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Accessible Guide to Commonwealth Games

Nominee details

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Introducing Emily

Emily and her twin sister, Lucy, were born 10 weeks prematurely, and later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. At 9 years old, she had an operation to improve her walking, which resulted in her needing to use a wheelchair.

In the summer of 2008, at the age of 16, she was nominated by her school to go to southern Africa with the JoLt Charity, an organisation that takes disabled or disadvantaged young people on a ‘Journey of a Lifetime’. Here, she met people with similar life experiences and similar ambitions. Together, they did things that they’d never imagined would have been possible. They rode elephants, went cage diving with sharks, and climbed some of the highest sand dunes there are. She immediately got the travel bug, along with 30 life-long friends.

Since then her travels include crossing the Sinai desert (the first wheelchair user to cross it on a camel!), and spending a year studying abroad in Australia, and moving to London to read English at Queen Mary University. It is here that she found out about UnLtd, and decided to combine her love of travel, sport and writing to create an accessible travel guide to the Commonwealth Games.. Ultimately, the intention is for this to be the first in a series of guides aimed at broadening the world of travel to people with disabilities, in the way it was broadened to Emily when she took her first adventurous trip at age 16.

Why should Emily be recognised for a "Lived it" Award?

Emily is an incredibly inspiring individual to all who know her. She has a bright outlook on life, looking at what she can do rather than what she can’t, and her guides are just one way that she has transferred this outlook to other people with disabilities.

As a Gamesmaker in the London Paralympics she took part in a press conference, where she spoke about how amazing the Games had been for people with disabilities. She described the Games as lifting the “cloud of limitation” on everything that they had previously had thought possible, and this quote was used by Lord Sebastian Coe in his closing speech to the Games.

Emily is continuing to lift this ‘cloud of limitation’ with the work that she has been doing since being awarded the UnLtd funding for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In addition to writing this guide, she is now working on a guide to the Rio Olympics, and doesn’t want to stop there – she intends to write a whole series of accessible guides to make travel a possibility for people with disabilities. Her work has two positive effects, both increasing the accessibility of travel to people with disabilities, whilst also increasing engagement in disability sport, something that she herself loves.

She is deeply committed to making her travel guides accessible to all, and because of this is researching ways to make copies available freely to the disabled community. Emily is a ‘do-er’, someone who is motivated by wanting to use her skills and energy to make a difference in the world that she lives in, by focussing on what she’s learned from her own personal experiences and opportunities, and the ways that she can bring that knowledge to others.

Some evidence in support of this nomination

Testimonials:
‘In my closing speech at the Paralympic Games in London I talked about the author of this book, Emily. The Games, she said ‘had lifted the cloud of limitation’ for people with disability’. Lord Sebastian Coe
"Emily is clearly passionate about accessible travel and inspired by her experience at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, where she volunteered as a Games Maker. So it is great that she is now working on a guide which will provide practical support and encouragement for disabled people to go out to Rio to experience the Paralympic Games for themselves. Her travel guide is very much aligned with the BPA's vision 'through sport, a better world for disabled people' and as such we are very supportive of it. We believe that Emily's hard work and dedication to this guide will result in it being a useful resource to disabled travellers and will enrich and facilitate their journey to Brazil."
Tim Hollingsworth CEO of the British Paralympic Association

Excerpt from Telegraph Article
Once my last shift as a volunteer Games Maker at London 2012 had finished, I went to a gig in Twickenham with a friend. It was the night of the Closing Ceremony for the Paralympic Games. I was checking my phone as I was leaving the gig and suddenly saw that I’d received dozens of texts and calls. Everyone was saying that Lord Coe had mentioned me in his speech. The “cloud of limitation” phrase had obviously struck a chord with him, and now here he was at the Closing Ceremony – quoting me. I’m 21 now, but from an early age I was aware of how important it is to be an advocate for something that matters, and something that needs to be supported. So I raised money for the disability charity Scope at secondary school in Keighley in Yorkshire. Campaigning for others with cerebral palsy felt good: it was familiar. I was knowledgeable about the condition, and passionate about helping others in ways that I had been helped too. I am lucky. I have a supportive family and friends. I never faced anything negative around disability in my time at school, but I hadn’t really thought about what was possible, what my ambitions were, and what impact, if any, being a wheelchair user would have on them. The big change for me came when, at 16, I was accepted on to a month-long expedition to southern Africa with the amazing Jolt (Journey of a Lifetime Trust) charity. Jolt takes disabled or disadvantaged young people on extraordinary trips. I climbed sand dunes in Namibia, attended schools and HIV/Aids clinics in Lesotho, and went cage-diving with sharks in Cape Town. These were all things which I had never once imagined I would be able to do. Jolt opened my eyes to all sorts of possibilities. Helping others, and granting opportunities I have been so lucky to have, feels amazing. It is a way of giving back to society and encouraging others to do the same. It is the same reason why I volunteer. Because I have been so fortunate, so well-supported, so encouraged in my life, I want to share what I have found is possible and life-enhancing with others. Let’s not beat about the bush. It is always going to be more difficult to travel if you are disabled, but if you want to do it, you can. And I see this book as directed not just at disabled people, but to everyone working to make the Rio Games a success. If, for example, hotel owners can be encouraged to make the often small adjustments to their properties that make them more accessible to wheelchair users, then we all are winners.

Excerpts of the Guide to the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Glasgow Central Station:
The whole of Glasgow Central Station is on an easy gradient, therefore making three out of the four entrances/exits accessible by ramp. All shops in the station are also accessible, with the higher tier of restaurants having lift access. There are two accessible toilets on the ground floor of the venue, and also two lifts, one on the ground floor to take persons to platforms 1-15, and one on the lower ground floor for entry to platforms 16 and 17.
The only difficulty I found is that the main station reception is up a flight of stairs. However, there is an intercom for wheelchair users to press, and members of staff are frequently available to answer questions and help in any way they can. Staff also receive disability awareness training.
There is a taxi rank right outside of the station, which houses both black cabs and specific wheelchair accessible ones. The nearest bus stop is 150 metres away, with several buses having wheelchair access.

Onslow Guest House
The Onslow Guest House is advertised on sites such as Booking.com and Trivago as having ‘facilities for disabled guests’. A week before I was to stay at the Guest House, I called to say I was a wheelchair user, and was assured that, apart from two moderate steps to the entrance of the Guest House, the rest of the establishment was fully accessible.
Entrance
On arriving at the Guest House, I was greeted by four large steps, and needed to be walked in by two men. One, the manager of the Guest House, and another, an assumed guest. I expressed the fact that I was told there were only two steps, and the manager said it must have been the other member of staff that told me that..
Bathroom
When I called this Guest House a week before arriving, I was told that my bathroom would be perfectly accessible, and within my bedroom. When I arrived, the room I was told I would be in was fully booked for the rest of the week, and my new bathroom was outside of my room, and up two moderate slate steps. There were also no adaptations made to this bathroom, and I had to leave my wheelchair outside of the bathroom, whilst I crawled up the two steps and then turned around to shut the door behind me. There are no adaptations to this bathroom, with no grabrails around the toilet, and the mirror in a very high position. This Guest House is not suitable for disabled guests at the moment,.