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 IMAPIRED. I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.
ASo here is our story of our trip to Thailand:
Arriving at Heathrow airport, we sat and went through the incredible itinerary that Nutty adventures had sent us. They are the fantastic company that are going to show Seable what Thailand had to offer as an accessible destination.
ABOUT NUTTY’S ADVENTURE
Nutty’s Adventures brings together a mixture of high-quality cycling tours, mountain treks and river-based adventures throughout Southeast Asia.
Their philosophy is to minimize the environmental and social impact of tourism activities, whilst providing opportunities for visitors to responsibly contribute to the well-being of the local communities.
Nutty’s Adventures is a new style of tour operator and a specialist in CBT, Community-Based Tourism. Nutty‘s Adventures offers all types of responsible travel, green eco-adventure activities and volunteer work holidays.
Specialize in Community-Based Travel (CBT) that allows tourists to have a closer connection to local people while directly experiencing their lifestyles and cultural traditions.
They are a tour operator situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, and their well-trained English-speaking guides will provide you with remarkable experiences that you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life. Nutty’s Adventures offers a wide variety of 3-day excursions and we also love the challenge of organizing unique tailor-made tours for the individual needs of families, charities, businesses and tour groups.
So, as you can see in the last sentence, ‘they love the challenge of organising unique tailor-made tours’ and here at Seable we love everything unique tailor-made for our clients. We set off on our 13-hour flight with anticipation of what was to come over the next three weeks. We flew with Malaysia air and we both thought the flight was fantastic. Comfy seats, great food and a brilliant entertainment system including so many audio books/films, the 13 hours flew by-literally.
Arriving in Bangkok, it was 9pm there time and we were excited to drop our bags off and see what the city centre had to offer; and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere was electric with many people fully enjoying what the street food had to offer. As did we, and we probably got carried away with wanting to try something from every stall. After tasting each delicacy, finally, our bodies were feeling the effects of travelling and we set off to our hotel to get some rest. We were staying in the Hotel De’Moc and it was lovely, big accessible rooms with a great balcony. Excited with the knowledge that the next day we started our adventure with Nutty and the team we said goodnight.
Waking up full of excitement we planned our day ready to meet a member of the team at 6pm. Breakfast in the hotel was great.
We wanted to check out Bangkok city in the day time, to see if it is something we can include into our trip for our clients. It did not disappoint-under the sunshine the little streets were wonderful, the smells of the food cooking in all the little street food stalls mixed with the sound of the street vendors, was something you must experience. There were also many stalls selling fantastic clothing for super prices and as a girl I can say that I took advantage of this situation and bought some lovely things, including some amazing trousers for only 100 baht-about £2.50.
We set off back to the hotel and waited eagerly to meet the team. Nun was the lady who would be spending the next 2 days with us. She went through what we would be doing for the next couple of days and told us what was a must-see in our last evening in Bangkok. We said bye and set off to Chinatown and personally it was my favourite evening in Bangkok. The atmosphere was electric with lots of people walking around the many streets of Chinatown. As we walked along, we tried food from as many stalls as we could and it was all so yummy. After we had eaten way too much food, we got a tuk tuk back to the hotel. Tuk tuk’s are fantastic for getting around the city quickly, inexpensive and a great experience.
Meeting Nun at 8am we had breakfast and then made our way to Bangkok train station. After a short wait, we boarded to train to Ayutthaya. The train was a typical Thai train, with big old seats, fans in the ceiling and had many people walking up and down the aisles selling food. We bought some mango and watched Bangkok pass up by as we travelled for 1 half hours to central Thailand.
Arriving in Ayutthaya we got in a traditional Tuk Tuk and went to visit Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The whole place felt incredibly peaceful, with classical music being played through speakers throughout the grounds, birds singing and the sound of the water.
After the Palace, we took the tuk tuk to Baan Koh Kerd and had a village tour, trying out local delicacies and meeting the community. It was amazing to get to experience their way of life.
That evening we stayed in a Homestay that was located on the river. It was a very traditional house on stilts, that had basic amenities but was perfect for what we needed. The owner of the home made us a wonderful traditional dinner and we ate it on the terrace overlooking the river.
To be continued…..
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.
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.
We all have our challenges in life – physical, mental and emotional. Some are bigger, some are smaller, and some need more assistance than others to overcome. These ten apps use modern technology to enrich the lives of people with disabilities – allowing everyone to be able to use your smartphone the same way as everybody else. Today we’ll discuss some of the best disabled apps and accessibility apps for Android.
[Price: Free / $0.99]
Assistive Touch is an app that gives you virtual buttons. These virtual buttons allow you to navigate your device without having to touch it. It comes with a virtual home button, volume buttons, back button, take screenshots and more. It’s made for those who are physically disabled. Unfortunately, it has a variety of useless features as well, such as RAM cleaning, boosting, and other features. We highly recommend you don’t use those.
Google Now is already a very powerful tool. You can use it to send texts without typing anything, open apps, search the web, and call people. With Commandr, you can expand the usability of Google Now to include things like turning on a flashlight (if your device has an LED flash), toggling various functions (e.g. Bluetooth, WiFi), and even add your own custom commands using Tasker. Being able to automate many tasks via voice commands has the potential to help those with physical disabilities get around their device more easily and with less frustration. Note, you will need Google Now on your device for this to work. It’s one of the better disabled apps on Android.
Google Talkback is an accessibility feature that is built into Android to help those who are visually impaired. Once activated using the Accessibility option in the Settings menu, Google Talkback will help the visually impaired interact with their devices. It’s pretty based compared to most disabled apps and accessibility apps. It adds things like vibration, spoken, and audible feedback. The idea is to help you understand what’s happening on your device better. It’s not the end-all-be-all of solutions. However, it is pre-installed on your device so you might as well try it!
Google Translate is a very powerful app. However, most would think that it’s only good for travelers going to distance countries. You can do a lot more with a little creativity. Perhaps its best featured for the disabled is its ability to listen to spoken word and put it into text. This can be a great way for deaf people to communicate with those who don’t know ASL. It’s not as targeted as other disabled apps and accessibility apps. It’s still a good option, though.
HelpTalk is an app that can help assist in communication. It’s designed for those who are unable to communicate orally or through written word. It features a basic default profile that has a list of basic sentences and phrases. You can also create your own profile with whatever phrases you want. It uses a TTS engine for the speech and it is available in 12 languages. You can even use it to configure an emergency phone number, an emergency message, and an SOS button that will text a certain number if someone needs help. It’s one of the better disabled apps that we’ve found.
IFTTT stands for “if this, then that”. It’s an app that helps you set up automated actions. It can be used for a variety of things, including reading your text messages out loud, turning off your lights (if you have the right equipment), and all kinds of other stuff. With a bit of investment, you can make most of your house compatible with IFTTT which can make life a whole lot easier. However, it does take some work. The app is completely free. You can also find recipes for IFTTT with a simple Google Search.
JABtalk is an app designed to help non-verbal adults and kids communicate. With it you can build sentences from words, organize words into user-defined categories, import pictures and audio, and it even has text-to-speech capabilities. There’s also a backup feature With it, you can make sure to transfer your settings to a new device.. It essentially turns any Android device into an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device. It’s also completely free. It’s one of the lesser-known disabled apps. The only downside is that it has a few bugs here and there.
[Price: Free / $31.27]
NotNav GPS Accessibility is an app that was reportedly made by blind people, for blind people. It is a simple GPS navigation app that helps those walking around while blind. It will continually announce things like the nearest street address, your compass heading, nearby crosswalks and roads, and any other waypoint that you define. It’s a pretty solid and simple app. You can buy the full version for $31.27. The full version includes turn-by-turn directions as well. It’s about as good as it gets in this space.
Tecla Access is another accessibility app. It works kind of like a keyboard except you can use it all over the device to do all sorts of things. Most device functions and applications should be accessible. It’ll take you a few minutes to set up as well. There are also some bugs that can be annoying. Be sure to watch out for those. However, it’s still pretty good.
Voice Access is an app by Google. It’s for those who have physical disabilities. It utilizes the power of Google’s Voice Search to help you control your device. You can say things like “go back” or “go home” to navigate your phone. Additional commands includes “scroll down”, “click next”, and you can type with it. The app is in beta so there will almost certainly be bugs and issues that you’ll face. However, Google should make it better. Keep an eye out!
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
Modifying your home for a person with a visual impairment is not an easy task, you need to consider both exterior and interior modifications and accommodations. An accessible home is well lit, clutter free, well organized, and safe. We share four tips for modifying your home to make it as accessible as possible for a person with a visual impairment.
1. Exterior Modifications when modifying your home
Redfin Property published a guide to home accommodations for persons with disabilities
This first tip will certainly help you modifying your home for a person with visual impairment. People with low and no vision need to be able to get in and out of your home easily and safely. Redfin’s article on making home accommodations for people with disabilities notes that exterior walkways should be free of tripping hazards such as overgrown vegetation and loose landscaping pavers. It’s even better if the walkways are made of smooth materials such as concrete. Sidewalk lights, outdoor floodlights, and entryway lights should illuminate all traffic areas and be bright without causing a glare or an issue for a light-sensitive person. One solution is to add motion-sensor lights that will turn on as soon as someone walks past so that the person with a visual impairment does not need to worry about finding a switch to turn on exterior lights.
If the entrance to the home includes steps, they should be well lit as well. Handrails should be installed on either side of the steps, and brightly colored tape strips or paint should signal the front edges of steps or stairways.
2. Account for Glare
Install dimmer switches on overhead lights when you modify your home for a person with visual impairment
It’s quite common for people with visual impairment to be sensitive to light. Assisting Angels suggests on their website that making home modifications that reduce glare makes it easier for these people to see while inside the home. Install interior window treatments such as pull-down shades and drapes that limit sunlight from entering the home through the top of the window. One option is tinted Mylar shades that allow people to see outside but reduce window glare.
Because shiny surfaces reflect light and produce a glare, remove furniture and other items that have glossy surfaces from the home. Mirrors that reflect light and cause a glare should be covered with a scarf or placed elsewhere in the home. Floors, walls, tables, and countertops may have surfaces that cause a glare, so it is helpful to install dimmer switches on overhead lights and purchase lamps that dim to cut down on glare from these items. You also can cover windows that reflect off these surfaces, or you can place rugs on the floor and runners on countertops to reduce the glare they produce.
3. Organize Closets
Locating clothing becomes less of a hassle if clothing is organized by item
People with low or no vision need to be able to locate their belongings efficiently. If areas of the home are cluttered and unorganized, it makes it virtually impossible for people with visual impairment to find what they seek. The Center for the Visually Impaired advises on its blog that one of the first areas of the home to organize are the closets. Locating clothing becomes less of a hassle if clothing is organized by item, with similar types of clothing hanging together or complete outfits hanging together. The goal is to organize the closet in such a way that makes it easy for the person with a visual impairment to find the clothing and accessories they want and ensure they can choose a matching outfit each day.
4. Keep Traffic Areas Open
Here the final tip to follow when modifying your home for a person with visual impairment. Decluttering the house is another one of the first steps you’ll want to take when preparing your home for a person with a visual impairment. When items are in their places, it is easier to navigate the home and locate things. While many people think about decluttering closets and drawers, it’s important to declutter main living areas and high-traffic areas in the home to prevent tripping and falling.
Don’t leave items in a place where someone can trip and fall or bump into them. Try to keep items in the same place when they are not in use, and avoid moving household items without informing the person with a visual impairment first.
Another task that will keep traffic areas open is to arrange furniture in such a way as to create a natural flow of foot traffic. Try making small groupings of furniture to promote conversations or placing large pieces of furniture against the walls to create traffic areas inside the home.
If you modify your home both on the inside and the outside, you will make a person with a visual impairment feel more comfortable. Exterior and interior modifications can help a person with a visual impairment feel more at ease and strive to be more independent.
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!
Mohammed Salim Patel is a blind young man from Blackburn, who has been blogging as ‘The Blind Journalist’ on blind travel for several years.
Mohammed suffers from a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. His passion and enthusiasm in communication foster him to attend First Class BA Hons International Journalism degree from the University Of Central Lancashire in Preston. His blind condition, strongly influenced Mohammed’s outlook on life and gives him the motivation to succeed regardless of the obstacles which come on his way.
Mohammed has travelled within Seable Holidays in the last trip organized in Sicily: “Seable Disabled Holidays provides the most authentic experience possible that you wouldn’t get through any other travel agency or tour operator.”
He collected different opinion about the journey within his travel mates: “Seable Disabled Holidays are always prepared to tailorlor your holiday to suit you and your needs. All the staff are very friendly and understanding. You do not feel as if you’re disabled because they make sure you are treated as normal and that you get to do what you want. They will fulfil any dietary or religious requirements you have and do everything in their power to make sure you have the best time with no stress.”
Rosie Johnston, 27, a blind lady from Epsom, London said:“I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday in Sicily. It was a fantastic experience. The Seable staff were very helpful, friendly and informative. I will definitely go on a holiday with Seable again and highly recommend them.”
Furthermore, Mohammed was interested in understanding the people and the mission behind the organization, for this reason he interviewed the founder and general manager of the company: “Damiano La Rocca, 29, from Catania, Italy came up with the idea to provide accessible active holidays, to those with physical or sensorial disabilities, because he wanted to fulfil a life-long dream. “
Damiano said: “My Dad is a scuba-diving instructor. He taught me that in life, you have to accept the challenge. It was that sentiment that drove me to set up Seable Disabled Holidays. Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. We enable people with limited mobility, impaired vision or deafness to easily participate in life-changing experiences through sporting, cultural and gastronomic activities in new and interesting destinations. Our holidays are tailored for each person and we guarantee a stress-free booking process while providing local knowledge that you need in order to enjoy the holiday to the fullest.”
One of Damiano’s visions was to work with various organisations: “We collaborate with local and international charities to guarantee the maximum level of knowledge and experience. Our partners, aim to make a difference in the world by catering exclusively for people with disabilities.“
Although Seable has only been running for a few years, the organisation has achieved a lot. Seable has a portfolio of achievement that includes two Guinness World Records. Both were in deep-sea diving. The first was in 2007 when a Paraplegic man reached 59 metres underwater. The second was in 2009 when a blind girl reached 41 metres underwater.
On this topic, Damiano said: “Our aim is to improve confidence and skills for life, challenging perceptions of disabilities and blindness. Our emphasis is always on high quality, multi-sensory experiences.”
Aside from scuba-diving, 4×4 off road driving, going to the top of Europe’s highest active volcano; Mount Etna, Mediterranean olive oil making and tactile museum visits; Seable have a whole list of activities they offer, all of which are completely accessible and competitively priced.
A potential boost for blind and partially sighted independence
An interesting project is currently underway in Toronto, which could potentially help blind and partially sighted people to navigate the indoors more easily. The project, led by a blind computer software engineer, uses iBeacons, a kind of location services technology. iBeacons are placed around an area, on hallways, doors, and walls. They then send out Bluetooth signals, which an iOS can pick up. That signal, when recognised by an approaching smartphone or tablet, triggers an audio description of the immediate area, using an app called BlindSquare. Whilst the project is currently only a pilot in Canada, it has a great deal of potential, and it’s success might see it being implemented in more locations. Examples of applications might include informing blind and partially sighted people about the items on a supermarket aisle, or the location of a menu in a restaurant, or the films available in a cinema. You can read the whole article from the Toronto Star below:
‘Virtual vision’ system is a boost for blind independence
A blind computer software engineer from Toronto is giving eyes to those who can’t see.
David Best, a former IBM web developer, has just helped usher in the first pilot system in Canada created specifically to help visually impaired people — nearly 200,000 in Ontario alone — navigate the indoors.
A network of “iBeacons” launched last month inside the headquarters of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) in north Toronto could, Best believes, sweep aside travel barriers, boost blind independence and open up worlds beyond the tip of the cane.
“It gives me virtual vision,” he said of the iBeacons, a recent Apple device.
Small and inexpensive, iBeacons beam information on a much smaller scale than the older GPS-based voice-over technology that has empowered sight-deprived individuals in the open air for several years. Any area under a roof or behind concrete, however, is largely off-limits to GPS, a duller digital tool for indoor spaces.
“GPS works outside; iBeacons work inside,” said Jim Sanders, former president of the CNIB.
Parapan Am athlete Tiana Knight demonstrates BlindSquare -Image courtesy of Toronto Star
Parapan Am athlete Tiana Knight demonstrates BlindSquare, an iPhone GPS app that helps blind people by voicing out what’s around them. But GPS apps don’t work well indoors, which has led to the creation of a new indoor navigation system that uses “iBeacons.”
Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office. They work by sending out Bluetooth signals picked up by iOS. That signal, recognized by an approaching smartphone or tablet, triggers an audio description, or voice-over, of the immediate area through an app called BlindSquare.
“You walk along and it will say, ‘Washrooms on the left.’ It will tell you the elevator’s on the right, and even which floors it goes to,” Sanders said of the simple but potentially game-changing technology.
“It’s a complete breakthrough.”
BlindSquare, which also draws on GPS tech and Foursquare to help visually impaired individuals navigate the streetscape, operates intuitively. Shake your iPhone and the nearest address will be read back. Or type in where you want to go and the app will announce what’s nearby.
“It’s key for getting around the bus route in Calgary,” says Team Canada Parapan Am goalball athlete Tiana Knight, a native Albertan.
iBeacons have been used before, but rarely to unlock their potential for visually impaired individuals.
Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office – Image courtesy of Toronto Star
Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office.
As of this summer, Pennsylvania State University is the first higher education institution in North America to install the iBeacon guidance system on its wood-panelled walls. The innovation empowers students who can now locate lecture halls and coffee shops sans assistance on a massive campus with an enrolment approaching 100,000.
Best hopes to see iBeacons in the halls of Canadian higher education and government shortly, with private business to follow.
He discussed the possibility with the University of Guelph last May, and is currently in talks with the University of Windsor. Windsor may be the first entity north of the border, aside from the CNIB, to put the low-energy devices on its walls.
The road ahead won’t necessarily be smooth, Best said.
“The biggest hitch right now that I deal with is attitude. We’re going through such rapid changes in society that business operators, employers are having a hard time understanding the technologies,” he said.
“A lot of times, even though the company may have an inclusive strategy, middle management or frontline management might be resistant because they’re afraid it will impact their productivity.
David Best – Image courtesy of Toronto Star
David Best, a former IBM web developer, has just helped usher in the first pilot system in Canada created specifically to help visually impaired people navigate the indoors.
“For large organizations, when you consider the amount of effort that goes into providing guides for blind people, the payoff is huge,” he added.
Best, who had been completely blind since age 20, has never let adversity deter him. A computer science graduate in 1978, he had been warned the field “was not an appropriate career path for me — so I did it anyway, because I was told I couldn’t.”
iBeacons cost $20 to $30 a pop, and average out to $10 each if bought in bulk, he said.
As the population ages, the number of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted will likely spike by 30 per cent, said Len Baker, executive director of CNIB Ontario.
He points out the everyday possibilities of iBeacons, from identifying which items a grocery store aisle contains to informing users about a restaurant’s Braille menu.
Since a large portion of our customers are blind and visually impaired, we thought that a number of you would be interested to hear some blind travel advice. Stephanie Green is a blind freelance writer, braille transcriber and ex-archeologist, who has travelled extensively all over the world. In the article below she gives 5 useful tips for blind travel, including technology recommendations and advice on planning ahead. She also has important points to make about becoming an advocate for your own disability, what blind travel is like around the world, and what it is to be a blind traveler. Read on to hear Stephanie’s advice for blind travel.
5 Tips for Visually Impaired Travelers
Since the age of five, I’ve been an avid traveler.
My decision to become an archaeologist like my hero Indiana Jones led me to drag my parents on far-flung adventures, clambering over ruins and hunting for dinosaurs.
And although I discovered in later years that archeology and blindness do not a make for an easy career, my love of travel never abated.
I was born with achromatopsia – a rare genetic condition where my retina contains no cone cells. I’m completely colour blind, severely short-sighted (considered legally blind), and have no depth perception. Still, I’ve traveled solo, with tour groups, and with my husband throughout New Zealand and all over the world.
From my experiences, I’ve compiled following five tips for visually impaired travelers:
1. Rent a Campervan
If you’re travelling with someone who can drive, consider hiring a campervan. You can arrange the space to suit your needs, so you’ll easily be able to find your things. Your companion drives while you chill out. Or (in my case) your companion – in a brief moment of insanity – allows you to take the wheel and you promptly glide the vehicle towards a tree.
Frequent stops at interesting places along the way alleviate the boredom of long-distance driving. You don’t worry about the minefield of problems with public transport, and you’re not sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings every night. Make sure to pack good music.
2. Travel Connected
Internet cafés don’t provide adequate zoom or speech technology for vision impaired users, so if you can’t travel without the internet, you’ll need to bring your own laptop, cables, wireless unit, and software. I’m never without my laptop when I travel. It’s imperative to check out useful sites like Matador before I hit my next destination.
I use Zoomtext software, which gives me customisable magnification and font/colour programs. I can change the look of the screen and the font and icon size to whatever I want.
Zoomtext has audio features, but they’re not as good as programs like JAWS, which is designed especially for fully-blind computer users.
Since decent large print city maps are nearly impossible to come by, I simply enlarge Google maps on my screen, although JAWS sometimes has difficulty with map programs.
3. Consider a Tour Group
Blind travelers have to take additional care when planning travel: sourcing routes through cities and across countries, locating adequate facilities, and booking special guided tours. With a tour group, you don’t worry about most of this.
Transport, accommodation, sightseeing – it’s all taken care of. Many tour group leaders have some disability awareness training and will assist you with specific needs. There are tour companies who specialise in blind tours (look on Disabled Travelers or ask your local blindness institute for advice).
I’m a social person, so mixing coach tours with solo travel helps me meet new and interesting people, and takes the hassle out of planning certain legs of my trip. I prefer good old fashioned budget backpacking tours, and I’ve found companies like Tucan Travel, Topdeck Tours and Kumuka friendly, helpful, and encouraging.
4. Plan Ahead to Touch
Rob Gardner, a retired engineer, was travelling to Greece and wanted – more than anything – to see the Parthenon. The only problem was that Rob’s completely blind, and the Parthenon sits behind a scaffold and fence where no tourist is allowed to enter.
So he wrote to his local Greek consulate, and they liaised with the Greek government and granted Rob special permission to cross the fence and stand inside the Parthenon, touch the stones, and walk where no tourist has walked for a hundred years.
Many museums and art galleries develop special tours for the blind, where objects from the collection can be touched. These have to be booked in advance, especially for famous museums like the Louvre and the British Museum.
If you want a unique experience over and above the average traveller, try one of these tours.
5. Inform and Educate About Blindness
I know that many people who are blind prefer to keep their disability private, and I totally respect and understand their reasons for this. Ignorant people treat us like we’re crippled, deaf, and / or stupid even though the only thing wrong with us is that our eyes don’t work properly.
I’ve heard horror stories of airlines forcing blind passengers to sit in wheelchairs while staff members push them between connecting flights. There are numerous cases of airlines rejecting blind passengers after they’re assumed to be a safety risk.
Despite the limitations placed on blind travellers – not by themselves, but by society – I always inform others about my disability. I tick the box at the airline saying ‘blind passenger‘ and the staff make extra certain I’m in the right place. When using public transport, someone will help me onto the correct train, and will often give me a discount.
In many areas of the world, a blind person walking the street is a rare sight. Be prepared for curious questions, and use your travels to educate others about disabilities.
Many people from poor areas do not understand how a westerner can still be blind – their neighbours wear glasses or have cataracts removed and their eyesight is cured. I’m always encouraged by friendly locals to try on their glasses. I smile and say thank you and try to explain that my condition is incurable.
Above all, being a blind traveller is all about seeing the world in your own way. Without sight, I’ll never have the same experiences as a normal traveller. But my experiences so far have been awesome, and any blind person can find their way in the world and create their own memorable travel stories.
At Seable we specialise in blind travel. We take care of the transport, accommodation and excursions, leaving you free to do the most important thing: enjoy your holiday. Click here to find out more about our holidays, or call us at +44(0) 207 749 4866.
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