What I took on holiday to Whitby | Wheelchair Life

I recently spent a week in historic Whitby, staying in an impressively accessible cottage (read all about it here!)

But before setting off, I had to prepare and plan, even more so than the usual holiday-maker, as I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and am wheelchair-bound.

There are many things us wheelie folk need to take with us when travelling, besides clothes and a bucket and spade!

Here is my definitive guide…

1. Both my manual and powered wheelchairs: This year we ventured up north to Whitby where the terrain is rugged. I therefore thought it wise to take my manual wheelchair as a backup, should my power chair struggle. The luxury of travelling within the UK is that there is no luggage limit. I have a Citroen Berlingo wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in which there’s plenty of room for all the added extras I need to take with me. I personally would never take my powered chair on an airplane, having heard so many horror stories of loss and irreparable damage. But travelling by car means that I can easily take both my wheelchairs.

2. Wheelchair charger: No brainer! I wouldn’t get far without it.

3. Bipap machine and a spare mask: It’s always best to take at least one spare of everything you NEED when travelling.

4. Extension lead: you can’t be certain of where plug sockets will be located in your holiday accommodation. I need at least one situated next to my bed to power my NIV (Bipap) machine throughout the night. This isn’t always the case and so an extension lead can be extremely useful if you have a lot of equipment to charge.

5. Lightweight thermal blanket: I struggle to adjust my position in bed and I often find the duvets in holiday accommodation too heavy for me to turn. So, I prefer to take my own blanket, which can be rolled up and compacted. This means that I don’t have to worry about those heavy, immovable duvets when travelling.

6. Medication:

  • Antibiotics, should I become ill whilst on holiday (best to cover yourself!)
  • Antihistamines (Boots Hayfever Relief Instant-melts are pricey but good if you can’t swallow pills)
  • Spare inhalers (I use Salbutamol – marketed as Ventolin)
  • Painkillers (Nurofen Meltlets Lemon are good for those who can’t swallow pills)

7. Lists: As someone with a disability, it’s good practice to do a little research before travelling, even if only for a day trip. I like to make a list of accessible places to dine, attractions, transport and even the places to avoid.

Time spent pre-planning will allow you more time to enjoy your holiday.


If you have a disability, what extra items and equipment do you take with you when travelling?

Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

My wheelchair accessible holiday to Whitby

Once again the lovely SimplyEmma invited me to guest-post on her blog (go check it out!) and so I chose to write about my recent holiday to Whitby, North Yorkshire.

To read my second blog post for Emma, click here.


I recently returned from my annual, week-long family holiday. This year, my parents and I chose to stay in the UK after all the hassle we had last year with flying (find my review of our trip to Salou, Spain here).

So, back in February we booked a self-catering accessible cottage through Disabled Holidays.

We’ve always loved Yorkshire; the history, countryside, charm and culture. But we also wanted to be near the coast and so we opted for the seaside town of Whitby, situated in the Borough of Scarborough.

Accommodation

A wheelchair accessible holiday cottage in Sneaton Thorpe:

  • A large ground-floor property, all rooms are generously sized. More than enough room to manoeuvre with hoists, wheelchairs and any other equipment required.
  • 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4. Large living/dining area and sizeable separate kitchen.
  • Huge wet room with both bath and shower! There is a wall-mounted shower seat, though these are rarely any use to me as my balance is poor. I therefore pre-requested a static shower chair with armrests (as you can see from the photo, there are no armrests on the chair!) However, there are sturdy, wall-mounted grab rails either side and so this suited fine.
  • The door ridges could be problematic for some wheelchair users. I use a Quantum 600 powered chair which managed the front door but struggled with the patio door. Alternatively, I went around the side of the property and through the gate in order to access the garden.
  • Stunning views of Whitby coastline, the surrounding countryside and the Abbey in the distance.
  • Ideal location: quiet and peaceful yet only a 10 minute drive to Whitby town centre.
  • Overall very impressive and well thought-out accommodation. My only complaint is the beds, which were VERY firm and uncomfortable. I use an electric adjustable bed at home with a regular mattress but I’ve always slept on normal beds when away, without issue. There was however, plenty of room underneath to use a manual hoist should you need to.
  • I would thoroughly recommend this property to anyone with a disability, particularly wheelchair users. My only suggestion would be to take some form of mattress topper and maybe a blanket as only heavy, winter duvets were provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places I visited

Robin hoods bay

  • Historic fishing village, scenic views. 10-15 minute drive, south of Whitby.
  • Pavements are fairly wide and smooth. A reasonable amount of dropped kerbs.
  • Sufficient disabled parking (not exempt from payment).
  • Most pubs and restaurants are wheelchair accessible.
  • Very steep towards the bay itself. I chose not to venture down as the gradient was too steep for my wheelchair.

Whitby town

  • Could do with more dropped kerbs although generally flat in the west side of the town. Pier is mostly accessible (steps to reach the very end but you’re not missing out).
  • The beach is accessible via slope and the sands are firm (powered wheelchairs and scooters may struggle!)
  • You can hire mobility equipment including scooters, manual and powered wheelchairs, beach wheelchairs and even an all-terrain wheelchair from Whitby Tourist Information. I would advise you do this in advance! Call: 01947 821001 or click here for more information.
  • West side of town is much more commercialised than the east side.
  • Plenty of disabled parking (not exempt from payment) and accessible toilets (take your Radar key). I recommend the new Marina car park toilets, located near the Tourist Information Centre, as they’re the best equipped and the most pleasant.
  • East side far less accessible depending on your tolerance for cobbled streets. Manual wheelchairs would struggle unless pulled backwards which is obviously not ideal or particularly appealing. I ventured through the cobbled streets and Whitby Market Place in my Quantum 600 and didn’t get stuck – so it is doable.
  • There are some interesting shops showcasing local arts, crafts and Whitby jet jewellery.

Scarborough North Bay

  • Flat, wide, smooth, even pavements.
  • Dropped kerbs, free disabled parking, ramp access to beach which is accessible depending on the wheelchair or scooter you use.
  • My heavy Quantum 600 power chair got stuck in the sand, and I had to call on the assistance of some friendly locals to haul me back onto the pavement. However, manual wheelchairs shouldn’t encounter any problems as the sands are flat and firm.

East pier and Scarborough town centre

  • Impressively accessible: flat, even, wide pavements and plenty of dropped kerbs.
  • Free disabled parking.
  • Much more commercialised and populated than the North Bay, so if you prefer the peace and quiet, stick to the north.
  • Lots of amusement arcades, fast food and tourist/gift shops.
  • Beach again is very flat and accessible although powered chairs may struggle.
  • Accessible buses and sight-seeing tour buses.
  • The main disabled toilet in town (Radar key required) is small and unpleasant! I would use one of the accessible toilets within the pubs or restaurants.

Whitby Abbey

  • The Abbey is surprisingly accessible for all. I really enjoyed my visit as it was so easy to get around and there was nothing I missed out on.
  • Smooth, even paths and slopes where necessary. Even the grass isn’t bumpy.
  • 4 disabled parking bays, 2 large lifts and disabled toilets at the main entrance and in the tea rooms.
  • All staff were extremely helpful and advised us of the most accessible routes. Even the gift shop was a decent size, allowing wheelchair users to browse without bumping into other visitors.
  • I highly recommend visiting the Abbey!
  • Obviously, the famous 199 steps are in no way disabled-friendly. But you can park at the top and take in the view.

Final Thoughts

While North Yorkshire is admittedly very hilly, rugged and rural, it is for the most part accessible to those with disabilities, as I discovered. It’s not always easy or comfortable to get around in a wheelchair, but it’s worth a bloody good try as the North Yorkshire Moors has so much to offer.

There are many narrow, winding, steep roads and country lanes to navigate. For this reason I think it’s important for anyone with a disability to have access to a car in order to explore Whitby and the surrounding area.

* All photos taken by me


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We can and we do: Highlighting the Ability in DisAbility

Hi folks, hope you’re all healthy and happy!

Here is my latest piece for Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers. I really hope you like it!


I’m presently in the process of recruiting new carers. Many applicants have expressed their disbelief at how much I do for myself. One even congratulated me; “well done you!”, to which my current carer responded with a subtle mocking applause.

Why are people so surprised at my level of ability? Do they see me in a wheelchair and assume that all wheelchair users are similarly afflicted and completely dependent on others? Is the concept of disability really that black and white to the general public?

This made me think about how disabled people are perceived by society. Not for what we are able to do, but rather for all the things they assume we cannot.

Each of us is an individual and we therefore experience different limitations and variable degrees of severity.

I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and as a consequence there are certain things I am physically unable to do. However, not everyone with the same condition will be affected in exactly the same way. A persons disability is arguably as unique as their personality.

Raising awareness of the fact that there is also ability within disability is, I feel, essential in addressing the societal misjudgement that ‘disability’ equals ‘cannot’.  Disability is diverse. Yes it restricts us. But disability is not just about what we can’t do, it’s also about what we CAN do.

We can and we do…

1. Have sex – Yes, believe it or not sex is not exclusive to the young and beautiful. Guess what, old people do it too – shock horror!

2. Have romantic relationships, get married and have children.

3. Leave the house! Sometimes unaccompanied – While independently wheeling around town, I often encounter puzzled onlookers questioning, “where is your helper?”. Sometimes I tell them I’m trying to escape or that my “helper” fell in the river. Sometimes!

4. Drink alcohol – Having managed to leave the house and evade the confused locals (well done me!) I may join some friends for a drink. Yes, an alcoholic drink. Now of course not all disabled people can or do drink. Then again, not all able-bodied people drink, do they. So the next time you see someone with a disability enjoying a pint, don’t be so surprised.

5. Travel – Although many of us require support from friends, family or a carer in order to get out and about; travel, both nationally and internationally is becoming increasingly accessible to all.

6. Drive a car – You’d be amazed how vehicles can be adapted to accommodate disabled drivers. We too want to get out and explore the open road. And for those of us who are unable to drive, travelling as a passenger is another option.

7. Attend university, get a job and have a career – It still baffles me why people are so astounded by the idea of disabled people who are both intelligent and able to work. Two words: Stephen Hawking!

8. Have our own homes – It would appear the general consensus amongst society is that this is something disabled people cannot ever achieve. Of course, many of us do reside with family members, myself included. But there are also those who can and do, rent or buy their own property. Some are able to live independently, while others require assistance from carers.


This is just a brief overview of the ways in which society misjudges the potential and capabilities of those of us with disabilities.

I’d love to hear more examples from you – comment below.

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My interview with Samantha Renke for Parallel London

I recently interviewed up-and-coming disabled actress Samantha Renke on behalf of Disability Horizons.

Sam told me about her life growing up, her disability and her dreams of becoming an actress despite her brittle bone condition. She also told me all about her involvement with Parallel London 2017.

Here is the link to the interview on the Disability Horizons website.


The 3rd September sees the return of Parallel London, a mass-participation race for people of all abilities. Regular writer Carrie Aimes speaks to disabled actress Sam Renke, ambassador for Parallel London, about why the event is so important and why you should get involved.

Despite her disability, 31 year-old Samantha Renke moved to London five years ago to pursue her long-held dream of becoming an actress. Now a familiar face to many, she has since starred in an award-winning film, music videos, webisodes as well as the popular Maltesers television advert. The former teacher is also a columnist, disability campaigner and charity worker.

As if all this is not enough to keep her busy, Samantha was recently appointed ambassador for Parallel London. Here, we learn more about the rising star and her involvement with Parallel London, the world’s first fully-inclusive, fully accessible mass-participation event.

Would you please tell Disability Horizons readers a little about yourself, your disability and how it affects you?

I was born in Germany to a German mother and British father. We moved to the UK when I was a baby. I studied French, German, Sociology and European Studies at the University of Lancaster before completing my PGCE in Secondary Education at the University of Cumbria.

Following this, I worked as a high school teacher for a number of years. I was also a trustee for the Brittle Bone Society for 6 years, supporting people with my condition, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bones).

I am a full time wheelchair user and my bones break very easily. I’ve had around 200 fractures starting in my mother’s womb! I get fatigue and have some breathing difficulties. I do have a PA to help me with day-to-day tasks, which is my saving grace and allows me to live my life to the fullest.

After moving to London in 2012, my debut role was playing Alice Gardiner, a mischievous disabled girl who absconds to London in the film Little Devil. I won best actress and the film won Best Film in the Diversity of Arts category at the LA Diversity Film Festival. From there, I got an agent at Visable People and have appeared in a number of projects since.

I still love my charity work and I am patron of Head2Head, a multi-sensory theatre group. I am also affiliated with some other well-known charities, such as SCOPE. I love writing and have a regular column in Posability magazine and write regular blogs for the Huffington Post.

People may know you best from the popular Maltesers TV adverts, which aired during the Paralympics. Why did you want to be part of that, and what response did you receive?

I think it’s any actor’s dream to be part of a national commercial as it’s certainly great exposure. More than that, I knew the concept was revolutionary and I felt so excited about the positive impact the advert would have.

Apart from some online trolling, the response has been phenomenal. Every day, without fail, when I leave my flat in East London I am recognised. People want my autograph and selfies. The lovely thing is that my disability is not the reason people stare at me now.

You’re a celebrity who happens to have a disability. What does this mean to you, and what challenges have you faced?

I always loved drama at school and attended a number of after-school drama clubs. However, one of my teachers took me to one side and told me not to get my hopes up of being cast in an acting role. I suppose at that time, 15 years ago, she had a point – the representation of disability within the media was non-existent. Nevertheless, this was heart-breaking to hear and I dropped all of my classes.

But after being a teacher for a couple of years, I knew I wanted to pursue my passion again. I hope my story encourages more people who have disabilities to get involved in TV, film and presenting. I’d like to think that when I have my own family, my children will follow their dreams, no matter what anyone else says.

You were recently made an Ambassador for Parallel London. How did you come to be involved with this event?

My amazing friend Daniel White and his daughter Emily, who run the awesome blog the Department of Ability, introduced me to the Parallel team and the rest is history. It is a total love affair!

Can you tell us more about what Parallel London is and what it means for disabled people?

Parallel London is a fully-inclusive and accessible fun run and free family festival held at the iconic Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Open to all ages and abilities, there are no cut-off times and no barriers to involvement.

Parallel’s inaugural event took place on 4 September 2016. We hosted over 3,000 participants, of which, 41% declared themselves as having a disability. 5,500 people attended our family festival showcasing all different types of inclusive and accessible attractions. This year it is being held on the 3rd September.

Why is it so important to you to be involved with such an event?

Being part of a team and having people around you who love and support you for you is so important. As a child I did not get involved in anything as much as I would have liked, and this left me feeling isolated a lot. Parallel is all-inclusive, no matter what your ability. I think this is just amazing.

Is there any insider information you, as ambassador, can exclusively reveal to Disability Horizons readers?

Expect some surprises! I’m going to be getting my burlesque on with the amazing Folly Mixtures and their all-inclusive Burlexercise master class. So get your feather bowers ready.

My good friend Stephen Dixon from Sky News will also be at the event presenting for Sky and hosting with yours truly. He has told me that, regardless of the weather, he will be wearing his short shorts!

How can we all get involved with Parallel London?

Parallel London is taking place at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the 3rd September. There’s a 10km, 5km, 1km, 100m and the Super Sensory 1km walk, cycle, push or run – whatever you want to do. It’s for all ages and abilities and everybody can be running side-by-side. You can get sponsorship for any charity or cause that matters to you – so why not give it a go?!

For more information on Parallel London visit www.parallellondon.com. You can also find out all the latest information about the event by following Parallel London on Twitter.