Tag Archives: accessible accomodation

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.

 

 

7 Tips for Disabled People Looking for Employment

Here 7 Tips for Disabled People Looking for Employment. On average, around 50% of disabled adults with disabilities are unemployed around Europe. It is no wonder then that finding a job as a disabled person is very stressful and time consuming; as they have to face the fear of discrimination alongside other normal interview nerves everyone feels. However, whatever your physical or learning disability may be, under the 2010 Equality Act employees and jobseekers are protected against discrimination in order to ensure that you have equality, fairness, respect and understanding either at your place of work or during the recruitment process.

 

The UK government is actively trying to make sure more and more disabled people are getting into employment, as this is beneficial to both the employers and the employees! This blog’s aim is to try and help prepare any disabled adult looking for work to be the best they can be in their interview with a few simple steps:

 

1. Preparation is key

 

Research the company as much as you can do before the interview. One tip is to go onto the company’s website and read the ‘About/About Us’ section to gain a quick insight into the history of the company and what the company values are. Employers are always looking for individuals to fit into their work culture, so once you know what that is, answers can be prepared in order to fit that template!

If you have trouble reading, it might also be worth looking up the company on YouTube for any promotional videos they may have released that would also give a quick insight into the company values and culture.

2. Know your CV

 

Similarly to researching the company beforehand, it is always good to know what exactly is written down on your CV, especially if you have had help writing it. Have a quick read through and come up with examples for each point on your CV that an employer may ask you; for example, if they ask: “Tell me more about your role at *insert previous job here*”, make sure you know what you’re going to say beforehand so that the question doesn’t catch you off guard.

It will be useful to prepare answers on your CV beforehand and then get a friend or family member to look over your CV and ask you questions about it so that you can practice before having your interview!

 

 

 

3. Confidence goes a long way

 

The key to any interview is confidence! If you go into an interview oozing confidence, charm and optimism, then you’re more likely to make a good, lasting impression. Although, be careful not to be too confident as that can sometimes come across as arrogant and rude! There is a fine line, and if you’re not too sure, ask your friends and family for their opinion. The most important thing is to let your personality shine through and be yourself.

 

4. Your disability

 

If you don’t want to, try not to focus too much on your disability. If you have a hidden disability that may not be immediately obvious to employers, then it might be worth bringing it up at an appropriate time in the interview (such as when they ask if you have any questions or if you have anything else you want to talk about). If you don’t want to bring it up though, then do not feel obliged to if you don’t think it is necessary.

If your disability is more on the ‘obvious’ side then you may want to shift your focus elsewhere, which is absolutely fine. Your interviewer may have some specific questions about how your disability will fit into your role, which is also fine as they are probably trying to work out how to put adjustments in place for you should you get the job. An important point is that – if you feel comfortable – try to answer as many questions about your disability as you can as this will show that you are willing to cooperate with your employer to make your position as a disabled in their employment easier. However, it is important to remember that you are not obligated to answer any questions you don’t think are necessary or appropriate. If there are any questions you don’t want to answer, it’s important to stay calm and friendly while stating that you don’t feel comfortable answering the question due to X,Y, Z reasons. The interviewer may not know that they are making you uncomfortable, so it is important to let them know gently but clearly.

 

 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself

 

This comes hand in hand with the ‘Preparation is key’ section – it is always good to have some questions lined up at the end of your interview. This shows that you have been engaged and listening to what the employer has been talking about, and also shows a keen interest in the job you’re applying for – something all employers are looking for in an employee!

Try to get some questions ready in your head while the interviewer is talking, such as if you’re unfamiliar with a certain term they use, be sure to ask what it means etc. Some questions to have ready up your sleeve may be:

  • “What is the company culture like here?”
  • “What does the path of progression look like?”
  • “How many people will I be working with?”
  • “What would you like from me, an employee?”

 

6. Know the location beforehand

 

This point may seem like a simple one, but is also very important. It is good to work out where the interview is, what accessibility is like and how long it will take you to get there and plan well in advance, particularly if you have a physical disability. Does it have accessible parking? Accessible toilets? Is there a step free access/a hearing loop/are guide dogs welcome? All of these points are important to find out beforehand to ensure you don’t have a stressful time before the interview has even started! If your employer knows you have a disability, they should supply you with all of this information, but if they don’t know about your disability or have just forgotten, then do not be afraid to reach out to your contact and ask them directly. This will show initiative and independence, so do not be embarrassed about reaching out.

I always recommend getting to the location 15-30 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start, just in case there are any problems on the way there. Even if you’re a little early, once you’ve worked out where the interview is you can go to a coffee shop and have a quick drink to pass the time. This also gives you a good chance to go over any notes you may have made in preparation for the interview.

 

 

7. Rejection

 

It’s good to cover this part, as, on average, there are over 200 applicants that apply for a single role, and only 20% of them make it through to the interview stage. There are also around 5 other people interviewing at the same time for the same role, so sometimes you will get rejected from a role you were hoping to get. This does not mean you aren’t good enough for the role, but it may be something as simple as perhaps the person who did get the job lives 10 minutes closer or has slightly different work experience that may suit the role better. It is important to not be put off from applying to jobs if you do get rejected from a role, and what is even better is getting in contact with the interviewer and asking them for some constructive feedback as this will help you in the future!

 

Here some helpful job websites that are specifically designed for disabled adults looking for work:

 

Some recruitment agencies that focus on disabled adults:

Action on Hearing Loss can provide specific information and advice to deaf or hearing impaired jobseekers.

 

Tel: 020 7588 1885  Fax: 020 7588 1886
Email: info@blindinbusiness.org.uk

Blind in Business provides a range of services to both undergraduates/graduates and employers to ease the transition between education and employment for visually impaired individuals. BIB works through the whole application process, from supplying recruitment materials and vacancy information in a range of formats, to providing specialist seminars and advice. All the services are free and available to any visually-impaired young person looking for work.

 

Tel: 028 9029 7880  Textphone: 028 9029 7882
Email: hq@disabilityaction.org

Disability Action’s Employment and Training Service offers information and support for people with disabilities, to help them find and stay in work or vocational training. They also provide disability and diversity awareness training to employers, organisations, businesses and other interested agencies.

 

Also, some helpful websites might be Gov.co.uk that has details of the ‘two ticks’ scheme, meaning that employers who are involved with this scheme guarantee an interview to all disabled applicants so long as you reach the minimum criteria for the job. Similarly, have a look at the European Disability Forum; a website to research your full European Disability Rights, that has some great job listings there too!

 

Article written by Rosie Sanderson.

 

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

Disability in the workplace

There are more than 11 million disabled people in the UK, and shockingly, just 6% of those who are able to work are in employment. Even today, there is so much stigma around people with disabilities and how they fit into the workplace. According to statistics published by the charity Leonard Cheshire, 1 in 6 of us will be affected by disability at some point in our lives and for many of us, it will be the hardest thing we ever have to face.

Disability in the workplace

 

8 out of 10 people with a disability weren’t born with it – the vast majority become disabled through an injury, accident, heart attack, stroke or conditions like MS and motor neurone disease. Sadly, people living with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than non-disabled people due to a number of factors, one of them being that disabled people are around three times as likely not to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people.

 

Fewer than 50% of working-age disabled people are in work, compared to 75% of non-disabled people, but disabled people’s day to day living costs are 25% higher than those of non-disabled people. These figures help highlight the problems many disabled people face day to day and may give an insight into why there may still be stigma attached to disability in general, but also in the workplace.

 

This stigma can lead to individuals feeling isolated and separate from society, as they don’t see themselves moving in the same direction as their non disabled siblings and friends. It can be hard for the individual but also the families due to the available social circle decreasing drastically after leaving government funded education.

 

One problem the disabled community face is the fact that non-disabled people aren’t taught and exposed to disabilities very often. This creates ignorance and the social stigma of there being ‘us’ and ‘them’, which is something that needs to change. Things like Channel 4’s critically acclaimed show The Undateables focuses on adults with disabilities finding love. While this is not strictly to do with disabled people in the workplace, it does open up and expose the normality of disability to the general population – something that employing disabled people also does.

 

Disability in the workplace

 

Working life helps introduce everyone to a wide variety of new people. There are a few schemes, like Mencap’s Employ Me scheme and the US based company Opportunity Works, that aims to put more people with disabilities into work. These schemes provide appropriate training to develop the skills needed to get a paid job, experience in a real working environment, CV writing and interview preparation, help to learn new skills and cope with change and the schemes work with businesses employing people with a learning disability, so they can provide the right support and benefit from having a diverse workforce.

 

These kind of schemes are increasingly important to people living with a disability, as it instils so much more confidence, a strong sense of independence and initiates a bridge between people with disabilities and those without. On one hand, the person with a disability has the chance and opportunity to make friends and build relationships with people other than their carers or family members. On the other hand, research performed by Mencap states that disability employment helps teach and familiarise non disabled people with disabilities and helps change attitudes and challenge misconceptions around all forms of disabilities in the UK.

 

In a Forbes article written in 2012 by Opportunity Works’ co-founder and COO Judy Owen, she states that “Employers reported that providing [work] resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity.” These positives highlight that including a disabled person in the workforce increases the moral of the workforce as a whole and benefits employers to get involved in these schemes too.

 

Disability in the workplace

Disability in the workplace should be celebrated and utilised as much as possible. There are so many positives, such as improving current employee satisfaction, improving company diversity and creating new possibilities and opportunities for those who may not be able to do it for themselves. Many employers have stated that disabled employees have a higher job satisfaction, have less sick days and are late less, hardworking, friendly honest and dependable. In the individual, it helps create confidence and a sense of independence that so many people, whether they were born disabled or have become so, unfortunately lack. This gives disabled people the chance to earn their own money to be able to pay for things like holidays and days out themselves without having to rely on family members, carers or the government – a priceless feeling that you cannot get from anything else. One of Mencap’s Employ Me scheme clients stated that it “feels good to be earning money, it helps me do new things and gives me a sense of achievement”. This solidifies that including disabilities in the workplace is successful for both employer, but more importantly the employee.

 

Article written by Rosie Sanderson.

 

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

 

My Sicilian Trip – By Emma Meade

This week’s blog is an article written by Emma Meade for Camsight about her travelling experience with Seable

 

My Sicilian Trip – By Emma Meade

 

On Monday, 15 May 2017 – after months of emails, telephone calls and preparations – we were speeding in a taxi from various parts of Cambridge heading to Gatwick Airport and final holiday destination Sicily.

 

There were five excited passengers:  Yijing Zhang, Brian Wagg, Khalid and Juveria Momen and Emma Meade.

 

This holiday was one of several run by Seable Holidays, a company whose aim is to give visually impaired customers a holiday which is accessible for them. The special assistance which we had booked was excellent; and when we were on the Norwegian Air flight, we were given a Braille leaflet which not only contained the safety instructions, but also had diagrams of the aircraft showing the emergency exits.

 

We were met at Catania Airport by Francesco who was to be our tour guide and driver for the whole week.

 

Damiano and Francesco of SEABLE

 

 

We were staying in two private apartments outside the city centre and the daily breakfasts on the patio prepared by the owners of the apartments were memorable, always in the sunshine with the accompaniment of collared doves and wood pigeons.

 

Our first full day was spent on the beach with the opportunities of experiencing wind surfing or paddle boarding.  Tiziana and Marco, who ran a wind surfing school, communicated the instructions clearly and helped us all to feel safe.

 

Wednesday included a visit to a tactile museum in Catania.  When you entered the building there was a raised path to follow and if you went onto the smooth flooring, this meant that you were off course and needed to get back onto the raised path to find your way round.  A head and shoulders statue of Louis Braille was there to welcome us inside the door.  There were also models of The Dome of the Rock, The Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  There was also an elephant which is the animal associated with Catania and the model of a castle at Acicastello which we would be visiting later in the week.

 

We then experienced the smells of a fish market and Francesco treated us to two of the cold drinks which are associated with Sicily – mandarino e limone and a similar one which had salt in it.

 

After lunch and a shopping opportunity we went on the first of the food tastings which were to become a regular feature of our holiday.  Duci are a company who make desserts for restaurants and we went into the laboratory to taste some of the products.  We each had an individual cup with each dessert in them – mousses, cheesecakes, Keyline pie and granita which is a typical dessert of Sicily.  Delicious!

 

Thursday saw us travelling a little way up Mount Etna to an organic farm.  After smelling some of the herbs and looking at the chestnuts and hazelnuts, we were introduced to some of the farm animals, a goat with a wonderful beard and a donkey.  Apparently, if you touch a goat’s horns, it brings you good luck.

 

L’ Orto dei Semplici

 

 

We then went into the farmhouse to experience the typical Italian lunch cooked by the farmer’s wife.  We learned that lunch is the most important family meal and is taken very slowly.  I think there were about five courses – the most memorable being the dessert course which contained two desserts – a rum barber and cannolo, a pastry tube which contained ricotta cheese and almond.  Of course there was wine with the meal; and after coffee, we were treated to Grappa, a spirit which burns the back of the throat!  I got used to it after a while and decided that I enjoyed it.

 

Then followed a wine tasting at a vineyard which included a wine which contained apple from Mount Etna.  I actually bought a bottle to take home and it is now waiting for that special occasion!

 

Friday was the visit to the castle at Acicastello which I mentioned earlier.  A lot of climbing was involved, but we all managed it and it was lovely to be up high feeling the cool air with the sea below us.

 

After lunch in a fishing village, Acitrezza, which became a favourite of mine, we returned home and took advantage of the swimming pool which belonged to our apartments.  As was our routine every evening, we ate out in a local restaurant.

 

Acitrezza

 

A later start on Saturday, as this was the day to tackle Mount Etna.  After a stop on the way to get our lunch which we were to take with us, we started our ascent up the mountain in a cable car.  We had agreed unanimously to go right up to the main crater of the volcano, so we went up further in a bus, very bumpy like turbulence in an aeroplane.

 

Then followed a climb in the company of other tourists and a mountain guide.  Snow and ice could still be seen on the mountain and we were given pieces of lava which were still hot after an eruption on 25 April.  We were climbing on 20 May.

 

When we reached the top, we were 3,500 m high, which would be about 10,000 ft.  Coming down was more difficult, but we all managed successfully.  Nobody fell over and we were all glad that we had had the experience.  We were the first visually impaired group that Seable had taken right up to the main crater.

 

Heaven of a different sort was experienced in a honey factory.  Not only honey, but olive oils, olives, wines and liqueurs, plus products made from the honey, were there for us to sample.  This was a wonderful opportunity for buying presents and at a very reasonable price.

 

A meal at a porcini restaurant ended a wonderful day and Brian and I could not resist drinking a red wine from Etna with our meal.

 

Sunday was a second day on the beach, the choice of Juveria, who celebrated her birthday the previous day.  Another opportunity to brush up on our wind surfing and paddle boarding skills.

 

In the evening we went to the tapas bar where Francesco works.  A great sharing of Sicilian food.

 

UZETA Sicilian Bistrò

 

Monday, 22 May, was the final day.  After packing, we had our final lunch together in Acitrezza and then a walk along the seafront and a final shopping opportunity for the ladies.  I managed to speak to the shop assistant in Italian, which were a great success and a proud moment for me.

 

Then the sad part – travelling back to England, which went very well, with the Special Assistance at both Catania and Gatwick Airports doing us proud.

 

The final taxi journey home was a quiet one with us all being transported safely to our destinations.

 

Each of us will have our own stories.  For me, it was achieving my first real holiday abroad.  Fears of sharing a room, managing with carry-on luggage and handling foreign currency were soon swept away.  Our sighted companions, plus Francesco, our guide, were very helpful and we all got on well.  We did not feel like tourists, but were shown the real Sicily – rather like a friend showing us where he lived.  Speaking for myself, I would go on another holiday.

 

Special thanks should go to Yijing for organising the holiday as well as to Francesco of Seable Holidays.

 

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

 

 

Victa’s Activity Report – Sicily Holiday

For this week’s blog we publishing the Activity report written by Victa’s John Smith about their amzing trip to Sicily with Seable.

 

Sicily

Catania, Mount Etna and Acicastello

24th June – 2nd July

 

 

Number of attendees: 10

Group age range: 18–29

 

Activity report

VICTA’s second International of 2017 saw us jetting off to the beautiful Italian island of Sicily, originally a Greek colony; Italians have made the island a wonderful mix of culture, food and history.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

Meeting at Luton Airport, our group enjoyed a hearty meal before an early wake up to fly out to Sicily, where we met our guides from Seable. Beginning with a whistle-stop tour through the streets of Catania, including the location of the beach, and a short history of the island, before arriving at our accommodation, just north of Acicastello. Finishing up with some relaxation in the pool and dinner at one of Acicastello’s finest fish restaurants and taking in the sights of the celebration of the town’s patron saint.

 

Our second day saw us travel to the sandy beach in Catania to try windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. The afternoon was a relaxing one with fun and games in the pool before heading out to a nearby Italian steakhouse for dinner.

 

Day three saw us traveling back into Catania to visit the Tactile Museum, where we were able to feel some scale models of the worlds monuments including the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum, the Blue Mosque, The Wailing Wall and St. Peter’s Square and Basilica in the Vatican City.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

 

After visiting some of the wonders of the world, we ventured out to the markets of Catania to get a view of modern Sicily, taking in the smells from the fish market and tastes of Sicilian cheeses and meats, and then going to a small but exquisite café to try the Sicilian dish of Pasta Norma. After venturing around Catania further, we found ourselves back in Acicastello dining in the fish restaurant, sampling what the ocean has to offer, with squid, octopus and swordfish being some of the delights.

 

On our fourth day, we travelled out towards Etna and ventured through an organic farm, exploring the farm and checking out the different varieties of trees that grow there, because of the fertile volcanic soil. We met a family of donkeys, and a family of goats, both producing milk for the farm’s cheeses, and a rather large brood of hens producing fresh organic eggs. After visiting the farm and sampling some more of Sicily’s olive oils, meats, cheeses and some small pasta dishes, we ventured further up the mountain to the small but award-winning vineyard belonging to Don Saro. We sampled some of the fine wines and were taught the correct way of tasting wine as well as receiving a tour of the factory where all 40 hectares of Don Saro’s grapes are pressed, fermented and bottled.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

Day five began with us all having a relaxed morning before leaving to head to Mount Etna. Stopping off in the town of Zafferana, the last town before the Etna base camp, for lunch and a photo opportunity. Etna itself was exhilarating and maybe a little scary, and upon arrival at the base camp, we found ourselves getting a short lesson on the history of Etna, the variety of volcanic rocks and learning that the Mountain itself is Europe’s most active volcano! We pressed on and found ourselves soon at the highest point that anyone is allowed, just below 3000m, buffeted by the wind, but still happy with ourselves for making it up and exploring some of the craters around the South East face of the mountain. We returned to basecamp, rather windswept and dusty, jumped into our minibuses and ventured back down the mountain to Zafferana, where we had a table booked for dinner at an award-winning Porcini restaurant.

 

Our sixth day saw us back at our accommodation for the morning and having a go at some scuba diving. There were some nervous faces initially but everyone had a go, finding that a lot of us were actually rather good! Our afternoon was a split of food tasting in Catania, honeys, meats, cheeses and ice cream (including the Sicilian delicacy of Granita, an ice cream with no milk), the other half of the group went out on the ocean for a spot of swimming with the local scuba diving school.

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

Day seven, our penultimate day. We travelled to Catania once more for a spot of souvenir shopping, the usual things were purchased; tea towels, t-shirts and mugs. All very quirky! And an afternoon visit to the Norman Castle which was built from the black volcanic rock next to the ocean in Acicasetllo. Our final afternoon in Sicily was one of relaxation. With fun and games, some swimming in the pool and some celebrations for some of the group who had got their university results!

 

Before setting off we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and ventured through a very sunny Catania, driving past the ocean waving us goodbye before boarding our plane at Catania airport and leaving to come back to an equally sunny but not as warm UK.

 

Huge thanks go out to our guides from Seable Holidays, who made the week informative, entertaining and full of Sicilian adventure. And to our volunteers who helped our participants whenever needed and went above and beyond to ensure everyone was entertained as well.

 

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

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 3

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the third and final part of our trip to Thailand:

 

Day 8

 

After making eggs for breakfast we said our goodbyes to the owners who had made us feel so welcome and started the 3-half hour journey back to Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped for food at a village restaurant and had local Thai dishes and watched the storm that was happening outside.  It was a great day for ravelling as it rained all day. We eventually arrived at our destination and had the afternoon free to explore the city of Chiang Mai.  It was a massive city with lots to explore including a blind Thai massage place.  This of course was something that we had to go to and it was brilliant.

 

 

Day 9

 

Picked up at 6.30am we went in a mini bus with the company Dumbo and we drove for 1 hour up into the mountains of Chiang Mai to see elephants.  It was my most favourite part of the trip, they were free and happy and it was an absolute privilege to get to be near such fantastic creatures.  It is something that we would absolutely love for our clients to experience. We did half a day trip, which we felt was more than enough time to get to see the elephants and they also provided a yummy lunch before they drove us back to our accommodation.

 

After packing up and freshening up we made our way to Chiang Mai train station and said bye to Jimi who was a brilliant tour guide.  He was so knowledgeable and attentive during the whole trip. We then boarded the overnight train back to Bangkok.

 

 

Day 10

 

Arriving early in the morning we were met by a member of Nutty adventures team who took us to the Hotel De’Moc which was a lovely surprise.  We had a free day to rest and then get ready to meet everybody to start the Southern part of the trip.

 

So, we spent the day resting by the beautiful hotel pool, getting excited to meet the group later that evening. We met them all at 6pm and they took us for a lovely local meal that evening and it was a great way for us all to get to know each other.  We all went to bed very excited knowing that the next day we get to explore southern Thailand.

 

 

Overall I think that Northern Thailand was fantastic with so much to offer to everybody.  It is very accessible in many ways and I can’t wait to bring clients to Thailand.  It was a trip of a lifetime and one that I believe many would find it hard to beat.

 

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

How To Prepare Your Home After A Visual Impairment Diagnosis

After a visual impairment diagnosis, it’s important to think about how it will affect your daily life and all the changes that will need to be made to your living space. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you sit down and make out a list of your daily activities, you’ll be able to see easily which changes need to be made and start working out a budget for any modifications.

 

Here are some of the best tips to help get you started.

 

Use color

Home_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful.

 

If you have stairs in your home, it will be important to modify them in a simple way to make them a little safer to navigate. For instance, painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful, as well marking the edges of the individual steps with brightly colored tape. You might also consider installing small, battery-operated lights on the facing of each stair step–think of the ones in movie theaters–to help you find them easily in the dark.

 

Change up the lighting

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy.

 

 

Lighting is very important for individuals with a vision impairment. Natural light typically works best, so make good use of the windows in your home. Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy. It’s also a good idea to make sure there are floor lamps and desk lamps near your workspaces or the most used areas of your home, and add lighting to stairways, hallways, the pantry, and closets. Banish those shadows, which can be tricky to navigate.

 

Get organized

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls.

 

It’s imperative to get organized. Cabinets, drawers, and closets should be neat, with a place for everything. You can get sliding racks and shelving to make it easier to find items in the back; place like items with each other and consider using a braille label maker to mark the shelves. Keep cleaning supplies well away from any food items, and, if possible, refrain from storing items on high shelves so you won’t have to use a step stool.

You can use texture and contrasting colors to make important things easier to find; for instance, it might be useful to paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls; white tape on black stove controls will help you easily see the settings when cooking.

 

Make safety a priority

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Furnitures without sharp edges are great protection to people living in the house.

 

If you live alone, safety should be high up on your list of priorities. Keep a fire extinguisher in each room, and make sure all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries.

Clear any clutter from your home and make sure walkways, hallways, and main living areas are easy to walk through, with no obstructions such as large pieces of furniture. Throw rugs aren’t advisable, but if you do have them, make sure they’re tacked down to the floor beneath to prevent trip hazards.

 

Consider a service dog

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Service dogs are wonderful companions.

 

Service dogs are wonderful companions and can be trained for a number of tasks, including keeping you safe on walks and being helpful around the house. It’s not cheap to train a dog for this service, however, so you need to be absolutely sure you’re ready for the commitment before making the decision to acquire one.

 

Originally published by Zoomax on http://www.zoomax.co/low-vision-information/Prepare-Home-After-Visual-Impairment-Diagnosis.html Special thanks for you!

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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