Disability travelling tips: push the boundaries
Are you keen to break out from the norm and explore more than you thought possible? From scuba diving to travelling around Europe, Co-editor Martyn Sibley has pushed the boundaries to create his own wild adventures. See how you can plan travel you wouldn’t have dreamed possible with his disability travelling tips.
To visit an uncharted territory and experience new things, I honestly think enriches us in so many ways. Whilst some people find excuses not to venture far – whether disabled or not – others seek adrenaline and greater personal growth.
Whilst we’re all different and entitled to our individual preferences, here’s my top tips for disabled travellers looking to reach new horizons…
Never say never
Having been disabled since birth, I have come up against my fair share of social barriers. From steps into a building, to policies that segregate disabled people, I have been prohibited access and excluded too many times. However with some wild dreams, stubborn persistence and learned tactics, I truly believe anything is possible.
My first independent trip was to Australia, and before that my parents took me on a life-enriching visit to Disney World in Florida. On both occasions, focusing on my wheelchair, hoist and shower needs would’ve resulted in another UK summer holiday (no disrespect Bournemouth, we’ll always have the other summers).
My biggest advice, therefore, is to essentially plan your travels first on where you want to go, not what your needs are, and then work from there. Do not just go where your disability dictates. If someone says otherwise, talk about the weather and remove yourself from unnecessary negativity.
Practicing the practical
Whatever your disability, there will be some limitations. Once you’ve picked your destination, list what you need to know and what you need to do. Don’t rush it. Maybe do a task a day, and only book it when you’re feeling strong and ready.
I tend to work backwards with my list, thinking of the bigger things I need/must do first:
- Accessible hotel and wheelchair friendly resort
- Rented hoist and shower chair
- Adapted taxi
- Pre warn the airline of my needs and wheelchair dimensions
- Ensure I can get to the airport OK.
Checking you can get the usual things like the correct currency, valid passport and sunglasses is helpful too (not being condescending here, it’s a common last minute issue).
Go with the flow
But unfortunately things can and will go wrong. I’ve had awkward airport staff, broken wheelchairs, inaccessible hotel facilities, unreliable taxis and ill-suited rental equipment.
However, it’s important to remember that with calm thinking and communication with the right people, there is always a solution. Some trips were tainted, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – I learnt from my mistakes and many other clichés are relevant here too.
Push the boundaries
My desire to go beyond what most would think I can do has meant that I’ve flown an aeroplane, I’ve abseiled, gone scuba diving, hot air ballooned and so much more. I’ve been to the USA, Mexico, on a European road trip, Singapore and Australia. And last year I went from John O’ Groats to Land’s End.
This is my adventuring way. It is also a powerful way of showing the world what is possible.
If you are keen to push boundaries, but are worried you can’t, I would advise you to keep doing the next baby step. A novice traveller may try a night in a nearby city. Someone else may go further for a week. In the end, you’ll hit the limit and chillax. Just don’t go stale because others say its best and safe.
No matter who you are, whatever your perceived limits are, and wherever you want to go, just do it! Even if takes a lifetime go for it. It’s amazing the things you’ll experience.
Visit our travel section for a huge selection of articles and advice on travelling with a disability.
By Martyn Sibley
Check out just some of Martyn’s adventures…
• What Disability? Martyn Sibley’s awesome adventure
• Martyn Sibley’s Epic European Disability Roadtrip – part 3
• Overcoming my disability to volunteer abroad
• Accessible Barcelona – part 1
• Shouting about accessibility across Europe
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