Summer’s here – and Simon Stevens plans on making his one to remember…
I hope when you read these words that it’s a warm and sunny day, and that you have plans to do something nice. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually wet, miserable and typically British!
Yet the weather shouldn’t stop us enjoying the summer and making the most of the great outdoors, be it to go travelling, take part in sporting activities, enjoy the countryside or indulge in al fresco dining. And nor should our impairments.
Disabled people are often portrayed as lacking opportunities – but the reality is that for any activity you can think of, however adventurous or bizarre, there’s bound to be a local or national organisation somewhere dedicated to supporting disabled people to enjoy it.
Just Google the activity or pursuit in question alongside the term ‘disabled’, maybe adding your location, and you might be surprised what you find. Then it’s just a case of emailing the organisations in question, explaining your situation and seeing what happens. If you’re feeling brave, you can do as I’ve done and try approaching a ‘mainstream’ organisation, and see if they are able and willing to accommodate your specific needs.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a desire to try every activity I could at least once – especially anything more adventurous and involving a wetsuit. That’s why I’m excited for this summer, when I’ll have an opportunity to snorkel with sharks at the Sealife Centre in London before spending a week windsurfing in Belgium.
Anything else I do naturally depends on time and money, but I’ve managed to pick up a few tricks for getting a good deal when signing up for ‘mainstream’ activities. Firstly, since I work for myself, I’ve often found that it’s better to book activities for weekdays rather than weekends – it’s generally quieter, which means instructors will usually have more time to meet your specific needs and perhaps even offer the occasional one-to-one session without a premium price attached.
Quality of communication
If you need your personal assistant to support you in the activity itself, as opposed to just getting you there and helping you changed into whatever kit is needed, it’s important to make this clear beforehand and ensure that you are not charged for them. It shouldn’t be a problem, but if it is, a mention of the Equality Act and a sweet smile can quickly change people’s minds.
Most activity providers will be able to provide any required specialist kit if you’re unable to supply you’re own. If you get cold easily, are prone to falls or have other needs, let them know ahead of time so that they can offer you a thicker wetsuit or other forms of apparel, a protective helmet or any other support equipment that they might have to hand. If the provider provides footwear for water-based activities, it may still be worth purchasing some wetsuit booties, even just a cheap pair, as they’re much more comfortable compared to going barefoot or using trainers.
The success of any given activity will depend on the quality of communication between you and the instructor. You will need to understand what they want you to do and apply that to what you can do and follow their instructions in your own way as needed. My policy has always been that so long as the instructors look and feel confident that they will keep me safe, I will trust them and feel safe myself. If your instructor looks like they’re going to need a nappy themselves, perhaps it’s best to politely back out of that bungee jump!
The summer is a time to enjoy in a way that’s unique to you. While I personally like my summers to involve neoprene and getting wet, that’s not to say that someone else’s are necessarily any better or worse for just being about Pimms and sunbathing!
Simon Stevens has cerebral palsy and is a disability consultant, activist, writer and performer, most recently contributing to I’m Spazticus. Further details of Simon’s work can be found at www.simonstevens.com