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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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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Following on from a very open and honest blog post last week, I want to bring things back to a more positive here and now vibe. I’ve been less descriptive of my time in Spain, partly with my low energy, but also as things took a while to take shape. Here is a better catch up on what I have been up to…

Having arrived in Aviles in Asturias mid January, I settled back into general life quickly. As I had stayed in the same hostel and on a similar project last year; I already knew my temporary home, project expectations and local amenities/people. The differences were my care assistants and fellow volunteers, who are now also very much a part of my life here too. Nonetheless, I had still struggled to work out what I could do to make this year even cooler than the last.

Thus far I have done 2 very specific things.

Firstly, I have taught English to a group of around 12 young adults every Friday. We play games, translate songs, make up stories and have a great time. It is interesting teaching something so simple as your native language to a group of people it matters so much to to know. Furthermore to who it is a big struggle for to learn. I am going to miss this crew a lot. I have also taught English, with Kasia,r to my project coordinators brother (you follow that?). He is called Jairo and has a disability too.

My other regular project activity has been running a fortnightly radio show with Kasia too. We have completed 3 altogether: one on our drive through France here, one on music and its importance, and lastly all about ‘destiny’. You can listen to all of our ‘sunnier days’ radio shows here. I have really enjoyed both the planning and making of the radio show. Who knows whether there’s a future there 😉

Beyond the projects I have had visits from my sister Claire, my best friend Billy and Mum & Stepdad. It was cool to show them around, but unfortunately the weather isn’t so good here, therefore coffees and drinks were our main entertainment. I also treated mum to a handmade mothers day card yesterday (as it’s in May in Spain), a scarf and a broach. There’s been a fair few parties with the other volunteers and local massive. To be honest, as I creep up on 30 this year, I am a bit over the constant boozing and instead planning a few weeks of project work and good health. Plus the Spanish go out so late here, that really is harder for me than in the UK. I have also visited some cool places around Asturias, such as Gijon, Leon and the mountains.

In 3 weeks Kasia and I leave for Tenerife – part holiday and part work. I am doing some videos for Lero and giving a talk for the Mar y Sol hotel guests. In the meantime I am still working on my projects here and back home, plus a belter of a workship in my last week. Following the making of this video, we have been busy subtitling it for our Spanish premier – with media, politicians and organisations. Wish me well!

Hope you are all staying well, continuing your 2013 plans and most importantly staying happy.

Martyn

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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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I think November has been the craziest and busiest month on record.

Having poured all of my energy and emotion into the roadtrip; I knew it was time to get back to the grind. I’ve made peace with myself, since being self employed, that a regular cash flow and chill outs are a thing of my past. Nonetheless things are going well and I can’t complain.

November saw me visiting Kent, Gloucester, Oxford, Birmingham, Southampton and Brighton. Some were meeting potential social media clients, some were to deliver one-off consultancy projects, and some were delivering talks to my biggest audiences yet. This month is looking a bit quieter too.

It’s not been all work and serious things though. During my trip to Brighton I had an eventful evening out. In fact it’s so funny, it’s the crux of this post!

After a long drive, access issues at the hotel again and cold weather; Kasia and I headed for a bite to eat. We remarked how we would either be asleep in 2 hours or go crazy. Yep, the latter happened!

After a nice glass of red and some pasta at Carluccios; we found a bar on Church street called Mash Tun. There was a cool band performing to around 10 people. We ordered double spirits and coke…

I had my chair raised up high to see the band and to talk. At some stage I checked with a random guy sat next to me if I was in the way. A Spanish accent greeted me! As you’ll remember I spent 2 months there this year and am going back in January. Needless to say I love Spain.

I asked where he was from. The north he replied. Oh wow, where abouts I reply. You won’t know it he says. Try me! I go. Asturias he announces. Well, I lived in Aviles in Asturias I tell him. He says to email him when I am back and he will help out in any way possible.

As I consider what a small world it is, I go to spin my chair. Dead! It won’t bloody move 🙁 I try going up, down, reclining, moving my backrest and they are all fine, but no movement. After having Kasia check my manual lever, wires and so on; I start panicking a little.

After a deep breath I consider two things:

1) one time a magnet accidentally swiped across my control box and disabled the chair. Maybe I need a magnet

2) I’m not letting this ruin my night. So I tell Kasia either she can push my chair or we get a cab to the hotel, after some more booze.

I then summon the Spanish guy back (bearing in mind I can’t move). I explain there’s a chance his watch has broken my chair. I’m grinning. He says he thinks I’m having a laugh but will try. He looks a little guilty and swipes the watch on the control box! Nope.

At this stage we ask the bar for a fridge magnet. No luck. So Kasia heads off to explore.

In the meantime a blonde girl has caught wind of the drama and makes a bee line for me. After I explain the problem, she proceeds to pull her left breast out of its bra and says “can I try swiping this on your control box”…?

Ordinarily this would be music to my ears and a view to savour. However, I couldn’t drive and there was something a little unusual about this offer. I kindly declined.

Kasia returns a further 10 minutes later to find me surrounded by 5 girls. One of them told me how amazing the Paralympic Games were and that she thinks disability is now very sexy. I swear to god, having a broken chair seems to do wonders!

Then a Spanish girl, who was given it only that day, had a fridge magnet! She ceremoniously holds it up, mentions how it’s a sign of fate and we swipe the chair.

Nothing.

By this time any hope of fixing the chair disappears. However the bar is now heaving, everyone’s chatting away and the band are belting out classics like Mr.Brightside by The Killers.

Afterwards we agree to start heading. It takes 3 people to help push me and the 150kg of chair outside and we say goodbye. Off we roll.

It was proving very difficult to push. With more light to see, Kasia assesses the situation and finds another lever on my relatively new chair. With a little push on it I was mobile again. Just the slightest of knocks to a lever I didn’t know I had, and mayhem breaks out :-/

I hope to god the guys in the bar didn’t see me roll off electrically. They would have thought we had been lying. However if you’re looking for a good night it does seem that a broken chair is a good conversation starter.

Either way, it certainly showed that the public are loving disabled people right now, they will help if necessary and you should never let an electrical fault ruin a much needed night out.

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As you well know, I’ve been working hard on the Epic European Disability Roadtrip, which saw me travel through Europe for three weeks, experiencing how disability is viewed by other cultures and talking to disability groups, all to raise awareness of disability issues faced in other countries.

However, this isn’t my only project I’ve been focuing on. I would now like to introduce you to the launch of an innovative and new venture; dConferences.

Being able to launch the first dConference remotely from Prague whilst still on the trip was not only cool, but very fitting for the first dConference; ‘disability and the internet’.

dConference 2012 brings together fourteen disabled people and organisatoions. The purpose is to share, learn and progress together through the conference. The contributors are only the beginning, because you can spread this information and comment with any additional thoughts you have.

Our speakers explain how the internet has helped them with their disability in a variety of ways: education, employment, care, relationships and so on…

Carrie-Ann Lightley from Tourism for All and Eastenders actor David Proud are just two of the contributors. And sponsorship from UnLtd, supporters of social enterprises, and disability blogger Sarah Ismail from Same Difference have made this all possible.

A common misconception of Dconference is that it’s live. All contributors have pre recorded their talks. So all you have to do is visit the dConference website register for free with your email and consume at your own pace. Transcripts are available on each audio entry for hearing impaired people.

Please do me the kind favour of sharing the links and information with your friends and networks. If want to share it on Twitter or Facebook, here’s the Bitly link: bit.ly/PXzTEs

I hope you enjoy the conference and benefit from it in some way. If you would like to contact me, please email me at martyn@martynsibley.com

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The above video was filmed in London during the Paralympics. It appeared on ZDF televisions’ breakfast show, an equivalent to BBC breakfast.

In the video I’m showing their presenter around London. This piece was specifics to nightlife and access.

Having showed this to Kasias dad, he contacted the polish media and resulted in my attending the press conference which I posted yesterday.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the insightful interview I made with Bogdan, an ex speedway champ who became disabled in an accident.

Watch his story on fighting for disability rights in Poland tomorrow!