Travelling can be very fulfilling – whether you want to learn something new, explore a different culture or just have a change of scenery. Here, Emma Muldoon shares her experience of travelling as a wheelchair user, and discusses her favourite accessible destinations.
As a child, there was nothing more exciting than going on day trips and family holidays. The excitement would build with my sisters as we squeezed snacks and puzzle books into our backpacks to keep us entertained for the long car journeys.
It always felt like we were going on an adventure, especially if we were visiting somewhere new. Thankfully my passion for adventure hasn’t lessened as I’ve gotten older – it’s only grown so much more. That passion for new experiences has enabled my partner and me to enjoy road trips across the UK, explore European cities and visit some of our dream cities in America including New York, LA and San Francisco.
My favourite accessible destination
Whenever I’m asked to name the most wheelchair accessible place I’ve been to, it’s easy to answer. It has to be Barcelona. Although it’s an old city, it is incredibly easy to navigate in a wheelchair with accessible public transport links. I always stay at MICs Sant Jordi, which offers fully adapted apartments with everything we need for an accessible holiday, including 24-hour care and equipment such as hoists.
I think that Barcelona is a great holiday destination for both city break and beach holiday lovers, as it offers the best of both and more. Personally, I love going on a city break and rolling from one attraction to the next, making sure I tick everything off our jam-packed itinerary. It’s great to feel like we’ve made the most of our time abroad, before we head home feeling exhausted but happy that we got to see and do as much as we could squeeze into our short time there.
One thing that I love about Barcelona is that most of the main attractions are wheelchair accessible, including Gaudi masterpieces Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. And then there are the beautiful beaches that are perfect for unwinding. I loved spending the day at Nova Icaria beach with my family, and will never forget being able to play on the sand with my nephew and go in the sea for the first time. This incredible experience was only made possible because of the amazing beach wheelchairs available.
What it’s like travelling as a wheelchair user
Another reason I loved Barcelona was because of the attitude towards disability there. Everywhere we went and everyone we met was positive and actively improving accessibility barriers. Although I love travelling, there are also challenges when travelling as a wheelchair user. Thankfully, we’ve been able to overcome many of the challenges we’ve experienced in one way or another.
I think the most common challenge is poor disability awareness and mishandling of my wheelchair from airport assistance staff. A lot of misunderstanding is caused by a lack of staff disability awareness training. In these situations, I’ve learned to stay calm and be direct when instructing the staff how to handle my wheelchair and the best way to assist me.
It’s not always easy and it does require a lot of research and planning, but travelling with a disability is without a doubt possible. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from exploring a new city. I love meeting new people, having new experiences and the way that it builds confidence and opens up your world. It gives me inspiration and creates treasured memories to look back on, which I can talk about with friends and family for years to come.
Find out how the Motability Scheme can help you stay mobile.
You can read more about accessible travel from Emma on her blog Simply Emma.