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Disability and Adventure Travel: the Double-Edged Sword


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Presentation given at an ATRA seminar on Adventure Tourism in Sheffield

Published in: Travel, Health & Medicine, Sports
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Disability and Adventure Travel: the Double-Edged Sword

  1. 1. Disability and Adventure Travel: The Double-Edged Sword Dr. Diana Maynard University of Sheffield, UK
  2. 2. Who am I? ● I wear many hats! ● Research in Social Media Analysis - automatic detection of opinions in blogs, tweets etc. ● I don't consider myself disabled, but.... ● Registered blind since 2008 ● Type 1 diabetic ● Co-founder of Insulin Pumpers UK - helping people with diabetes lead “normal” lives ● I blog about travel, adventure and life and write the odd article for magazines etc.
  3. 3. How do I see the world?
  4. 4. What do I do in my spare time?
  5. 5. I like to have fun!I like to have fun!
  6. 6. Didn't you just say you were blind? ● Blind people don't all just sit at home listening to talking books ● I can still do all kinds of crazy things, I just do them a bit differently. Never judge a book by its cover Seeing the world a bit differently
  7. 7. My first “view” of Everest
  8. 8. A view of the Peak District I never saw
  9. 9. Why is adventure travel difficult? ● Difficulty persuading a company or convincing friends to let you go on the trip with them ● Feeling like a burden or liability to others ● Frustrating not being able to do things as well as other people ● Needing help for even stupid things ● Others may not treat you appropriately (under- or over-compensation) ● Others may tailor the trip to what they think are your needs / limits ● Others may feel resentful
  10. 10. There's always that nagging doubt ● No matter how confident they appear outwardly, ALL disabled people have moments where they feel like a burden to others ● And that's just in everyday life, let alone up a mountain or in the middle of the desert ● And it's somehow worse when you're trying to be a serious adventurer
  11. 11. Finding the loo vs. climbing Kilimanjaro
  12. 12. And if something does go wrong ● It's almost impossible to get over the fear of being labelled as “trouble” ● This might actually have dangerous consequences if it leads to unsafe behaviour ● Trying to cope yourself instead of asking for help ● Not notifying others of a problem, which is then exacerbated
  13. 13. Little bundle of trouble
  14. 14. Perception and Reality ● Very often, the issues are more mental than physical ● Worry about the problems that might occur puts people off ● As a disabled person, you have to learn to be resilient, but also not to be afraid to ask for help ● The latter is often the hardest ● This all sounds a bit doom and gloom ● But with careful preparation and a thick skin, these problems can all be resolved
  15. 15. Unnecessary worry? ● Helping other people is part of being on a trip: everyone has strengths and weaknesses ● Everyone contributes in different ways ● The person that gets annoyed or frustrated by other people's limitations is the least worthy person to be on the trip ● Group adventure travel is about teamwork ● If you're soloing, you are the whole team ● Then you just have to worry about your own safety ● Requires realistic assessment of your limitations (harder than it sounds)
  16. 16. How do leaders benefit? ● Learn new skills ● See things from another point of view ● Get a sense of satisfaction at helping ● Often the help needed is actually minimal, but crucial
  17. 17. What do the guides have to say? Amar Latif (founder of Traveleyes): “Sighted guides get so much out of our trips. It makes them look at their lives differently as well. They realise that blind travellers are out here on the other side of the world and they can’t see but they are not letting that hold them back. A lot of our sighted travellers go back to their normal lives with renewed inspiration.”
  18. 18. What do the guides have to say? (2) Ben Fogle, on “Extreme Dreams”: “As an experience, it was tough to be responsible for people with such disabilities or problems, but incredibly mentally rewarding to be responsible for changing their lives.”  Andy Kirkpatrick, on leading disabled people on climbs: “I don't lead trips because I want to keep climbing the same wall. I do it because I want to help other people experience what I experience.”
  19. 19. How do the other clients benefit? ● Learn new skills ● See things from another point of view ● Inspiration (e.g. the Paralympics) ● Satisfaction in helping others ● Makes them think about their own problems differently ● Other skills brought by disabled person might enrich their own experience
  20. 20. Most people don't use all their senses ● Being blind can make you more aware of tastes, smells, sounds and textures ● People with diabetes know lots about nutrition ● People with limb loss are often incredibly dextrous with remaining limbs ● All leads to a richer experience
  21. 21. Disabled adventurers have exciting lives
  22. 22. Kidney beans in custard? +
  23. 23. No one wants to help a grumpy person
  24. 24. It's a hindrance, not an excuse
  25. 25. Thank you for listening! Twitter: @dianamaynard