Accessibility and AdventureBy Miranda Kyte -
I had the chance to speak with the product director of a leading adventure eco-holiday company, and to ask him how people with disabilities could travel without limits.
What can people with disabilities do if they want to go on adventure holidays?
It used to be that if people were looking to go to the developing world that there was just no provision made to help people with disabilities, but that isn't the case anymore. I think it’s changing as ‘luxury travel’ is really spreading throughout the developing world and as people in the developing world are learning to deal with the many varied demands of the market place. One of those demands is trying to help people overcome disabilities and impairments so that they can have the same experience as anyone else.
Would you say that adventure holidays are completely out of the question for people with mobility issues or is that not the case?
No, I wouldn't say that at all. I’ll give you a good example; Frank Gardner is the security correspondence journalist on the BBC News. He was shot and ended up in a wheelchair as a result of it. He went to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and to see them, you have to trek through thick heavy rainforest up very steep hills in really challenging conditions. But the guys on the ground helped him all the way, they carried him most of the way actually. He managed to do some of it himself but mostly he was carried. I think that is indicative of the kind of service levels that people in the developing world and some of the more remote wilder places will go to in order to accommodate peoples’ special needs, whatever they may be. Whether it be very challenging dietary requirements or whether it’s something more fundamental or basic, like not having the use of their legs.
Read more about Frank's experiences here.
So it is actually feasible then?
It is feasible but there are obviously precautions, some people just aren't cut out for that kind of thing. If you have the right mindset, then definitely.
You recently visited Iceland, were there places you visited that were aware of disability issues?
Yes, very much so. Iceland is very ‘first world’, they've got wheelchair access at most of the hotels and restaurants. The vehicles you use are able to accommodate people with disabilities and those in wheelchairs. The one issue would maybe be going on snow-bikes but actually, you’d probably be able to as you just need to be able to sit down, have use of your hands and you travel in pairs. If your balance was a bit off kilter your buddy could balance that for you. Everything we did in Iceland would have been possible for someone with a mobility impairment. My wife’s cousin is totally deaf and he used to book adventurous holidays through me. He went off to Peru, he went white water rafting, he went trekking... He used Makaton which is like a form of miming to communicate. The good thing with sign language is that it’s a universal language which you can use to make yourself understood anywhere.
The only obvious thing then really is that you wouldn't go on a trekking holiday in the Himalayas, of course there are some limits but then there are also limits to what you might do in the UK.
In general the travelling public are becoming more and more demanding. Service providers in countries around the world are becoming more used to accommodating disabilities. They’re used to having to be resourceful and deal with demanding requests. More and more people are taking it in their stride and dealing with it.
For more info on accessible travel in Iceland, click here.
So if people are demanding disability friendly holidays, more will become available?
It’s a growing market; there are a lot of younger men and women (particularly men as a result of the wars over the past 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan) who have got serious disabilities because of IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device). Those sorts of people, they want challenging active holidays. There is a market or a ‘commercial imperative’ there. There are a lot of younger men and women out there that want to travel and do adventurous stuff.