Martyn Sibley first traveled to Barcelona with the support of the Catalan Tourist Board. They “really made this trip a success. They’d thought of everything, to the finest detail,” he shares.
An (accessible) taste of Barcelona
Martyn also used an adapted bus for his trip equipped with a side lift and clamps inside, which enhanced his mobility. They also headed off on the city bus tour, which Martyn loved despite not being 100% accessible. “We saw the beautiful beaches, iconic street La Rambla, key buildings and got a taste of the great Barca vibe,” he explains. “It was a shame I couldn’t go upstairs on the bus, but you can’t have it all hey?”
Next stop was the Gaudi Museum, a great stop! “The accessibility guide was so passionate, there was no choice but to appreciate their efforts for inclusivity,” he explains. “With adaptations for sight, physically and hearing impaired people, everyone can enjoy the exhibits.”
Next on a walking tour, Martyn expected “horrendously cobble pavements” as is common to many older cities. “I was pleasantly surprised to find a smooth ride, even in the side streets,” he shares. “There were plenty of dropped curbs, too.”
Full of great food and wine, Martyn also enjoyed an adapted hotel booked with a roll-in shower, space under the bed for a hoist and grab rails. The hoist he used was hired for him to use for his trip. “Overall every hotel we viewed or stayed in catered for my high needs,” he shares. “We took the hoist with us in the bus we’d hired, and therefore I was able to shower, sleep and be transported everywhere with ease and comfort.”
7 accessible activities around the city and the beach:
1. Amphibian chair
At the beach near Tossa De Mar, Martyn was lifted by his guide and a lifeguard onto one of the amphibian chairs. “The chair is pushed along the sand with ease and floats in water, too,” he explains.
2. Accessible bikes
For those with a bit of upper body strength and balance, hand bikes are a great option to get around.
3. Scuba diving
Diving here started off from a boat. “On arriving at the boat I could see some difficulties straight away,” he explains. “The entrance width wouldn’t fit my 130kg wheelchair, but the benches wouldn’t support my seating needs on board.” Thankfully they were able to get an amphibian chair for him to use on board. The next stop was to get him ready to go in the water including getting a wetsuit on and getting to the lift. “A good 30 minutes later and I was in, but a little flustered I must say,” he shares. “Once in the water the weightlessness made things easier…The view of the blue bobbing water, high cliffs and marine life was worth every hard fought struggle.” This included getting back on board, getting dry and working his way back to his chair.
There were definitely additional considerations that made things tricky. “As people often say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I thoroughly enjoyed this activity nonetheless,” he explains.
“The hoist put me comfortably in the tiny sailing boat,” he explains. The person next to him steered the rudder, but depending on your upper body strength, you may be able to steer it on your own.
“This was by far my favourite activity, far more adventurous than I get in normal life, but it had a tranquillity with it also,” Martyn shares. “I was made to feel so comfortable and secure in this tiny boat.”
5. Hot air balloon
“I was concerned about the general adventure and how it would be adapted for me,” Martyn shares. “I was relieved to see how much had been thought of.” The basket opened for the wheelchair, which meant he didn’t have to be carried over the side. “There was a chair with full head support, straps and a system to raise me up to look out of the balloon more,” he explains.
They had an interesting landing, making Martyn’s heart pump fast, but all went well as you can see in the video:
6. Horse riding
“With a ramp taking a wheelchair user up to the horses height and a hoist present, transferring to the horse would be simple,” Martyn explains. “The staff were very well trained, as were the horses too.”
The final verdict?
“I would recommend the Catalan to any disabled people,” shares Martyn. “If you want to play it safe with city tours and beaches, you’ll still have a great time.” But in case you want to push your limits, the activities are there! “The people can’t know your every need, but will help in every way they can,” he explains. “The facilities are very well thought through, and mostly perfect.”
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