Travelling with a Disability

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Martyn Sibley

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.

1. Never Say Never

Having been disabled since birth I have come up against my fair share of social barriers. From steps to people’s stares, and segregatory policies 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 travel was to Australia. Before that my parents executed 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 is to essentially plan your travels on where you want to go. Do not go where your disability dictates. If someone says otherwise, talk about the weather and remove yourself from unnecessary negativity.

2. Practising the Practical

Whatever your disability there will be some limitations. Mind you everyone has limitations too. Phobia of flying being a strong one.

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: So I’d need an accessible hotel and wheelchair friendly resort. A rented hoist and shower chair. An adapted taxi is a must. Pre warning the airline of my needs and wheelchair dimensions is important too. I finally 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).

3. Go with the Flow

Once you have chosen your destination and carried out your research you’re good to go.

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.

Importantly 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.

4. Push the Boundaries

I may be a slightly different disabled traveller in that I’ve ended up flying an aeroplane, I have abseiled, SCUBA dived, hot air ballooned and so much more. I’ve been to USA, Mexico, on a European road trip, Singapore and Australia. I also went from John o Groats to Lands End.

This is my adventuring way. It is also a powerful way of showing the world what is possible.

For you I would say 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” – Martyn Sibley

The Really Useful Stuff team would like to thank Martyn for sharing these great tips with RUS.
If you are planning a trip abroad you will find lots of ‘really useful stuff’ to make travelling a little easier in our shop.