Please tell us about yourself and what you do.
My name is Emma and I’m the founder of Simply Emma, a travel and disability blog. I live in a small but homely town in Scotland with my partner and our cat. I have Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscle weakening condition which means I use a powered wheelchair. I created Simply Emma to share my experiences living with a physical disability in the hope of showing others that travel is very much possible regardless of ability.
How did your passion for adventure begin?
Oh I can’t remember the exact moment my passion for adventure began, but I remember being quite young and always looking forward to going on day trips and holidays with my family. I remember that feeling of excitement especially if we were going somewhere new. As I’ve gotten older my passion for adventure and travel has grown so much more. I love all sorts of adventure whether it’s exploring a local town, forest trail, challenging myself with extreme outdoor activities such as accessible skiing to jetting off on a plane to exciting cities abroad. I love it all.
What is the most wheelchair friendly place you have been to?
I recently visited Vienna and Barcelona. Both cities are incredibly accessible with great public transport systems. I particularly enjoyed the convenience of the tram and bus in Vienna and the metro in Barcelona. The paths are very smooth with lots of curb cuts which makes crossing easy for wheelchair users. There are lots of things to do in both cities, including the beach wheelchair in Barcelona which was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. Barcelona and Vienna are fantastic cities to visit. I highly recommend you add both to your travel bucket list. I’m already planning trips back to each place.
What is the least accessible place you have visited?
This is a difficult one to answer, but I think I’d have to say Prague. We encountered our first barrier before we even left the airport when we discovered there were no wheelchair accessible taxis. We spent almost one hour trying to find transportation to take us to our hotel. In the end, we had to settle for a minivan, but I had to be lifted out of my wheelchair and into a seat on the minivan and my 140kg powered wheelchair had to be lifted into the boot by three people. We then had to do the same once we got to the hotel, then when we were travelling back to the airport and then once again when we got to the airport. Four times in total. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was our only option. Prague is pretty, but very old with cobblestones all over. This made getting around in my wheelchair challenging, not to mention bumpy. These issues aside, I don’t regret going to Prague as it was somewhere I wanted to visit and I’m glad I did.
What kind of problems have you came across while travelling in a wheelchair? How did you overcome them?
A few years ago we travelled to Las Vegas. We were so excited when we arrived, but that feeling quickly wore off when someone boarded the aircraft to inform me that my wheelchair hadn’t been put on the plane. After all those hours sitting uncomfortable and in pain on the plane, all I wanted was the comfort and support of my own wheelchair. I couldn’t believe they had forgotten to load my wheelchair – it’s my legs, my life! I was wheeled to the lost priority office in one of the airports manual wheelchairs. To cut a long story short, the airport refused to let me borrow their manual wheelchair until my own powered wheelchair was put on the next flight and arrived in Las Vegas. Eventually, after a lot of toing and froing and pleading with the airport office worker, we were finally allowed to take the manual wheelchair out of the airport to our hotel. What the airport was failing to understand was that without my wheelchair or the airport’s own wheelchair, was that I would not be able to move or do anything. I cannot walk so I’d be completely immobile unless I was to be carried by someone everywhere and that is just not right. We tried to remain as calm as possible to get the best solution at the time. There would be no point in getting ourselves more stressed and upset. I was exhausted and sore so as soon as we checked in at our hotel we headed straight to bed. By the time we woke up the following morning my wheelchair had been delivered to our hotel and we tried to put the bad start to our trip behind us so we could have a good time. Now when I travel by plane I always make sure my wheelchair has been loaded into the hold before we take off.
What are some of the top items on your bucket list?
I’d love to visit Iceland to see the northern lights. I think it would be amazing. Also, growing up watching American movies have always made me want to travel around all the States. It would be such a long road trip, but definitely one to remember.
Do you have any tips for other wheelchair users that might think travelling is not possible?
It’s without a shadow of a doubt possible to travel as a wheelchair user or with any disability for that matter. It may take a bit more effort and time, but it’s completely worth it when you’re sitting on that accessible beach sipping a cold beverage or exploring that city you’ve always wanted to visit. Wherever it is you want to visit you can definitely make it happen. You don’t even have to travel far, visit your own town or a city near you and do fun things that tourists typically do when visiting and I’m sure you’ll have a great time. It’s important to plan well, do your research and most importantly, have fun.
Most importantly, where to next?
I’m heading off for a relaxing break at a fantastic accessible lodge in the Scottish Borders this week. I’ve stayed here before, but it was several years ago, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the new developments. It’s set in a beautiful location with amazing views of fields and surrounded by trees and wildlife. It’s pure bliss! I’m then planning a trip to Germany which I’m really excited about as I’ve never been before. Germany has been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time so it will be great to finally visit.