Tag Archives: disability community

Disability in the workplace

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

Disability in the workplace

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Disability in the workplace

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Disability in the workplace

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

 

Article written by Rosie Sanderson.

 

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

 

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

 

My Sicilian Trip – By Emma Meade

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Damiano and Francesco of SEABLE

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

L’ Orto dei Semplici

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Acitrezza

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

UZETA Sicilian Bistrò

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

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.

 

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

 

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!

 

The trip

 

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

By Elin

https://seemyway.org/

You can get in touch with Elin @ williamselin5@gmail.com. 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.

 

DAMIANO’s INTERVIEW for THE GUILDHALL SCHOOL of BUSINESS and LAW

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.

 

Discussion:

 

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)

 

 

-Article 1:

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.

 

 

-Article 2:

‘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.

 

 

-Article 3:

”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)

 

 

-Article 4:

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.

 

 

-Advice/recommendation

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.

 

Conclusion:

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.

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 2

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 second part of our trip to Thailand:

Day 4

 

We woke at 6am to go a see a celebration with the monks in the local temple.  This was a very spiritual experience and something that I felt very lucky to be part of. We then went back to the home stay to have breakfast. After breakfast, we got picked up outside the house by a longtail boat and went on a boat cruise to the Island City of Ayutthaya.  The boat was great to feel the breeze and splashes of water on such a hot day and to also get to see the different houses all along the riverside.  After 30-minute boat trip we arrive at our day room, dropped our bags off and headed out on a cycling tour of the Historical Park.  Trust me when I say I was slightly anxious about cycling in 35 degrees but I am so glad that I did it.  It was such a great way to get to visit all the sights around the city.

 

 

After freshening up back in the day room and picked up our bags we headed to the train station-picking up food from the street stalls on the way-we waited for our overnight train to Chiang Mai.  This is where Nun said her goodbyes and saw us off on the train for our 13-hour journey.  She was a fantastic tour guide with great knowledge of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed having her as our tour guide.

 

I have never been on an overnight train before and was unsure as to what to expect but it over exceeded my expectations.  It was new and very clean, with surprisingly comfy beds. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

 

Day 5

 

Arriving in Chiang Mai at half 7 in the morning we were greeted by our next tour guide Jimi.  He then drove us for 3 and half hours to Chiang Khum, stopping on the way to visit local sites.  We went to Amphoe Wang Nuea waterfall and the local hot springs, Mae Kahjan Geyser.  When we arrived at Chiang Khum, went to the local guesthouse where we would be staying that evening, dropped our bags off and headed out to go and visit the local temple and experience the ‘Tai Lue’ culture and way of life.

 

That evening we went to a local’s home and had a traditional ‘kantok’ dinner which is a traditional northern dinner at Baan Tha Sop Van.

 

 

Day 6

 

We woke at 6am and walked into the local village to go and see how the villages work in the morning.  We got to help a woman make her local rice crackers, which I thoroughly enjoyed-albeit I was not very good at it but she was so friendly and smiled through the whole experience. We then walked through the rest of the little village and visited a small local market where we tried sticky rice that had been cooked in bamboo and was Damiano’s favourite from then on.

 

Back at the local guesthouse we had a ‘American breakfast’ and then went back to the house where we had the meal the evening before.  She had invited us back as she asked if she could dress us up in traditional clothing for the ‘Tai Lue’ culture.  This will be something that I will never forget-we were dresses up in the beautiful clothing and I also got some fantastic jewellery place d on me, which was very exciting.  Many locals were there and it then felt like a photo shoot, with us standing, sitting to then us sitting on the bed to being in the kitchen pretending to cook dinner.  Not only was it something that was a once in a life time experience but it was funny.  I felt incredibly lucky to be stood there and with the opportunity we were given.

 

Once we were changed we went downstairs of this wonderful home and they did weaving to make clothing and bags plus much more.  So we got the chance to see how they made the clothes that we had the opportunity to try on.

 

 

Saying good bye to the wonderful people we got in the car and drove up into the mountains to go and visit the Buddha images carved into the cliffs at a cave temple.  This was fantastic and would be brilliant for our clients as it was all touchable and very tactile.

 

We drove to our next home for the evening in Baan Dok Bua, which was a very modern homestay owned by a doctor and a nurse from the local hospital.  They were wonderful friendly people who made us feel right at home.  We quickly got freshened up and changed ready to go on a sunset Gondola cruise on Payao Lake.

 

 

Day 7

 

We woke early for a walk around the local village and we saw a 500 year old tree, which is very special to the village.  After our walk we had breakfast and then set off for a tractor tour of the community and it was a great way for us to see how the village has come to win national awards for the best self-sufficient village economy.  It was clear to see why, from the farmer fields, a family that produced gas from the rice shells and basket weaving.  With the tractor, they then took us up into the mountain and we went on a jungle walk.  The noises from all the insects was incredibly loud.  With hundreds of insects all around, it was a moment where you must take a minute to realise where you are and take it all in.  It was so dense and green and I loved every second.  It would also be such an amazing thing or our clients as the noises of the jungle were just incredible.

 

We had a picnic in the forest which was made by one of the locals for us and we instantly added it onto the list of things for our clients to do.  Fantastic. We then slowly made our way back to the homestay where we cooked dinner together with the owners.  She gave us a basket and some scissors and took her into her garden, where we picked some vegetables and used then in our dinner.  It was so fresh and tasty and amazing to see how they are so self-sufficient.  We had and early night as the next day we were to make our way back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

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.

Travelling with a disability – Public Transports in the UK

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-Travelling with a disability

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

 

Patrick Robert, from Lambeth, is blind and uses his guide dog Rufus to travel around London

 

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.

 

World Down Syndrome Day

Today, March 21st, is the World Down Syndrome Day. A day all about recognising how unique those with the condition are. It is by recognising the contributions they can make to the world, and how much they can really achieve, that we can reduce the stigma surrounding disability.

 

 

Down Syndrome International encourages people across the globe to choose activities and events that will raise awareness of what Down Syndrome is, what it means to have the condition, and how people with Down Syndrome play a vital role in our lives.

 

By understanding the issues those with Down Syndrome face in everyday life, and recognising the steps people can take to help them realise their full potential, a real difference can be made to enrich the lives of those with the condition.

 

Today, as the  World Down Syndrome Day reached its 12th birthday, we hope where the voice of people with Down Syndrome, and those who work and live with them, will grows louder.

 

So, let’s celebrate this day with some amazing videos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Clickability, the Australian website giving people with disabilities a strong consumer voice

If you wanted to find out how good that shop is down the road, there’s a bunch of apps and websites that could help you out. But what about if you have a disability and you need to find out if they have the right facilities to suits you best?

 

People with disabilities living in Victoria and New South Wales (Australia) can now do it, and all thanks to Clickability.

Clickability is a new website funded by two Australian women in Melbourne, with the intent of helping people with disabilities find the help they need. How does it work? Simple, it’s an online directory that allows local disability care and support options to be listed, rated and reviewed.

 

Jenna Moffat and Aviva Beecher Kelk both come from a background as social workers (picture: thecusp.com.au)

 

Dubbed by some a “TripAdvisor for disability support services,” the concept developed by Jenna Moffat and Aviva Beecher Kelk is impressive. Their intent is to target anyone affected by a disability and empower them with a unique chance to be able to pick and choose what service really suits them, rather than having to adapt to whatever is on offer.

 

The source of this idea comes from Beecher and Jenna’s background as social workers. They came up with the idea while after noticing that they kept having to reach out to their professional networks or use Google to find support networks for clients.

 

“We were gatekeeping so much information, I was literally calling people I did my Masters with to ask about homelessness services, for example, or domestic violence services,” and also “We just saw this huge gap there in terms of consumer rights … In this industry, that’s a gap in human rights as well,” said Aviva.

In few words, Clickability places information on disability services all in one place.

 

 

A key point about the startup is that its mission aligns with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a significant social welfare project for people living with disabilities being rolled out by the Australian government.

Aviva added: ‘We just saw this huge gap there in terms of consumer rights … In this industry, that’s a gap in human rights as well.’

Under the NDIS, support services will have to see people with disabilities as customers, she explained.

 

As Aviva pointed out, people with disabilities on the NDIS are in many cases expected to make their own decisions about which support service to choose. “Government money used to go to service providers to distribute services, and it’s now going to individuals to purchase the services that suit themselves,” she explained.

 

 

“Likewise, consumers have to start thinking about themselves as customers. How do I assert my customer rights? How do I articulate what I need? How do I get what I need?”

 

 

Unfortunately, in her view, the information to back up that decision-making is just not there, and it’s certainly not the kind of relevant, reliable peer-generated information that exists in other industries. That’s where Clickability comes in.

 

 

 

To list and rate services is free on Clickability, but subscribers can reply to comments and personalise their page, among other features. The next step in Clickability’s development will be to make it easier to use for visually impaired and blind people.

 

“The big thing for us is how do we make this accessible for people with intellectual disabilities?” says Aviva. “We also collect [reviews] in-person sometimes at conferences and events from people with all sorts of different access needs. It’s really important to us to find a way that everyone can have a voice.”

 

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

10 of the best apps for people with disabilities – on Android

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.

 

Assistive-Touch-Accessible-App

Assistive Touch

[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.

 

Commandr-App-Accessible

Commandr

[Price: Free] 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-App-Accessible

Google TalkBack

[Price: Free] 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-App-Accessible

Google Translate

[Price: Free] 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.

 

Help-Talk-App-Accessible

HelpTalk

[Price: Free] 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-App-Accessible

IFTTT

[Price: Free] 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-App-Accessible

JABtalk

[Price: Free] 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.

 

 

NotNav-App-Accessible

NotNav

[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-App-Accessible

Tecla Access

[Price: Free] 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-App-Accessible

Voice Control

[Price: Free] 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.

 

 

4 Tips for Modifying Your Home for a Person with a Visual Impairment

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.

“Article provided by Jackie Waters”


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