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.
Have a taste of your disabled holidays with Seable, discover how could it be through some of our client’s reviews.
We don’t sell products: our aim is to provide the most valuable experience supported by passion and enthusiasm, believing that our disabled holidays can offer a wide range of exciting activities in order to make your trip unforgettable.
Olga, 22, a partially sighted lady from Milton Keynes, England said: “Thank you for such a wonderful experience and everything that you have done for all of us while we were in Sicily. It is because of you that I tried so many new things. Your support, encouragement and humour in various activities has helped to make this one of the best weeks in my entire life. You have worked SO hard to ensure that everyone had not only a good time and learned about Sicily, its culture and history, but also tried something new. What you do is amazing. Keep it up. You are spreading so much joy and encouragement and I hope that your company will continue to grow. Hopefully see you again soon!”
Moreover, thank’s to our team, primary composed by local guides, you can deeply connect with the essence of your destination: “Amazing experience in Sicily. Some unique activities you wouldn’t find on a generic holiday package. As well as really friendly staff who have grown up in Sicily, which allows them to give great info on the best hidden places to eat and some knowledge on local history / sights you may want to see.” Daniel, 25, a partially sighted young boy from London said.
Rachel, 23, a partially sighted lady from Birmingham, England said: “The Seable team are amazing and very understanding, they knew the best places to take us in Sicily. A few activities we did such as; scuba diving, walking up Mount Etna, honey tasting, olive oil making and visiting an organic farm, were only some of the brilliant experiences but it didn’t stop there, there was always something we would be doing so there was never a dull moment. The team really do go the extra mile to help you in whatever way you need and are always there for a friendly chat if you need to. Can’t wait for the next trip!!”
Mohammed, 21, a blind man from Blackburn, Lancashire said: “I cannot put into words how good the service is provided by Seable Disabled Holidays. I went to Sicily with them in October and I was extremely satisfied with the five star service that was provided. Damiano and his staff ensured I was completely comfortable at all times. Damiano went out of his way on many occasions to help me and meet my requirements. Seable Disabled Holidays are always prepared to Taylor 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. I recommend Seable Disabled Holidays highly. Every excursion that is offered is worth every penny and provides the most authentic experience possible. Don’t take my word for it though, book today and find out for yourself!!”
Tanya, a lovely young daughter of a visually and hearing impaired elderly father from London, said: “Seable and Damiano made it possible to take my visually and hearing impaired elderly father on holiday this year. I could not have done this on my own. They made every effort to make sure we were comfortable and happy. The tour guide Francesco was so helpful with dad and with everything from finding a spa for dad to translating menus. I can’t recommend them highly enough!! Loved Sicily and we will definitely be traveling with Seable again next year.”
We are so proud and happy to hear such lovely feedback, and we want to thank you all for such delicious reviews.
Catania, Sicily is certainly not the best accessible destinations in Italy. Is a beautiful and historic town which offers museums and tourist attractions to all kinds of visitors. However, Catania now provides accessible tour operators, accessible trasport and features disability equipments which ensure both seniors and disabled tourists an enjoyable stay on the sunny Mediterranean sea.
When is the best time to book your holiday? Obviously it depends what sort you want, but in many cases the answer is now. If you look at a graph of when people book and research their holidays, an extraordinary change happens towards the end of December every year. Activity soars from its lowest point of the year to its highest. This remarkable shift happens as many of us, bloated and slightly bored by Christmas, with no work to do and cold grey weather outside, start to think about our summer holidays. We may not book immediately, but we certainly start searching the internet for ideas and prices.
The other day we got a chance to catch up with Damiano La Rocca, the founder of Seable, and a graduate of Accelerator’s Hatchery programme. Damiano recently returned to London, having spent a busy and successful summer in Sicily (his homeland) creating unique holiday experiences for Seable’s first customers.
How were you inspired to start Seable?
I was inspired to create Seable by my father’s charity, LIFE (Life Improvement for Everyone), and the lack of financial support it was receiving. LIFE is a charity that runs a scuba diving program for people with disabilities, which my father started when a good friend of his became paraplegic. It started as a rehabilitation scheme and grew, but has been unable to receive funding. I was motivated to create Seable and turn it into a thriving business and use my father’s services as an outlet for one of the vacation activites. Since its inception two years ago, it has seen growth through much planning and preparation. The first time it was in actual operation was this past summer, where it saw much success.
What does Seable do?
Seable is a social enterprise that organizes holidays for disabled people, primarily those that are blind, deaf, or bound to a wheelchair. Seable provides them with transport and accommodation, but what makes Seable unique is how we tailor each vacation to include exactly what the customer wants and for as long as they would like. We provide activities that the person, despite his or her impairement, can participate in; it ranges from scubadiving and jet skiing to cultural excursions. The main goal of the business is to provide an active vacation for the disabled so they can experience something new and different from their norm, and return with a remarkable story and new skills.
Can you describe some of your best experiences this past summer?
This summer, I was able to host 6 small groups for vacations. These groups ranged in size from a singular person to three or four people. One of the greatest I had was with a totally blind Paralympian. After this silver medalist heard of the different activities he could do while on vacation, he signed up! Because of Seable, he was still able to jet ski, scuba dive, windsurf, experience cultural excursions, and even do a 4×4-driving course! These are all things he wouldn’t have imagined experiencing as a blind man, yet was able to thanks to thanks to my business. Because this guy did his first scuba diving certificate in Sicily, he’s gone ahead and pursued four more scuba diving courses in four months! He’s taken this as a new hobby, a new challenge, and he’s already rebooked with Seable for next year, aiming to break the Guinness world record. Through this, I have been able to show that a holiday can actually change someone’slife. When you see a blind person for the first time windsurfing and he’s so grateful for it, and as long as you’re happy because you’re giving something to him that is invaluable.
Enable magazine is an award – winning disability lifestyle magazine that has joined the list of UK organizations that are working towards helping disabled people live a more independent and accessible lifestyle. This magazine is the best source of information for all the latest updates, beneficial news and interviews, and lots of other exciting and interesting features for the disabled community. (more…)
Situated at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a diverse island of extremes. Its history stretches back more than 3,000 years and as a strategic crossroads for southern Europe, it has the legacy of various civilizations which have influenced its way of life, culture, architecture and cuisine. The island is like a vast museum, a testament to the historic Mediterranean civilizations. (more…)
Air travel on its own is quite a nuisance, but it becomes even more difficult when you’re flying with a disability. Disabled people often report not being treated right and not being provided the facilities to accommodate their needs. EU law clearly specifies the accessibility features that airports should offer, however not all airports are properly following them.
The following tips will help you efficiently plan your journey and make flying with a disability easier.
MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS IF YOU WANT TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT
Just telling your travel agent or airline that you have a particular disability will not be sufficient. You need to clearly explain to them the assistance you will need. It’s also important that you let them know if you are traveling with someone or if you will be on your own.
If you are traveling independently, you might want to request additional support, even if it’s just asking them to keep an eye on you in case something goes wrong. Also make sure you inform the airline at least 48 hours in advance of your flight.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
There are certain things that you have the right to when flying with a disability. If you have a sensory, physical or learning disability which affects your mobility, at European airports you have the right to:
facilities to summon assistance at designated arrival points
assistance to reach check-in
help with registration at check-in
assistance with moving through the airport, including to toilets if required
help with getting on and off the plane
free carriage of medical equipment and up to two items of mobility equipment
a briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
assistance with moving to the toilet on the plane (some planes will have an on-board wheelchair)
someone to meet you off the plane and help you reach connecting flights or the next part of your journey
You also have the right to travel with an assistance dog if you need one, however you will need to follow the rules for pet travel which can be found here.
GETTING YOUR MEDIF
It is important that you check with your airline to see if you will need to show medical clearance. If so, you will need to get a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) and have it signed by your doctor. For this form you will need to show your travel date and flight details. The airline will save your details in their records and automatically make arrangements for you the next time you travel with them.
You may also need a license to take some medicines abroad (e.g. morphine). You can get this from your doctor but it’s best to do it well in advance.
Travel insurance is also very important flying with a disability. You can find out more about the best way to get yourself covered on our Disability Travel Insurance blog post.
If you’re worried about navigating the airport, you can find the design and layout information on their websites (e.g. Heathrow). This way you can find out where important facilities such as check-in desks, accessible toilets and information desks are before you travel. This will reduce stress on the day and help you know what you’re looking for when asking for assistance.
It can also just be handy to know what the options for food and drink are. I mean you don’t want to get a McDonald’s at check in if your favourite is Subway and there’s one in the departure lounge!
AVOID CONNECTING FLIGHTS
Passengers that require a wheelchair to get off board are often made to wait until all the other passengers on board get off. This can be a really long wait, especially on international flights. If you want to avoid all the hassle and waiting, it’s best to book a straight flight to your destination.
On the other hand, some wheelchair passengers often find it really difficult to use aircraft lavatories. For that reason they prefer to use several short flights rather than one long flight. If that’s the case, then make sure that time between your connecting flight is at least 90 minutes so you can comfortably reach the next gate.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 (ah the joys of flying with a disability), so all you can do is pick your preference and plan accordingly.
GETTING THROUGH SECURITY
This can be troublesome, especially for people in a wheelchair. If your chair is bigger than the scanner you will have to have a pat down, but here’s a few things to remember:
You shouldn’t have to leave your chair
You can have this done in private
Your wheelchair will be patted down and scanned separately
Tell people of any problems before beginning – for example if you have certain areas that are sensitive or painful that you don’t want tapped too hard
If you come across a member of staff who doesn’t appear to know what they’re doing, don’t be afraid to tell them and ask for a trained member of staff to help you.
FLYING WITH A WHEELCHAIR
Your wheelchair will have to be checked in, but you’ll be provided with a chair to get around the airport and on to the chair. It’s also best to request an aisle seat on the plane and one as close to the entrance and exit as possible.
If you have an electric wheelchair you’ll need to check what battery type you have and the conditions the airline has on those batteries. The main issue will be if your chair or scooter has a wet acid battery. If this is the case baggage handlers will remove the battery and place it in a special container. It’s always best to check with the airline before you travel so you’re certain about what the rules are for your chair and how early you need to arrive to sort it all out.
We hope these tips will make flying with a disability more pleasant. If you have any other questions that might have been missed out in this blog, please let us know and we will do our best to answer them.
For further information on flying with a disability and any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us. To learn more about our active accessible holidays and Seable, click here.
Air travel on its own is quite a nuisance but it becomes even more difficult for those people who are traveling with a disability. Disabled people often complain about not being treated right and not being provided the right facilities to accommodate their needs. Despite the fact that the EU law clearly specifies the accessibility features that airports should offer, not all airports are properly following them. So it’s best that you make some advance planning along with notifying the airline and the airport of the accommodations they will need to make for you. (more…)
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