For this week’s blog, we have asked VICTA to tell us about their latest trip with SEABLE, when we explored the REAL Cyprus. Here’s the account of their experience:
For VICTA’s first international trip of 2017 we travelled to the beautiful island of Cyprus. This was a dual location trip, with the first half spent on the coast in Paphos and the second half in the Troodos mountain range.
After a very early morning and a long day travelling, our group were thrilled to spend a relaxing afternoon by the pool in the sun. This was a great chance for the group to carry on getting to know each other, and catch up with old friends. In the evening we went out for a traditional meze style dinner. We were able to sample all the classic Cypriot dishes, including halloumi, lamb stews and moussaka.
Trying our hands at traditional pottery making
For our first full day in Cyprus, we visited ‘The Place’, a traditional Cypriot art and craft workshop. Here, we are able to meet some local crafters and have a look at what they produce. One item of particular interest was a traditional weaving loom. Participants were able to feel the thread and the shape and size of the loom, to get an idea of how weaved items are created.
After exploring the workshop, we were able to have a go at making our own mosaic fridge magnets. This was a really fun activity and resulted in a very personal memento of the trip. Then it was time to meet the potter’s wheel! This was a first for most of the group, and resulted in a lot of laughter and some very nice looking pots. The afternoon provided more opportunities for leisurely Cypriot gastronomic delights, and soaking up the lovely Mediterranean sunshine.
For our last day in Paphos we visited the Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent several hours exploring the site, learning about the Roman Mosaics and remains of Roman Villas. One member of the group even did a short performance for us in the ancient Odeon! After a delicious lunch (seafood of course), we enjoyed a wonder around the old harbour and had a chance to do some souvenir shopping.
Paphos Archaeological Park
On Saturday we set off for Troodos, calling in at a winery, where it would have been rude to turn down the complimentary Commandaria tasting. After lunch, we went for an energetic hike through the beautiful Troodos mountain range, experiencing new sights, smells and sounds.
Hiking high in the Troodos Mountains
The following morning we set off to Troodos Botanical Gardens to learn more about the geographical significance of the area. There were plenty more plants to feel and smell, and it made for an interesting comparison to botanic gardens in the UK. In the afternoon we visited a rose factory, and discovered more uses for rose oil than we could have ever imagined! This of course led on to another retail therapy opportunity.
All too soon the trip was over and it was time to go home. For half of the group this was their first VICTA international, and for one of those it was his first time ever on an aeroplane! It was great to explore this fabulous country together, and to witness old connections being strengthened, and new friendships being created. Not long until we get to do it all over again in Sicily!
By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator VICTA
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
DAMIANO’s INTERVIEW for THE GUILDHALL SCHOOL of BUSINESS and LAW
This week’s blog is dedicated to an interview Seable’s CEO Damiano La Rocca gave to Rita Bressi, a student from the Guildhall School of Business and Law. We are proud Seable’s model had such impact on Rita that she decided to use our story for her student’s project. As with everything we do at Seable, we hope to keep having an impact on young people. Please enjoy this essay by Rita.
Brief introduction to my entrepreneur’s company:
Last November, thanks to my university, I had the great opportunity to attend a meeting at the ‘Accelerator’ where I met two entrepreneurs who operate in London. Both of the ideas were really interesting but one in particular have had a huge impact on me. Damiano La Rocca is a 29 years old Italian guy who has been living in London for ten years. He have studied International Tourism Management and in 2013 founded ‘Seable’, a company which organises trips for invalid people.
–Interview (Appendix 3)
I conducted the interview on the 10th of February over the phone. It has lasted over 30 minutes and I asked him mainly open constructive questions about his leadership style, his personality and moreover some details about his company.
Like the majority of the young entrepreneurs, Damiano presented his idea at the ‘Accelerator’. He said he has worked really hard with a team of people who were trying to launch their businesses as well. Unfortunately, the first attempt didn’t go through and Damiano lost his opportunity. Nevertheless, ‘Accelerator’ found his idea so innovative that it decided to reward him by providing with some capitals to sustain the primary costs (such as market research, insurance, license and permit fees, advertising and promotion and employees expenses) and by offering him an office for two years. (Interview)
According to Linda Applegate, people should identify the unique skills and behaviors who make an entrepreneur successful rather than focusing on entrepreneurial ‘personality’ (Applegate,2016 p. 1).
Through a survey, a literature review were able to understand and demonstrate the level of comfort and self-confidence people have towards several dimensions of entrepreneurial leadership.
The survey came out that founders, compared to non founders, show a higher ‘comfort with uncertainty’, identification of opportunities, vision and influence.
This aspect applies to Damiano La Rocca as he is very confident with uncertainty and he does not feel threatened from it. Moreover, despite the young age, he has been able to catch a glimpse of the opportunity through a market research and took advantage from it in order to establish and develop his company. He had a vision and he made it come true. Besides, as every leader should, he has the ability to influence his team and makes it gain the best results to meet the organisational vision.
Differentiation between male and female entrepreneurs (Appendix 4):
The article also shows some key differences between male and female entrepreneurs, for example, women seem to be more confident in the ability to ‘efficiently manage operations’, to create unique visions and, lastly be influent. On the contrary men demonstrate a wider confidence when in comes to ‘comfort with uncertainty’ and financial management. This last theory cannot be applied to my entrepreneur as he confessed he has not high financial skills, indeed he had hired an accountant who takes care of the expenditures. ”I am not very good at managing financial so I hired an accountant” -Damiano La Rocca. (Interview
Differentiating ‘serial founders’ and ‘first time founders’
The big gap between serial founders and first time founders is also discussed in this study.
‘Serial founders appear more comfortable with managing uncertainty and risks’ (Kraus, J. 2016)
In Kraus’ opinion, serial founders often like establishing and launching new businesses where risks are highest. This because they enjoy creating clarity from uncertainty.’
Again, this is not Damiano’s case. In fact, he stated he does not like running risks and he acts only when he’s sure he is going to succeed.
‘Authenticity as emerged as the gold standard for leadership’ (Harvard Business Review, 2015)
Recently, three scholars argued about Authentic Leadership.
According to Jeff Preferer, a leader should not be authentic at crucial moments; Adam Granit stated: ‘be yourself is actually a terrible advice, nobody wants to see your true self’. (Bill George, 2016 p.1)
Instead, Webster describes authenticity as ”real or genuine, not copied or false, true and accurated”. Authenticity comes from an old Greek world which means ‘author’. From this Warren Bennis stated ‘you are the author of your life’.
La Rocca strongly agrees with Bennis, as he explained he believes in destiny and he thinks everything happens for a reason. His father accident played an important role on the development of this opinion. ‘If you think about it’, he said, ‘If I wouldn’t moved to London, I would have never felt my home’s nostalgia and therefore I would never established my business.’ (Interview)
-Low self-monitors VS High self-monitors
Two types of authentic leadership have been distinguished by Ibarra: Low self-monitors and High self-monitors. People of the first category tend to say everything that comes to their mind, instead, people who belong to the second group watch carefully what they say because of the impact they can have on others. (Ibarra, 2016 p.1)
Damiano is definitely a high self-monitors. He is aware of the strong influence he has on his employees, for this reason he tends to be carefully whether his actions or words.
Indeed, according to Eagly authenticity emerges from the relationship between leaders and followers. It is a reciprocal process as leaders influence their followers and vice versa. (Eagly, 2005, cited in Northouse, 2012 p.254)
Ibarra believed low self-monitors is a sign of immaturity and insensibility to the feelings of others. Therefore, this is the opposite of being authentic leaders. In the light of this study, it can be said Damiano La Rocca is an authentic leader as he regularly involve people in deciding how to achieve the business’ goals, this help people feel like they belong to an organisation which cares about them. Moreover, he said he actively affect his team through his leadership style. Nevertheless, he also added sometimes this leadership style is not efficient as the way in which he acts influences positively or negatively his team. For example, when he is more strict and tight he can gain better results then he reaches when he is friendly and funny.
On the contrary, he defined himself as a ‘slave’ for his customers, they must be always right. He acts like this in particular for the kind of people his dealing with.
”Entrepreneurial marketing is the pro-active identification and exploitation of opportunities for acquiring and retaining profitable customers through alternative approaches to risk management, resource leveraging and value creation”. (Morris, Schindehutte and LaForge, 2002:2)
In this article the initial issue of every start-ups is discussed, that is ‘how to attract customers without any user’.
The first strategy is to prefer ‘digital marketing’ rathen than traditional mass media as they are more expensive. Digital marketing instead, allows companies to advertise for $10 a day.
This is basically what Damiano did, as he said, in the beginning he used social media in the beginning such as ‘Youtube’ in order to capture the attention of a wider range of customers.
The second one is called ‘Shifting trom supply to demand’ and it consists in asking people what they want and build it forward and envisioning the perfect experience and creating it backward. Once again, this plan is followed by La Rocca. In fact, he listens to his customers, their desires and objectives and looks for different ways to meet them. For his company this means building a trustworthy and strong reputation which is vitally important to attract more potential customers. (Thales Teixeira and Michael Blanding, 2016)
The main differences between social and individual entrepreneurship are outlined through this study. (Appendix 6)
”The older and still dominant American myth involves two kinds of actors: entrepreneurial heroes and industrial drones – the inspired and the perspired.” (Reich, 1987:78).
Individual entrepreneurship, as the name may suggests, involves individuals who take actions through innovation and opportunities running risks.
On the other hand, social entrepreneurship is characterised by a participant, a group of people or a network who undertake an holistic process to develop societal innovation. In this way they create favorable opportunities. Unlike individual entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship does not involve risk taking, nay, it tends to minimize it. (Herlau, H. & Tetzschner H, 1998)
Damiano La Rocca runs a social enterprise, indeed, he has a conflictual relationship with challenges, he usually faces them up just if he is sure he can win and if he is confident enough. He doesn’t like risking. However he states the biggest challenge has been starting his business.
Despite Damiano has done a great job so far, he should be more confident in risk taking in order to expand his company abroad and enter new markets even if this wouldn’t allow him to go back to his homeland very often. Moreover, I would recommend him to improve his financial skills: La Rocca should takes charge of the financial management or, at least, having the necessary competencies to check on the accountant’s work. In order to achieve this, he could follow some course in his free time or do some researches on his own.
Besides, the marketing strategies could also be improved. Employees take care of the advertising and it looks like they did it well. However, I would advice Damiano to hire a marketing company to supply a stronger advertising which can have a bigger impact on wider range of people.
In the beginning this will raise the costs, but it is a good investment as it is going to make the company more popular, attract more customers and therefore, earn more money.
By interviewing my entrepreneur, analysing his responses and using academic articles helped me understanding leadership and entrepreneurship more deeply.
In the beginning I though people usually born with the skills necessary to make them entrepreneurs, instead by looking at Drucker’s study I now know that I was wrong. This made me feel more comfortable as I understood I can actually learn how to be a good entrepreneur and thus, how to achieve success in the future. (Drucker, 1982: 143)
Using Amabile’s research I have learned more about creativity and innovation, what they are and how to improve them. (Amabile, 1996 p.49)
Through Applegate’s study I understood how to start a business and what uncertainty actually means for entrepreneurs, how an entrepreneur manages risks and financial implicationshow male and female entrepreneurs are different from each other. (Applegate, 2016)
By analasying Bill George’s research I am now aware of authenticity really means for leaders and entrepreneurs, how important it is and how to develop and establish a strong and efficient relationship with customers and leaders. (Bill George, 2016)
Teixeira and Blanding’s article is the one I have loved the most. Attracting customers in order to make a business grow is not easy and they have proven some marketing strategies can actually change a business’ fate. This study is inspiring as it also encourages changes and therefore, it makes readers braver in decision making. (Teixeira and Blanding, 2016)
I am now aware there are various kind of businesses and each one has to be managed in and by different ways and leaders. By taking into account Tetzshner, Helge, Herlau and Henrik’s work I am now able to differentiate between Social and Individual Entrepreneurship. (Tetzschner, H. and Herlau, H. 2003)
In addition I have learned how to interview somebody, how to develop question from academia, using combinations to discuss open questions (What, how..why) and closed (do you, do this) I understood the differences between them and this can help me in approaching people as I am not a confident person. In terms of practice I now know the risks, the behaviors and what entrepreneurs actually do within their businesses.
In conclusion, the most interesting part in this assignment for me, has been researching numerous author’s point of views and critiques. By doing this I have also learned how to link various concepts even from different lectures and modules. I think this is the most important skill a student can develop as it helps enriching personal culture and develop flexibility in thinking.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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”
Holidays for partially sighted and blind travellers.
We have just returned from one of the best trip of the year and possibly in the history of Seable.
Let’s hear it from the participants:
Stacey: I had such an amazing time in Iceland. Did amazing things, saw amazing sights and met amazing people! Thanks for making a great time lovelies ❤️.
Warren: Last week I had an absolutely fantastic time in Iceland, a really beautiful, unique and strange country, on a Victa Milton Keynes trip with a group of people who gelled fantastically well, it was a pleasure spending the week with them. I have had so many unforgettable experience is, being absolutely drenched and freezing cold on Europe’s largest glacier, on a day when most other ttreks were cancelled, visiting some spectacular scenery and landscapes such as going behind a waterfall, visiting what must be the worlds largest warm, outdoor bath, the blue lagoon, smelling lots of smelly sulphur pits, seeing some active geysers, going to The worlds largest penis museum that did not disappoint me and much more. I was lucky enough to try some unique food, the fermented shark tasted like blue cheese but 100 times more intense, puffin, reindeer burger and much more. It is definitely a country I want to go back to and I went with a group of people I want to keep in touch with
Lucy: My Icelandic adventure with the most amazing people! Can’t thank Victa Milton Keynes and Seable Disabled Holidays enough for this amazing trip! Will never forget some of the beautiful things i’ve seen!
Rachel: Iceland was amazing with the best people <3
Alex: I’m jotting this down in the car on the way back at the airport. It’s been an amazing week in Iceland and seems a shame be over. We’ve seen some of the most amazing sights, and experienced unbelievable adventures. But the thing that’s made this trip is the group we were with. I was asked the other day is it hard to volunteer and when your out with people like this never!
Thank you for having me and letting me join in the fun!
There are many perceptions in society about what disabled and visually impaired people can and can’t do, and a lot of these aren’t necessarily based on fact. For example I’m sure if you got speaking to a person in the street about disability they’d probably be shocked to learn that extreme sports can be on the bucket list. Disabled people and visually impaired people can, and do, experience a wide variety of extreme sports. Whether it’s rock climbing, off-roading or hiking, they don’t let their disability stop them!
At Seable we are all about new experiences and challenges, so we have put together a list of 7 extreme sports adventures for visually impaired people or wheelchair users to enjoy whilst on holiday.
Anyone who watched the London 2012 Paralympic sailing knows just how intense the competition and activity can be. The best paralympic sailors in the world competing as they fought against the wind and currents certainly made for compelling viewing.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie then there are numerous places to try competitive sailing, and if a calm day on the high seas is more your thing then there are are some great opportunities to be had. The Jubilee Sailing Trust even teach disabled people to crew classic tall ships – sign me up!
A photo posted by Jubilee Sailing Trust (@jubileesailingtrust) on
2. Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is a very popular adaptive sport for both disabled and visually impaired people as the weightlessness and freedom of movement underwater can be greater than above the surface. Scuba diving is also just a fantastic experience, an aquatic realm completely different to life on ground. With all your senses being immersed in an almost alien place, diving is something that can be experienced equally by everyone.
There are numerous organisations and charities that provide equipment and training for disabled people, and it is even used as treatment for disabled and wounded veterans, as the weightlessness of diving can help to relieve pain in the muscles and joints. Being underwater is also said to have a calming and soothing effect on the participants.
3. Rock Climbing
Rock climbing can be incredibly difficult. It’s a sport that places great demands on your body, core strength, and ability to handle heights. Despite this, climbing is also a fairly popular extreme sport amongst the disabled community, performed both on dedicated climbing walls and in the mountains. Adaptive climbing walls and trained guides mean visually impaired people can learn to scale most rock faces. The BMC Equality Steering Group do fantastic work in helping disabled people get into climbing, and even produce this booklet on disability awareness in rock climbing which contains helpful guidance and advice for anyone looking to get involved.
The GB Paraclimbing team is also very successful, picking up numerous medals at the World Paraclimbing Championships and counting world champions such as Fran Brown amongst their ranks.
Parlympic sailing was mentioned earlier, and for good reason – it’s awesome – but we don’t think there’s any sport with more heart-in-mouth action than visually impaired skiing in the Winter Paralympic Games. Two skiiers hurtling down the mountain within a few feet of each other, weaving in between gates and over slopes knowing the slightest mistake by either may cause a crash; it’s incredible!
Admittedly the death defying aspect of it might not appeal to everyone, and if you’d rather a leisurely glide down a mountain instead there are more relaxed accessible skiing holidays for both visually impaired and disabled people (you can keep an eye out for Seable’s new destination which includes activities like skiing by signing up to the newsletter).
The views you get when you’re hiking are amazing, but anyone who has stood at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a forest trail knows vision is just scratching the sensory surface. The sounds of the wilderness, the smell of pristine air and the sense of being surrounded by nature are all simply break-taking, so it’s little surprise that there are scores of visually impaired hikers climbing mountains all around the world.
Ashley Nemeth from VisionAware talks about avoiding bears, how hiking helps her relax, and how to use a cane and guide dog when hiking, whilst Trevor Thomas is the world’s only blind professional long-distance hiker and was the first blind person to complete the Appalachian Trail (2,175 miles!) solo and unassisted.
Before reading on, take a minute to watch this video.
It’s from a company called Fly Chair who make wheelchairs specifically designed for paragliding (their motto is ‘if you can’t walk, fly’). Wanting to know what it feels like to fly is a pretty universal human desire – R. Kelly anyone? – and paragliding is an incredible sensation, felt equally by disabled and able-bodied people alike.
Skydiving is also an incredible adrenaline rush, and 120mph free-fall is another one of those things everyone experiences equally. Tandem jumps are suitable for blind and visually impaired people, and RP Fighting Blindness are even attempting to break a world record this summer by doing the most tandem jumps ever in 24 hours!
7. An Arctic Expedition
Okay, maybe an artic expedition isn’t an adventure that everyone can have, but it’s impressive enough to make our list. In April 2009, one hundred years after the first successful North Pole expedition, Dave Shannon became the first person with tetraplegia to reach the North Pole.
Dave’s experience shows that by refusing to give up and with enough commitment to training you can still achieve your dreams, no matter how extreme. Maybe we can’t all travel to the North Pole, but we can all take on Dave’s ethos and use it to inspire us to try new and exciting things!
So those are our favourite disability extreme sports, hopefully they might have inspired you to consider a few new adventures of your own.
Let us know if we missed any disability extreme sports experiences that you know, and remember to share with all the adrenaline junkies in your life!
At Seable we specialise in holidays for the blind and partially sighted, from active sports holidays to relaxing getaways. Click here to find out more about our holidays, or call us at +44(0) 207 749 4866.
What exciting, sporty activities for the blind are out there?
As we all should know, blindness does not mean the end of your active life. As events such as the Paralympics and IBSA World Games show, there are a great many blind individuals who do not let their disability get in the way of an active lifestyle. You may be surprised at the wide range of exciting, adventurous activities for the blind, from scuba diving to skiing. At Seable, we specialise in accessible active holidays: as such, we have a lot of experience in adapting more challenging activities to make them accessible. In this blogpost we will take a peek at 6 activities for the blind which will exhilarate you and test your body’s limits. All of these are available within the UK or are offered by a UK company; many of them are offered by Seable. These activities for the blind are fun and exciting, a great way to keep in shape, and an empowering way to master your disability.
Sailing is a great way of improving your teamwork and communication skills, and honing your other senses: blind sailors have to constantly make calculated decisions from limited sensory information, such as the acoustic sounds from buoys and opponents’ boats.
If you’re in the UK and interested in getting involved, you’re in good company! There are thousands of disabled and blind sailors around the UK, and our blind sailing team is one of the most successful in the world.Blind Sailing, a registered Charity, aims to help blind and partially sighted people sail at all levels. They organise regular training sessions and racing events, provide coaching and help to enable novices learn to sail. RYA Sailability is a programme which introduces 53,000 young people and adults with disabilities to sailing per year. Their site also provides a search function to find your local sailing clubs and watersports sites which are approved to cater for the visually impaired.
Scuba diving can be an incredible experience: the sensation of the current, the muted sound and the feeling of calm and weightlessness combine to create an entirely different world. To scuba dive blind may seem like an arduous challenge, but with the proper instruction it can actually be safe and enjoyable. Scubability offers courses for the disabled, from complete beginners to advanced.
At Seable, we offer a full five-day scuba diving course in the Mediterranean, with each dive around 2-3 hours a day. The course is accredited by the H.S.A (Handicapped Scuba Association), and culminates with a diver certification which is valid worldwide.
Our Scuba diving course in action
You may have heard of Erik Weiheimayer, one of the most intrepid and inspirational blind adventurers in the world. Shortly after going blind, he received a newsletter in Braille about a group taking blind people rock climbing. He decided to sign up, and later described his early experiences: “Although there was a lot of flailing and struggle in those early days, the freedom of attacking a challenge and problem solving my way through it invigorated me and helped me to feel less trapped by blindness.” This “early seed of adventure” fuelled his ambition to reach ever greater heights, and on May 25, 2001, he became the only blind person ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Time Magazine ran a cover story honouring him, and he was interviewed by Oprah and Jay Leno, amongst others. Today, Erik still refuses to let his blindness get in the way of his adventures, and continues to rock climb, kayak, ski and even paraglide in locations all around the world. Find out more about his adventures on his website.
If you’d like to follow in Erik’s rock holds, there are a range of ways to get involved in the UK. Actionnaires is a sport and activity club for children and young people aged 8 to 16 run by Action for Blind People. Over 16s are also welcome and are encouraged to take on a leadership role at the clubs. These clubs offer a range of activities from swimming to athletics, and, of course, rock climbing. The Bendrigg Trust is a residential activity centre in the Cumbria countryside which offers rock climbing and abseiling for disabled people of any age or ability, along with a whole host of other activities.
In blind tandem biking, a sighted rider, or “pilot”, sits at the front of the bike and communicates what is ahead to the visually impaired person, or “stoker”, in the back seat. The pilot gives information about obstacles, turns, upcoming hills, and when to break, whilst the stoker concentrates on pedalling, breaking and communicating with the pilot. Tandem cycling can provide a sense of speed which is uncommon for a blind person in everyday life, great exercise, and a great way of building camaraderie. Many blind cyclists tandem bike with a friend or partner as part of the rehabilitation process, in order to aid communication and mutual understanding.
Tandem cycling has been rapidly increasing in popularity in the UK following our success in the Olympics and Commonwealth games, and there are a number of clubs and organisations in the UK for blind and partially sighted people. A good idea would be to contact the Tandem Club, which has a Disabilities Liaison Officer who may be able to help with queries related to disabled people and to visually impaired cyclists. The Two’s Company initiative by the charity Life Cycle UK enlists sighted volunteers to help the visually impaired enjoy a day out cycling on a tandem bicycle.
Horseback riding has been shown to have many physical and cognitive benefits for blind and visually impaired children and adults. Known as “hippotherapy“, therapeutic horseback riding has been shown to improve posture, strength, balance, navigational skills, coordination and emotional well-being.
The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has over 18,000 instructors and volunteers, and offers activities for the blind for all age groups. Hoofin-About take people from all over the world to go on horse-riding holidays in Wales, and can accommodate visually impaired or blind riders. At Seable we also offer a horse-riding activity, which lasts 90 minutes and is carried out by fully trained instructors.
A high energy, physically demanding sport that many sighted people can’t do, skiing can provide a rare sense of sheer exhilaration and freedom as you fly downhill at blistering pace, slicing through the wind and the snow. It’s also a very social sport: it’s common to have holiday groups of visually impaired skiers, who get together at the end of the day and share their adventures.
The Ski 2 Freedom Foundation provides a comprehensive guide to skiing, snowboarding and other winter sport activities for the visually impaired, with a list of ski centres and resorts known to provide instruction and suitability for anyone who has a sight impairment, both abroad and in the UK. Whistler, a mountain resort in British Columbia and host of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, offers many accessible sports venues and skiing and snowboarding lessons in the winter as part of its Whistler Adaptive Sport Programme.
Hopefully this post has given you just a glimpse into the expansive world of activities for the blind out there. With some ingenuity, hard work, and experienced help almost any activity that an able-bodied person is able to do can be done by a visually impaired person. At Seable we relish making our activities for the blind accessible, from scuba diving to windsurfing, and can offer you the help and experience to give you the opportunity to shine. See below for our testimony from the Paralympic Athlete Stephen Campbell, who travelled with us and took part in our scuba course, windsurfing and jet skiing:
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition and the leading cause of vision impairment in the UK, affecting up to 500,000 people. The condition is most common in people over 50, and it is estimated that one in every 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD.
AMD causes damage to the macula, the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision. As a result, a blurred area at the centre of vision is a common symptom. Over time, this blurred area may grow larger, and objects may not appear as bright as they used to be. This can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to recognise faces, drive, read, write, cook and do chores around the house.
Image courtesy of University of Washington
Currently, no medical or surgical cure exists for age-related macular degeneration. Coping with the vision loss can be a painful process, as everyday tasks become difficult to do. However, although you may not be able to restore your vision, plenty of services, tools and techniques are available to empower you to make the most of what you have. AMD does not mean you will no longer be able to enjoy the company of friends and family, or carry out projects, or indulge in your hobbies: plenty of sufferers continue to lead active, independent, and fulfilling lives. Here are 7 tips and recommended adjustments for making the most out of your vision.
1. Draw support from groups and professionals around you.
Research has shown that people with age-related macular degeneration who participate in support groups or self-help programmes do much better than those who simply go it alone. Visit a specialist in low vision, who can give you devices and learning skills to help you with everyday tasks. Your GP or optometrist should be able to refer you to one. Here are some good questions to ask your eye specialist:
– How can I continue my normal, daily routine?
– Are there any resources or special devices to help me with everyday tasks?
– What training and services are available to help me around and outside the house?
You could also ask them to refer you to a professional counselor, or support group. Alternatively, if you live in England, you can also usethis online search from the NHS to find visual impairment services near you. You may find it encouraging to find others with the same situation, to voice your feelings, share useful information, and gain emotional support. Finally, stay engaged with family and friends: not only do they form a support network, they are also important for your general wellbeing. A common frustration of AMD sufferers is the inability to recognise other people: if so, tell people you know to say hi and tell you their name when they meet you, so that you can recognise them.
2. Make use of the range of low vision aids available.
There are plenty of aids and electronic systems available for the visually impaired. Some of these include:
• Reading glasses with high-powered lenses
• Handheld magnifiers
• Computers with large-print and speech-output systems
• Large-print reading materials
• Talking watches, clocks, and calculators
• Computer aids and other technologies, such as CCTV magnifier, which uses a camera and television to enlarge printed text
Not every aid works for everyone, so ask your eye specialist and use your own experience to figure out which ones best suit you.
You may also wish to develop a technique known as “eccentric viewing”: this involves identifying an are of your retina that retains reasonable functionality, and is as close to the central part of the macula as possible in order to maximise detail, and learning to use this effectively. Click here to find out more about eccentric viewing.
3. Adjust your environment at home accordingly.
It’s a good idea to change up your environment at home to make things comfortable and safe for yourself from day to day. Here are some suggestions for improvements:
• Use brighter lighting, including task lamps for reading and up-close activities, and additional lighting in dark hallways and stairways.
• Eliminate glare from windows and on your computer wherever possible.
• Learn how to be organised, so that everything has its place.
• Use contrasting colors to help you navigate your surroundings.
• Try to eliminate tripping hazards, such as rugs.
With time, you will create an environment which is organically suited to your needs.
4. Take good care of your general health and wellbeing, through diet and exercise.
Foods rich in antioxidants – Image courtesy of Maja’s Diary
You may not be able to cure your AMD, but you can take steps to prevent it from getting worse.
Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are protective for AMD. They can be found in abundance in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and spring greens, and in fruits and vegetables with a bright colour like peppers, oranges and red grapes. Also eat plenty of fish, 2-3 times a week – fish such as salmon and sardines contain copious amounts of omega 3, a critical nutrient for the heart and eyes. Cut out saturated fats – research has shown that saturated fats contribute to AMD. You can find some healthy recipes at Eyefoods (click here), or order their book.
Depending on how developed your AMD is, and whether you are at high risk for developing advanced AMD, your doctor may also choose to prescribe you a supplement. In particular, a formulation created by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) of concentrated antioxidants and zinc has been shown to help people at high risk of developing advanced AMD keep their remaining vision.
Exercise regularly: aim for three days a week. This pumps up your cardiovascular system, and can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – both factors which have been linked to AMD.
If you smoke, quit! There is a very strong link between smoking and AMD: smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to develop AMD. If you already have AMD, smoking can worsen it. Smoking decreases the level of antioxidants and increases the level of oxidants in your body, whilst reducing the amount of oxygen reaching your macula.
5. Take extra precautions when travelling, and do not be afraid to seek help.
Avoid driving in certain conditions: at night, in heavy traffic, or in bad weather. In fact, you may wish to suspend driving until you consult a specialist. You may find the book “Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving With Low Vision” by Eli and Doron Peli helpful: click here to view it on Amazon.
If you are uncomfortable travelling alone, then seek help – ask family members or friends, or contact your local council for a list of vans, shuttles and volunteer care networks. You may also wish to use public transportation, where there will be attendants who can provide help if needed.
If you’re on holiday, it’s a good idea to put a brightly coloured strap around your luggage for easy identification, and to ask hotel staff for a tour of your surroundings. If you’re travelling alone, try and arrange for someone to help you around: it can be difficult navigating a foreign destination with a visual impairment. Here at Seable we can provide a chaperone to accompany you for the entire length of your holiday, from airport pickup to the final dropoff.
6. Protect your eyes from the sun.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the ultraviolet (UV) light in sunshine. UV light is known to contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration. UV light can pass through clouds, making overcast days just as dangerous as sunny ones.
To protect your eyes, invest in some UV-blocking sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that screen 99-100% of ultraviolet A and B rays. There are sunglasses designed specifically for macular degeneration, which include side panels and a ridge at the top of the glasses so that all light is filtered. You could also have your regular glasses treated with a UV coating – a clear coating which will not interfere with your normal sight. If you aren’t sure about the quality of your UV protection, you can ask your optician to check.
7. Stay positive.
Last but not least, stay positive! Vision loss may cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety, helplessness and depression. Learn how to cope with these by visiting a counsellor or support group. Asking others for help does not mean you are not independent: rather, think of it as taking charge and making use of the resources and networks out there which are available to you. Do not define yourself by your eyes or your vision, and empower yourself to overcome your impairment. AMD does not mean you cannot continue to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life. With some help from the team here at Seable, you can even go on holiday! Below you can watch our interview with Peter, an 81-year old veteran with AMD who travelled alone with us to Sicily and had the “best holiday of his life”.