This summer I flew to Ibiza for 10 days for my stag party with a load of mates. Following a snowboarding accident, I am a C4 tetraplegic – I have no control of my arms or legs and very little stability in my torso, so I rely on my head-controlled power wheelchair and assistance from others.
Although usually I’m petrified of my wheelchair being damaged in baggage handling, I was reassured by friendly Monarch staff (who were capable but not used to manoeuvring someone without any arm movement) that they had treated the wheelchair with care. In Ibiza, after the customary uncomfortable transfer back to my wheelchair from the aircraft, we were escorted to the taxi rank by bubbly and friendly “airport wheelchair assistants” wearing fluorescent jackets with large wheelchair symbols emblazoned on the back.
I was concerned about transport around the island, but we found it easy to pre-book adapted taxis, though reversing the wheelchair into them with the joystick occasionally required nerves of steel in the early hours of the morning.
We went clubbing a lot on the do, but the first, and my favourite club, was Space. After talking to the friendly door manager and explaining we were looking to see how accessible it was (because we had tickets to the next day’s opening of “We Love”), he let the four of us in free. This unprecedented generosity gave me an instant liking for Space, and its layout made for a pleasant wheelchair experience, as all the main areas were accessible. We partied in Space until closing time another four times on that trip.
The Hotel Sirenis Goleta (sirenishotels.com) in Playa d’en Bossa was as accessible as we could have hoped, with a walk-in shower, enough room to manoeuvre, understanding and friendly staff and entirely wheelchair-friendly grounds. Although the pool had no specific facilities I still managed to get in for a quick dip.
Other trips in the past couple of years have involved a friend’s wedding in France, Switzerland every July (for five years now) for Paléo (paleo.ch), a world music festival, and visits to the mountains around Davos, in particular to our friends in Malans.
The Cinque Terre in Liguria, Italy, is my favourite destination thanks to the food and breathtaking coastline. I’ve also been to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, hosted by some friends in the VIP area (that would be very uncomfortable without the VIP hospitality).
I’ve also enjoyed skiing (or being steered in a ski cart) in Sweden with the Back Up Trust (backuptrust.org.uk, a charity supporting people with spinal injuries). Various visits to the extremes of the UK have included Devon and Scotland, most recently to experiment with my head-controlled Boma off-road wheelchair.
One of the most important factors for me is care: I do almost everything through the help of others. The more closely I can work with a personal assistant, the more efficient performing most tasks becomes. I therefore spend a significant amount of time making sure I have reliable help throughout my holiday.
Packing is critical; the number of places you can purchase specialist equipment and supplies is limited. I always have two or more people compile independent lists (or use a previous list) and cross-reference to ensure I don’t forget anything vital.
Dealing with attitudes when travelling is another interesting issue. I find that in countries where independent living for people with high-level disabilities is an unknown concept, disabled people tend to draw a lot of attention. Occasionally the attention has a negative taint, but usually it’s blatant curiosity, which doesn’t bother me most of the time.
Tom Nabarro, tomnabarro.com. Another version of the Ibiza story first appeared in Mixmag
Source: The Guardian