For this week’s blog, we are sharing a blog by Elin, a young visually impaired blogger who had been on holiday with Seable to Cyprus. Below is Elin’s experience.
I was recently lucky enough to spend the week in Cyprus on a trip organised by VICTA Children and Seable Holidays. Along with nine other visually impaired people and four sighted guides, I spent a week making the most of everything Cyprus has to offer; from sun bathing to pottery making we did it all!
Though it could appear daunting to go on holiday with a group of people you may never have even met before, I can say from personal experience that VICTA and Seable are so welcoming and friendly that the atmosphere of their trips are great from the get go. The ethos of VICTA trips is to encourage as much independence as possible, so while sighted volunteers are on hand to guide where needed, they also encourage us to help ourselves and each other as much as possible.
Upon arriving in sunny Cyprus after a stress free flight, we made our way to the hotel and spent the rest of that day orienting ourselves around the building, our rooms and most importantly the pool, before having dinner at a local restaurant.
Our first full day in Cyprus was our chance to try some arts and crafts. We visited a local centre where we learned from local artists all about glass making, tapestry, mosaics and much more. We also were able to try our hands at a bit of pottery and magnet making ourselves. Personally, the pottery instructor told me that he’d never met anybody as terrible at pottery as me, so I won’t be taking up that career any time soon but I’m glad to say that others in the group had better luck. We finished off the day with an afternoon on the beach and more wonderful food.
The next day was all about Paphos, as we explored the archaeological park in the morning and roamed the harbor in the afternoon. This was personally one of my favourite days of the trip as I was just blown away learning about the history of the ancient ruins and local mythology. The House of Dionysus, one of the ruins we visited, was extremely accessible having braille information and small scale tactile representations of the mosaics. That evening myself and a few others decided to sample the local delicacy of maze, which consists of lots of small dishes being brought out to share among the table. The food was stunning, though I think we were all more than full by the end. I believe we got up to ten courses all in all!
The following morning we waved goodbye to Paphos and made our way to Troodos where we’d spend the rest of the week,not forgetting to stop for a wine tasting on the way. The afternoon was spent hiking on Troodos mountain lead by a local guide. The weather was fantastic and the nature beautiful, the views weren’t half bad either so I’m told 😉
For our last full day in Cyprus we visited a local botanical garden, a sweets factory and rose factory. The botanical gardens were again beautiful, full of all sorts of fantastic wildlife. The sweets shop was a sweet-tooth heaven; jams, marmalade and sweets of all kind, all home made and made from local produce. And of course the rose factory was fascinating. Not only did it smell beautiful, but the owner who came to speak with us about her business was obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about her work and was extremely accommodating in letting us feel and sample all of the different products they produce. I just couldn’t resist spending my remaining euros in their gift shop and I got some lovely suveneers.
All in all it was a very relaxed trip, full of fun and laughter. I can definitely say that I’ve come away from the week with great memories and really good friends. I would absolutely recommend VICTA and Seable to anyone for their services, information about which I’ll post below.
Who are VICTA and Seable?
VICTA (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action) are a national charity serving visually impaired children and young adults and their families. They organise residential weekends and international trips throughout the year that are intended to raise the independence and confidence of young VI people. I’ve been attending VICTA events since I was around 15 and have made countless friends and made fantastic memories through the experiences I’ve had with them. They plan activities for a range of age-groups, from family weekends for young children and their families to international trips for 18 to 30 years old like the one I attended to Cyprus. Check out their website for more information: http://www.victa.org.uk
Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. They can arrange trips to a number of locations including Sicily, Slovenia and Roam and will tailor your holiday to your spesific access needs. They are an invaluable service for those of us who have disabilities but who also want to see the world by going on fun, interactive and relaxed trips where your disability won’t stop you from doing anything. So far I’ve attended two Seable trips including the recent one to Cyprus, but fully intend to go on many more and would recommend anyone who likes to travel and who has a disability to consider them before booking your next holiday because I promise you won’t regret it. Click on the link below to check out their website: http://www.seable.co.uk
You can get in touch with Elin @ firstname.lastname@example.org. When emailing, please put ‘See My Way’ in the subject line which will help her respond to you sooner.
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
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.
The Paralympics are always an amazing time for disability and visually impaired sports. We see amazing athletes achieving incredible things and it helps to remove the perceived limitations many people believe disabled people have. If you’ve been inspired by any of our amazing Paralympians during the Games and want to be more active , here’s a few great options for getting into sport if you have a visual impairment.
Blind Cricket was invented in Melbourne 1922 by two blind factory workers who created a game using a tin can that they’d filled with rocks. This makes it one of the oldest visually impaired sports and also one with the a fantastic origin story. The Victorian Blind Cricket Association was founded that same year and the first ground for Blind Cricket was built in Melbourne in 1928.
The game is played with a larger ball that has been filled with ball bearings. This allows partially sighted players to see the ball and fully blind players to hear it. The wickets are also larger and there are numerous other rules to aid players in relation to their level of sight loss. Cricket is a wonderfully social game with a storied history, and if it seems like a choice for you then you can find a list of clubs in the UK here.
Football has been very progressive in regards to incorporating visually impaired people in the sport. If you listen to people shouting from the terraces it seems they’ve been employing blind referees for years *ba dum tshhh*
Joking aside, football is one of the UK’s most played visually impaired sports. The game is played with a smaller ball and on an indoor pitch. It’s usually played 5-a side, with 4 blind or partially sighted outfield players and 1 sighted goalkeeper. The Football Association run the National Blind Football League and British Blind Sport organise the Partially Sighted Football League. There are clubs all around the country so check their websites and you’ll be lacing up your boots in no time!
Swimming requires very little alteration to make it accessible (for example, Paralympic VI Swimmers compete to the same rules as Olympic athletes) which makes it one of the easiest visually impaired sports to get into. The most important thing in regards to swimming is the technique, and if that is correct then the swimmer should be able to swim lengths of the pool even if they are partially sighted. So if the teaching of swimming is correct then in most cases it doesn’t matter if the swimmer has a visual impairment.
British Blind Sport write on their website that “by making small and simple changes, you will be able to include young people with a visual impairment in your mainstream swimming sessions.” And, as as is the case with most things in regards to improved accessibility, “many of the tips you will find here will be beneficial to all the swimmers in your group, not just young people with a visual impairment.”
Cycling is another sport that requires little alteration to make it accessible. All you need is a willing partner and a tandem bike. There are numerous organisations that help both provide tandem bikes and help to make cycle paths as accessible as possible. One good example is sustrans who work nationwide, whilst a local group is Life Cycle, who provide people near Bristol with partners and guided rides of the local area.
Cycling is both an activity that is great for your health and one that is great for relaxation and experiencing nature. The sounds and smells of the countryside and the wind in your hair as you glide through a quiet forest is something that everyone can experience, sighted or not.
Running requires even less than cycling to make it an accessible visually impaired sport. All you need is a guide and you’re good to start eating up those miles. There are numerous great websites like Run England, Guide Running.UK and England Athletics that help train up guide runners and match visually impaired runners with guides. So if you’re visually impaired and want to get into running, or a sighted runner who wants to assist (and get a great training buddy), then start researching!
Blind Golf is very similar to the original sport in that there is a close relationship between two players to get round the course. In sighted golf the player works with a caddy, in blind golf with a guide. The guide may take on a greater role, describing the course and conditions and helping the player line up their shot, but the principle is the same.
As with swimming golf is very much about technique, so a visually impaired player will strike the ball just as cleanly as a sighted player. There are also modifications of the (many, many, many) rules of golf to assist visually impaired players, and if you’d like to find out more about the sport and how to get involved the England and Wales Blind Golf website has some great information.
So if you’ve been inspired by the Paralympics to take up blind or visually impaired sports, make sure you contact one of these great organisations! The Paralympics are amazing to watch on TV, but their real legacy is both helping challenge perceptions of people with disabilities and also helping more people to get active!
p.s. To any wheelchair users reading this, we haven’t forgotten you! Look out for the wheelchair user version of this blog during the Games!
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. Seable 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:
Situated at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a diverse island of extremes. Its history stretches back more than 3,000 years and as a strategic crossroads for southern Europe, it has the legacy of various civilizations which have influenced its way of life, culture, architecture and cuisine. The island is like a vast museum, a testament to the historic Mediterranean civilizations. (more…)
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