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Making a More Inclusive World with Martyn Sibley

Milly Toovey attended this year’s Naidex Conference, Europe’s biggest event for disability showcasing and met Martyn Sibley, an amazing man who doesn’t let anything get in his way.

 

Martyn helped to start a popular online news source called ‘Disability Horizons’, which focuses on matters that affect the disabled community; has written a book called ‘Everything is Possible’; has traveled the world; and also has Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

(More on Naidex here).

He is a strong voice for the disability community and uses his platforms to share his ‘Big Vision’ which is to live in a world without barriers, prejudice or discrimination. Martyn is also a strong advocate for people with a disability traveling and enjoying the world, as he has done so himself.

Milly was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pick Martyn’s brain and ask him a few questions to learn a bit more about him and some of the wonderful things he is doing within the community.

Martyn, your dedication to bringing people together in communities (online and offline) is empowering. What advice do you have for someone who is looking to "find their tribe"?

For anyone looking to find their tribe, I would recommend a little bit of introspection first. Have a think about what you enjoy, the kind of people you like to be around, and what problems you are looking to solve. If indeed that is your biggest aim of the tribe.

Once you have an idea of the interest area, there is a wealth of ways to find the tribe online. A simple Google, Facebook, or another social network search will bring up lots of results in your chosen area. I have found many groups on Facebook with people interested in the same area. So it is fine to join a variety of groups and tribes to fulfill your needs.

I think in many ways offline is similar. You can use the above tools or more traditional tools like local notice boards to find local tribes. There are many local meetups for all types of topics. One very useful online tool to find this is meetup.com.

Another important point is to not be demanding of your own needs. Particularly straight away. Instead, take your time to read about the needs of the other people. You may find answers from the solutions given in the tribe already. Be very forthcoming to support others where you can offer advice. And after feeling your way into the dynamics of the tribe, then it's the time to ask questions for your needs.

You make travel look easy. How do you do it and what advice do you have for people with a disability who have dreams to travel but think it's not possible?

The most important thing regarding the travel with a disability is to remember there is always a way. And it is very unlikely that you are the first person to ever travel with your condition. Therefore give yourself the confidence and positivity that you will find the way.

The next most important step is to choose somewhere to go that is not based on your needs. By this I mean choose a destination that you have always dreamt of or that looks amazing in the brochure but all too often people choose a holiday because they have wide doorways or ramps. This is not really a good basis for a holiday.

After this, it is time to get practical. So list out all of the things that you need from a disability and accessibility perspective. You may find there are absolute necessities and other things that are more of a nice to have. From this list, you can go about researching the transport, hotels, and mobility equipment that suits you. Obviously, within the destination, you have chosen.

You may choose to use an accessible travel agency and pay a bit more. Or you may choose to do the research yourself in places like the online tribes mentioned previously. Where you can find the answers to your list of needs.
 
*** You can check out South Australian company, The Good Scout, an award-winning accessible travel platform here. Featured, is SACARE's 5-bedroom, wheelchair accessible houseboat which can be booked here. *** 

Finally, it's time to just go and enjoy the holiday. Many people get so stressed and anxious about the things that might go wrong. It is important to let go and accept some things will go wrong. But you will always find the strength and courage to overcome those moments. In the end, the point of the holiday is to relax and unwind. So make sure you manage to do this regardless of the events that life May throw at you on the journey there. 

 

We all get stuck in life sometimes (whether we have a disability or not) what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

The biggest thing that motivates me is the desire to help make the world more inclusive. That is not to say I don't have tired or down days. It would be immortal to never have those moments. But when I do feel down or need a boost of motivation I am powered by The Hope and belief that things can be changed for the better. I also read a lot of books and watch a lot of films and listen to a lot of music that gives me positive reinforcement.  
 

At Naidex 2018, there was a lot of talk about the "importance of identity", what does this mean to you and how does one develop it?

I feel unqualified to give a more psychological answer as to what identity is. Intuitively I would say it is how we perceive ourselves in the world. Which means our identity can be changed and communicated in different ways and at different times.

Regarding disability, I think being disabled makes up a part of my identity. To not embrace the fact I have spinal muscular atrophy would be crazy. It clearly affects my day to day life and makes me Martyn to a degree. However to be defined only by this would be crazy too. I have many more attributes to who I am than the medical condition and different ways I do things to the average person.

In the end, identity is about accepting everything of who we are. Loving the good and bad parts. Striving to be better but understanding our fears. It is a balance of many different things. But ultimately we have full control over how it is shared for the world.

 

Keep up to date with Martyn's regular blog posts by signing up to his newsletter here: http://martynsibley.com/
You can sign up to Disability Horizons to receive updates and news from the disability sector here: http://disabilityhorizons.com/

Check out Martyn's vlog that touches topics from "The Future of Mobility" and more!