Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with an Ambitious Turtle – otherwise known as Fi Anderson! Fi is a mum of 2 little girls living in the UK, who also manages to squeeze in being an active disability campaigner and an award-winning disability blogger. Fi has the progressive muscle-wasting condition Muscular Dystrophy and works in a variety of roles including as a Transport Ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy UK, and being involved in many campaigns around accessible travel, toileting and housing. Fi is also co-founder of The Minicore Project, and works as a motivational speaker, panellist and guest blogger.
Fi often blogs about her accessible transport experiences as a power wheelchair user and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her family adventures and accessible travel. One of my aims is to share our personal family adventures with other families or disabled travellers, and I thought it would be fascinating to include Fi’s experiences as a young parent with a disability.
Where was your very first holiday or day out with Abbie and Ava? How did you feel before you went and was it how you expected?
Our very first family holiday was in August 2016 to Roquetas de Mar, Costa Almeria Spain when Abbie was just 4 and Ava 10 months old. I was insanely anxious despite going through every step of the way with a fine toothed comb, ringing around, double – triple checking that the airline, transfers, hotel etc all knew our needs exactly and that everything was set for our journey. The holiday itself was amazing, we made some wonderful memories. The only thing I’d say is the trip cemented the notion that everybodys version of what “accessible” actually means is different!
For example I was excited to get in the pool at the hotel, only I needed a pool-side hoist. On the hotels website and via the gentleman I spoke to on the phone both stated the pool had ramped access. Which I took to mean it had a ramp to use a water proof wheelchair to literally roll down into the pool. When we got there and saw it for ourselves there was noway what so ever a completely non-ambulant guest could access that pool. It was ramped to the raised pools edge, then you have to be able to get up out your chair and sit on the pool edge, and launch yourself in like an able individual.
Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday or day out which is both suitable for you as a family but can also meet your needs?
Yes, this was a huge obstacle! As a Mum I was on the hunt for a package holiday with lots of fun things for the kids to do at the hotel and surrounding around, but I also needed an accessible hotel room with a wet-room. For without I wouldn’t of been able to shower at all for the whole 2 weeks we were there. Just like in the UK, there was a severe lack of wheelchair accessible hotel rooms that also would allow for an additional bed for our eldest.
I came up against a crazy “health and safety” rule on why hotels with accessible rooms wouldn’t allow for an additional bed to be placed within for a child, this was because their hotel insurance states its a high risk factor if wheelchair users don’t have x amount of room to manoeuvre around. I get that but it’s almost as if they don’t expect disabled people to go on holiday with their immediate family. In the end I did find a hotel willing to put an extra bed and cot in their accessible room, but I had to upgrade it to a superior room to bypass the health and safety issue and that cost us a lot more than we budgeted for.
What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!
Accessible room which would allow for an extra pull out bed and travel cot. The same accessible room’s bathroom to have a wheel-in-shower vs a bath. Lots of things for the kids to do but good for wheelchair access. Ability to get in the pool with my girls.
Finding an accessible family room was the most stressful and time consuming. I used Enable Holidays to judge what may work access wise and tried to find the same hotel on budget holiday websites to avoid the disability holiday price tag that comes with doing through a disabled persons travel agent. It saved me over £1,500 doing all the leg work myself when I compared the same holiday with a company like Enable Holidays.
What reassurances would you offer parents with a disability who are considering their first family holiday?
As long as you do your research and know your own needs, it’s totally do-able! There’s an awful lot of leg work if you do it yourself to save some pennies but once you’re on that beach with your family it’ll all have been worth it!
And finally……For you all as a family, “Holiday Happiness is……?”
Holiday Happiness is the ultimate pay off to everyday struggles and a chance to focus on your loved ones making unforgettable memories.
Thanks to Fi for giving such an inspiring account of her family holiday experience, I would most definitely second the notion that people’s version of ‘accessible’ can vary quite dramatically! A perfect example of exactly why access information really needs to be so much more detailed, allowing individuals to make their own decisions on whether it really is accessible for them.
Buzz on over to Fi’s website and social media links to find out more.