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.
Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.
The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca. We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED. I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.
So here is the third and final part of our trip to Thailand:
After making eggs for breakfast we said our goodbyes to the owners who had made us feel so welcome and started the 3-half hour journey back to Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped for food at a village restaurant and had local Thai dishes and watched the storm that was happening outside. It was a great day for ravelling as it rained all day. We eventually arrived at our destination and had the afternoon free to explore the city of Chiang Mai. It was a massive city with lots to explore including a blind Thai massage place. This of course was something that we had to go to and it was brilliant.
Picked up at 6.30am we went in a mini bus with the company Dumbo and we drove for 1 hour up into the mountains of Chiang Mai to see elephants. It was my most favourite part of the trip, they were free and happy and it was an absolute privilege to get to be near such fantastic creatures. It is something that we would absolutely love for our clients to experience. We did half a day trip, which we felt was more than enough time to get to see the elephants and they also provided a yummy lunch before they drove us back to our accommodation.
After packing up and freshening up we made our way to Chiang Mai train station and said bye to Jimi who was a brilliant tour guide. He was so knowledgeable and attentive during the whole trip. We then boarded the overnight train back to Bangkok.
Arriving early in the morning we were met by a member of Nutty adventures team who took us to the Hotel De’Moc which was a lovely surprise. We had a free day to rest and then get ready to meet everybody to start the Southern part of the trip.
So, we spent the day resting by the beautiful hotel pool, getting excited to meet the group later that evening. We met them all at 6pm and they took us for a lovely local meal that evening and it was a great way for us all to get to know each other. We all went to bed very excited knowing that the next day we get to explore southern Thailand.
Overall I think that Northern Thailand was fantastic with so much to offer to everybody. It is very accessible in many ways and I can’t wait to bring clients to Thailand. It was a trip of a lifetime and one that I believe many would find it hard to beat.
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.
The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca. We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMAPIRED. I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.
ASo here is our story of our trip to Thailand:
Arriving at Heathrow airport, we sat and went through the incredible itinerary that Nutty adventures had sent us. They are the fantastic company that are going to show Seable what Thailand had to offer as an accessible destination.
ABOUT NUTTY’S ADVENTURE
Nutty’s Adventures brings together a mixture of high-quality cycling tours, mountain treks and river-based adventures throughout Southeast Asia.
Their philosophy is to minimize the environmental and social impact of tourism activities, whilst providing opportunities for visitors to responsibly contribute to the well-being of the local communities.
Nutty’s Adventures is a new style of tour operator and a specialist in CBT, Community-Based Tourism. Nutty‘s Adventures offers all types of responsible travel, green eco-adventure activities and volunteer work holidays.
Specialize in Community-Based Travel (CBT) that allows tourists to have a closer connection to local people while directly experiencing their lifestyles and cultural traditions.
They are a tour operator situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, and their well-trained English-speaking guides will provide you with remarkable experiences that you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life. Nutty’s Adventures offers a wide variety of 3-day excursions and we also love the challenge of organizing unique tailor-made tours for the individual needs of families, charities, businesses and tour groups.
So, as you can see in the last sentence, ‘they love the challenge of organising unique tailor-made tours’ and here at Seable we love everything unique tailor-made for our clients. We set off on our 13-hour flight with anticipation of what was to come over the next three weeks. We flew with Malaysia air and we both thought the flight was fantastic. Comfy seats, great food and a brilliant entertainment system including so many audio books/films, the 13 hours flew by-literally.
Arriving in Bangkok, it was 9pm there time and we were excited to drop our bags off and see what the city centre had to offer; and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere was electric with many people fully enjoying what the street food had to offer. As did we, and we probably got carried away with wanting to try something from every stall. After tasting each delicacy, finally, our bodies were feeling the effects of travelling and we set off to our hotel to get some rest. We were staying in the Hotel De’Moc and it was lovely, big accessible rooms with a great balcony. Excited with the knowledge that the next day we started our adventure with Nutty and the team we said goodnight.
Waking up full of excitement we planned our day ready to meet a member of the team at 6pm. Breakfast in the hotel was great.
We wanted to check out Bangkok city in the day time, to see if it is something we can include into our trip for our clients. It did not disappoint-under the sunshine the little streets were wonderful, the smells of the food cooking in all the little street food stalls mixed with the sound of the street vendors, was something you must experience. There were also many stalls selling fantastic clothing for super prices and as a girl I can say that I took advantage of this situation and bought some lovely things, including some amazing trousers for only 100 baht-about £2.50.
We set off back to the hotel and waited eagerly to meet the team. Nun was the lady who would be spending the next 2 days with us. She went through what we would be doing for the next couple of days and told us what was a must-see in our last evening in Bangkok. We said bye and set off to Chinatown and personally it was my favourite evening in Bangkok. The atmosphere was electric with lots of people walking around the many streets of Chinatown. As we walked along, we tried food from as many stalls as we could and it was all so yummy. After we had eaten way too much food, we got a tuk tuk back to the hotel. Tuk tuk’s are fantastic for getting around the city quickly, inexpensive and a great experience.
Meeting Nun at 8am we had breakfast and then made our way to Bangkok train station. After a short wait, we boarded to train to Ayutthaya. The train was a typical Thai train, with big old seats, fans in the ceiling and had many people walking up and down the aisles selling food. We bought some mango and watched Bangkok pass up by as we travelled for 1 half hours to central Thailand.
Arriving in Ayutthaya we got in a traditional Tuk Tuk and went to visit Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The whole place felt incredibly peaceful, with classical music being played through speakers throughout the grounds, birds singing and the sound of the water.
After the Palace, we took the tuk tuk to Baan Koh Kerd and had a village tour, trying out local delicacies and meeting the community. It was amazing to get to experience their way of life.
That evening we stayed in a Homestay that was located on the river. It was a very traditional house on stilts, that had basic amenities but was perfect for what we needed. The owner of the home made us a wonderful traditional dinner and we ate it on the terrace overlooking the river.
To be continued…..
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
Make Way For Munich: The Most Accessible City in Europe?
Now is the perfect time of year to take a European city break: the lull between Christmas and spring tends to be one of the quietest times for tourists to travel overseas, and the chilly weather is perfect for wrapping up warm, exploring those famous sites, and drinking hot chocolate on bustling promenades. Thinking of taking a last-minute city break this winter but unsure of where you want to go? You may be lured by the romance of Paris, but its old and dated metro system is an accessibility nightmare (the same can sadly be said for London’s underground) and the cobbled streets of Rome are a nightmare if you are travelling in a heavy electric wheelchair. That doesn’t mean that these cities aren’t accessible with a little planning, but they might not be the ideal first choice for a last minute break. For an easy and hassle free accessible break, why not discover accessible Munich? Its old world charm is coupled with the kind of German efficiency that makes accessible travel here a breeze:
Accessible Public Transport
Discover Munich’s accessible bus
Unlike most other European cities, most than 90% of the underground system in Munich is completely accessible, with access to the stations being entirely barrier free. Whilst the system isn’t extensive (comprising of two lines: the U Bahn (urban line) or S Bahn (suburban line) it goes to all of the major sites you would wish to visit and is a perfectly adequate and affordable way of getting around for a long weekend. If you wish to travel somewhere that is not accessible via the underground trains then the Munich public transport system also features buses and trams. All of the buses in the city are accessible via ramps to the rear doors. The tram system is currently undergoing a modernisation process, so not all of the trams are accessible, but approximately 50% of them are (so far) so if you need to get somewhere on a tram route then it is possible, if slightly inconvenient, to just wait until an accessible tram arrives. Getting around in Munich is perfectly possible then, but where should you be getting around to?
Interesting and Enjoyable Attractions
Augustiner – Keller. Discover Accessible Munich
Munich is an ancient city at the heart of Germany, and one with a rich history, meaning that there are plenty of tourist attractions worth visiting. The famous BMW museum and factory makes for a fascinating visit, and is proud to be fully accessible, as is the Olympic Park: host of the 1972 Olympic games which were sadly largely overshadowed by what is now known as the Munich Massacre. If you are interested in exploring the darker period of German history, under Nazi rule, then you can reach the Dachau concentration camp (the first camp the Nazi’s built) via accessible transportation, and the historic site is also largely accessible when you arrive. Less interested in history and more interested in fun? Munich is infamous for being home to over 400 different beerhalls, and the vast majority of these are proud to be fully accessible. For ease and convenience, why not try the Augustinekeller, which is situated right next door to the central station, and is fully accessible.
Perfectly Practical Considerations
Of course, disabled travellers also need to consider the practical aspects of their breaks, including the availability of decent healthcare, should something go wrong, and the accessibility of the airport. The healthcare in Germany is highly regarded as being amongst the best in the world, and whilst it is always recommended that you travel with your own health insurance (particularly when you have pre-existing conditions) our membership of the European Union (for as long as that lasts) means that with a valid E111 card, your treatment here is free. And as for the airport? Well it’s time to think of that clichéd German efficiency again, because Munich airport is fully accessible and boasts a wide array of excellent transport links into the city, making it easy for travellers with accessibility concerns to take a last minute trip without having to spend hours worrying about how they will get from A to B. So, Discover Accessible Munich!
“This is an article sent in by Sally Dacre”
Holidays for partially sighted and blind travellers.
We have just returned from one of the best trip of the year and possibly in the history of Seable.
Let’s hear it from the participants:
Stacey: I had such an amazing time in Iceland. Did amazing things, saw amazing sights and met amazing people! Thanks for making a great time lovelies ❤️.
Warren: Last week I had an absolutely fantastic time in Iceland, a really beautiful, unique and strange country, on a Victa Milton Keynes trip with a group of people who gelled fantastically well, it was a pleasure spending the week with them. I have had so many unforgettable experience is, being absolutely drenched and freezing cold on Europe’s largest glacier, on a day when most other ttreks were cancelled, visiting some spectacular scenery and landscapes such as going behind a waterfall, visiting what must be the worlds largest warm, outdoor bath, the blue lagoon, smelling lots of smelly sulphur pits, seeing some active geysers, going to The worlds largest penis museum that did not disappoint me and much more. I was lucky enough to try some unique food, the fermented shark tasted like blue cheese but 100 times more intense, puffin, reindeer burger and much more. It is definitely a country I want to go back to and I went with a group of people I want to keep in touch with
Lucy: My Icelandic adventure with the most amazing people! Can’t thank Victa Milton Keynes and Seable Disabled Holidays enough for this amazing trip! Will never forget some of the beautiful things i’ve seen!
Rachel: Iceland was amazing with the best people <3
Alex: I’m jotting this down in the car on the way back at the airport. It’s been an amazing week in Iceland and seems a shame be over. We’ve seen some of the most amazing sights, and experienced unbelievable adventures. But the thing that’s made this trip is the group we were with. I was asked the other day is it hard to volunteer and when your out with people like this never!
Thank you for having me and letting me join in the fun!
Some shots of the trip:
tactile map of iceland
Read about disabled holidays with Seable through The GoDo See Buy part of Big Issue Magazine.
You can read the full article here about our wide range of accessible sport and leisure activity for disabled holidays: scuba diving in the Mediterranean; quad biking; 4×4 driving on Mount Etna; gastronomic delights, wine tasting, olive harvesting and so much more.
We are so glad and honoured to be included in the magazine that has inspired other street papers in more than 120 countries, leading a global self-help revolution.
The Big Issue is a magazine sold by homeless and long-term unemployed people. Vendors buy copies for £1.25 and sell for £2.50. They are working, not begging.
Since The Big Issue was launched in 1991, they have helped thousands of vulnerable people take control of their lives. The Big Issue currently work with around 2000 individuals across the UK offering them the opportunity to earn a legitimate income; to ‘help them to help themselves’.
Over the past two decades the magazine has become synonymous with challenging, independent journalism, and renowned for securing exclusive interviews with the most elusive of superstars. It currently circulates around 100,000 copies every week.
Last year alone The Big Issue put more than £5million in the pockets of the vendors, releasing them from a dependence on handout and providing an alternative to begging.
Earning an income is the first step on the journey away from poverty and The Big Issue Foundation, a registered charity, exists to link vendors with vital support and services.
Visit www.bigissue.com for more information.
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.
Discover the blind travel experience through theblindjournalist review.
Mohammed Salim Patel is a blind young man from Blackburn, who has been blogging as ‘The Blind Journalist’ on blind travel for several years.
Mohammed suffers from a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. His passion and enthusiasm in communication foster him to attend First Class BA Hons International Journalism degree from the University Of Central Lancashire in Preston. His blind condition, strongly influenced Mohammed’s outlook on life and gives him the motivation to succeed regardless of the obstacles which come on his way.
Mohammed has travelled within Seable Holidays in the last trip organized in Sicily: “Seable Disabled Holidays provides the most authentic experience possible that you wouldn’t get through any other travel agency or tour operator.”
He collected different opinion about the journey within his travel mates: “Seable Disabled Holidays are always prepared to tailorlor your holiday to suit you and your needs. All the staff are very friendly and understanding. You do not feel as if you’re disabled because they make sure you are treated as normal and that you get to do what you want. They will fulfil any dietary or religious requirements you have and do everything in their power to make sure you have the best time with no stress.”
Rosie Johnston, 27, a blind lady from Epsom, London said:“I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday in Sicily. It was a fantastic experience. The Seable staff were very helpful, friendly and informative. I will definitely go on a holiday with Seable again and highly recommend them.”
Furthermore, Mohammed was interested in understanding the people and the mission behind the organization, for this reason he interviewed the founder and general manager of the company: “Damiano La Rocca, 29, from Catania, Italy came up with the idea to provide accessible active holidays, to those with physical or sensorial disabilities, because he wanted to fulfil a life-long dream. “
Damiano said: “My Dad is a scuba-diving instructor. He taught me that in life, you have to accept the challenge. It was that sentiment that drove me to set up Seable Disabled Holidays. Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. We enable people with limited mobility, impaired vision or deafness to easily participate in life-changing experiences through sporting, cultural and gastronomic activities in new and interesting destinations. Our holidays are tailored for each person and we guarantee a stress-free booking process while providing local knowledge that you need in order to enjoy the holiday to the fullest.”
One of Damiano’s visions was to work with various organisations: “We collaborate with local and international charities to guarantee the maximum level of knowledge and experience. Our partners, aim to make a difference in the world by catering exclusively for people with disabilities.“
Although Seable has only been running for a few years, the organisation has achieved a lot. Seable has a portfolio of achievement that includes two Guinness World Records. Both were in deep-sea diving. The first was in 2007 when a Paraplegic man reached 59 metres underwater. The second was in 2009 when a blind girl reached 41 metres underwater.
On this topic, Damiano said: “Our aim is to improve confidence and skills for life, challenging perceptions of disabilities and blindness. Our emphasis is always on high quality, multi-sensory experiences.”
Aside from scuba-diving, 4×4 off road driving, going to the top of Europe’s highest active volcano; Mount Etna, Mediterranean olive oil making and tactile museum visits; Seable have a whole list of activities they offer, all of which are completely accessible and competitively priced.
Read the full article here.
Our Disabled Holiday Accommodation
For today’s blogpost, we thought we would focus on some of the disabled holiday accommodation we offer to our guests. We have a great range of luxurious disabled holiday accommodation, from villas to apartments to hotels, all of which are surrounded by magnificent Italian scenery, and have either a pool or beach access. All of our accommodation has been inspected, and assessed fully compatible for the visually impaired and wheelchair users. Read on for more details about some of the disabled holiday accommodation we offer.
Villa del Palme, Acitrezza
Nestled amongst pine trees and citrus groves, Villa delle Palme offers the best of location with all of Sicily’s beauty at your doorstep. Acitrezza is one of Sicily’s most sought after addresses, being home to the Islands of Ciclopi legends and all the village’s natural’surrounding beauty. It is a short drive from Catania City, and only 40 minutes drive from Taormina and Etna. There is a swimming pool and BBQ facilities in the expansive garden, and it is only 110 yards from the beach.
In terms of accessibility, Villa delle Palme has been fitted especially with wider doorways and accessible wet rooms. It also has hoists, electric beds and scooters for hire.
You can find its website here. You can also see more photos, and read reviews, on Tripadvisor and Airbnb.
Grand Hotel Faraglioni
This 4 star hotel, situated on the seafront of Acitrezza, offers guests comfort and hospitality that only a top rated hotel can give. A Lobby-bar where guests can relax and have a cocktail at any time of the day. Guests have exclusive, private access to the “solarium” and to the sea in front of the hotel. Facilities include sun loungers, deck chairs and beach umbrellas.
Accessibility wise, rooms come equipped with wider doorways and accessible wetrooms, and a range of electric beds, hoists and scooters. Highly qualified staff also be at your disposal to ensure your stay is flawless. There is excellent service at all times and assistance with the choice of sightseeing, special events, guided tours, travel itineraries, and transfer to and from the airport etc.
You can find its website here. Find more photos and read reviews on Tripadvisor here, and Expedia here.
A delightful B&B set right on the sea promenade, La Terrazza is less than 5 minutes’ walk from Aci Castello town centre. It boasts air-conditioned rooms, an outdoor pool and free Wi-fi. Every morning, you are served an Italian breakfast of local pastries, fresh juice and coffee, whilst enjoying the sea views from the terrace.
Rooms at La Terrazza are clean, comfortable and modern, and come with a TV, fridge and tiled floors. Some overlook the sea, while the others have garden views.
In summer, guests can enjoy relaxing moments at the partner beach nearby, while the Acireale thermal spa is 5 km away. There is also a poolside bar, and the owner provides live music at least once a week at the pool.
The staff are friendly and accommodating, and will be happy to help with whatever you might need. A shuttle service to/from Catania-Fontanarossa Airport is available on request.
Find more photos and read reviews on Tripadvisor here, and Booking.com here.
Hopefully this post has given you a greater insight into some of the disabled holiday accommodation we offer, and the various accessible features of the locations we have selected. If you have any questions about our disabled holiday accommodation, please contact us by email or call us at +44(0) 207 749 4866.
Blind Travel Advice
Since a large portion of our customers are blind and visually impaired, we thought that a number of you would be interested to hear some blind travel advice. Stephanie Green is a blind freelance writer, braille transcriber and ex-archeologist, who has travelled extensively all over the world. In the article below she gives 5 useful tips for blind travel, including technology recommendations and advice on planning ahead. She also has important points to make about becoming an advocate for your own disability, what blind travel is like around the world, and what it is to be a blind traveler. Read on to hear Stephanie’s advice for blind travel.
5 Tips for Visually Impaired Travelers
Since the age of five, I’ve been an avid traveler.
My decision to become an archaeologist like my hero Indiana Jones led me to drag my parents on far-flung adventures, clambering over ruins and hunting for dinosaurs.
And although I discovered in later years that archeology and blindness do not a make for an easy career, my love of travel never abated.
I was born with achromatopsia – a rare genetic condition where my retina contains no cone cells. I’m completely colour blind, severely short-sighted (considered legally blind), and have no depth perception. Still, I’ve traveled solo, with tour groups, and with my husband throughout New Zealand and all over the world.
From my experiences, I’ve compiled following five tips for visually impaired travelers:
1. Rent a Campervan
If you’re travelling with someone who can drive, consider hiring a campervan. You can arrange the space to suit your needs, so you’ll easily be able to find your things. Your companion drives while you chill out. Or (in my case) your companion – in a brief moment of insanity – allows you to take the wheel and you promptly glide the vehicle towards a tree.
Frequent stops at interesting places along the way alleviate the boredom of long-distance driving. You don’t worry about the minefield of problems with public transport, and you’re not sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings every night. Make sure to pack good music.
2. Travel Connected
Internet cafés don’t provide adequate zoom or speech technology for vision impaired users, so if you can’t travel without the internet, you’ll need to bring your own laptop, cables, wireless unit, and software. I’m never without my laptop when I travel. It’s imperative to check out useful sites like Matador before I hit my next destination.
I use Zoomtext software, which gives me customisable magnification and font/colour programs. I can change the look of the screen and the font and icon size to whatever I want.
Zoomtext has audio features, but they’re not as good as programs like JAWS, which is designed especially for fully-blind computer users.
Since decent large print city maps are nearly impossible to come by, I simply enlarge Google maps on my screen, although JAWS sometimes has difficulty with map programs.
3. Consider a Tour Group
Blind travelers have to take additional care when planning travel: sourcing routes through cities and across countries, locating adequate facilities, and booking special guided tours. With a tour group, you don’t worry about most of this.
Transport, accommodation, sightseeing – it’s all taken care of. Many tour group leaders have some disability awareness training and will assist you with specific needs. There are tour companies who specialise in blind tours (look on Disabled Travelers or ask your local blindness institute for advice).
I’m a social person, so mixing coach tours with solo travel helps me meet new and interesting people, and takes the hassle out of planning certain legs of my trip. I prefer good old fashioned budget backpacking tours, and I’ve found companies like Tucan Travel, Topdeck Tours and Kumuka friendly, helpful, and encouraging.
4. Plan Ahead to Touch
Rob Gardner, a retired engineer, was travelling to Greece and wanted – more than anything – to see the Parthenon. The only problem was that Rob’s completely blind, and the Parthenon sits behind a scaffold and fence where no tourist is allowed to enter.
So he wrote to his local Greek consulate, and they liaised with the Greek government and granted Rob special permission to cross the fence and stand inside the Parthenon, touch the stones, and walk where no tourist has walked for a hundred years.
Many museums and art galleries develop special tours for the blind, where objects from the collection can be touched. These have to be booked in advance, especially for famous museums like the Louvre and the British Museum.
If you want a unique experience over and above the average traveller, try one of these tours.
5. Inform and Educate About Blindness
I know that many people who are blind prefer to keep their disability private, and I totally respect and understand their reasons for this. Ignorant people treat us like we’re crippled, deaf, and / or stupid even though the only thing wrong with us is that our eyes don’t work properly.
I’ve heard horror stories of airlines forcing blind passengers to sit in wheelchairs while staff members push them between connecting flights. There are numerous cases of airlines rejecting blind passengers after they’re assumed to be a safety risk.
Despite the limitations placed on blind travellers – not by themselves, but by society – I always inform others about my disability. I tick the box at the airline saying ‘blind passenger‘ and the staff make extra certain I’m in the right place. When using public transport, someone will help me onto the correct train, and will often give me a discount.
In many areas of the world, a blind person walking the street is a rare sight. Be prepared for curious questions, and use your travels to educate others about disabilities.
Many people from poor areas do not understand how a westerner can still be blind – their neighbours wear glasses or have cataracts removed and their eyesight is cured. I’m always encouraged by friendly locals to try on their glasses. I smile and say thank you and try to explain that my condition is incurable.
Above all, being a blind traveller is all about seeing the world in your own way. Without sight, I’ll never have the same experiences as a normal traveller. But my experiences so far have been awesome, and any blind person can find their way in the world and create their own memorable travel stories.
You can find the original article here: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/five-tips-for-visually-impaired-travelers/
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