First published in Wanderlust magazine Aug 09:                                                       ...
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Gordon Rattray: Access All Areas


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Travel with a disability by Gordon Rattray

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Gordon Rattray: Access All Areas

  1. 1. First published in Wanderlust magazine Aug 09: → Destination country Ten Top Trips you CAn TAke 1 eAsT AfriCAn sAfAri There are operators with accessible vehicles and knowledge of adapted accommodation in all the major parks. 2 AnCienT peru Explore Machu Picchu – you may need help to navigate the steep stone stairways, but this is easily organised. 3 ViCToriA fAlls, ZAmbiA Few viewpoints are completely step-free, but help is readily offered and surrounding È activities – including rafting, helicopter flights and game drives – can all be adapted to accommodate limited mobility. Take dvice… my aonal care assistant to er pers 4 GAlápAGos islAnds Rediscover the Darwin- inspiring wildlife off Guy, form Hawking Monica Stephen d friend and mainland Ecuador. scientist a disable , on holi day with t-skiing A professional kayaker an’t – je “If you’re thin g they c y you rself do some on’t den accompanies trips in dying to tever – d ivin g or wha nt rankles – two-person kayaks, and shark-d sentme sure. Re saints, a wheelchair-friendly the plea ss is for and se lflessne ers.” guesthouse can be used in San Cristóbal. Access all areas daymak not holi 5 pATAGoniA See the fjords and forests by light aircraft, and the ice floes of the Beagle Channel by catamaran. Experienced boosted, making the next one easier. relationship will lose a degree of its operators use minibuses with ramps and Furthermore, discovering – or formality, becoming significantly more hotels with step-free bathrooms. Travelling with a wheelchair has its challenges – but follow accessible travel expert Gordon Rattray’s advice and you’ll have no shortage of adventure rediscovering – your travel possibilities will not only be hugely rewarding in itself, but will fire enthusiasm and than the usual fleeting exchange of words and purchase of an artefact. Of course there are limits, and 6 AlAskA Navigate Alaska’s Glacier Bay by accessible boat, hopefully spotting wolves and bears on the snow-clad maybe stimulate change in many other surprising drawbacks. Being mountains. A refitted ex-minesweeper areas of your life. permanently seated does make you operates in the region, with widened decks stand out more; although I believe this and lifts – you can even be securely B Meaningful encounters can actually help with personal security winched into a kayak! reathtaking is how I can best describe my visit to Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Falls. ‘bearers’ simultaneously heaved the poles up onto their shoulders sending me soaring skywards. My stomach Above, left to right: Opportunities for adventure travel impaired mobility want to see more than pool and bar, and are catering to them. Vehicles equipped with lifts and There are even distinct advantages to having a disability; for instance, reliance on others can help bridge the – pickpockets prefer obscurity – it can also lead to awkward moments. I remember sitting in Addis Ababa’s 7 TAj mAhAl, indiA There is now gently ramped entry into the mausoleum and for wheelchair But it was the journey to caught up only seconds later and users – from lodgings with roll-in showers can be gulf between us, as tourists, and them, Mercato (sub-Saharan Africa’s largest wheelchairs are available. 8 Botswana’s reach this huge wall of a feeble squeak of protest was all my found from Arusha to Ushuaia, while the locals. I’m often forced to ask for market) wondering how to retrieve the down under With a few Okavango Delta crashing white water that left me shocked lungs could produce. to Ethiopia’s Blue the power of the internet brings up-to- assistance, and people, in turn, are cash I’d hidden in my socks without extra harnesses and a bit of truly speechless. Nevertheless, despite the vertigo, I soon Nile Falls to date information about such places – interested to know what caused my giving the hiding place away to the manhandling, Australia and New Zealand bouncing on a The last kilometre – a rough footpath got used to my heady perch, and would bungee in New and their level of inclusion – into our injury and even why Western medicine curious crowd that had gathered now include extreme sports – bungee hewn through lush vegetation, dodging now recommend it for the thrill alone! Zealand – are on living rooms. can’t cure me. The chance of meaningful around me! jumping, jet boating and canyon swinging – Apumayo; Ingrid Vekemans; AJ Hackett;; rocky outcrops and fallen trees – is not But don’t be misled; improvisation like the rise That said, stepping – or rolling – out of encounters and conversations is So does this all mean that travel for on their list of accessible options. easy wheelchair terrain. I was struggling for balance and the guys helping me were tired of pushing and pulling, so a this is unusual. Adventure travel is now a real option for all wheelchair users. the comfort zone is a gut-wrenching thought for many chair users, especially those who are new to this way of life. increased. This is especially true if you use a local assistant, where you will spend a lot of time together; your people with disabilities has been completely tamed? Certainly not – for those who crave challenge, undiluted > 9 snow sporTs Many resorts are completely inclusive and sit skis exist in mono, bi or more stable ‘kart’ versions, couple of boys were sent scampering out of the comfort zone Even simple trips such as visiting allowing even high-level quadriplegics barefoot to the nearest village for two Forget feeling tied to a resort; consider friends or family can take great courage, complete freedom. long, strong bamboo poles. These were quickly lashed to the frame of my chair, the wheels were removed, and we set off instead being fastened to a bridge by a bungee cord then plummeting to certain terror. Or exploring the mind- so the very idea of an adventure holiday might seem like a distant dream – or a nightmare. ‘i sat in addis ababa’s market 10 world Cup 2010 Follow next year’s festival of football in South Africa; an overland truck trip with me bobbing along comfortably at waist height (pictured, above right). boggling mountain ruins of Machu Picchu. Or going on safari into the wilds But it shouldn’t. Once that big decision to go has been made, it might be wondering how to retrieve the to Kruger and whale- watching on the south Within minutes, an utterance in Amharic signalled yet another stop, of Africa. Operators in offbeat destinations are surprising how easily the rest falls into place. With each hurdle met and cash i’d hidden in my socks’ coast are just two of the most accessible post- then, without further warning, all four becoming aware that people with cleared, your confidence will be tournament possibilities. 56 Wanderlust August/September 2009 Wanderlust August/September 2009 57
  2. 2. → DisableD travellers Resources • Access Africa – Safaris for People with Limited Mobility (Bradt, 2009) the new book by Gordon Rattray, the author of this article • Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (Demos, 2009) by Candy Harrington; see • Easy Access Europe (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006) by Rick Steves • There and Back (Radar, 2006) a travel guide for disabled people; see • This site aims to make adventure travel easier for people with disabilities • A site on which disabled travellers can share their experiences • Forums, news, features, jobs and more < adventure is always possible. But even Snow business: understood. In the airport, keep your • here there are positives. Local In the more-aware own wheelchair until you board (this is Peer support for those with spinal spots such as hospitality, ingenuity and willingness Sweden, sit skis usually possible), and in the aircraft cord injury to help always seem to increase the enable wheelchair replace the seat cushion (they’re usually • further you wander from the beaten users to speed just attached with velcro) with your own Information and advice for disabled down the slopes path, meaning that even if the obstacles pressure-relieving model. people who travel by air • accommodation If possible, contact Richard Priestley are greater, they are – as my Blue Nile • Falls visit showed – often more easily the accommodation or local operator A charity running a range of services dealt with. directly for access information. But for people with spinal cord injury, as remember, it’s all too easy to answer well as their friends and family the key issues – anD how to “yes” to the simple question: “Is your Deal with theM bathroom accessible?” Instead, ask • Flying Most airports are extremely for descriptions, measurements and accessible, with trained assistance staff even photographs. required to service your wheelchair, but and narrow ‘aisle’ chairs for boarding • Planning If you need more time for remember that these may be confiscated the plane. Book these in advance and the mundane daily tasks – ablutions, from hand luggage. Take a spare inner make sure your needs are known and car transfers and general getting around tube or consider using solid (puncture- – then ventilate your itinerary proof) tyres. If necessary, you can accordingly. Don’t be persuaded that the transform your wheelchair into a busiest trip is the best one. temporary shower chair by removing È • insurance Make sure your insurance the cushion cover and putting a bin covers any pre-existing medical liner over the backrest. d i c e… my aecuv Correspondent conditions you have plus all your • health Don’t take chances. Discuss Take S rity E, BBC t them wh a equipment – including wheelchair – for your plans with a health advisor and be rdner OB line, tell your flight, your holiday duration and attentive to potential problems during Frank Ga g the air u need in ead. Rin what he lp yo all activities you plan to undertake. your trip. Changing routines and doing “Plan ah ’t do and fuse to le t and can Person ally, I re • Packing Choose manageable luggage new activities can increase risks of skin you can eat. nced-o ff to your s some fe damage and pressure wounds. ▪ getting me into aggage bags, pack frugally to keep weight down airport s corral t, hand b vel ligh and look into sourcing bulky air ghe tto. I tra ck now than wheelch a smalle r rucksa ” incontinence material in your Got a Question? only, with n my g ap year! .99) destination. For the flight, it is wise to We’ll be holding an online I carried o ury, £18 ons (Eb book F ar Horiz carry essential medicines and Q&A about disabled travel Frank’s is out no w equipment in your hand luggage in case with author Gordon Rattray – for your main baggage is delayed. details, see • equipment Carry the basic tools disabledtravel 58 Wanderlust August/September 2009