Travelling the world in a wheelchair
My name is Carrie-Ann, I live in the Lake District, UK with my husband Darren and our little dog, Poppy. You can follow my travels and read expertise and inspiration for your own holidays on my blog, Carrie Ann Lightley.
I love to travel, to the next town or somewhere far away. I’m an organiser, a planner, and a list maker. Researching new places to go is what I love to do, and it’s also been part of my role as Information Service Manager at Tourism for All for the last 12 years. I have Cerebral Palsy, which means I use a wheelchair. I was brought up to believe that there is nothing I absolutely cannot do – there is always a way. I launched my blog as my way of sharing that belief with the world, and celebrating accessible businesses that go above and beyond to make sure that everybody enjoys their holidays and travels.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit wonderful places such as Egypt, Turkey, Mexico and Mallorca, and most recently city breaks to Barcelona, Rome and Pisa. I’d love to go to Perth in Western Australia next as my best friend emigrated there a few years ago.
I prefer beach holidays and city breaks; in fact Barcelona was a perfect mix of the two. Barcelona is actually the only place I have confidently been able to use public transport outside of the UK. I think public transport which is accessible enables everyone to experience a place ‘like a local’, which is how I like to travel. It’s relatively easy to find an accessible taxi in most places, but that doesn’t always feel like an authentic travel experience.
When planning a holiday, I usually start with a couple of destinations and a budget in mind, then research accommodation for accessibility, good reviews, and location – I like to be able to reach bars, restaurants and places to visit easily. I’ll contact the accommodation directly to confirm they can meet my access requirements, and ask for photos. This helps to ensure nothing gets lost in translation when booking overseas. I always ask for confirmation that the accommodation, airline, transfer company etc. can meet my requirements in writing.
Barriers to access are often about attitude and service, which are easy to rectify. Personally, I will always recommend a venue where the staff went out of their way to accommodate me over one with good access, but bad service. Disability awareness training gives staff members the confidence to welcome all customers, without worrying about saying the wrong thing or booking someone in to an unsuitable room. It’s not about offering ‘special’ service for those with access requirements, but the very best service for everyone.
I think we need to continue to raise awareness of accessible tourism, and champion the businesses that are doing it right. Being accessible is not about protection against the law, or even how to avoid problems, but about an opportunity to raise standards and to grow. Accessible and inclusive tourism is about making tourism possible for everyone – whether you are young, old, a mum pushing a buggy, a wheelchair user, a visually or hearing impaired person, a carer or someone recovering from an accident or an illness.
Overall, the thing I love most about travelling is the sense of independence. Travelling alone or with my husband, managing it all, and sometimes struggling but pushing myself to carry on, gives me a huge sense of achievement. Sometimes it’s a harsh wakeup call going somewhere new and having that comfort taken away, but isn’t that what travelling is all about? Going to new places, seeing things with fresh eyes, taking in new experiences. Sometimes it can be a little more difficult for me, but that’s not going to stop me any time soon!
What do you think of Carrie-Ann’s story? We’d love to hear about your own travel experiences in the comments below!