It’s brilliant to have time out with the people you love.
As summer gets underway, I’ve been looking forward to going away on my holidays. Summer holidays were magical for me as a child. It was something different and the chance to enjoy so many new experiences. I have some truly special memories of holidays that have stayed with me.
However, one thing I also remember from childhood, is how difficult it was to travel as someone with a learning disability. Certain things weren’t accessible and getting on a boat or a plane wasn’t always easy, and the attitudes of staff weren’t always great.
Going through an airport is stressful too. I remember I was going to Dublin on my own for the first time. The whole process of showing them my bag and taking my shoes off took me longer, and the attitude of staff hurrying me along and making me rush made me feel very on edge. People with learning disabilities often need more time and it’s horrible to be forced along. Who wants to start their holiday with someone tutting at you?
Even today, I face similar problems when I want to go abroad. I do a lot of research in advance to make sure I’ll be treated well and that I’ll be able to do everything I want. That’s why I really admire the work of Sophie Morgan and the #RightsOnFlights campaign, encouraging people to write to their MPs and demand change for disabled travellers.
Too many people still assume traveling is something people with learning disabilities can’t do, especially internationally. But, in the spirit of Mencap’s Learning Disability Week, that’s a myth I want to bust. Years ago, we went to San Francisco, because my brother had relocated. He got married there, and we went on a road trip afterwards down Route One towards Los Angeles, Disneyland and all the places I’d seen on TV. It was incredible and something I’ll never forget.
These days I try to get the same weeks off as my husband. As he works at Royal Mail, he only gets certain weeks off to avoid busy times. I have to compromise around him so we can go away together, but it’s absolutely worth it. My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Brighton. We drove down and visited Sea Life Brighton, took in the views from Brighton i360 and spent a wonderful time in the pubs and The Lanes. Because Mark was driving, I didn’t have to be rushed, and we made sure the hotels we were visiting were really accessible.
Whether you are going away this summer or enjoying a staycation, I hope that you have the chance to relax, unwind, and above all, be yourself!
About Ciara Lawrence
Ciara Lawrence is a well-known learning disability campaigner and a Shaw Trust Power 100 influencer. She has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent.
Search ‘Ciara’s pink sparkle podcast’ via Google.
There are currently 1.5 million people in the UK living with a learning disability, Mencap is here to help them live life to the fullest: www.mencap.org.uk