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Where to start! The past weeks have been mind blowing. I have clocked up a bit of travel, mainly visiting Spain for my EVS planning visit, and had so many things to get in order before March. If you haven’t caught up on my 2 months ahead in Spain you can read about it here and watch my amusing video here.

The planning visit went well. I have an accessible room in the same living area as my co-volunteers. I have an electric bed, hoist and a shower chair there too. Filipe and Beata, my PA’s, will support me on my placement. The organisation I’m volunteering for are so cool and made me feel so welcome, as did the other people I met generally. I will be learning Spanish (of course), teaching English, working on some marketing projects, speaking about disability to local organisations and doing a couple of radio shows. Other projects and tasks will evolve as I go.

I leave this Sunday!

Apart from the magnitude of this project, I have been running my other projects and indeed everyday life.

I spoke at a local Cambridge business networking event and in Hackney on Personal Budgets. Disability Horizons are being featured in the Guardian with an interview of Srin and myself. I ran a great webinar last week on the topic of disability and relationships, with guest speakers Kirsty Liddiard and Mel Halacre. You can watch the video here and sign up for ‘travel’ on Wednesday 28th March (live from Spain) on this link. Full details of my webinar series are here too http://martynsibley.com/webinars.  I have also interviewed 13 people on the subject of disability and employment for a new ecourse. You can sign-up for free, receive weekly email guides from myself and use other web resources. ‘Inspiring Employment’ will be launched in the next week 🙂

Beyond work I have overcome the challenges of broken wheelchairs and cars, at last. That was a hard and testing time. I found out yesterday my flat will be rented while I am away, which is a huge deal for me. My family and friends are generally well, although my step-granddad is in hospital at the moment. I saw Claire in York at the weekend, which was amazing as always. However with distances and so forth we are cooling things off. I hope life and fate will be kind to us, but whatever happens I know I am richer having her in my life in any capacity.

So, I am heading off now to a meeting about sponsorship. On that note: if you have any ideas on how I can get Horizons, the webinars and ecourses sponsored/funded please get in touch through twitter or my website!

Afterwards I am driving to Leeds, staying overnight, attending a ‘pre-departure training’ session for Spain and then back tomorrow evening. Thursday I have lunch and dinner with friends, with the Guardian interview in the afternoon. Friday is back to mums, before S-day on Sunday.

Watch out Aviles, Asturias; I am coming soon!

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Happy new year everyone! I cannot believe how fast January is moving. My little sister is also 23 today – Happy Birthday Claire Bear 🙂

Following on from my last post about the drastic changes I made in 2011 and my general hopes for 2012; it is fair to say I hit a brick wall. Many people say that when you have been pushing yourself for a long time that it can be a bad idea to stop. My body certainly has told me off and I have been suffering as a result, but this was a good thing nonetheless.

I decided from Friday 23rd December to take a couple of weeks out. I realised every thought process I had was on evaluating my projects, trying to plan new ones and grafting through all of the tasks still to be completed. It was time to shut down and switch off. Of course being Christmas I was not able to just rest and sleep. As mum and dad are divorced we spent Christmas day with dad, step family and also saw my grandparents for grandpa’s 80th birthday! Boxing day me and my sister were at mums and hung out with the step family on this side of the big tree. With my 2 nieces (5 years and the other 6 months old) Christmas was extra special.

On the 27th I went with my sisters boyfriend, Justin, to watch Spurs. This was great as getting a home ticket at White Hart Lane is almost impossible. So, with Norwich nearby mums house (ish) I drove us up. Plus my step dad and brothers were in the box there too. A good lads day out. You can see some of the pitch side footage of the great view we had below. By all means get in touch if you want to know how disability tickets work at football matches.

After the football and before New Years, the exhaustion really hit me. I felt tired as soon as I was hoisted in my chair in the morning and just sat there whilst various friends popped in for tea. I hate this lack of energy but it does seem typical for me in the colder/darker winter months. By New years eve I felt a bit stronger and mum, step dad, sister, Justin and a friend called Gio came back to London with me. We headed to my favourite local part of London called Stoke Newington. We had Mexican food, cocktails and saw the New year in with random people, music and good times.

As my girlfriend Claire was coming down on the Monday and she was happy to help with my care too; the gang stayed until Claire arrived. New years day mum treated us all to theatre tickets for Shrek which was surprisingly cool. Overall it was just so nice to not think of work, to see everyone, have quality time with family and rest a bit too.

Claire arrived after her 6 hour journey and we had plans for museums, theatres, bar, restaurants, parks – the whole lot. Soon after she arrived I got a touch of flu with temperatures and all of that jazz. I think as I had my flu jab in November that kicked in and lessened the effect soon after, but man I felt rough. This again was a sign I had been overdoing it. So Claire and I stayed in, ate great food, talked loads and still managed to make the best of an unfortunate situation. She really is an amazing girl and I’m hopeful to go and see her next week in Scotland. As you read on you will see why it is in doubt.

On Friday 6th January Claire was due to go home. She hoisted me into my wheelchair with plenty of time for me to drive her in the car to Kings Cross. Here I was to also collect my PA who was starting their shift at the same time. I turned my wheelchair on and of all unfortunate incidents it would not work. Claire did her best to ‘fix’ it but it was an electronics problem beyond us. So, I said if she could push me to the car, she could make the train and my PA and I would sort the chair later. After some struggling (my chairs bloody heavy) we made it to the car. We enlisted the help of a neighbour to secure the chair into the lockdown system. As I hit the relevant buttons the car would not start either! Time was getting tight. I double checked my PA was on route and then took the decision to send Claire for a taxi. After no cabs would stop I said she should walk to the tube and do her best for the train, otherwise she wouldn’t get back home for her work. Of all crazy situations, she had to lug big bags across London whilst I sat in my car like a lemon for an hour (still bunged up) and waited for my PA to arrive.

All is well that ends well, but talk about drama and trauma. I have had to stall getting back on with work because of all the arrangements required to fix everything. My car had its battery replaced by the RAC on the day. My wheelchair is still broken now. In the end I drove to Mill Hills Independent Living company (before going to Amnesty International to chair this event) and they have sent my control box away whilst I am still being pushed in this lump of metal. It is so frustrating, especially when I cannot turn my head, to not be able to get from A to B and position myself. Charing the event was very hard as a result of this.

Nonetheless I know if I hadn’t of rested I worry how ill I might of been. Also I had the inner strength after a rest to deal with these dramas. I would say that I have learnt to be very resilient, find an inner strength when I want to give up, I worry about the things I can change and ignore the things I can’t.

Having seen the most important people in my life, got my health back up nearer 100% (for January) and slowly getting my foundations solidified; I am turning my attentions back to work. The clarity I now hold is huge. In taking a step back I can see what last year meant, can see what I want and need to do this year, and feel energised to deliver. My next post will share these plans: both the projects I will run about disability issues and the personal activities I hope to do.

In the meantime I urge you to always rest when your body is struggling, allow your brain time away from problems to find the solutions easier, and never ever ever let the bastards get you down.

You can and will get where you want to go to, just believe!

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During some recent discussions, I realised that the positive impact of my being disabled, living life to the full and not dwelling on the ‘cannots’ can also be misconstrued. In my next post I am going to explore disability as a social problem, lay out my proposed solutions and show how we all play different roles in this (disabled or not!). However, for today, I want to address the point that sometimes I make living with a disability look ‘too easy’.

Some disabled people may assume that I must either not be that ‘disabled’, have had some sort of extra help in life (financially or otherwise) and just swan around the world with ease. Meanwhile, non-disabled people may think there can’t be a social issue for disabled people – “just look at Martyn, he seems to be doing fine”.

Whenever someone blogs or shares their life and opinions, they open up debate and also they open themselves up for criticism. Do not get me wrong, this post is not off the back of hate mail by any means, in fact the blog and Horizons feedback is awesome! I am just aware enough to know what the potential drawbacks of my ‘message’ are, and want to tackle it by sharing a little bit more of myself than normal.

See, I am great at sharing outcomes – my work exploits, leisure activities and world travel adventures – but I find it harder to share my physical limitations and the complex inputs that enable me to live the life I do. This simply is because I just do them. So, to illustrate my ‘disability’, to confirm how nothing comes that easily and to show you that anything is possible; here’s a day in the life of moi!

8.30 My Personal Care Assistant (PA) comes in to wake me, rolls me onto my back, lifts my arms above my head for me to stretch and goes away again for 10 minutes. You see, I am not a morning person at all! 8.30 is the time I attempt to get up on weekdays, but since self employment I can grab a bit more sleep and work later if I so choose, plus I’m more productive later on. On weekends it is probably more like 11am when I rise!

9.00 Having used my wee bottle in bed, had my underwear and trousers put on me, and been hoisted into my wheelchair; I have my top put on and I’m good to go. I take the long commute from my bedroom to the kitchen/dining room/lounge area (here’s a video tour of my flat). My ebook ‘the disability diamond theory’ partly covers the struggles of securing an accessible/affordable flat, but I got there in the end and love my place. I don’t do breakfast as I never feel hungry first thing, but I have my necessary cup of tea.

9.30 I log onto my laptop and begin work. Nowadays ‘work’ is ‘inspiring, informing and changing the world for disabled people’. As you can imagine, it’s very rewarding, fulfilling and motivating. I start by checking my emails, twitter and facebook messages. I have become such a social media geek!

10.00 My PA will pass me my toothbrush. I do this myself, but have to be at the table and spit into an empty cup. When my arms are supported I can eat and drink easier, but when they are not; reaching my mouth is difficult. Once I have sorted my pearly whites, my PA washes my face for me and sorts my hair out with water, wax and sometimes hairspray – yep, I am vain!

10.30 I head off with my PA in my adapted car which I drive to meet a man about a dog. At present I run my blog, Disability Horizons online magazine, webinars for disabled people in partnership with charities and councils, and undertake speaking, workshop, training and consultancy projects on disability and/or social media. This meeting will most likely be in London, but sometimes I travel all over the UK by car or train. My PA always comes with me.

12.30 Time to grab some lunch! I am a fussy eater which leans more towards unhealthy snack food, though I am trying to improve this as I head towards the 30 year age mark. Therefore my PA will help me get my money from my wallet, pay the cashier and carry my food to the table where I do the rest.

13.30 Back at my flat now and it’s time to check in with my family, friends and any personal chores on my to-do list. This might be a catch up with mum, a note to my girlfriend, a few texts with the lads, and some care admin. Running a team of PA’s means I am responsible for their rota (the days they work), paying them each month and generally ensuring they are happy with their job. If they are unhappy, leave or unable to work then my day will look VERY different.

14.30 Onto 2012 plans and I am planning a trip away in the new year. These days I have to really watch the pennies after starting a new business, but equally every travel adventure does provide great content and networking for potential work projects. For example the company in Tenerife who provide me with a hoist and accessible airport transfers are interested in partnering on a disability travel project. So, at this time I may be booking flights, ensuring the airline know my needs, hiring a hoist at the other end and daydreaming about some winter sun. I am not a fan of the cold or dreary days!

15.30 I am back on emails, twitter and facebook. Then I might contact some potential writers for the magazine and edit a first draft of a new article. I’ll email Srin some Horizons news and then we’ll speak later when he’s out of the office too. I will have radio 1 or mtv base pumping in the background whilst I write an article such as this for my personal blog – www.martynsibley.com.

16.30 Throughout the day my PA’s will have helped me to the toilet, made me a drink and enabled me to do a variety of other tasks. At this stage I will ask them to carry out some domestic tasks such as cleaning, washing clothes and helping grab food from the shops.

17.00 Shower time… My PA will help me undress, hoist me onto the toilet and then onto my shower chair. This chair sits cleverly over the bath, there is an area cut out of the baths’ side for the hoist legs to go under and essentially I can get a nice shower. My PA’s have to help me wash everywhere, just to illustrate how weird this was for the first few times. I am now used to this of course, but having a new PA takes a while to feel comfortable again.

18.30 Having eaten I will take a stroll/wheel down to my local hang out. I love Stoke Newington because the people are cool, the food tasty and the pubs have character. Over the past 4 years, it has definitely become my local amongst the vastness of London’s diversity in hangouts. Sometimes my PA will come too and other times the friend I go with is happy to help me get a drink. I also occasionally use a bag enabling me to pee freely without assistance for a few hours. It is like a catheter but doesn’t go inside your fella, if you get my drift (just ask if you want more info, but please no weirdo’s).

21.30 I meander my way home feeling merry, tipsy and content. I have been blasted at once with a police siren for cruising the bus lanes whilst a mate hitched a lift on my wheelchair. Of course, those days are behind me now 😉

22.00 I have an enjoyable catch up with my beautiful girlfriend on skype and discuss our day, plus what we will do next time we see each other. In checking if she was happy to be mentioned here, she requested lots of positive comments about Edinburgh (near her hometown) and Scotland generally. Does this comment achieve that?! 😉

23.00 I get hoisted into bed, raise the head on my bed up to watch some tv and then try and sleep. Often at night my brain goes double speed. I have my best ideas now and lie awake planning projects, ideas and articles. I often need to turn over before I sleep, so I use my mobile phone to ‘miss call’ my PA who comes from the spare room to help. I will also require this a few hours later.

So that’s a day in my life! I hope that this is a helpful and informative outline of my world at present. Clearly on weekends I may go and see family and of course I have my travel trips, but you have read these already. If you have any feedback, comments or questions do not hesitate to get in touch here

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As referenced in a recent blog post, I have not been so prolific with my article writing of late. In all honesty my efforts have been on grasping self employment, reflecting on our progress in changing the world for disabled people and planning the coming months. Enough of the excuses though because I am now excitedly writing to launch not one, but two pieces of big news!

Disability Horizons has been running for almost 6 months. The new design looks amazing, the top quality articles, writers and topics are improving weekly and your feedback as readers becomes more enthusiastic by the day. As co-editors, Srin and I try to lead by example with our world travels and adventurous exploits, but also we want to encourage the Horizons community to step up to the plate. The first piece of news throws down the gauntlet to you guys, and the second piece illustrates our personal zest for life.

So without further ado, I now introduce to you – Disability Horizons meet-ups! Please click on this link to join the group 

http://www.meetup.com/DisabilityHorizons

Our vision is to choose a day, a time, an accessible location and sometimes a theme (sport, art, music etc). It is then up to you to come along, meet other Horizons socialites and benefit from chatting with like minded people. We also want to recruit ambassadors who can run meet-ups in their local area. We already have a couple on board!

People in conversationAs you can imagine, we want these meet-ups to be about living life, socialising, leisure activities and travel. Of course, barriers and challenges will be discussed, and you can learn from each other on various solutions, but every meet-up will celebrate disability, personal achievement and having pure fun.

Onto news piece number two. It seems ages since I travelled to Cyprus in April. My summers are normally spent in the UK carrying out plans I made during the winter. This is as a result of bad health (although I tend to manage the odd trip somewhere warm too). In the winter of 09/10 I planned to fly a plane (which I did last August), whilst last winter I planned to attend some music festivals, which I most certainly did this year (attending 5 altogether, here’s my review of Lovebox in June). It is also coming up to a year since Srin and I met Jack Black on our California and Vegas road trip.

With the right conditions set, we have booked our next travel adventure – to New York!!! I cannot tell you how excited we are. Our good friend Toby is joining us having now recovered from his coma and ill health last year. Our general plans are as you would imagine: good food, drink, company, visit statue of liberty, empire state building and so on. We leave on Monday 26th September and return on Sunday 2nd October. Brace yourselves for the articles!

Our first meet-up is therefore going to be in New York. We will follow this with a London meet-up in late October, and then the sky is the limit. If you are in New York, or know someone else who is, then the registration link for Wednesday 28th September meet-up is available by clicking here.

Please get in touch with your thoughts and if you are interested in becoming an ambassador for the Horizons meet-up group – you know the drill: disabilityhorizons@gmail.com

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I have recently had some friendly contact from you guys asking why I haven’t written any overarching or political articles of late. I cannot express how busy I have been with the daily grind of self employment: keeping on top of emails, rolling out #disabilitywebinars with Hackney Council and Scope (now both live for their audiences), delivering the webinar series for http://martynsibley.com/, interviewing an amazing variety of disabled people for http://disabilityhorizons.com/ and prospecting new contracts for later in the year. I can assure you this is all said in the most positive of ways and actually is not the reason for my lack of ‘real’ writing.

Alongside all of the nuts and bolts of running my social enterprise, I have just finished writing a book! It outlines a new theory I have created on how disabled people can excel in life. It uses personal experiences alongside professional knowledge. It is currently in the design stages and I plan to launch “The Disability Diamond Theory” ebook next week. The even cooler thing is it will be free to download. Stay tuned in for more information. My usual article standards will be resumed thereafter 😉

You will hopefully have noticed that my recent posts have been lighter but just as engaging. To quickly update you on recent news:

  • The twitpoll results are in and you have sent me to (drum roll please) – Edinburgh! http://martynsibley.com/where-will-you-send-me. So I am in the middle of setting up meetings to collaborate with Disabled People’s Organisation in the city, beginning logistical arrangements and I will keep you posted. Of course, a video blog of my exploration north of the border will ensue.
  • The wheelchair WiFi hotspot project has stalled slightly http://martynsibley.com/wheelchair-wifi-hotspot. I need to purchase a dongle and data package for the cool device sponsored to me. Being so early days with my social enterprise I cannot afford this cost and so I am seeking a sponsor for this element of the project. Please get in touch if you can help.
  • If you haven’t already done so, feel free to watch a recent talk I delivered on ‘disability and technology’ and also the video of my birthday trip to Bournemouth http://martynsibley.com/category/video

I am off to prepare for the book launch, tidy my inbox up and chill out over the weekend. I have a friend visiting tomorrow and we will probably head to Camden for a catch up and a drink. I wish you all a great weekend!

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I have almost finished my e-book! It is going through proofing and then I can get it out to you. If you don’t remember it is on a theory I have conceived about being disabled, having life goals and then the resources to reach them. It is called the Diamond Theory…

Also Srin, our volunteer recruit Liz, and I launched the new look magazine http://disabilityhorizons.com/ on Monday. I am so proud of co-editing this publication and love the new slick look. What do you think? Thanks to http://misfit-inc.com/ for their help, hard work and awesomeness.

My first major public speaking event went great at Net2Cam http://www.meetup.com/net2Camb/events/15018978/ and the video of my talk will be posted soon. I also launched my twitpoll for you to vote and send me to Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield or Edinburgh to explore whilst remote working. Have you voted? http://martynsibley.com/where-will-you-send-me

Lastly on this Friday afternoon (believe me I need the weekend now) is a little snippet into the next disability webinar – ‘The teenage years’ and an excerpt from my book.

A difficult time for any person. Hormones running wild, battling with yourself, parents and teachers, alongside the additional complexities of being disabled – a real minefield. I would say this stage falls into two parts. Whilst we have the 3 sections – social inclusion, education and work experience – the two parts are for a disabled person and their parents.

If you are a disabled teenager, I understand how difficult things feel. However, if you can do well in school, continue to look after your body (with physio etc), maintain friendships in and out of the classroom, then you give yourself a great chance for your future. By getting good qualifications, having great mates, relationship experiences and some work experience; by the age of 20, you are able to go on and do so much cool stuff. For the record, a little bit of rebellious fun is also good for you 😉

Parents, its time to back of slightly. Your child isn’t now incapable of making decisions, they will think they know best and later on you will have to let go. However, especially at 13, your actions and attitudes will play as big a part as before. Subtlety is the key. My mum could tell you so many stories of my being fretful, moody, frustrated and sometimes rude. She knew I needed to go through these years slamming the odd door, having rebellious moments (some great stories in my projects on this) and asking big questions. My parents drove me in our clunky accessible excuse for a car and ferried me to the odd nightclub. It wasn’t as often as I would have liked, but it was a lot for them. We compromised and I am so grateful they did those things enabling me to do ‘normal’ teenage activities.

The key is that the teenage years are the same, disabled or not. To embrace the added complexities of being disabled, accept somethings are too much, others will take longer and ultimately know that everyone can and will come out the other end smiling is a good goal.

To join the webinar on the teenage years taking place next Wednesday at 19.30 UK time, register here – https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/839343678 It’s totally free and very simple!!!

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Hey guys, another great Monday morning for me! Hope you all had a good weekend and are feeling ok on this sunny Monday.

This is a rather different catch up blog. I can tell you last week really took it out of me, but the first disability webinar was a definite success. I had a great time at my friend Gemma’s wedding Saturday and then with my dad at the cricket yesterday.

However, I have been asked to write about myself and my work a few times. So, if the below is of interest to you or indeed your networks please do tweak as necessary and share around.

Whilst I am working on disability webinars and my e-books, I am available to run workshops, deliver talks and undertake consultancy projects around new media and disability (both together and separately). Basically just have a read, enjoy my wander down memory lane, and gain a deeper understanding in what I am trying to achieve, as I understand and work it all out myself 😉

“Starting way back, my first memory relating to being disabled was getting my first electric wheelchair. I was 3 years old, could not drive it safely and caused carnage in my parents’ home. I attended the small, local village school where I was the only disabled person and really enjoyed a very integrated childhood. Aged 11 I had to travel further because the local secondary school wasn’t accessible, but I kept my old friends, made new friends and after an unhappy first year I began to settle in and excel. I then went onto university, gaining a degree in economics and a masters in marketing, as well as PhD in drinking…

Attending university was a big step for me. It was the first time my parents didn’t do my personal care. This meant 4 strangers on day 1 helping me undress, hoist and shower. Slightly strange. However, it was worth it because beyond the drinking and the degrees I learnt about life. I met great people, learnt to drive a car with hand controls, flew to Australia one summer , had a few relationships with beautiful girls and broadened my horizons.

Post university was very difficult. Finding a job, an accessible house, employing and running a care team and wanting to do this in London (not as near to my family) was all extremely hard. After a couple of years fighting through the challenges, life calmed down. I was then able to turn my attention to my career, my social life, more travelling (I have since been to California, Vegas, Mexico and the Canary islands to swim with dolphins and SCUBA dive, as well as flying a plane in the UK). Essentially I had built the foundations and was ready to really grab life.

My career took me to a disability charity called Scope http://www.scope.org.uk/ where I was a fundraiser. Having learnt more about disability as a social problem my creative juices began to flow. The next thing I knew I was harnessing my personal and professional life through my blog http://martynsibley.com/. With my twitter handle @martynsibley I have grown my online community to over 10,000 people worldwide. Alongside this my good friend Srinivas Madipalli and I launched our own online magazine http://disabilityhorizons.com/ which we have big plans for too.

Right now I am self employed running my own new media and social business for disabled people. I plan to change the world for disabled people. This is achieved by showing disabled people everything is possible, the sky is the limit and show them how. Meanwhile with an online tribe of disabled people aspiring and achieving, society will have to adapt. Buildings will need to be even more accessible, people’s attitudes will change positively and employers will see the value of disabled people in the workplace and so on. I am currently concentrating my efforts through ‘disability webinars’ (seminars run through the internet). For more information click here http://martynsibley.com/online-learning.

I also plan to travel the world whilst I run my social enterprise. I get such a buzz from meeting new people in new places. I think in the end everything will tie together. In the UK winters, my health is bad, so warmer climates suit me well. Then whilst I am travelling I can imagine working with International Development projects to support disabled people in developing countries too.

Who knows what the future holds, but I know I am personally and professionally very content at the moment. Having struggled, worked hard, had personal doubts and ignored most people’s sentiments, I am proud of myself at this precise moment. I hope in 40 years or so I will look back and see the part I played in disabled peoples’ lives, worldwide, being improved for the better.

If you have any questions, feedback or thoughts  you can contact me here http://martynsibley.com/give-me-a-shout