we run through five ways in which you can plan ahead properly to really make the most of your disabled holiday.

 

1.Get travel insurance

Get insured for your trip. People sometimes overlook this crucial step – and that’s nothing short of criminal. If you head overseas and don’t get cover for your own personal wellbeing, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

 

There’s a good chance nothing untoward will happen on your adventures, but there’s always the outside shot that it might. Don’t take the risk, by sorting yourself some pre-travel insurance. You can find this regardless of whether you have a medical condition or not.

 

2.Think about your location

Not everywhere is accommodating to disabled travellers. While the world is definitely taking a step in the right direction in this regard, some locations have managed to adapt to disabled travellers better than others.

 

CTI provide holidaymakers with a decent range of exciting destinations worth visiting, with some of the top ones including:

 

  • Bali
  • London
  • Uluru
  • The Caribbean

 

These are far from the only places which take the needs of disabled travellers into account, but they’re definitely some of the more glamourous locations which do. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a picturesque cruise in the Caribbean?

 

 

3.Take it slow and know your limits

You may not like to hear it, but there are some holidays which just won’t be suitable for disabled travellers. It’s not that you “can’t” do it, more that for medical reasons it’s probably better if you avoid strenuous activity.

 

This is particularly true in the case of anyone who has an underlying heart condition. Doing something physical has the potential to trigger a reaction which could lead to bigger issues down the line. It’s very important to know exactly what you’re capable of, and put a cap on yourself.

 

4.Go on a specialist holiday

 Some holidays have been created with disabled travellers specifically in mind. These kinds of outings don’t patronise their guests, but rather challenge them to push themselves to a healthy extent. Companies like Disabled Access or Seable provide people with holidays which are specifically targeted at people who might struggle with more “mainstream” adventures.

Just some of the holidays they provide include:

  • Accessible tours
  • Cruises
  • City breaks

Feel more confident about a disabled holiday heading forwards? Make sure to keep these tips in mind when it comes to your next family adventure away.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 


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