Travelling the world in a wheelchair — Scope | Disability forum
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Travelling the world in a wheelchair

carrieannlightley Member Posts: 1 Listener

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.

red haired woman in a sport wheelchair facing a lake and hills in the background and turning to smile at the camera

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.

red haired woman with glasses wearing a helmet and abseiling gear smiling at camera

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!


  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    Great post @carrieannlightley - thanks so much for sharing!
    Senior online community officer
  • gillian29
    gillian29 Member Posts: 36 Courageous
    Thanks for letting us hear your [email protected] wish I had the confidence to travel abroad,but since I have rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis,and have had a knee replacement what went wrong,and can hardly bend it now, and I’ve got severe arthritis in my left hand and can’t use it,and arthritis everywhere else,I’m afraid if i book a holiday abroad I won’t have room in the aircraft,because there is not much room between my seat and the one in front,because my knee hardly bends,I would be scared stiff in case the staff say there’s room and when I get there,there was not.I struggle like mad with steps,and I can’t get my legs under tables in restaurants,because my knee didn’t bend.,I can’t go to cinemas because there’s not enough room between my seat and the one in front.I have lost all my confidence and I won’t go on holiday on my own,and if I went with friends,I would be worried that I couldn’t do all the things they want to do,so I would spoil it for them. Going out less and less because friends ask me to go out with them,and I turn them down,because
    i can’t do what they want to do,so I just say im
    to poorly,instead of trying to explain why I can’t.I used to go cycling with my sister,she’s stopped asking me out ,because I cant cycle any more. I’m getting more and more depressed,the more I stay at home,it’s a vicious circle.They have reduced my
    benefits because my son has finished college,and they say he’s not dependant on me anymore,but he is until he finds a full time job or a apprenticeship,he only can find part time work,but that dosnt even cover his petrol.So I’m down by £140 a week,£60 severe disability benefit,child tax credit and child benefit,so I won’t be able to go out let alone travel???,So down 
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    Loved your post - and like you, I love to travel.  I have found that trains, particularly on the Continent, are very helpful.  e.g. The Swiss even tell you the precise minute you will arrive and at which platform - which makes it easy for anyone meeting you.  German ones have all sorts of gadgets to make life easier - just make sure you don't throw your rubbish in the wrong one of seven containers in each carriage!
    Eurostar is opening up further and further, and I found their Leisure class (one step up) has lots of room, and staff incredibly helpful at bringing lots of coffee and cool drinks to my seat!  If you book in advance there are often special offers.
    With airlines, I always contact the Disabled traveller office well in advance of travel.  It doesn't always work, I must admit, but carrying copies of any correspondence can suddenly 'find' the assistance you need!    
    Bon Voyage


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