Kylee Black travelled to six different countries, gathering insights into how technology is used to enhance accessibility. This blog is the first of a series capturing aspects of her travel.
The planning for this type of trip started long before Kylee even set foot on a plane. Before being able to travel abroad, there were some challenges to face. “It’s important for me to share my learning as I hope that someone else can benefit from the knowledge I’ve gained,” Kylee said. This was Kylee’s first time travelling further than Australia. “My condition meant that there were many hoops to jump through. People pulled together to help me make this journey possible, not only through providing financial support, but a big part was having contacts that helped with organising insurance and other requirements to allow me to go overseas. I am so grateful to all the people that supported me and helped me make this happen.”
John Taylor, CEO of Community Connections in Supported Living, started the ball rolling when he spoke to Kylee about the possibility of travelling to the International Initiative for Disability Leadership conference which was taking place in Sweden. “When John, and Chris Matthews [Founder and Account Manager at Mycare], first mentioned the possibility of travelling. I laughed because I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but John pulled it together, and Mycare was supportive of the trip happening.”
Kylee has always been involved in the disability sector, volunteering from the age of 9 to 15 with IDEA Services. It was these years of experience that fuelled Kylee’s passion to advocate for disabled people to have the ability to decide how they receive and use their supports. She says, “Having an opportunity to go overseas and see how other countries support disabled people was an unbelievable opportunity. Also, having the ability to travel and see all those places I had only heard about from friends.”
The first hurdle was finding an Insurance company that would cover her whole trip. It took numerous phone calls, but she persisted. “Most had an immediate decline process based on sets of questions, though there was one policy we could find that would cover pre-existing conditions for up to 21 days no questions asked but nothing further. It was through contacts, and reaching out for help, that I made a connection with someone at another travel insurance company who connected me to a medical underwriter, and this gave me my shot at insurance. Instead of an inflexible questionnaire, this one listened to me. She could see that I was travelling with all reasonable preparations made for safety and other contingencies, and that I was having medical treatment the week before to help make the trip possible, so she approved it. It’s important that you really do tell insurance agencies EVERYTHING!!! You don’t want to be overseas, have an issue, and then find they won’t pay out because they didn’t understand everything before you left.” Kylee used a travel agent that had booked trips for other people with disabilities, which meant she not only understood what was required but also had the necessary contacts to make it happen.
Another tip from Kylee is that pharmacies will provide you with a list of medicines and what they are used for, which is important not only for customs clearance, but also in case of an emergency, so people know which medication to administer.
Once the flights, accommodation and insurances were booked it was time to get on with the adventure. “One of the highlights in Paris was being able to take a photo of me jumping in front of the Eiffel Tower. Esther [Kylee’s personal assistant/Mycare worker] did jump shots in front of the Eiffel tower, and I was feeling sad because it’s something I wished I could do. I did them with my arms, but it didn’t show the excitement and I couldn’t lift up my left arm either, so it was one arm in the air. I mentioned my sadness about this. There were lots of these moments: incredible, ‘I can’t believe we are honestly here’ moments and those of pure delight and joy, but they were also interspersed with moments of grief, struggle and sadness, and not just for me, but all of us. This was one of these moments, and I can’t remember how it happened, but it started with me asking John if he could stand me up out of my chair, and then he said well what about if I jumped for you? And this turned into John jumping and lifting me up! So, we tried a mini practise run, then John squatted down and wrapped his arms around my hips and lifted me up into the air. It was sheer delight, and something that I will treasure for many years!”
Unfortunately, Paris proved to be difficult to navigate at times due to its inaccessibility. Although, there were some beautiful moments, one of which was when Kylee, Esther and John were about to walk past a patisserie, seeing that it was inaccessible, when a gentleman came out and proudly announced that he had a ramp. It was a slightly different experience at the Arc de Triomphe. “When we decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe, the first barrier was the stairs.” The Arc de Triomphe is in the centre of a six-lane roundabout, meaning the main access for pedestrians is via a steep flight of stairs, leading through an underpass to another flight of stairs going up the other side. This wasn’t an option. “So, we spoke to a policewoman and she eventually decided to navigate us through six lanes of traffic to enable me to cross the road. I felt a sense of triumph when I reached it, the monument living up to its name.”
Making their way back after being at the Arc de Triomphe proved to be more difficult. The officer who had helped them across was occupied on the other side of the road. Luckily shortly after Kylee had made her way to the Arc de Triomphe, the army arrived for a World War One commemoration ceremony. “The soldiers promptly helped us across the road. Who gets escorted by soldiers! I will never forget that.”
This is just one of many memories that Kylee has taken away from her travels. To ensure that others can learn from her experiences Kylee has filmed every part of her trip. Including accessibility and inaccessibility. “I want people to see the reality of what it means to travel with a disability.” This footage is currently being edited and will be released shortly.
Kylee travelled with her Mycare worker. If you have questions about our services or need a little support, contact the Customer Engagement Team on 0800 677 700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.