Tag Archives: wheelchair users

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.

 

Discover Accessible Munich

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 Accessible Munich

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

Discover Accessible Munich

E111 Card

 

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”

Life in a Wheelchair: Advice from wheelchair users

Life in a wheelchair

Life in a wheelchair is always an extremely difficult thing to come to terms with, both practically and mentally. People may become wheelchair users for all kinds of reasons: an accident, a long-term medical condition, a sudden illness. For everyone this happens to, the sudden and dramatic change in way of life can cause severe feelings of depression, anger and grief. This is a normal reaction: practically everyone who becomes disabled experiences this, but most of those people eventually come to terms with their loss and move forward, rediscovering and reinventing their lives, relationships and happiness. In this blogpost, we look at what wheelchair users from all different walks of life have to say about their own experiences, and what advice they would give to others who are adjusting to life in a wheelchair.

A Positive Attitude

First and foremost, the most important thing to hold on to as part of life in a wheelchair is a positive attitude. Many wheelchairs users stress the importance of a positive attitude as being key to overcoming the challenges in their daily lives. Virali Modi, writer, blogger, and the runner up of Miss Wheelchair India 2014, became a wheelchair user after contracting malaria at the age of 14. In an article for Slate, she writes:

“More than anything, I do believe that living life in a wheelchair is difficult but not impossible. A positive attitude and a smile through tough situations is needed and definitely encouraged. I believe that a handicapped or disabled person is not disabled or handicapped. Disabled or handicapped are sociopaths, psychopaths, murders, rapists, and/or people who lack sympathy, empathy, courage, love, sensitivity, and passion.”

Virali Modi - life in a wheelchair

Virali Modi – Image courtesy of Quora

The superb website Wheelchair LIFE, created and maintained by a wheelchair user, provides a comprehensive, free guide to many aspects of life in a wheelchair, from advice for the newly injured to tips for wheelchair veterans. The most important section on it, according to the writer himself, is his fantastic essay on positive attitude and its importance, which begins with this paragraph:

“The importance of a positive attitude – and its corresponding results – cannot be overstated. This section is first because taking control of your attitude is the most important thing you can do. Attitude is only thing over which we have total control.  We can choose to have a negative attitude or we can choose to have a positive attitude. We can choose to look at the bright side, or we can choose to look at negatives.”

You can read the rest of his essay here – it really drives home the critical importance of attitude for any newly disabled people out there.

Choosing and using a wheelchair

Of course, a central part of life in a wheelchair is using your actual wheelchair. Before you start using one, you need to select a wheelchair which is suited to your own needs and capabilities. Wheelchairs come in many different forms, shapes and sizes: manual, power; rigid, folding; solid back, sling back and so on. In fact, you might use a different wheelchair for different situations: one for everyday use; one for playing sports; one for outdoor adventures. Wheelchair professionals and doctors can help you identify your various needs, and come up with specific types of wheelchairs and accessories to meet those needs.

Penn Woodling, a 46-year old from Bedfordshire, was injured at the age of 17 after diving into an outdoor swimming pool and hitting his head at the bottom of the pool. He was later discovered to have broken his neck at the C5 level and told he would likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Nowadays he lives in Devon, and in between his hobbies of angling and amateur radio, he maintains his excellent website, Tetraplegic Living. The website contains many useful tips and assorted personal stories from his life in a wheelchair, from dietary advice to a guide on disabled driving. In this post he gives an account of his wheelchair history: the various electric wheelchairs he chose, their benefits, and drawbacks. It should give you a good idea of what kind of considerations to take into account when choosing a wheelchair, such as seating, reclining capabilities, manoeuvrability, leg support, and what kind of terrain it can handle.

After you’ve selected a wheelchair that suits your needs, you will need to learn to use it well. Of course, you will be taught how to do so as part of the rehabilitation process, but there are many additional skills and tricks you can learn which will enable you to lead a more independent life in a wheelchair. The charity Back Up aims to help those who have suffered spinal cord injuries, and offer courses to teach wheelchair skills to users, which you can find more about here.

Pete Donnelly, who has been a wheelchair user since the age of 19 after a motorcycling accident, works as a wheelchair skills adviser for Back Up. He has a video on the BBC News website where he demonstrates many of these skills, such as proper pushing technique, floor to chair transfer, and back wheel balancing (a very useful technique for going over obstacles such as curbs and steps). You can watch the video by clicking here.

Building healthy relationships

Another aspect of life in a wheelchair that users often emphasise is the social element. Family and friends will play a large part in your recovery, and are key to your everyday well being. Chris Malcolm, founder of the iPush foundation, became a C7 quadriplegic as a result of a car accident. In this article, he recounts the importance of his social network in adjusting to life in a wheelchair:

“‘I can honestly say that I was surrounded the best family and friends that anyone could have asked for. I was lucky that nothing really changed with my friendships. The people that were, and are, my good close friends remain my good close friends and the people that were just acquaintances remain acquaintances.’

Chris’ advice to the newly injured is simple—surround yourself with the people that are always helping you and visiting you when you’re in the hospital.”

Chris Malcolm - Life in a wheelchair

Chris and his daughter – Image courtesy of abilities.com

Chris’ disability has not stopped him from having a love life or family either: he met his wife Andee after the accident at a friend’s house, and now has a young daughter. He recounts how a month before he asked his wife to marry him, he went on a date with her, and was initially disappointed that she did not say anything about his new chair. When he asked her why, she responded: “I don’t think about you being in a wheelchair, so I didn’t notice.” Similarly, the aforementioned writer of WheelchairLife advises: “if, in your relationships, you don’t dwell on the fact that you’re in a wheelchair, it can become a non-issue. If you expect people to treat you the same way they would treat anyone else, and you act accordingly, the stigma goes away.” You can read his analysis of romantic and social dynamics here.

If you’re interested in reading more relationship advice from wheelchair users, Wheel:Life, an online community for wheelchair users, has published an ebook “Reconnecting: Relationship Advice from Wheelchair Users”, available on Amazon. The book contains stories and advice from users as they share their perspective on the social aspect of life in a wheelchair: friends, family and relationships.

What we do at Seable for wheelchair users

Life in a wheelchair will obviously be hugely different from whatever life you had before. However, different does not mean bad. Being disabled will inevitably bring new and difficult challenges, but you should not let that stop you from living a fulfilling life. As the writer of WheelchairLife writes: “Life doesn’t end because you’re in a wheelchair…it just changes”.

We apply that philosophy to just one more aspect of life in a wheelchair: holidaying. Holidays don’t have to end because you’re in a wheelchair, they just change. At Seable we offer a range of holiday packages for wheelchair users. To find out more about them and register your interest, click here, or get in touch with us here.

Accessible City Breaks In Europe You Can Drive To

We’ve written before about the difficulties disabled people can face when flying and how it is possible to negotiate those difficulties with good planning. However sometimes you do have to ask yourself, is it worth the hassle? Obviously if you’re going to Sydney, Tokyo or Chicago then it’s your only option, but if you live in Europe then you do have to consider whether or not you need to fly. Because of free travel between EU countries and comparatively short distances it is possible to take accessible city breaks and drive there from the UK, so it is something to consider.

With that in mind here’s our guide to accessible city breaks in Europe, including renting a mobility car, what to look for in an accessible city and a few of our suggestions for destinations.

 

Mobility Cars

The modern mobility car has reshaped the world of travel and tourism for the disabled and for wheelchair users. For families or travel groups looking to plan their own driving holiday, specialist companies such Allied Vehicles offer mobility cars / self-drive cars for purchase or lease.

a man in a wheelchair is being helped into a mobility car. mobility cars make it easier for disabled people to drive to accessible city breaks

Obviously this won’t necessarily be as quick as flying or taking a high speed train, but the clear benefit is being in complete control of the traveling experience. You can pick a car that has the features you need and you can travel in an environment that you are comfortable in and know, rather than depending on an airline and public transport connections. Plus, quicker doesn’t necessarily mean better! By driving you can take in all the sights, relax with friends, enjoy your music and entertainment, take breaks whenever you want and avoid screaming babies.

 

Accessible Cities

When planning your accessible city breaks there are things you’ll want to consider. How good is the public transport system and what features do they have in place for disabled people? Paris for example has a great feature on its underground that tells you very clearly which routes and stations you can use as a wheelchair user. If the tube is limited, does the city have a bus service with low floors, frequent wheelchair accessible parking or a wheelchair accessible taxi service (all London taxis are accessible for example)?

You won’t want to be in a car the whole time either, so it’s worth checking how accessible the streets are. Old alleys with high curbs and cobbles look great on a postcard but aren’t the best for a wheelchair! The best way to check is to jump on Google maps and just look at the street view feature around some of the places you want to visit and look for things like drop curbs.

A lot of cities also now produce documents outlining their commitments to accessibility and highlighting what features are in place, here are some good examples by Gothenburg and Cardiff. As with most disability travel, accessible city breaks are all about the planning. So the more you know before you go the better.

 

What To Do

A great thing about most European Cities is how modern they are. Europe is now home to a large number of cities which all encourage a wide use of wheelchair friendly access points in hotels, bars and restaurants. The EU also has numerous accessibility laws that cities and attractions should abide by. This all makes Europe the perfect place for accessible city breaks.

However, and I’m sure most of you are already very aware of this, what should be on offer and what is promised in terms of accessibility is often not delivered in real life. Most hotel, bar, website and museum websites will outline their accessibility, but the best way to find out how accessible they are is from the point of view of disabled people who have used them. This is where great sites like Access Now, Wheel Map and Euan’s Guide come in. They use crowdsourcing to create databases and interactive maps of accessible locations around the world, so you can find out how accessible a place really is from people who’ve already been there.

An access now map of Dublin, showing locations that are wheelchair accessible. apps like access now make accessible city breaks easier to plan

A screen shot of an access now map of Dublin showing accessible locations

Five Wheelchair Friendly Cities

London

We start off our list right here in the UK. Our capital is not only one of the most diverse and exciting cities in Europe, but it’s also one of the most wheelchair friendly. Public transport in London sets the bar high for the rest of the continent with every single bus route in the city offering wheelchair access. For a more private travel options, taxis in London also offer the same accessibility. The majority of hotels can also provide a safe and easy access point.

 

Berlin

Berlin is becoming more and more accessible by the day. Just like London, buses and taxis offer convenient access and most public transport options are designed with the ‘Accessible Berlin’ motto in mind. Find out more info about ‘Accessible Berlin from the Visit Berlin travel website.

a screenshot of the accessible berlin website showing a visually impaired man navigating berlin. berlin is a good city for accessible city breaks

a screenshot of the accessible berlin website

 

Paris

It’s one of the most romantic cities in the world but it was once almost impossible to get around. Slowly but surely, the city is changing. Now, over 50 metro stations have been made barrier-free for wheelchairs and most buses have deployed the use of ramps to help people get around the city with ease. Popular tourist hotspots such as Le Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe are now completely accessible by public transport because of these recent improvements.

 

Venice

The thought of Venice on a wheelchair seems almost impossible. The never-ending canals and constant need to travel by water may be off-putting but you might be surprised to discover how easy it could be. Water taxis and water buses both offer wheelchair access and discounts are also available for wheelchair users and one of the passengers travelling with them. Recent developments have even made the classic Venitian gondolas wheelchair accessible through Gondolas4All.

Not all Vaparetto stops are accessible so you need to do your research. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, try using water taxis to get around. Once you know the system and understand all the tips and tricks, Venice can be a breeze.

 

Rome

Rome is one of the busiest cities in Europe. This is without a doubt one of the most desirable tourist cities and getting around can be stressful. But a wheelchair user can get from A to B with ease as long as they have assistance and a little patience. Barriers can still be an issue for many tourist attractions in this famous Italian city, but the trick is to find out where the entrance is before you set off.

This is a great article (Rolling in Rome) by By Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha, which helps you discover the accessibility or Rome from a wheelchair user’s perspective.

 

Across the UK and Europe, there are now some truly spectacular places to visit where wheelchair users needn’t spend their time worrying over the lack of facilities in place to accommodate physically impaired or disabled families or travel groups. As long as you do your research and plan ahead you’ll be on your way to numerous great accessible city breaks in no time at all.

So that’s our guide to accessible city breaks in Europe that you can drive to. We hope you found it interesting and do tell us about your favourite accessible city breaks. Don’t forget to share with the accessible travel addicts in your life!

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

Accessible Holidays: Driving activity – Top 5 Destinations in Europe

Accessible Holidays

Accessible Driving Holidays

Accessible Holidays

The modern mobility car has reshaped the world of travel and tourism for the disabled and for wheelchair users. The use of the mobility car has transformed the lives of thousands of disabled people across Great Britain, and Europe is now home to a large number of cities which all encourage a wide use of wheelchair friendly access points in hotels, bars and restaurants.

Across the UK and Europe, there are now some truly spectacular places to visit where wheelchair users needn’t spend their time worrying over the lack of facilities in place to accommodate physically impaired or disabled families or travel groups.

For families or travel groups looking to plan their own driving holiday, specialist companies such Allied Vehicles offer mobility cars / self-drive cars for purchase or lease. For European excursions or sports for the physically impaired, don’t forget the check the main Seable website for more info.

Before you start planning, here are 5 of Europe’s most wheelchair friendly cities:

  1. London

We start off our list right here in the UK. Our capital is not only one of the most diverse and exciting cities in Europe but it’s also one of the most wheelchair friendly. Public transport in London sets the bar high for the rest of the continent with every single bus route in the city offering wheelchair access. For a more private travel options, taxis in London also offer the same accessibility. The majority of hotels can also provide a safe and easy access point.

  1. Berlin

Berlin is becoming more and more accessible by the day. Just like London, buses and taxis offer convenient access and most public transport options are designed with the ‘Accessible Berlin’ motto in mind. Find out more info about ‘Accessible Berlin from the Visit Berlin travel website.

  1. Paris

It’s one of the most romantic cities in the world but it was once almost impossible to get around. Slowly but surely, the city is changing. Now, over 50 metro stations have been made barrier-free for wheelchairs and most buses have deployed the use of ramps to help people get around the city with ease. Popular tourist hot spots such as Le Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe are now completely accessible by public transport because of these recent improvements.

  1. Venice

The thought of Venice on a wheelchair seems almost infeasible. The never-ending canals and constant need to travel by water may be off-putting but you might be surprised to discover how easy it could be. Water taxis and water buses both offer wheelchair access and discounts are also available for wheelchair users and one of the passengers travelling with them.

Not all Vaparetto stops are accessible so you need to do your research. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, try using water taxis to get around. Once you know the system and understand all the tips and tricks, Venice can be a breeze.

  1. Rome

Rome is one of the busiest cities in Europe. This is without a doubt one of the most desirable tourist cities and getting around can be stressful. But a wheelchair user can get from A to B with ease as long as they have assistance and a little patience. The truth is, barriers are still an issue for many tourist attractions in this famous Italian city but the trick is to find out where the entrance is before you set off.

This is a great article (Rolling in Rome) by By Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha, which helps you discover the accessibility or Rome from a wheelchair user themselves.

Physically impaired entrepeneurs and Paralympians

We are grateful for the opportunity to have met with some really inspirational professionals last week, that are working to achieve the same goal as Seable. This goal is to provide help for disabled people and wheelchair users, so they can enjoy a more active lifestyle. (more…)

New collaboration with Go! Mobility Solutions

SAM_0968We are extremely grateful to ‘Go Mobility Solutions’ for recognizing the efforts of Seable on their website. Check out our feature on their website by clicking here: http://goesanywhere.com/seable-is-a-social-enterprise-that-is-working-to-help-the-disabled-community-live-a-more-independent-and-fulfilling-life/ (more…)

10% discount for disabled students of University of Cambridge

disabled students

We are always looking for ways in which we can achieve maximum reach to ensure the entire disability community gets to benefit from our disabled access holidays that are designed to help visually impaired, partially sighted, handicapped, wheelchair users, and their friends and family to enjoy a more enhanced holiday experience that can help them learn new skills, boost their confidence, and enjoy social interaction all while enjoying a completely tailored, enabled and active holiday in the gorgeous island of Sicily, Italy. (more…)


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