My wife Stevie and I have been travelling in outback and far north Queensland for the past couple of months. We have a camper van which has been modified so that I can drive it “hands-only” and Stevie drives it as a conventional automatic. We share all the driving, never driving for longer than about 1½ hours at a time and planning our route so we don’t travel more than 300km in a day. I am moderately disabled and therefore carry crutches and a 3-wheel walker to get about and a folding mobility scooter for longer distances. All this makes travelling quite a practical proposition. Of course, this is also dependent on the quality and extent of disability facilities provided at the caravan parks we use. I must say this has greatly improved over the years we’ve been doing this; we first started travelling around Australia in 1996, when disability facilities were few and far between. Most caravan parks now make some attempt to provide toilets and shower facilities for people with disabilities. However, it still pays to enquire when you are booking in and to ask for a site reasonably close to the amenities. I find the biggest problem is often getting to the facilities. People who have never used a wheel chair don’t appreciate the difficulties of managing even the smallest of steps or crossing sand or gravel. A very good option, increasingly available, is ensuite sites. These are sites with their own shower and toilet block alongside (of course these are more expensive).
I have found that it makes a big difference having pneumatic tyres on my scooter. These are common on larger mobility scooters but not always on small ones. However, they are available and worth looking for. If you keep the tyres slightly underinflated you will be surprised what types of surface they can handle. Also, having found one with pneumatic tyres it is worthwhile putting some puncture sealant into them when you are blowing them up; it will help to protect you from being immobilized by three cornered jacks and the like.
If you find the facilities for disabled people to be particularly good somewhere make sure you say so, and if you encounter a problem then report that too. I quite often find management didn’t know there was a problem and will fix it as soon as practical. For example I recently found myself trapped between the two gates in the entry to a park swimming pool; I got through the first which closed behind me, but couldn’t open the second because it opened towards me and there wasn’t room to reverse my mobility scooter out of the way. Luckily someone else at the pool spotted my situation and came to help. Of course, there are frustrations in travelling with a wheel chair or a scooter. It is surprising how often one finds steps in the path to an “accessible” toilet. I think a new sign is needed such as that shown here:
|One of the biggest frustrations is not being able to get down onto many of our wonderful beaches. Sometimes I find I can get down a boat ramp and onto hard sand at low tide and can then go for a wonderful run along the beach.|
Plastic matting similar to that used at outdoor concerts is being used by some Councils to enable wheelchair access to beaches and it would be wonderful to see this become more common.The message I want you take away is that just because you are on a walker, wheelchair or mobility scooter shouldn’t stop you from exploring this wonderful country of ours. I appreciate not everybody is able to do as much as I can but the important thing is to concentrate on what you can do, utilize everything that is available which can help you, and do as much as you possibly can.
Nigel Caswell OAM - September 2017