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Over the years I’ve totally geeked out on both disability rights and civil rights. There’s nothing better than a leader building a movement, defying the odds, and beating Goliath.

A big reason for me wanting to learn about this subject, is to inform my disability activism today.

“We have to understand the past to shape our future”

I’ve been blessed to learn directly from people who won legislative protection and independent living for so many otherwise excluded people.

In a particular book I learned about 2 key people – Phil Friend and Bert Massie.

I contacted both, sharing my vision, my questions and asking for guidance. Both kindly replied to me. Phil was on an early episode of my podcast, and has taken a few phone calls from me over the years. Bert was unfortunately too unwell to talk, and later passed away.

Last week Berts posthumous book was launched (audio book can be found here). So I invited Phil back on my show, to share his favourite parts in the book, and of Berts life.

I finally got to hear some of what Bert would have told me on our phone call. Luckily for you, his words are awaiting your attention too. Whether you’re disabled or not, his life was remarkable, and one worth learning from. As well as celebrating.

As Phil points out, Bert was funny as well as impactful. So don’t presume the books all politics and activism. There’s most definitely something for everyone…

Martyn Sibley

– World Changer @ martynsibley.com.
– Author @ ‘Everything is Possible’ (on Amazon).
– Inclusion Captain @ disabilityhorizons.com.
– Presenter and Speaker @ visablepeople.com.
– Adviser @ Governments/Businesses/Charities.

Also @ Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Google+

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It’s been a few weeks since arriving home from our trip. My last travel post was from Poland and amongst the beautiful nature. After a couple more days with Kasia’s family we headed westwards for our next cool project. This time with the German tourist board.

Within an hour we were near Berlin. The first thing that strikes you in Germany is how efficient the roads are. On the autobahn (motorway) there’s less restrictions on speed. Which does sound scary, but actually works very well. With a good soundtrack or audio book, and roadtrip snacks; we ticked off the next couple of hours very quickly.

As we turned off of the main roads and arrived in the region of Lower Saxony, we were struck by the beautiful nature. There was lots of green scenery and water flowing amongst it. After around 4 or 5 hours of driving we arrived in Bad Bevensen. Our home for the next couple of days.

Guesthouse Bad BevensenOur hotel was called ‘Guesthouse Bad Bevensen’ in English. You can see more information here. We were greeted by Susanne from their marketing team, signposted to the car park and bedroom, and arranged to have a tour once we’d settled in. The car park was full of accessible parking spaces and we had 1 of 100 accessible rooms. Always a good start to an accessible travel experience right?

The rooms had electric beds which are very useful for people with my type of disability. It’s nice to sit up in bed and watch TV or just to move a bit in the night. Also the bathroom had the very vital roll-in shower. We’d brought my hoist and shower chair in the car, but they also had all of this equipment in house too.

fds_gbb_rezeption_356So after a freshen up we headed for the hotel tour. Set on 4 levels, there was plenty to see. The first thing that struck me was the 2 lifts, to help ease the rush hour traffic at dinner time. We were on the top floor and therefore enjoyed the balcony view of the nearby forests and also noted the fully plenished library next to it. Great for a chilled afternoon.

The rest of our floor and the third floor were bedrooms. On the second floor there was a variety of fitness and wellbeing amenities. The guests are able to participate in various daily classes including aerobics and an accessible form of yoga. The thing that grabbed Kasia and I was the steam room and sauna. So later on I hoisted into my shower chair and we headed down for a delightful warming with relaxing sounds and nice smells.

On the ground floor there was the reception and a huge dining area. We enjoyed breakfasts and dinners during our stay there. My favourite was the Italian themed evening. We also hung out in the bar area, which is situated both indoors and outdoors. Always good to sink a few beverages when on holiday 🙂

During our whistle-stop visit to Lower Saxony we had an amazing activity arranged. It was truly original. We spent a time with a group of Llamas. Yes that’s right. Llamas.

DSC_4036We met the rather edgy looking Llamas at the hotel. Of course alongside the owners of the company too. Very quickly we were told very calming information about these exotic but edgy looking animals. We learned that they don’t kick and only spit at each other when left alone. Phew! In fact they were probably more concerned than we were.

Feeling less worried we walked around the forest nearby. We then learned about how the Llama therapy can help disabled people with things like muscle spasms. A very interesting attribute. After a while we stopped for cookies and red wine. A really nice picnic during a very memorable excursion. The scenery was spectacular.

Naturally you wouldn’t just go to Lower Saxony and Bad Bevensen for Llama time. However as one activity to try I can definitely recommend it. I’d also encourage you to stay for 4 nights or more and make the most of the many places on offer in this part of Germany.

If you want to learn more about BarrierFree Germany and the many initiatives going on do click here. You can follow more of the campaign on twitter with the hashtag #BarrierFreeGermany. If I’ve whet your appetite about Lower Saxony specifically then head here too.

On the way home we had a fantastic experience with DFDS ferries. Thank you to them for a great accessible sail home. Now I’m remembering this great trip and thinking about where to go next time.

Martyn

World Changing Blogger | Facebook | Twitter | Linked In | Google+
CEO and Co-Founder Disability Horizons
Co-Founder Accomable
Co-Founder Accessible Traveller

Last time I checked in with you, I was heading down to Bognor Regis for a family trip to Butlins. This post will fill you in on my experience there. However, as swimming was a big part of the trip, I’ve opened it up a little broader. Enjoy!

Kasia and I set off 2 Monday mornings ago, packed for 4 nights and were excited like kids! With my manual hoist, shower chair and sunglasses in the car; I sped off with my thumb operated accelerator and handlebar steering to the south coast. I had been to the same Butlins as a teenager, but couldn’t remember much, and am physically weaker now. I’m always therefore a little nervous of the facilities on such a trip.

On arrival we were greeted by friendly staff who guided us to the right room. After checking in over at the main tent, it was helpful having a family crew of 10 to assist us with all my gear. We have managed alone, but its tiring. Plus my 2 nieces even helped out!

The room caused a bit of a stir. We all paid £200 each for rooms, breakfast and dinner, plus entertainment etc. Having an adapted room meant being away from the others, but in relative luxury. The others literally had a room and loo. We had a room, huge accessible shower, lounge with tv and kitchen with everything you need. Sometimes its good to be disabled 😉

With all my equipment there, a good accessible room and my family too; it was time to have fun. The first day was best weather wise. I enjoyed giving my eldest niece a wheelchair ride along the beach front and chasing the youngest from causing trouble. They are 6 and almost 2. Unfortunately the weather tailed off, and so we just chilled within the complex, swam, ate and chatted the other days. In the evenings we saw a Katy Perry and Jessie J act, plus the Jacksons and the famous redcoats of Butlins.

All of the complex was wheelchair accessible, with lifts, toilets and helpful staff. Depending on your disability, you can access some of the fairground rides too.

So, swimming. I used to swim loads as a child. I learnt to swim without armbands aged 4 in Florida, I was in the local newspaper with the prime ministers wife for a charity swim I did, and generally thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I had my spinal fusion surgery in 2000 and lost the ability to swim for a long time. A couple of years back I started going again, found it more stressful, but healthy and fulfilling.

It had been a while since I had last swum, when we were in Butlins. I had the luxury of all my familys support, including 3 strong blokes in the crew. Having sussed out the situation with the staff, I was happy to go for it. Planning ahead, I had my swim shorts on under my trousers already. Once undressed, I was lifted onto their pool chair and rolled to the water, whilst having my head held. The chair rolled into the sloped pool floor, so access was easy. I was held during the crazy wave machine, but managed to bob about with a float otherwise. Afterwards I was placed back on the chair, used the accessible shower with the help of mum, kasia, my sister in law and niece (I know, I’m high maintenance!) and was lifted onto a slightly uncomfortable changing bench. Once dried and dressed I was lifted back to the safety of my wheelchair!

Enlightened by the exercise, healthy action and fun; I wanted to go again. Being in Cambridge this week, I researched local pools on the Internet, read up on access and phoned about. In the end I was surprised how many could cater for me. I ended up going to Chesterton sports centre last night. This was awesome! They had a hoist to get me from my chair, to the pool chair, to the changing bed and so on. The pool hoist was great, the lifeguards were super helpful, PAs goes free,  and the changing bed was soft, wide and water proof for showering. More importantly I enjoyed the swim, felt shattered after (in an unusual way) and feel great today.

If you have a disability and feel worried about swimming; I urge you to give it a go! If you already swim, I’d love to hear from you on your experiences good and bad.

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Hola Amigos. Quick ‘update on life’ article here:

The articles about my Vodafone award, accessible tourism presenter role, accessible marketing in tourism toolkit, and activism in Poland project are on their way still, I promise!

Otherwise life has been ticking along.

– I’m trying to get my health in check with newer foods and seeking physio support. Being sat down all day does take its toll physically. Do you find this a problem too?

– My car had another glitch, where the ramp wouldn’t open and close. Fortunately Andys Kars in Bar Hill, Cambridge sorted it. He said my car is one of the most travelled Motability cars!

– Workwise, I’ve been catching up with our Disability Horizons partners, planning our 2 year anniversary summit and continuing my consultancy for Lero in Tenerife.

The reason I’m quickly writing a catch up post is I’m off tomorrow for an amazing family week away. We are off to Butlins in Bognor Regis! 🙂 It’s even more exciting as it’s the first time in years the whole family is going away together – that’s my mum, step dad, sister, 2 step brothers, beautiful nieces, and other halves.

Follow me on Twitter (@martynsibley) for any live updates, lol. I’m hoping to go swimming there, so wish me luck and I’ll check in again soon 🙂

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Hello and welcome back to a written blog – by me!

For those who’ve followed my posts the past 4 years, you’ll know the following:

– I’m always working on something
– I’m always planning the next big thing
– In summer I work hard and play hard, and am physically stronger
– In winter I’m tired, weaker, wary of illness and more reflective/philosophical

One thing that is for sure – my brain and mouth never stop! 🙂

This winter was one of my best: I was strong healthwise, very enjoyable time in Spain and I was productive with the access project. However, I was struggling to capture these months and moments on my blog.

But why?

My message to disabled people has always been grab life and never say ‘never’. My message to non disabled people is question your views on disability, act to help if appropriate and grab life more too. I realise now my problem was I was trying to be more cutting edge, innovative and new in how I achieved this.

When I wrote down more specifically who I think reads my blog, I came up with this list:

– parents of disabled children, looking for information on a more positive future for their child
– disabled teenagers, needing a little inspiration and belief in their own future
– disabled adults, looking for some tips on how to break out from traditional service provision and go for their life goals
– people working in the disability field, looking for a cool case study to share
– everyday people, interested in the life of a disabled person and using my achievements as a nice kick up the bum

It’s therefore impossible to tailor a post for all of these people, and in a new original way. Now I see that this is not important. I know just by telling my story, one of millions in the world, it has and will be of use to you awesome people, however simple. The difference is just me and my antics.

So, as I head out of winter reflection mode into summer action mode, I have pledged to act more (however small it seems) and think less.

Right now, I’m feeling good, seeing my loved ones lots, enjoying an evening glass of vino and excited about life!

Stay tuned for some exciting new projects! I will be telling you about my job as presenter and an award I won with Vodafone.

Please comment here or tweet me on your news, plans and thoughts. I’d love to hear from you…

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So I’ve returned! Apologies for the radio silence; its been quite a couple of weeks.

To fill those of you in who don’t follow my social media; I’m in Spain – again! I set off on the 15th January, this time by car, and headed through France on yet another adventure. Kasia and I left just as the snow hit the uk, which was lucky.

Having navigated the ferry and some rough waves, I took to the French roads quickly. I did ask for some second opinions at junctions with my travel companion (my head movement and driving on the wrong side of the road warranted this!). Overall the roads were good, but the tolls expensive.

We stopped in Rouen, when I posted about the social care crisis for Scope. This stop was really for food and sleep. The second stop, after 7 hours of driving (yes my accelerator thumb was sore), took us to Bordeaux. What a cool and beautiful place! Great restaurants, sights and wine 🙂

On the third day of driving we hit a dark, wet and windy north Spain. This was by far the toughest part for me. My energy was low and concentration difficult to come by. On arriving in Bilbao for the last stop; I glugged some lovely red wine by the sea.

So, on Friday 18th January we arrived in Aviles, Asturias. Following a welcome party at a concert, sleep was priority. I was knocked out!

Since then I’ve settled back into my room, the same from last year, and seen old faces. My project is funded by the EU Grundtvig project and last year it was ‘youth in action’ – however my responsibilities are similar:

– I have my own radio show
– I teach English
– Trying to learn Spanish
– Delivering talks
– Proposing other workshops
– Finishing our accessibility video

The aim is to learn from Vanes organisation here and share my own knowledge too. I’m really enjoying it and can already see benefits for all.

I’m here until the end of March. Afterwards its back to London and planning new projects/collaborations. In the meantime I’m making the most of my Spanish dream: part 2.

Tune in for some more meat on the bone next time. Also let me know your news and thoughts too. Hasta luego.

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This post is a mixture of latest news and latest reflections. In life there are times we plan, times we do, and times we evaluate. I have managed all 3 of these ten times over in the past weeks! Whoever you are, I hope after reading this you will be entertained, question how much is possible in life, understand me a bit more, understand disability a little bit more, and have some tools to make a change for yourself or for disability issues (however small).

Everyday I go through a checklist in my head: Family members, best friends, my wheelchair, my car, my flat, my PAs, my work, my leisure time, my adventure plans and my health. In contemplating all of these for a few minutes a day; I ensure I touch base with my loved ones, maintain all of my vital support functions, make sure I am still challenging myself, having fun and living by my ideal life values.

Having caught up with loved ones in June, I have also been securing the funding (via the NHS voucher scheme and Access to Work scheme) for a new wheelchair. This has involved paperwork, assessments, selecting the chair, being fitted for it and various other procedural tasks. I am to receive my new Storm wheelchair on Thursday! I then need to have a clamp fixed on the new chair so that I can drive my car from it. Having secured financial assistance for this work too, I am spending Friday in the lovely company of Andy Kent from Andy’s Kars. My car also had its MOT and service yesterday. So, that ensures my mobility is sorted for a while longer, and in style.

After a few months out of my London flat whilst travelling, I have also enjoyed being back home again. I was glad to see the place in good condition! Having organised my PAs and their rota until September; I asked them to help me have a spring clean. Now I feel at home, with my flat in order and fully supported to live independently in the capital once again. Since my arrival I have met up with many old faces, visited my favourite parts of London and really appreciated how grateful you are for something after missing it. Don’t get me wrong, my time away was well spent, but its always great to return back to your comfort zone sometimes!

With loved ones seen and support mechanisms in order (as well as some good social times too) here’s the work part! The thing is, having spent one year working for myself; work, leisure, travel and adventure are very inter woven. This has happened on purpose and I am so proud to see the vision, hard work and determination start to come together. Things are still tough with many tasks to do, only one me, and a mortgage to pay. However I am relishing the challenge and riding the danger as best as I can.

With 3 years of blogging, a year of running Disability Horizons with Srin, individually progressing the disability webinars, ecourses and the imminent econference; there has been lots to plan, do and evaluate. Having had difficulty getting my elearning products fully funded, I am going to continue running them voluntarily, but have found a different model to stay afloat financially. With lived experience of being disabled, vast social media and new media knowledge and a vast network of disabled people online, contacts in councils, charities and disability companies; I am beginning to work in partnerships with these great people. With the same vision of supporting disabled people, but different roles; I am excited about how this is all going to come together!

Therefore I have been talking to Scope, Leonard Cheshire, Disability Rights UK, The JTSMA and Muscular Dystrophy Campaign about webinar collaborations. I ran a workshop for HertsPASS around careers, and spoke to students at my old school Impington Village College. I met the CEO of Choice Support and discussed some partnership work. I am being introduced to Lonely Planet and some banks about elearning projects. I am planning how to support Lero in Tenerife as their online marketing person in the UK for the next 12 months. I met with Louise from Fittleworth and floated some ideas of how they can promote their services to more disabled people like myself. Srin and I went to the House of Lords for the Employers Forum on Disability reception. Media wise I have also represented radio 4 ‘ You and Yours’ on an open day at Gatwick Airport, before being interviewed live on the show. I was subsequently asked some air travel questions on ‘Reduced Mobility’. Then today I was interviewed by the awesome Shirley Ayers on her fortnightly podcast ‘Disruptive Social Care’ (out on Friday).

Beyond ‘work’ and weekly leisure I have been plotting my biggest challenge yet. Please take a look at the video. The update is that I am close to securing the caravan, this may delay the start date and essentially I think I have pulled it off! Initial feedback was asking if I was crazy, whether I could plan it so quickly, how the logistics would work and so forth. I will refrain from anything too bold, but even if this falls short it does show the value of dreaming big. I know this will happen one day, and its probably going to happen this September.

To summarise my life and how it is shaping up in July 2012, I am:

  • A blogger
  • Disability advocate and spokesperson
  • Entrepreneur
  • Magazine Editor
  • Social drinker
  • Social media expert
  • New media and elearning consultant
  • Travel writer
  • Bad karaoke singer
  • Family and friend
  • Logistics expert (maintaining support functions)
  • Crazy idiot

I realise with reflection that my vision, beliefs and passion are not traditional. I will always question the status quo and in Shirleys words be a disruptor. I therefore run my work projects to disrupt and change the world around disability. However I run my life generally as though its my last. I am not asking or even suggesting you replicate this. I just ask you to live life the right way for you. If you’re disabled believe in your dreams, and if you’re not disabled please support people like myself in being included. Most of all please share this post with anyone who will appreciate it!

Thanks for your support. I now have 2000 followers on Twitter, more blog hits than ever and real motion of progress. With the right vision, collaboration and disruption I truly believe disability won’t be a ‘thing’ in years to come!

Twitter – @martynsibley
Website – www.martynsibley.com
Online magazine – www.disabilityhorizons.com
Skype Name – sibbers1314
Mobile – 07824 535720
Email – martyn@martynsibley.com