If you have a disability, travelling is rarely straight forward. So that’s why we’ve teamed up with Carrie-Ann Lightley from Tourism for All, to bring you a series of articles to help make travelling easier and more accessible. This month she’s talking about her new travel wheelchair and testing it out in the Lake District.
As you’ll know from my articles on Disability Horizons, I love to travel and visit new places as much as possible. But to do so, what I really need is a more flexible wheelchair. A chair that I can use in manual or battery powered modes, transport in a car without the use of a hoist, use in towns and countryside and, most importantly, a chair that fits ME, my posture and my style.
Having spoken to the team at GBL Wheelchairs, who were staying in the same hotel as me for the Mobility Roadshow, they suggested going for a combination of the Panthera U3, with is designed for an active lifestyle, with extra features.
I could then add a Benoit Light Drive, which turns a lightweight manual wheelchair into a powerful electric one, and a Free Wheel, a third wheel, fitted to the front, for managing bumpy terrain.
The only barrier was cost… or so I thought. Last year my friends, family and colleagues were generous enough to support me in fundraising for the fabulous new wheelchair. Within three months, the amazing people around me had raised a total of almost £10,000, allowing me to order my dream wheelchair, and make a donation to Tourism for All.
Trying my travel wheelchair in the accessible Lake District
As soon as I got it, I knew I needed to put it to the test as soon as possible. And where better to do so than the Lake District? So, a few weeks ago my husband Darren, dog Poppy and I had our first trip to Tarn Hows, a stunning, accessible walk near Coniston in the Lake District.
It’s really popular with locals and tourists, particularly in the summer, and a fantastic place to go for a picnic. The mountain views are there for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or ability, as the circular track is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.
There are some steeper hilly sections – great to challenge my chair on. It did brilliantly. The additional power pack meant that I had enough power behind me to tackle the hills, and the Free Wheel dealt with bumpy path with ease.
But don’t worry if you don’t have a chair like mine, the fantastic news is that the National Trust have a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter available to use. It’s free of charge and visitors can book a time slot (giving 48 hours notice) by calling 015394 41456.
For those who just want to take in the views, there’s also an accessible parking spot/view point just for disabled visitors.
It felt amazing to be immersed in the beautiful countryside, and to be doing so independently, without relying on a pusher. I’m so looking forward to exploring more of my local area – I’ve lived in the Lake District all my life, and have never been able to fully enjoy what’s on my doorstep.
If you want to explore the Lake District, the great news is that there are more than 40 miles of routes without stiles, suitable for wheelchair users, buggies or those who find walking a challenge. You can find out more on the Lake District National Park website.
For more even more accessible adventures, Coniston Boating Centre has a specifically adapted wheelchair accessible boat with a moveable ramp. It can accommodate up to three wheelchair users. The top speed is six mph, and the boat is perfect for wheelchair anglers.
Ask us your travel questions
I want to hear about your travel plans, or even the holiday dreams you’ve been thinking about for years? Is there an ultimate destination you’d like to go to, either somewhere exotic or close to home? Or maybe you’d just like to know about the basic aspects of travelling with a disability, such as hiring equipment and booking transport? I’d love to help and advise you, after all, accessible travel is all about arming yourself with the right information and being able to make the choice for you.
To find out more about Carrie-Ann and her travel experiences, visit her new website, www.carrieannlightley.com.
Photo credit: StoneVillage Photography