Martyn Sibley
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Martyn Sibley is a passionate disability campaigner, who is dedicated to inspiring, informing and changing the world around disability issues. Although he requires support with all aspects of daily life, he lives independently, drives a car, runs his own business and has undertaken trips to Australia, America and many parts of Europe. Martyn's day-to-day life consists of surmounting hurdles that non-disabled people do not encounter. Whether crossing the road, accessing public transport or overcoming stereotypes; there are always additional challenges to overcome. Martyn is undertaking a Britain’s Personal Best Challenge this year raising funds for his favourite charity Scope, riding the length of Great Britain from John o’Groat’s to Land’s End in his wheelchair. Follow his progress at www.whatsyours.org and www.martynsibley.com

Entries by Martyn Sibley

The Power of Action

(0) Comments | Posted 18 December 2014 | (20:24)

These last couple of months have been really tough. It feels like the carefree happiness of the past years all somehow caught up with me. I mean, I'm always 'on it' when it comes to life's administrative tasks and firefighting problems. However, various problems have landed in my lap...

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Ten Top Tips for Better Health and Wellbeing

(0) Comments | Posted 27 November 2014 | (01:22)

Ever since I was aware of having my disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (known as SMA), I understood that the messages didn't go from my brain to all of my muscles.

Even though I could feel everything, I just couldn't stimulate the muscles to move much or...

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The Red or the Blue Pill?

(2) Comments | Posted 3 November 2014 | (10:50)

Blue Pill Red Pill

(Image taken from the movie "The Matrix" - Released in 1999)

As promised in my recent technology post I wanted to touch upon Science and Disability.

Before we get going, I want...

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Access All Areas: My Accessible Adventures in Catalonia

(0) Comments | Posted 28 October 2014 | (18:53)

This July I took a fun-filled trip to the Catalan capital of Barcelona on behalf of the Catalan Tourist Board. Over the last twenty-two years, since hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games in 1992, Barcelona has become one of the most accessible cities in the world and continues to become even more accessible every year. With facilities for disabled people ranging from accessible museums and art galleries to assistance with getting in and out of the sea on some of the city's most glorious beaches, Barcelona really has it all. During my whirlwind two-day trip, I visited some of the best sights that the city has to offer, as well as some that were a little further afield, in the regions of Igualada, Penedès and Sitges.

After arriving bright and early on a sunny Monday morning, my first port of call was my fully accessible accommodation at MIC's Sant Jordi. Made up of 32 fully adapted apartments, all the apartments on offer at MIC's Sant Jordi come with electric beds, adapted bathrooms with rails for smooth transfers and all the mod-cons, such as TVs, DVD players and floor height alarms that you could want or need. With an adapted swimming pool, gym and physiotherapist, the MIC's Sant Jordi really does cater to your every need and I felt sure it would be a great place to head back to after a long day exploring what Barcelona has to offer.

For our first day of adventures, the travel agency Barcelona Special Traveler provided our transportation, meaning we were able to transfer from MIC's Sant Jordi to Barcelona's most iconic building, the Sagrada Familia with ease. Although Gaudi's monumental church still isn't finished over 100 years after it was first begun, it is still Catalonia's most imposing and stunning building. Visitors with limited mobility can access the Temple of the Sagrada Familia via two entrances, and although not all areas of the temple are accessible, particularly the towers, which are too narrow for wheelchair users, every effort has been made to make the temple as user-friendly as possible. The temple also has two accessible toilets and a number of provisions have also been made for visitors with sensory impairments, including tactile tours, which feature samples of Gaudi's architectural shapes and textures, audio tours and an audiovisual room. A visit to the Sagrada Familia is a must for any visitor to Barcelona and it's a great place to come back to again and again as there's so much to see and it's always being added to.

Getting to and from the Sagrada Familia is also made easy by Barcelona's brilliantly accessible transport system. 80% of the metro system is now fully accessible, while 100% of the buses have ramps so you can hop on and off as you please.

Next though, it was time to head off to see one of Gaudi's other great buildings, the Casa Milà, La Pedrera. Casa Milà has worked hard over the past few years to make Gaudi's work accessible to everyone and they've included an impressive array of sensory experiences, which are woven throughout the exhibition and are also used in lectures and seminars that take place at the house. Induction loops, braille signs and accessible toilets are also available, ensuring that everyone's accessibility needs are met. Gaudi's style really is a unique experience, and being able to handle pieces of the architectural material really brings his work to life and shows you what an amazing vision he had.

After all that architecture and art though, it was definitely time for lunch, so we headed for the rooftop restaurant at the Museu d'Historia de Catalunya. Accessible via a large lift and ramp, Restaurant 1881 offers visitors a taste of traditional Catalan cuisine; all served up with stunning views across the city, what more could you want?

Fully refreshed and rested by our tasty Catalan meal, we were now ready to get stuck into some more of what Barcelona has to offer. In order to get to our next destination, we hopped on the tourist bus, which offers audio guides in 11 languages, as well as an induction loop upon request. Fully accessible, the tourist bus is a great way to get out and explore the city and an excellent way to get to some of the top tourist destinations. We decided to get off opposite the Municipal Sports Centre, which is home to Barcelona's outdoor Olympic swimming pool and offers stunning views over the city, as does the Montjuic cable car, which is fully accessible for wheelchair users and has received certification for its efforts. With panoramic views over Barcelona, the cable car takes you up to the top of Montjuic where the views are equally stunning and well worth the journey.

After a quick look around the historic Montjuic Castle, we tucked into some tasty tapas, before travelling back to MIC's Sant Jordi for the night so that we'd be ready to take on all the adventures that tomorrow had to offer!

Martyn Sibley in hot air baloon - Catalonia

Our second day in the region began bright and early at 6am when we were driven to L'Anoia 80km away, by the travel company Viajes 2000. On arrival at L'Anoia it was time to take part in an activity I never thought I'd get to experience and was quite frankly a bit nervous about, a ride in a hot air balloon! Despite my nerves, this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not one I was going to pass up. Camins de Vent offer hot air balloon flights across Catalonia for both disabled and non-disabled guests. The baskets of Camins de Vent balloons are specially adapted with a door that opens so that your wheelchair can be pushed straight in and secured. The basket also features two hydraulic height-adjustable seats for customers who are not able to stand. Once I was securely strapped in, the hot air balloon took off into the blue sky and we set off on a one-hour trip around L'Anoia, which gave us a bird's-eye view of some of the most stunning landscapes that Catalonia has to offer. It really was an amazing experience and I felt totally safe in the capable hands of the Camins de Vents staff.

Once we had safely landed - pretty gently I must say! - it was time to head to our next destination, Jean Leon's Cellar. While most wine cellars are usually inaccessible to disabled people, mainly because they're often underground and only accessible via staircases, Jean Leon's was built with full accessibility in mind and gives disabled people the chance to access a site they are usually excluded from. Located in the luscious Penedes region, between the mountains and the sea, and famous for winemaking, Jean Leon's Winery is on one floor and is accessible via a ramp so you can tour it in your wheelchair. The site also has accessible toilet facilities and visitors can take a tour of the vineyards and learn how the wine is produced, and of course enjoy a few samples along the way!

After a relaxing and interesting tour, we said goodbye to Jean Leon's and set off for Sitges, 37km away. Our destination was the Hotel San Sebastian Playa, which looks out onto the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and the soft sands of Sant Sebastià beach. Eating lunch on the terrace was a real treat, on what was shaping up to be a very relaxing and sunny day. After indulging in some fresh seafood and paella though, it was time to hit the beach for a quick dip and some sun bathing. Catalonia has many beaches that are accessible to disabled people, with roll-in changing rooms and staff on hand to help you in and out of the water via amphibious chairs. We decided to visit La Barra Beach, which also has accessible toilets and footbridges so that wheelchair users can get from the shore to the sea, but there are accessible beaches all along Barcelona's coastline, so there are plenty of different options to choose from depending on where you are in the area.

After visiting La Barra and having a dip in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, our fun-filled Barcelona trip had officially come to an end. After experiencing some very literal highs, it was sad to say goodbye to this truly accessible city and everything that it has to offer. Barcelona really has built upon its Paralympic legacy and it is hands down, the most accessible European city that I've ever visited. With so much to see and do and so many facilities on offer to disabled people, I'm sure it won't be long until I'm back to see some more of what Barcelona and Catalonia has to offer.

@catexperience

#catalunyaexperience

Martyn Sibley

Tweets @martynsibley
World Changer @ www.martynsibley.com
Co Founder @ www.disabilityhorizons.com
Social Media Man @ sma.sunnierdays.co.uk
Healthy Goodness @

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20 Lessons From a 'Not Abled' Guy

(0) Comments | Posted 13 October 2014 | (18:55)

Usually around now, mid October, my winter dread kicks in hard about the imminent coldness/darkness/chest infections and so on. This year I'm surprisingly excited about the winter. I've got so many memories to digest from the summer, so many new plans to make, and so many books to read,...

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Accessible Festivals: Reading 2014

(0) Comments | Posted 29 September 2014 | (00:11)

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I love music. I always have. I remember singing lyrics to songs age 3. Music reminds me of past times, it's part of my identity and it brings me close to other music lovers.

This year wasn't my first music festival...

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The New Forest National Park: An Accessible Adventure Story

(0) Comments | Posted 17 September 2014 | (01:05)

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The New Forest has come a long way since William the Conqueror first began using the land as his private hunting ground in 1079. A natural haven in the heart of Hampshire, the New Forest is one of the most accessible national parks...

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It's All About You

(0) Comments | Posted 15 September 2014 | (01:12)

My mantra has always been 'inspire, inform and change' with my writing and projects. Five years after publishing my first blog post, I'd love to know what you're after when it comes to my online ventures?

To help you here, I'm wondering if you enjoy reading about my disability specific...

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Hanging Out With Those Who Inspired a Generation!

(0) Comments | Posted 4 September 2014 | (14:29)

On Saturday 30th August 2014, exactly two years to the day since ParalympicGB won its first medals during London 2012, I was lucky enough to visit Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford for National Paralympic Day 2014.

A celebration of all things Paralympic, this annual festival saw the stars of London...

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Wellbeing, Work and Wonderful Moments

(0) Comments | Posted 18 August 2014 | (01:38)

He'd been stabbed to death because of his gang allegiance and being in the wrong postcode. This same postcode was where I'd moved into only days earlier, after months of struggle to realise my dream. London. Where the streets are paved with gold. Only on this day the streets...

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Living Costs: My Disability Shopping List

(0) Comments | Posted 9 August 2014 | (19:09)

I have been what's known as 'disabled' my whole life - oh, how society loves labels! I have a genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which means I'm about as physically useful as a chocolate teapot...

On top if this potentially dire situation, let's look at my disability...

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My Interview With Toby Mildon, of the BBC

(0) Comments | Posted 1 August 2014 | (18:52)

And now for something completely different! Ever imagined what it is like for disabled people to work for the BBC? You can find the right job for you by visiting the BBC's careers site, but read the following interview to find out more about how a good friend of...

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Learn, Train and Master

(0) Comments | Posted 31 July 2014 | (15:38)

There was a time I would be physically sick at the thought of public speaking, exams and other types of stressful endeavours.

In my late teens, having gone down to 4.5 stone in weight after my spinal fusion operation, I was forced to drink protein shakes to stay...

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Whatever Will Be, Will Be

(0) Comments | Posted 29 June 2014 | (11:03)

On Friday Kasia and I packed up and left what has been our Spanish home for the past 3 months. Other world travellers will know that every journey has a new significance. L'Ametlla de Mar in the Catalan was certainly no different for me.

Getting here was years...

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San Juan: Sparklers, Fireworks and Bonfires

(0) Comments | Posted 25 June 2014 | (00:02)

On Monday 23rd June 2014, Kasia and I attended an amazing beach party. If I hadn't have seen the posters before hand or the dutiful bonfire on the beach, I'd have thought we were amongst a war zone!

It all started last week. Kasia was visiting a friend...

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Accessible Tourism and the European Union

(0) Comments | Posted 20 June 2014 | (02:55)

On Friday 6th June 2024, the European Commission and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) organised a conference on Accessible Tourism. It was called 'Mind the Accessibility gap' and was held in Brussels. It followed the completion of 3 European wide studies on:

1) the...

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Driving Dreams

(0) Comments | Posted 8 June 2014 | (16:22)

When I was a teenager I had youthful exuberance and disability demons in abundance. Quite a weird combination. So much of me wanted to see the world and change it at the same time. However having Spinal Muscular Atrophy meant feeling it was all impossible for poor little me.

Being able to drive is an important part of life for most people. From shopping to socialising, and employment to exploring; having wheels is cool. How on earth could someone with no leg movement, weak arms and bad balance dream of driving?

Fortunately my family and friends always encouraged the positives and found solutions. I was pushed into contacting Motability, attended their assessment centre and even test drove a car. I struggled with the type of controls on the day, but was promised that with the right adaptions I would be perfectly able to drive. Amazing!

I was scared, excited and surprised all in one go. The apprehension of driving past by quickly, but I was more scared of what such a contraption would cost. It was very hi-tech! This was 13 years ago and funding support was more difficult to obtain than it is today through the Motability Charity. Again, my closest people pulled through for me and arranged fundraising events in our local community.

Two years later, aged 19, we did it. I had the money and was ready to get independent...

After another year of reassessments, fittings and tweaks; my car was ready. January 2004, my second year in university, and the dream had come true.

I had a green Mercedes Sprinter. A bit larger than I'd anticipated, but necessary for my needs. I used a remote control for a rear-access lift, drove my wheelchair inside, clamped it in automatically, and drove using all sorts of hand controls. Simply put, I steer with a computerised handle bar, accelerate/brake with my thumbs, have a beeper switch with 9 functions (such as indicators, wipers and horn) and various other modifications for windows, heating and the radio.

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Learning to drive had its own stories, especially involving the slightly strange instructor. Then on taking my test the examiner was more frightened than I was when he saw the vehicle setup. But I calmed him down, we circled Coventry ring road and football stadium successfully. I passed with only 2 minor faults.

It was life changing. I had a driving licence, independence and freedom; all in one moment.

Since then I've driven thousands of miles. I've repaid my parents with lifts, visited friends at the cinema and in restaurants, done the family shop, commuted to work lots of times, attended a festival in Scotland, a holiday in Wales and driven around Europe.

I'm not going to try and curse myself, but I'd say I've executed my journeys safely. Although I have had a heavy thumb and received a couple of speeding tickets. I've also been stung too many times by parking attendants. Evilness.

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The technology itself has been unreliable and problematic at times. Motability cover all insurance, servicing and breakdown. Therefore it's not hit me financially. However I've met the RAC a few too many times. Plus the companies adapting the cars, like in the wheelchair market, aren't always so 'customer focused', especially after sales.

Luckily I met Andy Kent from Andys Kars 7 years ago. He's a mechanic based near my parents house. He bailed me out when I broke down on Christmas Eve, and the usual suspects couldn't help. He's an expert with adaptions and cars in general. I'd recommend contacting him if you're unsure of anything about adaptions.

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As you can see at the top, my current car is a Kia Sedona. It has a side entrance, easier to park, but hard to manoeuvre my wheelchair inside. I'm going through the process of getting a new vehicle now because it's enforced every 5 years by Motability. Stay tuned for my new blue VW Transporter.

I don't have to spell out any more clearly how possible, powerful and important driving is for me. If you're disabled and interested in driving too, just do it. There's a whole world out there. You'll never look back, I promise.

Martyn Sibley

Tweets @martynsibley
World Changer @ www.martynsibley.com
Co Founder @ www.disabilityhorizons.com
Social Media Man @ sma.sunnierdays.co.uk
Healthy Goodness @

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Knowing Your Value and Believing In It

(0) Comments | Posted 12 May 2014 | (21:02)

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In my last written post I discussed how to increase your creativity by reducing money worries. I now want to share some thoughts on simply increasing your income. The main reason being that homelessness and starvation aren't good for your creativity either!

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May Day 'MangaTuna' Festival

(0) Comments | Posted 7 May 2014 | (02:13)

During the recent UK bank holiday weekend, I've been experiencing a very new Spanish cultural education. I knew from my time in Asturias that they also celebrated this weekend. I didn't know that L'Ametlla de Mar would be so different.

Our first awareness of the 'MangaTuna' festival was when we...

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Shedding Money Worries and Unleashing Your Creative Beast

(0) Comments | Posted 3 May 2014 | (21:27)

Unless you don't follow me on social media or you live in a cave, you'll know that I'm staying in Spain for a few weeks. Beyond the sun, sea, culture, language and everything else I love about this country; it has also marked some very significant aspects of my life.

...
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