For this week’s blog, we are sharing a blog by Elin, a young visually impaired blogger who had been on holiday with Seable to Cyprus. Below is Elin’s experience.
I was recently lucky enough to spend the week in Cyprus on a trip organised by VICTA Children and Seable Holidays. Along with nine other visually impaired people and four sighted guides, I spent a week making the most of everything Cyprus has to offer; from sun bathing to pottery making we did it all!
Though it could appear daunting to go on holiday with a group of people you may never have even met before, I can say from personal experience that VICTA and Seable are so welcoming and friendly that the atmosphere of their trips are great from the get go. The ethos of VICTA trips is to encourage as much independence as possible, so while sighted volunteers are on hand to guide where needed, they also encourage us to help ourselves and each other as much as possible.
Upon arriving in sunny Cyprus after a stress free flight, we made our way to the hotel and spent the rest of that day orienting ourselves around the building, our rooms and most importantly the pool, before having dinner at a local restaurant.
Our first full day in Cyprus was our chance to try some arts and crafts. We visited a local centre where we learned from local artists all about glass making, tapestry, mosaics and much more. We also were able to try our hands at a bit of pottery and magnet making ourselves. Personally, the pottery instructor told me that he’d never met anybody as terrible at pottery as me, so I won’t be taking up that career any time soon but I’m glad to say that others in the group had better luck. We finished off the day with an afternoon on the beach and more wonderful food.
The next day was all about Paphos, as we explored the archaeological park in the morning and roamed the harbor in the afternoon. This was personally one of my favourite days of the trip as I was just blown away learning about the history of the ancient ruins and local mythology. The House of Dionysus, one of the ruins we visited, was extremely accessible having braille information and small scale tactile representations of the mosaics. That evening myself and a few others decided to sample the local delicacy of maze, which consists of lots of small dishes being brought out to share among the table. The food was stunning, though I think we were all more than full by the end. I believe we got up to ten courses all in all!
The following morning we waved goodbye to Paphos and made our way to Troodos where we’d spend the rest of the week,not forgetting to stop for a wine tasting on the way. The afternoon was spent hiking on Troodos mountain lead by a local guide. The weather was fantastic and the nature beautiful, the views weren’t half bad either so I’m told 😉
For our last full day in Cyprus we visited a local botanical garden, a sweets factory and rose factory. The botanical gardens were again beautiful, full of all sorts of fantastic wildlife. The sweets shop was a sweet-tooth heaven; jams, marmalade and sweets of all kind, all home made and made from local produce. And of course the rose factory was fascinating. Not only did it smell beautiful, but the owner who came to speak with us about her business was obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about her work and was extremely accommodating in letting us feel and sample all of the different products they produce. I just couldn’t resist spending my remaining euros in their gift shop and I got some lovely suveneers.
All in all it was a very relaxed trip, full of fun and laughter. I can definitely say that I’ve come away from the week with great memories and really good friends. I would absolutely recommend VICTA and Seable to anyone for their services, information about which I’ll post below.
Who are VICTA and Seable?
VICTA (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action) are a national charity serving visually impaired children and young adults and their families. They organise residential weekends and international trips throughout the year that are intended to raise the independence and confidence of young VI people. I’ve been attending VICTA events since I was around 15 and have made countless friends and made fantastic memories through the experiences I’ve had with them. They plan activities for a range of age-groups, from family weekends for young children and their families to international trips for 18 to 30 years old like the one I attended to Cyprus. Check out their website for more information: http://www.victa.org.uk
Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. They can arrange trips to a number of locations including Sicily, Slovenia and Roam and will tailor your holiday to your spesific access needs. They are an invaluable service for those of us who have disabilities but who also want to see the world by going on fun, interactive and relaxed trips where your disability won’t stop you from doing anything. So far I’ve attended two Seable trips including the recent one to Cyprus, but fully intend to go on many more and would recommend anyone who likes to travel and who has a disability to consider them before booking your next holiday because I promise you won’t regret it. Click on the link below to check out their website: http://www.seable.co.uk
You can get in touch with Elin @ firstname.lastname@example.org. When emailing, please put ‘See My Way’ in the subject line which will help her respond to you sooner.
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Travelling with a disability is never an easy task. That’s why public transports should be on the forefront of helping out. Unfortunately it seems this is not always the case.
Southern Rail’s cuts
Southern Railway train
This week we got very concerned upon hearing how train companies in the UK are scrapping help for disable people; especially Southern Rail, that is quietly cancelling ‘guaranteed assistance’ from 33 stations.
Transport for All, which campaigns on behalf of disabled passengers, said the company have scrapped their ‘turn up and go’ access at dozens of stations.
Before the change was announced, train maps specified the stations where those needing assistance could turn up and travel.
Now, the maps on the trains say that if such passengers do not book help in advance, ‘there might be a significant delay to your journey’.
A spokesman for Transport For All said: ‘Whether it’s assistance failing to turn up, inaccessible platforms or a lack of accessible facilities on trains, what is clear is that our railways are failing disabled and older passengers.
‘Now, to make matters worse Southern Rail have announced that they are withdrawing turn up and go assistance from 33 stations across their network.
‘This is clearly a huge backwards step for accessibility.’
On the other hand, a Southern spokesman said: ‘Passengers do not have to book assistance before travelling with us.
‘We only recommend this to ensure we have staff prepared with ramps or that alternative travel is in place if a station is not accessible. Our priority is to have an on-board supervisor on services which previously had a conductor.’
‘In the exceptional circumstances when this is not possible, we have a clear, robust process to ensure passengers with accessibility requirements are assisted to complete their journeys.’
Travelling with a Guide Dog on Public Transport
After hearing about these cuts by major Railways companies we scanned the web where we found some other very interesting first person accounts about difficulties of travelling on public transport, in this case we report an informative account on the difficulties of travelling with a guide dog from Patrick Robert, from Lambeth, who is blind and uses his guide dog Rufus to travel around London.
Travelling in London can be a real challenge for people with a visual impairment. Back in 2009 I registered as severely visually impaired (Blind). Since then I have had to adapt myself to the transport network and change my habits. Every time I travel around I’ve got the support from Rufus my guide dog.
This change in my life was not always easy. As a result I joined Transport for All in order to get advice and support when using the different public transport modes. “Lack of communications is one of the biggest challenges I face.
I often struggle on buses: when you’re speaking to a bus driver they don’t always verbally respond, but probably do a sign which I can’t see. I have had also some bad experience with bus drivers not stopping at the bus stop but a few meters away. Obviously if a bus driver does not stop in front of me, it makes it impossible for me to discuss with them and check the bus number.
On the Tube I had a lot of issues following the closure of ticket offices, making it harder for me to find staff to assist me. I need staff in order to travel safely and I need to find them as soon as possible to avoid being targeted by the general public.
Lack of communications is also an issue with taxis. Once I booked a taxi and told the operator that I was travelling with my guide dog and the driver should ring my doorbell when they arrive. I received a telephone call from the operator telling me that my taxi had arrived and was waiting outside for me. I reminded the operator of my earlier instructions and asked how I was supposed to identify the taxi outside?
Five minutes later my doorbell rang as I opened the door the driver was already heading back to his taxi.
Locking my front door, Rufus and I walked up to my front gate, only to hear the driver say he cannot take the dog. He proceeded to rant and rave about dogs not being allowed in his taxi. I told him I had advised the operator that I was travelling with a guide dog and he needs to have a go at them and in the meantime I need to get to this council meeting. I could hear him talking on his phone saying he was not prepared to take me. At this point it had started raining and I said to him he was breaking the law by refusing to take us.
That seemed to subdue him for he assisted me and Rufus into his cab and during the journey he kept apologising saying his custom and culture does not accept dogs and his company knew this. I told him it is against the law to refuse access to guide dog owners and their guide dog.
On another occasion I booked a minicab and told the operator that I was blind and the driver needs to come to my front door and ring my doorbell. The phone rang; it was the driver saying that he could not find my property. I gave him specific directions to my home from the location he described to me. Five minutes later, he rang back and asked me to come outside so he could see where my property was and I could see where he was?
I walked outside and waited about ten minutes and then went back in to find four messages on my answer machine from the driver saying he could not see me; he could only see a guy with a white stick, am I anywhere near him? I called him back and told him I was the guy with the white stick.”
The interview with Patrick Robert has been taken from the inews.co.uk (https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/travelling-disabled-person-taxi-drivers-try-refuse-take-guide-dog-i/)
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
Make Way For Munich: The Most Accessible City in Europe?
Now is the perfect time of year to take a European city break: the lull between Christmas and spring tends to be one of the quietest times for tourists to travel overseas, and the chilly weather is perfect for wrapping up warm, exploring those famous sites, and drinking hot chocolate on bustling promenades. Thinking of taking a last-minute city break this winter but unsure of where you want to go? You may be lured by the romance of Paris, but its old and dated metro system is an accessibility nightmare (the same can sadly be said for London’s underground) and the cobbled streets of Rome are a nightmare if you are travelling in a heavy electric wheelchair. That doesn’t mean that these cities aren’t accessible with a little planning, but they might not be the ideal first choice for a last minute break. For an easy and hassle free accessible break, why not discover accessible Munich? Its old world charm is coupled with the kind of German efficiency that makes accessible travel here a breeze:
Accessible Public Transport
Discover Munich’s accessible bus
Unlike most other European cities, most than 90% of the underground system in Munich is completely accessible, with access to the stations being entirely barrier free. Whilst the system isn’t extensive (comprising of two lines: the U Bahn (urban line) or S Bahn (suburban line) it goes to all of the major sites you would wish to visit and is a perfectly adequate and affordable way of getting around for a long weekend. If you wish to travel somewhere that is not accessible via the underground trains then the Munich public transport system also features buses and trams. All of the buses in the city are accessible via ramps to the rear doors. The tram system is currently undergoing a modernisation process, so not all of the trams are accessible, but approximately 50% of them are (so far) so if you need to get somewhere on a tram route then it is possible, if slightly inconvenient, to just wait until an accessible tram arrives. Getting around in Munich is perfectly possible then, but where should you be getting around to?
Interesting and Enjoyable Attractions
Augustiner – Keller. Discover Accessible Munich
Munich is an ancient city at the heart of Germany, and one with a rich history, meaning that there are plenty of tourist attractions worth visiting. The famous BMW museum and factory makes for a fascinating visit, and is proud to be fully accessible, as is the Olympic Park: host of the 1972 Olympic games which were sadly largely overshadowed by what is now known as the Munich Massacre. If you are interested in exploring the darker period of German history, under Nazi rule, then you can reach the Dachau concentration camp (the first camp the Nazi’s built) via accessible transportation, and the historic site is also largely accessible when you arrive. Less interested in history and more interested in fun? Munich is infamous for being home to over 400 different beerhalls, and the vast majority of these are proud to be fully accessible. For ease and convenience, why not try the Augustinekeller, which is situated right next door to the central station, and is fully accessible.
Perfectly Practical Considerations
Of course, disabled travellers also need to consider the practical aspects of their breaks, including the availability of decent healthcare, should something go wrong, and the accessibility of the airport. The healthcare in Germany is highly regarded as being amongst the best in the world, and whilst it is always recommended that you travel with your own health insurance (particularly when you have pre-existing conditions) our membership of the European Union (for as long as that lasts) means that with a valid E111 card, your treatment here is free. And as for the airport? Well it’s time to think of that clichéd German efficiency again, because Munich airport is fully accessible and boasts a wide array of excellent transport links into the city, making it easy for travellers with accessibility concerns to take a last minute trip without having to spend hours worrying about how they will get from A to B. So, Discover Accessible Munich! “This is an article sent in by Sally Dacre”
Catania, Sicily is certainly not the best accessible destinations in Italy. Is a beautiful and historic town which offers museums and tourist attractions to all kinds of visitors. However, Catania now provides accessible tour operators, accessible trasport and features disability equipments which ensure both seniors and disabled tourists an enjoyable stay on the sunny Mediterranean sea.
Enable magazine is an award – winning disability lifestyle magazine that has joined the list of UK organizations that are working towards helping disabled people live a more independent and accessible lifestyle. This magazine is the best source of information for all the latest updates, beneficial news and interviews, and lots of other exciting and interesting features for the disabled community. (more…)
We have been approached by PN Online Magazine, a magazine dedicated to making life for wheelchair users more accessible and joyful. Our interview with them highlights the services we are offering for visually and physically impaired people. It fully covers our accessible vacation packages while detailing our accessible accommodation and transport facilities as well. (more…)
Situated at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a diverse island of extremes. Its history stretches back more than 3,000 years and as a strategic crossroads for southern Europe, it has the legacy of various civilizations which have influenced its way of life, culture, architecture and cuisine. The island is like a vast museum, a testament to the historic Mediterranean civilizations. (more…)
Air travel on its own is quite a nuisance but it becomes even more difficult for those people who are traveling with a disability. Disabled people often complain about not being treated right and not being provided the right facilities to accommodate their needs. Despite the fact that the EU law clearly specifies the accessibility features that airports should offer, not all airports are properly following them. So it’s best that you make some advance planning along with notifying the airline and the airport of the accommodations they will need to make for you. (more…)
Air travel on its own is quite a nuisance, but it becomes even more difficult when you’re flying with a disability. Disabled people often report not being treated right and not being provided the facilities to accommodate their needs. EU law clearly specifies the accessibility features that airports should offer, however not all airports are properly following them.
The following tips will help you efficiently plan your journey and make flying with a disability easier.
MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS IF YOU WANT TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT
Just telling your travel agent or airline that you have a particular disability will not be sufficient. You need to clearly explain to them the assistance you will need. It’s also important that you let them know if you are traveling with someone or if you will be on your own.
If you are traveling independently, you might want to request additional support, even if it’s just asking them to keep an eye on you in case something goes wrong. Also make sure you inform the airline at least 48 hours in advance of your flight.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
There are certain things that you have the right to when flying with a disability. If you have a sensory, physical or learning disability which affects your mobility, at European airports you have the right to:
facilities to summon assistance at designated arrival points
assistance to reach check-in
help with registration at check-in
assistance with moving through the airport, including to toilets if required
help with getting on and off the plane
free carriage of medical equipment and up to two items of mobility equipment
a briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
assistance with moving to the toilet on the plane (some planes will have an on-board wheelchair)
someone to meet you off the plane and help you reach connecting flights or the next part of your journey
You also have the right to travel with an assistance dog if you need one, however you will need to follow the rules for pet travel which can be found here.
GETTING YOUR MEDIF
It is important that you check with your airline to see if you will need to show medical clearance. If so, you will need to get a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) and have it signed by your doctor. For this form you will need to show your travel date and flight details. The airline will save your details in their records and automatically make arrangements for you the next time you travel with them.
You may also need a license to take some medicines abroad (e.g. morphine). You can get this from your doctor but it’s best to do it well in advance.
Travel insurance is also very important flying with a disability. You can find out more about the best way to get yourself covered on our Disability Travel Insurance blog post.
If you’re worried about navigating the airport, you can find the design and layout information on their websites (e.g. Heathrow). This way you can find out where important facilities such as check-in desks, accessible toilets and information desks are before you travel. This will reduce stress on the day and help you know what you’re looking for when asking for assistance.
It can also just be handy to know what the options for food and drink are. I mean you don’t want to get a McDonald’s at check in if your favourite is Subway and there’s one in the departure lounge!
AVOID CONNECTING FLIGHTS
Passengers that require a wheelchair to get off board are often made to wait until all the other passengers on board get off. This can be a really long wait, especially on international flights. If you want to avoid all the hassle and waiting, it’s best to book a straight flight to your destination.
On the other hand, some wheelchair passengers often find it really difficult to use aircraft lavatories. For that reason they prefer to use several short flights rather than one long flight. If that’s the case, then make sure that time between your connecting flight is at least 90 minutes so you can comfortably reach the next gate.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 (ah the joys of flying with a disability), so all you can do is pick your preference and plan accordingly.
GETTING THROUGH SECURITY
This can be troublesome, especially for people in a wheelchair. If your chair is bigger than the scanner you will have to have a pat down, but here’s a few things to remember:
You shouldn’t have to leave your chair
You can have this done in private
Your wheelchair will be patted down and scanned separately
Tell people of any problems before beginning – for example if you have certain areas that are sensitive or painful that you don’t want tapped too hard
If you come across a member of staff who doesn’t appear to know what they’re doing, don’t be afraid to tell them and ask for a trained member of staff to help you.
FLYING WITH A WHEELCHAIR
Your wheelchair will have to be checked in, but you’ll be provided with a chair to get around the airport and on to the chair. It’s also best to request an aisle seat on the plane and one as close to the entrance and exit as possible.
If you have an electric wheelchair you’ll need to check what battery type you have and the conditions the airline has on those batteries. The main issue will be if your chair or scooter has a wet acid battery. If this is the case baggage handlers will remove the battery and place it in a special container. It’s always best to check with the airline before you travel so you’re certain about what the rules are for your chair and how early you need to arrive to sort it all out.
We hope these tips will make flying with a disability more pleasant. If you have any other questions that might have been missed out in this blog, please let us know and we will do our best to answer them.
For further information on flying with a disability and any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us. To learn more about our active accessible holidays and Seable, click here.
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