Tag Archives: activities for blind

5 important factors to remember when you travel with a pre-existing medical condition

Travelling is such an amazing experience that everyone deserves to be able to enjoy it if they wish to. Sometimes, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or disability, it can be tempting to avoid travelling as you may feel that the organisation and execution of a trip is too difficult. However, if you consider these 5 important factors, you too can have the travel experience you deserve!

 

Hand holding a miniature of planet earth.

Packing

Sunscreen, swimwear, a selection of books to read on the beach, and your medication. Consider everything you might need while you are on your trip, thinking specifically about whether the temperature or humidity may cause any problems that will require different equipment to your everyday provisions. Although it may seem inconvenient, it’s better to pack more than you need, than to find yourself without something vital when you are in another country that may not sell it. There might even be a language barrier that makes communicating exactly what you need quite difficult.

 

Airplane flying

Talk to the airline

If you are travelling within the EU, airlines are required to support you in your travels, through what is known as ‘Special Assistance’. You should aim to contact the airline with at least 48 hours’ notice so they can prepare for your arrival. Let them know what assistance you need with things, such as getting through the airport, boarding the airplane, and so on. If you are bringing a mobility scooter onto the plane they will need to know about this so they can store the battery correctly and ensure they have the space.

Medical information

Before you travel, ask your GP for a letter that has information on it around your health condition(s) and medications. Keep this on you at all times (it might be useful to get a photocopy just in case!) so that if you are asked for any information, you have anything written down. Unfortunately this is often something that GPs charge for, however, it’s a small price to pay to be able to keep all your things with you. There are some medicines that will require a personal licence to take out of the country, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor as well.

 

appla computer, passport and digital camera

Where are you going?

The world is your oyster, but before you decide on a destination, it is wise to check out a few things. For example, how accessible is the public transport in the area (we have plenty of information on our blog about this!), and are you close to a hospital or medical facility if you should need it? Check on the quality if the health care provisions in the country you are travelling to as it can vary wildly.

 

Let’s go!

One of the most important things to remember when you travel with a pre-existing medical condition is that travel is good for your mind, body, and soul and you deserve to enjoy it! Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it, and most hotels will be happy to do anything to help you feel more comfortable and safe and enjoy your trip.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Make sure you consider these factors and then get booking! There is so much to experience, so why not start now?

 

Do you have any top tips for travelling with a medical condition? Let us know in the comments.

 

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

Graham’s trip to Rome

At the beginning of September, I attended another Seable’s Holiday to Rome. This was, yet again, another fantastic and memorable trip.

Our small group set off on another adventure travelling to London Gatwick Airport to catch our flight. On arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport we were met by Damiano and Emma who would be our guides for the holiday.

We had four fantastic days exploring Rome, some of the mainstreams and more iconic locations followed by places known mainly by locals.

Lake Albano, nearby Castel Gandolfo, a very nice and clear big lake where we had a fantastic swim, hired a Kayak and pedal boats to explore it.

Kayaking on Lake Albano

 

We visited an organic farm where we had a fantastic freshly cooked meal prepared using only organic ingredient from the farm. Whilst at the farm we saw some friendly cats who certainly enjoyed the attention we gave them, and even our leftover food. After the meal the nice man at the farm took us to meet the donkeys, there was a Mother, Father and two little babies.

Organif farm, donkey and nice farmer

The visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican City, was unforgettable. We had a touch tour which enabled us to feel different pieces within the building. Throughout this tour we each had a headset that could scan point on the map and describe to us what we were looking at. We then headed outside to hear the Pope’s speech. To read more about the Vatican click here

Graham touching sculptures in St. Peter Basilica

We also took a tour around the Vatican Museums where a nice lady assisted us throughout our visit. She explained a lot about the Vatican Museum and its history. As part of this tour we were also able to go into the Sistine Chapel. Once in there, you have to remain silent and the use of cameras and mobile phones is not allowed, in fact every few minutes you would hear a person reminding you about this rule. When in the Chapel we were lucky enough to be able to touch, unlock, open and close the Sistine Chapel door.

We also took a walking tour around some of Rome’s most famous Piazzas, including Piazza Navona, the majestic Pantheon and the well know Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, we were unable to go to the Spanish square and its steps. We then headed to the Coliseum, we could not go to the top level as this was not safe. But from the level we were, we were able to see the ruins and also to look inside the Amphitheatre.

Posing in front of the colosseum

Our final full day in Rome consisted of a tour of a big farmers’ food market where we sampled some more Italian food and purchased ingredient to make fresh pasta in an Italian cooking class. In this session we made our own dough which we used to then produce fresh pasta. We were shown how to make ravioli, tortellini and tagliatelle, which we would then have for lunch with a traditional pasta sauce.

Local farmers' marketArticle written by Graham.

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

Vietnam and Cambodia – The Great Adventure

I am Emma, from Seable Team, and I have just returned from the most incredible experience in Vietnam and Cambodia and, guess what,  I can’t wait to share it with you all.

It was an inspection trip of the 2 countries to help us plan a future holiday for a group of Blind and Partially sighted travellers.  We partnered with a Vietnamese tour operator who carefully planned a detailed itinerary for the 3 weeks.

In the following blog, I will be sharing with you the details of our trip.

VVietnam Lonely Planet Guide Book

Day 1

Flight from London Gatwick to Doha-Doha to Hanoi.  The start of our 17-hour journey began and to say I was excited was an understatement.  I love a long-haul flight at the best of times, but I have to say that Qatar airlines was up there with the best of them.  The seats were comfy and with 2 meals and unlimited drinks on each flight, we were well fed, watered and even managed to get a good amount of sleep before we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Landing in Hanoi at 7am, we couldn’t wait to meet our guide and get started with the day. We were met by our guide Thomas and he took us straight for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast-Pho.  He told us he was taking us to one of the best Pho in Hanoi and we couldn’t wait to try it.  After what can only be described as the best beef Pho of our lives we had a quick iced coffee and then headed to our hotel.

We had a couple of hours sleep, as by now the jet lag was starting to catch up with us.  We got freshened up and went for a welcome lunch with Linda, the lady who organised our trip. It was a wonderful lunch with more food than we could eat, including the start of our holiday obsession with spring rolls.

We were free for the evening to explore Hanoi….YESSS! When they told us it was a busy night market, they were not lying.  It was crazy! Rows after rows of market stalls selling everything from bags to magnets.  I felt like it was Christmas morning and was far to over excited.  Hanoi’s evening market square was filled with noise and smells from the street food, it was overwhelming. Not forgetting to mention it was still 30 degrees at 10 pm at night, talk about sweating!!

Also, something I wasn’t prepared for was the obsession with Karaoke!! Street after street you would find someone singing surrounded by a group of people, it was amazing.  I would have been temped to join in, if it wasn’t for the fact that I am beyond tone deaf.

It was an incredible introduction into Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the trip had to offer.

Busy road in Vietnam at night

Day 2

We were picked up at the hotel by our guide at 9 am and drove to a near by village called Bat Trang.  It is about 13km south east of Hanoi, on the Red River and is a village famous for the making of Ceramics and a long-standing trade village.  The artistry of Bat Trang is well-known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years.

Our guide gave us a tour of a family Ceramics factory where he told us about the history and methods of their business.  It was fascinating to get an appreciation for such a long-standing tradition within this family.  Imagine us in the gift shop, knowing everything was hand made in that very building, we could have bought it all!

We the made our way to a family owned lacquer factory, where we were taught about the process of lacquering wood to make exquisite pieces of art.  The guide carefully explained each process and the skill required.  It was a very interesting tour and again the gift shop made it hard for us to leave.  It was only day 2 and we felt like we were bringing back the whole of Vietnam with us already!

After the tour, we went to the Hanoi streets for a walking tour.  Going through the hot sticky streets filled with rows after rows of spices, herbs, vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.  It was an explosion for the senses with all the smells mixing together.  Getting to try all the local grown vegetables and fruit and smell the freshly picked herbs was a great experience.  Also, something I haven’t mentioned yet was the amount of people on scooters riding around the streets.  I was very glad to have our guide with us to help us navigate the streets.

After a delicious lunch we went to the Hanoi Temple of Literature which was the first University of Vietnam built in 1070.  With its incredible history, buildings and gardens it was a great tour.

We then went over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the nation’s founder’s body is preserved.  The colonial Presidential Palace, which was originally the French Governors office and a fine example of French architecture in Hanoi.  It was very interesting to hear about the history but lacking in any tactile experience with us not being allowed to touch anything within the buildings.

In the grounds there was the One Pillar Pagoda, built in the 11th century in dedication to Buddha of Compassion and reminiscent of a lotus blossom rising from the pond.  I really enjoyed getting to walk up the pagoda and sending a wish off to Buddha.

That evening again we ventured into the crazy streets of Hanoi and found a street food stall selling fresh crabs.  We sat eating and drinking beers whilst listening to one of the many karaoke singers, it was perfect.  As we were making our way back to the hotel, we got our first experience of a tropical thunder storm-we bought a couple of ponchos (to cover us from the rain) from a market stall and ran through the rain home; it was a brilliant and funny end to a very busy day.

Vietnam Street Food

Day 3

Picked up at 8am from our hotel by our guide for our trip to Ha Long Bay with an over night stay on the boat.  It’s listed as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, so we had high expectations. The drive was 3 hours long with a stop half way at a local service station. We were in a mini bus with the other travellers who were coming on the boat with us, so it was a great opportunity to chat with them and get to know them.  The guide for the excursion was called Ha and was fantastic.  She had brilliant English, as well as knowledge and history of Ha Long Bay.

We embarked on the Oriental Sails Cruise, which was an elegant boat with 3 floors and a wonderful open terrace.  Our room was a good size with one big window, looking out onto the waters of Ha Long Bay.  I couldn’t wait to see what the excursion had to offer.

Once everyone had settled into their rooms and freshened up, we went to the dinning room for lunch and the boat headed to Vung Vieng, a fish village along the limestone islands of Bai Tu.  Dinner was an impressive feast, with dish after dish coming out.   We all ate a little bit too much, but it was worth it.

After lunch we had the option to either go in a bamboo rowing boat around the fishing village or to take a kayak and follow a guide.  Damiano and myself were feeling slightly more adventurous and so we chose to go kayaking. I think we made the right choice as it was a great experience.  Ha guided us through the waters of the floating fishing village and as we kayaked, she told us about the history of the village and how they are sustainable.

Returning to the boat, we had a spring roll cooking class, where each of us had a go at making one and then we got to eat the final product.  This was a great interactive activity for everyone on board.  Dinner was served after, again it was a feast with traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

After dinner some guests did some singing and dancing whilst the others got involved in the squid fishing off the side of the boat. We went for the night squid fishing, but unfortunately, we had no luck in catching anything; we shouldn’t give up our day jobs! We called it a day and headed off to bed.  I have to say, I don’t have the strongest sea legs and I was a bit nervous about sleeping on a boat as I have a slight sea sickness issue, but I can honestly say it was one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had (I think the slight rocking actually sent me to sleep like a baby).

Kayaking in Hanoi Bay

Day 4

The next morning, we woke up early at 6am for a Tai Chi lesson on board the terrace.  I have never done Tai Chi before and I found it very peaceful.  With the music and his voice telling us what to do, it was great and got us all ready for a big breakfast, ready to start the day.  We then headed towards Thien Canh Son Cave and beach.  After a short climb up some steps on the island, we reached the cave.  It was full of limestone stalagmites which were wonderful to touch (some of the limestone we were unable to touch as it effects the development however), and Ha told us all about the way in which the cave came to be about. Then we made our way back to the boat and started the journey back to the harbour. Ha Long Bay was a real experience and one that I will always remember.

After our return to the harbour we made our way to the airport, where we flew to Da Nang airport.  It was an hour flight from Hanoi and went super quick, by the time we were in the sky, we were landing already.  We were met at the airport by our guide and driver, who took us to our hotel in Hoi An, about 40 mins from the airport.  We arrived late and so checked in and called it a night.  The hotel was beautiful, covered in lanterns and I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and start exploring.

Hanoi Dragons

Day 5

Waking up in Hoi An felt fantastic and I couldn’t wait to start the day. Breakfast was great and the hotel was as wonderful as I was expecting in day light.  It had a lovely pool and spa area with lanterns everywhere.  We were met by our guide Chanh who took us to our first activity of Lantern making.  We had a brief introduction into the history, shape and colour of the lanterns as wells as the many stages of making them.  We then got to have a go at making our own.  I have to say I really enjoyed making mine and felt like a pro.

From the lantern making, we made our way to the Hoi An walking tour visit.  A quick drive took us to the main attraction spot of Hoi An being the iconic 400 year old covered bridge which a Japanese styled temple is based on.  It was a little bridge and full of history, great for some photos.  Then we continued to the Museum of Trade Ceramics, a Vietnamese style wooden house which has showcased ceramics since 1858.  The Tan Ky House which has had a long standing 200-year-old Chinese merchant residence.  We were welcomed with a refreshing cup of local tea, which was much needed in the mid-day heat and then a tour commenced with much history of the residence.

We walked next to the Ong Temple, which was built for worshipping an ancient Chinese general who had been admired for his bravery, loyalty and justice-Guan Yu.  It was built in 1653 by the Chinese settlers and was a fantastic temple.  It was very tactile, with every part of the temple able to be touched and the smell of incense was incredible.  Then we strolled around the market stalls selling baskets full of vegetable, herbs and spices.  We then were taken to a restaurant by the river for a wonderful dinner.

The afternoon was free for us to explore the markets and what else Hoi An has to offer.  When researching Hoi An, we read that it was the best place for tailor made clothing and so we weren’t going to miss this opportunity. We googled the top-rated store and we made our way, feeling like we were on a mission. We decided on the type of suit we would like and the colour and fabric, then it came to barter the price.  You must be strong and have an idea of a price you are willing to pay (google helped us with this) and then it was time to measure.

Hanoi Bay

Day 6

After having a big breakfast, we were met by our guide outside the hotel to set off on our next adventure in Hoi An. Our plan was to visit Tra Que Village for a Farmer workshop and cooking class.  After a quick 15-minute drive from the hotel, we arrived in the village and were met by fields and fields of different shades of green.  We were welcomed with a basil seed cool drink and given a farmer’s uniform to dress up in, including a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the scorching sun off our heads.  Our second guide for the day from the village, gave a brief explanation of each vegetable and herb as we walked around the fields, stopping to smell and pick the herbs as we walked.  He often would give us one to smell and ask us to guess the herb-which turns out to be much trickier than we would have thought! We joined in gardening activities in preparing the land, fertilizing the seaweed, raking the ground, sowing, watering and finally picking the vegetables that we would need to use in our cooking class.  It was a fantastic tactile experience to get to have a first-hand go at the farming and learn how the locals grow their produce.

Back at the restaurant area of the farm, we were given an apron and chef hat ready for our cooking class. We were taught how to make spring rolls, chicken in a clay pot and local savoury pancakes filled with prawns and chicken.  It was a wonderful cooking class, filled with detailed descriptions of how to make each dish.  Once prepared, we made our way to the cooking station to cook the food ready for us to eat.  The instructor was great fun, helping us flip the pancakes and even add some fire into the cooking.  The heat from the kitchen was incredible on the hot day but it was so worth it when we sat down to eat the food we had made.  The meal was delicious, full of garlic and chilly with the fresh veg we had just picked only an hour ago.  It was a great morning and I loved every second of it.

That afternoon we had a free afternoon and so we thought we would check out the local beach only 10 minutes away from our hotel.  With what seemed like an endless beach of white sand, it was met by the beautiful blue waters of the South China Sea.  After quickly picking two sunbeds next to the sea, I ran into the cool waters.  I have to admit that being in 40 degrees heat is wonderful but I was certainly missing going into the sea to cool off and so this was a welcomed visit.  The waters were calm and clear.  Once I had cooled off, I headed to my sunbed, ordered a cocktail and laid in the last bit of the afternoon sunshine, it was heaven!

As the sun was starting to set, we walked down the beach to explore it a little before heading back to the hotel.  The beach was incredibly busy with all the locals, this was a much cooler time of day and it seemed to be the perfect time to come to the beach to avoid the scorching mid-day sun.

Back at the hotel after we had eaten enough street food to feed 10 people, we decided to try out the hotel spa, to finish the day off nicely. It was a beautiful area at the top of the hotel, filled with wonderful smells of flowers.  We both had a traditional Vietnamese massage, which was fantastic.  At the end of the hour, my lady sat me up and continued to style my hair into the most beautiful plait, which was unexpected but a lovely surprise. We both left feeling incredibly relaxed and ready for a much-needed sleep.

 

Day 7

I could have stayed in Hoi An forever but unfortunately we had a morning flight to Ho Chi Minh to catch.  Saying goodbye to our guide and driver, we waited in De Nang’s Airport for our flight.  After a small delay of a couple hours, we were on our way to Ho Chi Minh for our next adventure.  The flight was only one hour and went by incredibly quickly.  We were picked up by our guide and driver and the first stop was for some dinner.  We were taken to a lovely restaurant in the city centre.  It was empty and we had the whole restaurant to ourselves which was an experience.

We started our drive to Mekong Delta which is 2 and half hours from the city.  The car was very comfy and the drive went by quickly enough, stopping once in a local service station.  The car could only take us so far, and then a boat had to take over.  We made our way onto the boat ready for a short 20 mins boat ride to our Homestay for the night.  The homestay was far grander than we were expecting, with a very big open entrance area, filled with extravagantly decorated furniture.  The family owning the homestay greeted us and took us to our room, which was a big room that was simple, clean and cool.

Due to our later arrival because of our delayed flight, our guide slightly altered the itinerary and offered to take us on a late afternoon bike ride around the village where we were staying.  It was a great opportunity to explore our surroundings.  With fields of green, local houses, dogs, birds and more fruits and flowers in the trees, it really was an experience for all senses. The cycle ride lasted for about 40 mins and it felt great to do some exercise after sitting all day.

Back at the homestay, we freshened up and made our way to the kitchen to help the family prepare our evening meal.  The two women of the family showed us how to help them prepare our meal, which can only be described as a feast.  A little table was set up on the terrace at the front of the house, next to the river and it was like something out of a movie.  The two of us sat at the table while the ladies kept bringing out different dishes they had prepared for us.  From spring rolls, fish, chicken, rice, noodles; to say we were full was an understatement! Our guide also during the meal, brought to us the family’s home-made rice wine-it was pungent and had a real kick to it.  We had a shot of rice with every new dish that was brought out to us and it quickly got us tipsy.  Once we had successfully finished dinner we practically crawled over to the two hammocks set up beside us and laid in them as our dinner went down.  It was a wonderful way to end the day!

Cooking in Vietnam

Day 8

The morning started with a home-made breakfast and after the night before I thought I would never eat again but somehow, we both managed a full breakfast.  We said our goodbyes to the family of the homestay, with a big thank you for their wonderful hospitality. Our guide leaded us towards the boat and went through the plan of the day.  The first stop being a local clay pottery workshop tour at the Brick Kilns, where we got to learn about how the local people create beautiful potteries from clay.

Next stop was a local workshop, where we got to see how they made rice paper, coconut candy, pop-rice and pop-corn, with us getting to have a go at every opportunity.  It was fun to try and make the sweets and even more fun to try them once they were made! The guide described the different wines and let us try a little bit of each, it was still only 10.30am and each wine is about 40 percent proof-it was a fun morning.  My jelly legs were definitely feeling the wine!

We made our way back on to the boat and went on a lovely boat ride through the Mekong River to the local restaurant for our dinner.  We ate local fish and vegetables and had a little rest after eating.  I think the morning rice wine had made me sleepy. Once we had had a rest, back on the boat, we made our way further up the river.  Eventually we stopped at the side of the river and we swapped onto a much smaller rowing boat. We were given a traditional Vietnamese hat to help us shade from the intense sun and we headed off for a tour on the rowing boat.  The lady stood at the back of the small boat and rowed us through the small water paths of the Mekong River, past the local houses lining the waters.  It lasted about 30 mins and it was a very peaceful experience, hearing only the water splashing around us as we glided through wild untouched water ways.

The boat ride brought us back to our bigger boat, which we made our way back onto and headed to a local music stop.  The tables had plates of different fruit on them for us to refresh ourselves with and local tea.  We sat and listened to the locals sing whilst we took a rest from the travelling and hot sun.

After making our way back on the boat, we got to the car and started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.  It was the evening by the time we arrived and after checking in to the hotel, a quick change, we headed out to explore Ho Chi Minh at night.  Our guide told us that the city is famous at night for its big hotels and roof top bars.  He told us of a couple that are a must try, for fantastic views of the city at night and so we made our way to find them.  We went into the Bitexco building, which is the tallest in Ho Chi Minh and went up to floor 52 to the Heli Bar.  The waitress guided us to a small table against the window and it made you feel like you were on top of the world.  It was incredibly high and the lights of the city sparkled below us.  A live band was playing as we ordered 2 (expensive but worth it) cocktails and enjoyed the experience of being the highest people in Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Min City - Night - Skyscrapers

Day 9

Greeted by our guide, we were ready for a day of exploring Ho Chi Minh by day.  The first stop was at Cho Ion, the Chinatown of the city but unfortunately it was going through renovation and so most of it was closed. We quickly went to our next stop being the Fito Museum.  It is a traditional Vietnamese museum which told us all about the medicine used in the past and included a replica pharmacy where we had the opportunity to dress up as a doctor of medicine in Vietnam.  Damiano, of course was the first person in the group to dress up and have a go at playing the role. The museum was full of history and great information where we got the opportunity to learn all about the history of medicine in Vietnam.

After the museum, we had a quick lunch and then headed to the Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the President of the South of Vietnam until the end of April 1975.  It was an incredible Palace filled with grand rooms and at the bottom of the Palace, were the bunkers used during the war. Unfortunately, the Palace was not the most tactile visit, with most of the rooms roped off, however the guide did a fantastic job of telling the story of the history within the Palace.

The tour then took us to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a neo-Romanesque cathedral constructed between 1877 and 1883 using bricks from Marseilles and stained-glass windows from Chartres.  It was very strange to be standing in Vietnam and looking at the Notre Dame, thinking you could be in France not Vietnam. It was an incredible building that has stood the test of time from the French reign over Vietnam.  Next to the Notre Dame, was the famous Old Saigon post office, where we got the opportunity to send some post cards back home. Last stop for shopping was at the French built Ben Thanh Market, which dates back to 1870.  It was a maze of stalls selling everything you could imagine.  After picking up some souvenirs, we made our way back to the hotel, where we rested and got some food. Tomorrow was a big day for us, as we were going to CAMBODIA (wahhoooo), and I could barely sleep with the excitement!!!

 

Day 10

Waking up at 6.30am read for a big day of travelling because this was the day we made our way to CAMBODIA! We were both incredibly excited and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the journey there, as I had read a few stories about crossing the border and it not being the easiest thing to do.  We made our way to the bus station and checked in for our bus. We had to fill out 2 forms with our personal details and pay 35 dollars each for the visa to cross the border.  I paid and handed over our passports to the guide from the bus company who came on the bus with us to Cambodia.

The bus was comfy with big seats and we were given a bottle of water and breakfast (2 pastries each) which was a nice surprise. We got comfy for the next 7 hours journey, stopping half way at the service station which was just before the Cambodian border.  Once we reached the border, the guide told us where to walk to once off the coach.  They called us one by one, checked our visas and passports and then we were met by the coach on the other side; it was as easy as that! Once everyone was back on the coach we continued the rest of the journey to Phnom Penh.  When we arrived at Phnom Penh, our driver met us and took us directly to our hotel to check in. We were free to explore by ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening as our guide for Phnom Penh, would be meeting us in the morning.

That evening we went out with the aim to find some street food and see what Phnom Penh has to offer at night.  The streets we busy with many bars and it all was a bit of a maze. After the day of travelling we were tired and after we have walked for a while exploring the night life we decided to just get some food and beer and made a slow walk back to the hotel.

Cambodia Phnom Phen

Day 11

Our guide met us ready for a busy day of touring Phnom Penh.  Mr Chey spoke fantastic English and got us excited for the day ahead.  The Royal Palace, was first on the list and the guide explained the rules of dressing before entering the Palace.  All women have to cover to their knees and arms to the elbows.  It was an extremely hot day and having to cover up made me feel like the warmest women on the planet, but it was worth it as the Palace was extraordinary.  It was built by King Norodom in 1866 and it was extremely extravagant with gold everywhere and the Silver Pagoda was also located in the Palace grounds.  The flag was flying high to let us know that the King of Cambodia was in residence, which was a very exciting moment to know we were that close to the King.  The guide gave use an informative tour of the grounds of the Palace.

Next, we went to the National Museum, which is one of Phnom Penh’s true architectural gems.  It was designed in Khmer style in 1917 by famed French architect Georges Groslier and Ecole Des Arts Cambodians. The building was great; however, the tour guide at the National Museum had very limited English and we were unable to touch any of the monuments, which made the tour very limited.

After a quick stop in the local Cambodian post office, we sent another post card home then made our way to Wat Phnom.  This is the first pagoda to be built in 1373 to house the Buddha statues discovered in the Mekong by a woman named Penh.  In the temple at the top of the pagoda, after doing the ceremony and praying, there was a lady there telling people fortunes.

Walking along the Sothearos Blvd it had a great view of the city and was an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air at Chaktomouk River bank. Then we had dinner at the River side restaurant, with a local Cambodian dinner.  It was wonderful and great to enjoy a rest after a jam-packed morning.

Once dinner was done, we made our way to our afternoon activity with the guide.  We were going to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  I have to say I was slightly apprehensive about this tour, as I was unsure of how it was going to be. The Killing Field was one of the sites where there were brutal executions of more than 17,000 individuals, most of whom first suffered through interrogations, torture and deprivation in Toul Sleng Prison during Pol Pot regime from 1975-1979. I was very ignorant about my knowledge about the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and I learnt a lot from our guide during this tour; however, it was a harrowing tour that will stay with me forever.  We walked through the field of where the mass graves once were.  The details of the Killing Fields were shocking and incredibly sad. They have a building inside the killing field, holding all the skulls found when the fields were excavated.  It is an experience that you cannot really prepare yourself for, to stand in front of 10,000 skulls. It was extremely daunting and brought home the realisation to the extent of the deaths that happened right where I stood.

A short drive from the Killing Field, took us to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum-S21 prison.  This prison was previously a high school and used as a prison by Pol Pot’s security forces and became the largest centre for detention and torture during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Inside the prison, along the walls were photos of every person that were kept within the prison.  As you walk through rooms of faces upon faces of all the people killed, everyone visiting the prison is in silence and the experience is eerie and uneasy.

On our way back to the hotel, it started to rain like I had never seen before, seriously crazy rain! The roads were quickly flooded turning into streams and I felt terrible for all the people on scooters that were getting soaked as they travelled beside us.  By the time we had made it to the hotel, it had turned into a typhoon with the wind and rain at full force whistling around us.  That evening we decided to stay in at the hotel rather than try and brave the weather because let’s face it, you would have to be nuts to want to go out in that weather. It was nice to get to just chill for an evening and get ourselves ready for another big journey the next day.

 

Day 12

We had breakfast and then were picked up by our driver who took us to the bus station, for our next journey to Siem Reap.  It was a similar coach to before, comfy with water and breakfast provided.  The journey was 6 hours with a stop half way at a local service station. The food looked incredible, as we looked on from a far unable to buy anything.  Thankfully the journey went quickly and we were in Siem Reap before we knew it.

Our driver met us at the bus station and drove us to our hotel in Siem Reap.  It was a beautiful hotel with incredibly friendly staff.  We had a free afternoon and evening, so we bought two tickets for that evening and then made our way to have to street food-as by now we both were super hungry (I was hangry).  We made our way to Pub Street, filled with shops and food stalls.  After picking where to eat, we ordered some things to try that we had not eaten before.  One of them things being crocodile, which was like a fishy chicken and I feel bad for saying that I liked it but it was quite good.  We decided to walk to the circus as it was showing on the map as only 15 mins-I would recommend to take a tuk tuk as the walk was at the side of a busy dirty road but we made it after carefully navigating our way there.  It was a very organised event, selling popcorn, ice-cream and cocktails as you walked in.  We were guided to our seats and waited for it to start.  It had a fantastic atmosphere, with everyone sat around in a circle and each person was given a hand fan to keep you cool from the heat. The show was brilliant, filled with crazy acrobatic stunts and fire shows. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was a great experience.

By the time we were leaving the circus, it was raining again and so we decided to get a tuk tuk back to the centre, costing $4 but you will have to barter it down. The night was finished with an ice cream roll, (which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while) and then headed back to the hotel as the next day was a busy tour day.

 

Day 13

I was incredibly excited for the visits in Siem Reap, as I love Temples and the history behind them.  Our guide met us at our hotel early in the morning and our first Temple we went to visit was called Angkor Wat.  It is a world heritage site since 1992 and is famous for its beauty and splendour.  On our way we stopped to buy our tickets for the temples-it was one ticket for all the temples we would be visiting on that day and they took our picture for the ticket. Our faces were on our own tickets and we were ready to visit the first temple.

Angkor Wat did not disappoint! It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and it really felt like it. It took your breath away with the impressive magnitude of the temple. The guide asked if we would be happy to go on the non-traditional tour and keep away from the crowds, which we loved and immediately said yes.  He took us to the east entrance and it was nice and quiet.  As we made our way towards the main temple, the guide stopped us at any great photo opportunity and it felt like we had our very own photographer with us.  He told us the history of the temple and took us on a tour of the inside of the temple. He told us whenever we were allowed to touch the walls, carvings and statues making it a real interactive tour.

We next went to Ta Prohm Temple, one of the area’s most beautiful temples and where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed.  At Ta Prohm, it was incredible to see the trees take over the old temples, it was a real nature vs man made.  Walking through the ruins, again the guide would stop and take some great pictures and get us to feel the fallen tomb stones and they lost their battle against the huge roots from one of the trees.

We had lunch at a local restaurant next to the river, and after walking in the heat all morning we had really worked up an appetite.  The Cambodian food was fantastic with fresh fruit juices, chicken curry, sticky pork, rice and of course spring rolls (we couldn’t eat a meal without a spring roll now).

Finally, we went to Angkor Thom, which is the antique capital of Angkor Thom 12th century, with its huge statues at the south gate depicting the churning the ocean of milk.  Bayon Temple is unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara the Phimeanakas. You can feel the faces as you walk through the temple. Our guide told us about various gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from the mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism (modified by centuries of Buddhism).

Our tour for the day was over, so our guide took us back to our hotel and we were free for the evening.  We thanked our guide for a great day and said our goodbyes.  We had a rest until the evening, where we made our way back to the night market streets.  Damiano’s friend was visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia and so we met him and went for a local meal.  He ordered all the local traditional dishes for us to try, and they were delicious.  After a great evening of food and company, we headed back to the hotel-I was shattered.

Angkor Wat

Day 14

Our driver picked us up and took us to the airport in Siem Reap, where we waited for our flight to Ho Chi Minh.  As we walked to our plane, we quickly realised that our plane was the very small one with propellers.  I walked onto the tiny plane and as we made our way to the 2 seats, we strapped in ready for the flight.  It was a bumpy ride but quickly over in an hour and a half.

Reaching boarder control in the airport, I wish I could say coming back into Vietnam was as easy as it was going into Cambodia, but unfortunately it was not.  After queuing in serval different ques and filling out forms, we finally made it to the front.  For the visa coming into Vietnam from Cambodia you need a passport photo and to pay $25 each-we had no photo or money!

Our journey to Phan Thiet had finally started and we were ready for the 5-hour drive-apart from we hadn’t eaten from 8am that morning and it was now 4pm and we were extremely hungry! We eventually arrived in Phan Thiet and thanked our driver for giving us such a smooth and easy journey.  We were staying at the Romana Resort for the next 3 days and it was a fantastic break in the trip.

 

Day 17

We started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh.  We stopped half way into our 5-hour journey at a local service station and they were serving boxes of mini pancakes.  I immediately bought a box and they were wonderful. Arriving in Ho Chi Minh at around 9.30-10pm we went straight to our hotel and rested until the next day.

Vietnam Flag

Day 18

This was our last day in Vietnam and we wanted to make sure it was a good one.  We weren’t flying back to the UK until 7pm that day and so we had the whole day to do one last thing. The Cu Chi Tunnels.  The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong‘s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.

The tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels was led by a local guide who walked us through the networks of tunnels and we even had the opportunity to go down into some of the tunnels.  I was too scared but Damiano went down into the small space and crawled along the tunnel.  At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to shoot one of the guns. We picked to shoot an AK47 and had 5 bullets each.  It was expensive at $25 for the ten bullets but what a rare chance to do something you would never otherwise get to do.  I went first and nervously pressed the trigger and that was enough for me. I have learnt that I am definitely not a natural born shooter.  We were given tea and local yams (as they were grown there at the tunnels during the war) to end the tour.

Meeting our driver, we then made our way back to Ho Chi Minh airport to head off on the 19-hour journey home ahead of us.  The drive to the airport took 1 and a half hours and we were quickly there.

Qatar are a wonderful airline and it was a great first flight, with us being comfy and well fed.  We were soon in Doha and with only a 3-hour layover, we were soon on our second flight back to the UK.  With only 8 hours between us and UK soil, I could practically smell the grey London air.  I slept for most of the flight, which was fantastic.

Our Vietnam and Cambodia adventure was over.  I felt sad that it was over, but I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our big adventure and stay tuned for more adventurous blogs!!

Thanks again,

Emma

 

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

Interview with visually impaired YouTuber Lucy Edwards

This month’s blog post is a bit of a different post for us, but we’re really excited about it! Last month, we found out what it’s like to be a blogger when you have a visual impairment, this month’s post is leading on from that, we thought we’d find out what it’s like to be a YouTuber when you have a visual impairment, so we decided to interview the lovely Lucy Edwards. Thank you so much to Lucy for very kindly letting us interview you!

 

Lucy Edwards YouTube profile image

 

Lucy is a blind YouTuber who has a love for make-up and often portrays this on her channel. Lucy’s channel contains videos on what it’s like living with a visual impairment, helpful resources for blind and visually impaired people and also some beauty related videos as well. She has been uploading videos on YouTube for a few years now, she has over 27,000 subscribers so she has a good idea on what it’s like to be a blind YouTuber.

 

 

We hope you enjoy the interview and get more of an insight into what it’s like to be a YouTuber when you have a visual impairment.

 

What made you want to start YouTube?

At the time I started my channel there wasn’t many people talking about going blind online. I felt so alone in what I was going through and I didn’t want anyone else feeling low because of their sight loss and not have any resources to turn to – so I thought I would make some videos. It helped me get through some bad blind girl days and I love having a community that just gets how you are feeling.

Screenshot of Lucy's video: Why I'm Blind.

What’s your favourite thing about being a disabled YouTuber?

I love meeting new people that are going through the same thing. I have met my friend Fern through vlogging and it has just been the best thing to connect with someone.

 

Is there any aspect of being a blind/visually impaired YouTuber that you feel is difficult because of your visual impairment?

It is hard to be on such a sighted platform when you are completely blind. Sometimes it is tiring because I have to remember where to look and make sure my makeup is perfect. If you are having a bad blind day and you just want to sit under the covers and block out the world then filming a video is probably not the best thing to do sometimes. I wouldn’t change it for the world though. I really do love the challenge as I feel it improves my eye contact and posture every time.

 

Do you have any tips for perspective disabled YouTubers?

Be yourself and always remember why you started in the first place. I think it is so fab that the community is growing but don’t let yourself compare yourself to anyone. You are amazing because there isn’t anyone else out there like you so remember that.

Lucy Edwards at a Beauty event with 2 celebrities

Finally, where would you like to go on holiday and why?

I would really love to go on a safari. I always dreamed of going when I could see but didn’t manage to go before I lost my vision. I have always wondered what it would be like if it was all audio described to me.

Elephant in the savannah

Thank you so much to Lucy for letting us interview you, we really appreciate it.

Make sure you check out Lucy’s YouTube channel, you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Post by Holly Tuke. To read more blogs from Holly check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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

 

Blogging with Life of a Blind Girl

My name is Holly and I’m the author of the blog Life of a Blind Girl. I started my blog back in 2015 and it’s evolved so much since then, my blog has always been my corner of the internet but I didn’t realise how many opportunities it would actually give me including writing for Seable and other organisations and charities.

 

Life Of A Blind Girl Logo

I started my blog in the hope to share my experiences of living with a visual impairment, to educate others, to tackle the common misconceptions surrounding disability and visual impairment and to empower others living with a disability.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, that passion lead me to start my blog and I haven’t looked back since. My blog is a mix of educational related content on visual impairment and disability, sharing my experiences of going to concerts or places I’ve visited, giving people tips on accessibility, education, dos and don’ts to name a few, and I am passionate about all of these topics.

I am also very passionate about helping others and having a blog allows me to do that in a creative way, it makes me extremely happy when people tell me that my blog posts have helped them in one way or another, it really makes the hard work and dedication worth while.

Like everything, blogging has its challenges, as a blind blogger, I’ve faced a few which I thought I’d discuss. However, I have found solutions for these issues.

 

Holly Tuke

Finding an accessible blogging platform

 

There are two popular blogging platforms: Blogger and WordPress, personally I prefer WordPress. I did try Blogger, but as a screen-reader user, I thought that WordPress was the most accessible and offered better functionality, it’s also very easy to use.

In 2017, I went self-hosted, meaning that I now pay for my blog and have my own domain, it means that I have so much freedom with my blog, and I own it, rather than WordPress owning it. It was something that I put off for a while, as I didn’t know how accessible the process would actually be for someone with a visual impairment and also wanted it to be a worthwhile investment which it definitely was. I’m so glad that I went self-hosted and it was an accessible process using a screen-reader.

 

Making my posts as visually appealing as possible

 

As I have no useful vision, it’s hard to visualise what my blog posts look like through a sighted person’s eyes. I am also unable to get inspiration from other bloggers photos as I can’t see them.

I am very lucky as I have amazing parents who take my blog photos for me which I am extremely grateful for so that is my main way of how I get around that issue. I also look at Stock images so if I don’t have a photo myself, then I can use one of those.

 

Collaborating with brands

 

As I’ve learnt more about blogging over the years, connected with other bloggers and really thought about the future of my blog, one thing that I do struggle with is finding brand collaborations. As I predominantly talk about disability on my blog, with the odd lifestyle and beauty post thrown in the mix, I’m not your average beauty, fashion, lifestyle or travel blogger. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that brands don’t really have anything to cater towards disabled bloggers, or they just simply don’t think about collaborating with disabled bloggers, but I’m hoping that this will change in the future as I think disabled bloggers are extremely valuable and bring a lot to the blogging community.

 

However, I am extremely lucky that I get to collaborate and work with many amazing charities and organisations such as Seable, the RNIB and Scope to name a few. Working in partnership with these organisations has given me the chance to take part in campaigns, write guest posts and really get my voice out there and help others. I absolutely love working with these organisations and I am thrilled when they ask me to get involved with their work.

 

Seable Logo RNIB Employment Line

Gaining blog subscribers

This is something that I struggled with at the start, I saw bloggers that started around the same time as me had so many more followers than I did and I often wondered what I was doing wrong. As I started to connect with other bloggers and actually feel confident in my own abilities and writing, my followers seemed to increase and continue to steadily grow which I am so grateful for. I started to get more involved with the blogging community even more, and that really helps my blog, but also allows me to support other bloggers as well which I love doing.

 

Starting a YouTube channel

I’ve wanted to start a YouTube channel for a while now, as an extension of my blog. I knew the type of content that I wanted to film, but I had no idea about the filming and editing part as it can often be very visual. However, I didn’t want this to stop me from doing YouTube so like everything, I found ways around it. I created my YouTube channel, have started uploading videos and I am most definitely still learning.

In terms of filming, I get someone to help me set up the camera, making sure that I’m in the right position and that it’s at the right angle and then I’m all good to film.

 

In terms of editing, I actually do all of that myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really do fancy editing, I keep it nice and simple, but I’m pleased that I am able to do the whole process independently. I use iMovie on my Mac with VoiceOver and edit using shortcut keys. It’s a thrilling feeling knowing that I’ve edited my own video.

 

I wouldn’t change being a blind blogger for the world, I love blogging and it has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I couldn’t imagine not being a blogger as it’s such a huge part of my life. I have also made some of my closest friends through blogging and being part of the blogging community is wonderful.

 

There are thousands (probably millions) of bloggers out there, each offering something different and many giving unique perspectives on life through their writing.

To anyone that is looking to become a blogger, then I would urge you to just go for it. It is so worth all the hard work! Dedication and determination are key, but it is so worth it.

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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

 

Five years of Seable

Five years of Seable

This week’s blog has been written by our blogger Holly Tuke, the award nominated disability and lifestyle blogger behind the successful blog Life of a Blind Girl.

 

It’s hard to believe that Seable is five years old this year, where has the time gone?

It’s been an incredible five years, so we wanted to reflect and look back on some of the highlights.

 

To give you a bit of an insight into how Seable was born, twelve years ago, our founder, Damiano La Rocca’s father, Carmelo, was hit by a drunk driver. While in hospital, he became friends a young man named Martino who had also suffered an accident and was recovering from a similar operation. As Carmelo recovered the use of his legs, Martino did not. During one of their many conversations, the topic of scuba diving came up and Martino expressed his desire to try this out. After looking into scuba diving lessons for wheelchair users, it became apparent that this was not something that was widely catered for.

 

As an experienced scuba diver, Carmelo took it upon himself to become an instructor and teach Martino himself. Martino enjoyed scuba diving so much that he became the first paraplegic man to dive 59 meters, this was a Guinness World Record in 2007. From this, both Carmelo and Martino decided that they wanted to help other people with disabilities and so set up an Italian based charity, Life (which stands for Life Improvement for Everyone).

 

Whilst studying at university, Damiano conducted some research and found out that there was a gap in the market for accessible tourism, so that gave him the motivation, drive and ambition and that’s how Seable was born.

 

We took on our first  charity holiday in September 2014 which was in partnership with the charity Victa, we still work with them today. On this holiday, blind and visually impaired young people got to experience new things such as an introduction to scuba diving, climbing Mount Etna and cultural experiences. The holiday was a huge success, so this gave us the building blocks to carry on and create even more memorable holidays for disabled people.

 

Over the years, Seable have been featured in a wide range of publications, why not check these out??

We have also won some awards over the last few years which we are extremely grateful for, these include the certificate for the commitment and improvement for people with disabilities, Unlimited Millennium Award and a social entrepreneurs award.

 

The publications that we have been featured in, have allowed us to spread our wings and get our voice out there and given us the chance for people to hear about us. Therefore, it has meant that we have been able to expand our Social Enterprise, offering more holiday destinations for disabled people to experience, activities for disabled people, giving us the scope to be able to Taylor their holiday to suit their requirements and needs.

This means that we are able to travel all over the world and give disabled people the best possible experiences in places such as Thailand, Cyprus, Sicily and Sauze,. Holidays in each of these destinations are unique, offering a range of activities means that we have been able to build up a rapport with tour guides and activity organisers, but also offer a wide range of activities to disabled people such as skiing, tactile museums and experiencing the local culture. Check out this video from Stephan who is a Paralympian to find out more.

We offer specific holiday destinations for people in wheelchairs and those with a visual impairment. Holiday destinations for people with a visual impairment include Sicily, Slovenia, Rome, and Cyprus and soon Lanzarote and Thailand. Wheelchair accessible holiday destinations include Sicily, Croatia, Portugal, Gibraltar, Greece, Cyprus, South Africa, Turkey, Mallorca, Canary Islands, Jersey, Malta, and Madeira.

We have worked extremely hard over the last five years to offer as many destinations as possible, our Founder, Damiano is always looking for new and exciting destinations for the future so the list certainly doesn’t stop there, and we are trying to continue to try and offer unique holiday experiences for disabled people.

Damiano La Rocca and the Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports Weerasak Kowsurat

We would just like to thank everyone that has been involved with Seable over the last five years, no matter your role, you have helped us continue to grow and offer our services to disabled people so thank you. We hope you will continue to support us, here’s to the next five years!

 

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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

 

Accessible Tourism for All Comes to Thailand

In February of this year, Seable, aided by the Thai tour operator, Nutty’s Adventures, came to Thailand bringing a group blind and partially sighted travellers from Victa, a very well known charity from Milton Keynes, UK. Their 12-day tour took the  group of tourists to both the North and South of Thailand. The tour was definitely a wonderful and rewarding experience for the participants and also proved to Nutty’s Adventures, that with some careful planning and hard work Thailand could become a successful tourism destination for all people, regardless of any disabilities they may have.

While plans are being made to promote Thailand overseas as a “Tourism Destination for All”, the first course to train licenced Thai tour guides in the right way of handling blind and partially sighted guests has just been held in Ayutthaya from 19-21 June.

This training course was planned with the support and cooperation of the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA) and valuable assistance was provided by Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK. which was asked to act as a consultant and provide the relative manuals.  The course was conducted by Nutty’s Adventures and the Thailand Association of the Blind.

The course was fully subscribed and more guide training will be organised in the future and in October and November Nutty’s Adventures will go to Europe to promote Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All in Germany and then globally at the World Travel Market to be held in London in November.

Everybody involved sees a great future for accessible tourism for all in Thailand and are determined to work together to make it happen.

What Nutty’s Adventure said about SEABLE:

At Nutty’s Adventures we have just  completed our 3-day training course for guides working with blind and partially sighted guests. It was an enormously rewarding experience for all. Everybody learned a great deal and found time to have a good time too. Now we all look forward to developing Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All.

We wish to give special thanks to Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK and the Thailand Association of the Blind for their valuable assistance in making this course the great success that it was.

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project,  as it showed the world how much time, effort and passion Thailand as a nation is  devolving to the “accessible holidays” cause.

Thailand is indeed becoming an accessible travel destination that all Visually Impaired travellers should consider, and this is thanks to passionate individuals like the guys at Nutty’s Adventure,  at the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA).

Thank you all.

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

Are West End theatres accessible? We have asked SeatPlan.

For this week’s blog we have asked our friends from SeatPlan to share some thoughts about London theatres and what can be done to make them more accessible.

 

London Zoo? Check. The Tower of London? Check. The London Eye? Check. A West End show? Hmmm…

 

Though seeing a West End show is on many of London visitors’ to do lists, the beautiful, old buildings that are home to some of the best theatre in the world aren’t the most amenable to people with access requirements. Most of the theatres date to at least Victorian or Edwardian times. Theatre Royal Drury Lane, built in 1812, is even older – it pre-dates Queen Victoria’s birth by seven years. Architects back then didn’t consider accessibility in their designs and as many of these buildings are now listed, alterations are difficult and expensive – if they are permitted at all by planning regulations.

 

Exterior of Drury Lane Theatre

 

Luckily, rising levels of awareness and the wider theatre industry’s commitment to increasing access is bringing about change. Most West End theatres are now fitted with infrared hearing systems and removable seating, many offer dedicated access performances and downloadable Visual Stories, assistance dogs are usually permitted, and staff have been specifically trained to support theatregoers with their access requirements. When building regulations allow, ramps, lifts and step-free routes have been installed, as have low-level service counters at bars and box offices.

Many West End theatres are owned by one of four bigger companies, which enables access provisions to be standardised across an entire venue group. For instance, Ambassadors Theatre Group, also known as ATG, has a dedicated access team that can provide theatregoers for information and support with ticket booking across all of their venues, both in and out of London.

 

 

On the other hand, change just isn’t happening fast enough and there’s little financial reason for progress to be so slow. The West End is doing incredibly well – with record breaking numbers year on year, London theatre is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s a booming industry and there’s a lot of audience demand for tickets, but all audiences aren’t treated equally. Theatre seating is usually spread over multiple storeys so only certain areas of the theatre may be accessible, and many venues don’t have internal lifts. Main entrances usually have at least a few steps into the foyer from street level. Most theatres ask that patrons with access requirements contact the venue well in advance, and arrive at least half an hour early on the day of the performance they’re attending. Some theatres don’t even have adapted toilets.

Late last year, charity VocalEyes conducted an industry-wide access audit and their findings were disappointing. Out of the 659 researched theatres across the UK, 72% have access information on their websites. Whilst this is a lot, that still means more than a quarter of the venues surveyed didn’t provide any information about their access provisions at all. London is slightly higher at 78%, but Northern Ireland is the lowest, with just over half of its theatres providing access information on their websites. The report also states the amount and quality of the access information provided varies, from a few lines to detailed descriptions. Frankly, this isn’t good enough.

 

Nearly half of West End theatregoers hail from outside of London, indicating that seeing a show is clearly on the list of things to do for many people visiting the city. These visitors are less likely to go the West End theatres regularly, so they will be less familiar with individual theatres and the access provisions they provide. As VocalEyes’ survey proves, if information is provided online it’s not currently standardised across the industry as a whole, or even within the commercial theatre scene of a single city.

Another problem is the sheer amount of content about West End theatre on the internet. There are seemingly endless ticket retailers, news and reviews sites and other websites. Though it indicates how popular theatre is, it’s a confusing landscape to navigate even for seasoned audiences. Numerous third party ticket agents work with theatres to get bums on seats, and long lines of communication mean that information from the venues isn’t always displayed on vendors’ sites, or displayed accurately – and it may not be on the theatre’s website anyway. What with SEO optimisation that all websites use to rank higher in search results, the actual theatre’s website might be further down the list and may not be obvious, either.

Because of this resounding lack of comprehensive access information for the whole West End in a single resource, theatre website SeatPlan, in its aim to help audiences find the best seats, added an access page to each of the site’s venue listings. These access pages contain detailed descriptions of building entrances, numbers of steps in and around the theatre, bar seating, and so on. It also provides contact details for the theatres’ access teams at the West End’s major theatres and many regional venues.

These teams will be able to provide theatregoers with further details relating to your access requirements and assist with booking tickets or performances that best suit you. They can also advise on the availability of touch tours, audio description, captions, BSL interpreted and relaxed performances.

So whilst theatres still have a lot to do in order to improve their accessibility, they are taking steps in the right direction.  Independent resources like SeatPlan also help, by making the process quicker and more streamlined. Even though there’s still a lot of work to be done, the theatre industry as a whole is finally waking up to accessibility shortcomings so change is coming.

 

Blog written by Laura Kressly from SeatPlan, to find out more check https://seatplan.com/

 

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

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

This week’s blog has been written by our new guest blogger Holly Tuke, the award nominated disability and lifestyle blogger behind the successful blog Life of a Blind Girl.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

 

Finding a job can be difficult, even more so when you have a visual impairment or any other disability, but it can also be very rewarding knowing that you have got over many hurdles.

I have a visual impairment myself and I am registered as blind as I have no useful vision so I know what it can be like to find a job when you have a visual impairment.

I graduated university in 2017 so getting a job was constantly on my mind, as I knew that I couldn’t do basic jobs such as working in a shop, pub/restaurant, cafe or those sorts of things to just tie me over. I was working for a visual impairment charity whilst I was in my third year of university for a few hours a week so this was something to do whilst I was looking for a graduate job.

I don’t think I was fully prepared for how difficult it was going to be, I knew that it would be hard but I don’t think that I was fully prepared. I even considered changing my career path or going into postgraduate study.

Nevertheless, I managed to get myself a job in November 2017 which I absolutely love. So, I want to share 10 tips with you on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment.

 

1.   Know what field you want to go into

This is so important whether you have a disability or not, but I’d say that it is key when you have a disability as you can look for jobs in that specific field.

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

2.   Look on job websites

Websites such as Indeed, Total Jobs and The Guardian Jobs are some examples of websites where employers advertise job vacancies. They are fully accessible as well which is a bonus.

Check local websites as well such as your local paper, colleges, schools, the local council or universities for employment opportunities. You would be surprised how many jobs are advertised on such websites. You can often receive email alerts when new job vacancies are listed on websites, these are very useful to have.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

3.   Communicate with people you know

This can be very daunting and you often feel rude doing this, but if you know someone that works in the field that you want to go into then it can be a great way of finding out about employment opportunities.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

4.   Make use of services available to you

Making use of services can be a great way of looking for jobs and receiving career advice, services   may include the RNIB Employment Line or services in your local area.

 

5.   Contact employers directly

If you are looking to work within a specific company or organisation then contact them directly or look for a jobs section on their website. They may provide you with useful information on how to find out about job vacancies within their organisation.

 

10 Tips on looking for a job when you have a visual impairment

6.   Do some volunteering

Many charities and organisations are often looking for volunteers, this can be a great way of getting experience for your cv, gaining new skills and volunteering is sometimes the steppingstone that you need to get a job within a specific organisation. Nevertheless, volunteering is very rewarding and looks great on your CV.

 

7. Know your CV

Not all employers accept CV’s, so you might have to fill out an application form to apply for a job. Knowing your CV can make this process easier. If employers do accept CV’s then make sure you taylor your CV to fit the job that you’re applying for.

 

8.   Ask for documents in an accessible format

You can’t apply for a job if documents aren’t in an accessible format, don’t be scared to ask for them in an accessible format, most employers are happy to do this. At the end of the day, you deserve a fair chance like everyone else.

 

9.   Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do

When looking for jobs, you may often come across jobs that you think you can’t do because of your visual impairment or other disability, but there are so many jobs that you can do.

As a blind person, one question that I often get asked is ‘what jobs can blind people do?’ And the list is practically endless. Obviously, there are limitations and there are certain jobs that we can’t do, but there are far more that we can do.

 

10.        Don’t give up!

I think that this is the most important piece of advice that I can give, it can often feel disheartening, upsetting or frustrating when you are faced with disappointment when looking for work but it is very important to not give up and feel discouraged. Determination, dedication and hard work will pay off in the end!

 

Those are a few tips that I can offer about looking for jobs when you have a visual impairment or another disability, I hope that they have been of use.

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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

 

Cooking as a Visually Impaired – Gnocchi Recipe

For this week’s blog we are going to talk about one of the fantastic activities we offer in our destinations: cooking classes. When travelling to Rome, our guests can get their hands dirty by making home made potato gnocchi, a traditional dish that all Italians are proud of.

Today we’ll share the recipe, and trust us, once you start making them at home you won’t buy again those ready made fake-gnocchi.

Boil potatoes: In a large pot with just enough water to cover them, boil potatoes with their skins on. The skin helps the potato not too absorb access water. (Dry potatoes are good. Water potatoes are bad.) Boil for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.

*General rule of thumb: 1 medium-sized potato per serving or person. For every potato, you want to use approximately 1/2 cup of flour.

Drain well: Remove potatoes and drain well. Allow them to cool in a colander or over cheesecloth.

Peel potatoes: Peel boiled potatoes, removing any brown spots that might be below the skin.

Rice potatoes: Using a potato ricer, rice peeled potatoes. If they appear watery at this point, allow them to rest on a dishtowel to absorb excess water.

The foundation: Mound riced potato on the middle of a wooden board or a clean, dry countertop. Top with flour and sprinkle with salt.

Make a well: Using your hands, scoop out the center of your mound.

Add egg: Break egg into the center of the well. Beat the egg with a fork.

Incorporate ingredients: Using the fork, slowly start to pull in flour and potato to mix ingredients.

Begin to form: Use your hands to combine ingredients, beginning to form the dough.

Knead dough: Pull together ingredients and knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.

Shape dough: Shape dough into a long, wide rectangle for cutting.

Cut dough: Cut dough into 8-10 pieces, about 4 inches long.

The secret to perfect gnocchi: Knead just enough for the dough to come together. Dough should have a loose airy texture, not gooey or dense.

Roll into ropes: Roll each piece by gently pushing with fingers spread. The goal is to make an evenly-distributed rope. For shorter, heavier gnocchi, roll dough into thick ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces. For thinner gnocchi, roll longer ropes.

Cut dough ropes: Using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife, cut dough ropes into 1-inch pieces. Cut ends at an angle.

Keep floured: To prevent sticking, keep gnocchi in a cool area. Toss them with extra flour while they are waiting to be cooked or frozen.

Ridges or indents: You can use a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.This process isn’t necessary, but adds to the asthetic of your final dish.

To cook: Gently shake away any excess flour and place finished gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook gnocchi until they float to the top, about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes. Do not wait longer than 45 minutes to cook gnocchi or they will begin to stick to each other.  

 

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