Bank Holiday – Sun, Sea, Sand and Siri
I love going on holiday and I go quite often, at least every couple of years. I thought I’d write a blog about how I plan and organise a holiday, what I use to access a holiday as a disabled person, any technology that helps me – and above all, how I have fun on holiday too!
Before I Go
I’ve never actually organised a full scale holiday by myself, but I have explored my options before. This is how I know that websites like lastminute.com and tripadviser can really help to plan a holiday. Luckily with the help of my computer, I can access these websites really easily because of the built in Zoom and VoiceOver features.
Review websites like tripadviser or disability websites, such as disabledholidaydirectory.co.uk, often give good suggestions on whether hotels/villas in certain destinations are accessible to people with disabilities, so whenever I’ve entertained the possibility of planning a holiday myself, I’ve always looked at other disabled people’s views.
Last summer I went on a plane on my own for the first time to see some family friends in the Basque country. Being visually impaired, this was very scary! I flew with EasyJet, and they have a dedicated mobility assistance service which is brilliant. I made sure that I printed my boarding passes before I went (my Mum helped with this to check that they were right!) and I had assistance booked (my Mum helped with this too) to help me get onto the plane and exit at the other end. Having the assistance service was what convinced me to go on a plane on my own in the first place! If it’s something you’re thinking of doing, as long as you plan ahead, it can definitely be done. I’m really proud of myself and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
I always check that the transport is accessible too, although this might be more important for someone who is mobility impaired or a wheelchair user. I’ve always gone on holiday with family or friends, mostly family, and so I’ve always felt safe and comfortable travelling, although without other people, I might not do.
Technology I Take
I recently got an iPad Mini for my birthday and would definitely take this on holiday with me because it has fun games on it for the journey, it’s accessible to me (VoiceOver, Siri, Zoom), but also because it’s a great way of finding out information on the Internet – and FAST! It also has a camera so if I couldn’t see something, someone could take a picture of it so that I could see it close up which would be really helpful, (when looking at the carvings on the outside of a church door, for example).
I always take my Kindle on holiday with me because I love to read on holiday. Not only can it hold loads of books, but it means that I can access them a lot easier than if I was reading paperback books (which I used to do – fitting eight books into a suitcase for a two week holiday was a challenge!).
I take my phone too because it helps me to feel secure and also lets me keep in touch with family and friends while I’m away. Now I have my iPad, I’d use that to get someone to take pictures of what I couldn’t’ see, but in the past we’ve used our phones which is a brilliant method, because I can see enough close up, and some phones have zoom features so I can see even better.
I always take a magnifying pocket mirror because often in hotels, the mirrors can be tiny! When you’re getting ready for a night out, the last thing you want is your eyeliner smudged everywhere! Some magnifying mirrors have a little backlight in which can be helpful too – I haven’t got one of those yet but I might need to invest! If I’m really stuck, I get my friends or family to help me ,but making sure I have a mirror that I can see means that I can be as independent with my makeup abroad as I am at home.
I always take my Blue Badge too because often there are benefits to parking, and the Blue Badge is recognised everywhere within the EU which is really handy. It can sometimes give you more than just free parking, but more on that later.
Lastly, I never fail to leave ANYWHERE without my cane in my rucksack! Not only does it help me to get around physically, it also is an international symbol of blindness, so that anyone who comes into contact with me on holiday knows that I am visually impaired, without me having to work through the language barrier to explain!
When I’m There
I’ve done a few different things on holidays and short trips away, some of them are accessible and some – not so much. On family holidays we often either laze around the pool – fun for everyone! – or we visit churches, art galleries and museums.
These can be pretty boring if you can’t see the artwork, but I’ve found ways to get around it so that I can enjoy it as much as I possibly can. Firstly, the obvious – I get my Mum or whoever is with me to describe things to me which is a big help. I also take lots of telescopes and magnifiers with me (which may make my bag clank!) but it means that I can try to see things as much as I can for myself. Backed up with the audio description from another person, this seems to work really well. Sometimes if you ask, museums and art galleries have large print guides or maps which can be helpful too.
On mini breaks with friends to events, we’ve always gone clubbing in the evening. This can sometimes be very tricky, and it’s one of the few things I’d never go to on my own and meet friends there. Because of my visual impairment, I can get quite anxious in bars and clubs anyway, not to mention if there are large crowds of people and flashing lights as well! I’ve been to Brighton for short weekend breaks twice where friends and I have gone club hopping and as long as I cling to one of them for dear life, it’s actually really good fun and I love the atmosphere. I just have to beg a friend not to let go of me and to take me to the bar! I always have a chat to them about it first just to check that they are OK guiding me. I also always ring up the clubs beforehand to check that they are disability accessible, for myself and for any other friends who might have disabilities too.
My Favourite Holiday
My favourite holiday that I went on for disability access was to Disneyland Paris when I was nine. What was so great about the accessibility was that there are specific hotels on site at the parks that are accessible to disabled visitors, if you have a Blue Badge (which I do) then you got free parking.
But even better than that, you could skip the queues to get onto the rides if you had a Blue Badge! This might seem like a brilliant novelty, but for a lot of disabled people, it’s how they are able to access a theme park. Some, like me, get anxious in crowds waiting, although I’m better at it now, and some people might have mobility impairments that make standing, walking or sitting for a long time difficult. So it’s great that Disneyland and many other theme parks take this into account and make adjustments for disabled visitors.
I loved this holiday and I would very happily go on it again. In fact, a friend and I have been thinking about going back and reliving the magic again! The main thing to do before going on holiday is plan plan plan, which is even more important if you have a disability. By making sure that everything is right for you, you’ll have a great time. Happy holidays!
What are your experiences of going on holiday? Let us know in the comments.
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