5 brettapproved™ travel tips

Guest blog post by Brett Heising
                                   brettapproved.com

Originally appeared as a blog post on brettapproved’s website on April 11, 2014.

 brett

 
When you start a travel and entertainment website for people with disabilities, it stands to reason that you, well, enjoy traveling. That’s certainly the case with me. But why? Because life is defined by experiences and there’s nothing better than exploring someplace new.

With this spirit of adventure in mind, I thought I’d share my top 5 travel tips:

 

5. Get to the airport early. This gives me time to explain to every airline employee I encounter that my wheelchair is much more than a piece of luggage — it’s an extension of me. Doing so makes me feel better. It also gives airline employees an opportunity to examine life from my perspective.

Arriving early also means I won’t be pressed for time going through security. The “male assist” also known as the “male PA” is a bit awkward for all parties involved. I always remind myself that this particular security protocol isn’t the highlight of the TSA agent’s day either.

I mean really, who wakes up and says: “I can’t wait to slap on a pair of disposable rubber gloves and feel sensitive areas of a stranger’s body with the back of my hand! Today’s gonna be awesome!” I’ll tell ya who … NOBODY.

 

4. No airline or hotel employee wants to make a mistake. People aren’t perfect. Mistakes are inevitable. When mistakes happen, I try my best to keep cool and work with them (whoever  “them” may be) to resolve issues as cordially as possible. While erupting might feel better in the short-term, it solves nothing.

Now, lest you think I’m perfect, I’ve had plenty of frustrating experiences. I find venting to someone you love after the fact (thank you Claudia!) is extremely helpful. Note: If Claudia’s not available a couple drinks from the hotel bar work wonders!

Sidebar: If something happens to your chair/mobility device and you’re in a bind, give my friends at scootaround.com a call. I met some Scootaround team members recently and they exemplify the organization’s “can-do” culture. I haven’t needed the company’s services yet, but I love having a back-up plan.

 

3. There’s no substitute for more time. When I’m traveling on business, arriving to my hotel a day early, before a conference starts, and getting the lay of the land has proven invaluable time and again. If there’s a mix-up with my room I have time to solve it. If I’m meeting clients off-site for dinner, I have time for some restaurant reconnaissance. What can I say? I’m a belt & suspenders kind of guy.

 

2. Take time to explore. Even the busiest business traveler needs to eat. Hence, when afforded the opportunity: Eat local! Explore local! Celebrate local! I LOVE Chipotle and Starbucks as much as anybody, I really, honestly do, but when in Rome …

And now (drumroll please) with out further ado …

 

1. Attitude is everything. I constantly remind myself and the young adults I’m privileged to mentor that we have absolutely zero control regarding how other people treat us. However, we have completecontrol over how we treat and react to them. If someone isn’t giving me the respect I deserve for example, I won’t take the bait because I want the individual I’m speaking with to know that what they may lack in civility, I more than make up for by way of my own self-respect.

 

So there you have it, five travel tips from brettapproved. Earth shattering? Nope. Worth remembering? Absolutely! If you have any travel tips or advice you’d like to share with our readers email me at brett@brettapproved.com and above all, travel confidently my friends.

These Guys Should Be in the World Cup

 

By: Shirene Menon, Guest Blogger

UCP works to ensure that individuals of all abilities can live their lives without limits. This, of course, includes participating in sports! You have probably noticed that, with the 2014 FIFA World CUP going on right now, soccer/football is a hot topic throughout the world– so this opportunity to learn about the Singapore CP Football Team comes with great timing. We are also working on another blog post with the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team to share in our August newsletter. The team will share with us the many physical, emotional and social benefits that come from playing the sport and discuss ways individuals can become involved– so stay tuned!

These guys should be at the World Cup. Let’s get one thing out of the way: these guys have cerebral palsy. But what is important is that they play a serious game of football.

It’s a sweltering hot Sunday afternoon when I first meet the team at the Singapore Khalsa Association, where they train weekly. The sun is relentless. The guys are seated on the edge of the pitch, their coach Mohammed Zainudeen holding court with a pep talk.

They’re facing another team in a friendly match. The game kicks off soon enough, and I am introduced to the world of cerebral palsy and sport. For 60 minutes I see running, kicking, dribbling, passing, deft touches, shooting and scoring. The common term is disability. But on the pitch, the truer words are talent, passion, teamwork and determination.

Off the pitch, they come together to celebrate another weekly game wholeheartedly executed. The camaraderie is apparent in the easy smiles, chatter and jokes. Speaking to them and listening in on their conversations, I immediately catch on that they want to talk about football, about school, about plans, about sport, about girls, about futures. Not about their muscular condition.

They are footballers. There’s no place in their lives for self-pity or resignation.

They are liberated, full members of society. And by the way, they bagged Singapore a silver medal at the 7th Asian Para Games in Myanmar. They didn’t choose to have cerebral palsy, but you can certainly tell when these footballers are on the pitch, that they’ve chosen to live life large and full.

Keep living it large, Bala, Firdaus, Harun, Hitesh, Khairul, Nizam, Mubarak, Peter, Shafiq, Shahidil, Suhaimi and Taufiq! Want to know more about the team? Like them on Facebook and show your support at  www.ourbetterworld.org

 

Video shot and edited by Anshul Tiwari. Produced and written by Tsen-Waye Tay.

This story is brought to you by Our Better World, an initiative of the Singapore International Foundation – sharing stories to inspire good.

The Tottering See-Saw of “Empathy Exercises”

by D’Arcee Neal, UCP’s Manager of Institutional Giving

D'Arcee Neal

D’Arcee Neal

Being a person who is disabled and who works as a disability advocate is like being on a see-saw. I am tempted at times –influenced by society and my own experiences – to move into rage mode, because so much of what I see day in and day out doesn’t mesh with what I know is right. But then I tilt toward the other side which is a “woe is me” mode of pity, sympathy and understanding because I know that I can better get my point across by interacting with people in a gentle, respectful way. In reality, I think that effective advocates balance on the see-saw’s fulcrum, right in the middle. You can teach without being combative, but shoving the rage down inside of you and ignoring what’s wrong with a pair of rose-colored contacts in your eyes helps no one.

 So, when I saw a video this week of CNN’s Anderson Cooper as he tried an empathy exercise for people who have schizophrenia, I moved back and forth on the emotional see-saw as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. I came across the clip after seeing comments on it from people in an online Cerebral Palsy group I belong to. They were posting angry comments about the purpose of empathy exercises and their effectiveness with the general public. I wondered for a moment: do empathy exercises really do ANYTHING?

Most of us (especially people with disabilities) already know that nothing accurately replicates another individual’s struggles. This is partially why struggles are so difficult, whether it be issues of race, disability, sexuality or any of the myriad possibilities in the human race. However, this isn’t to say that we should just shrug our shoulders. If the only people willing to learn about disabilities were doctors, then the world would be a much different place, and society might see medical professionals as little more than morbidly curious paparazzi with scalpels instead of cameras.

Thankfully, the world isn’t like that and we have people from all walks of life dedicated to learning about, dealing with, and understanding people with disabilities. But for those who haven’t crossed that threshold of understanding, then empathy exercises are one of the best ways to offer them the tiniest glimpse into another person’s world. 

In college, I had a friend who decided to live in a wheelchair for 48 hours as part of a sociology project. In my mind, I laughed because I knew there was a slim chance that he would actually do it, but I played along. Just rolling about 2 or 3 blocks to the cafeteria for dinner together, he was out of breath from the effort. He exclaimed that he needed to “pause” the experiment because he had to use the bathroom really badly. My facial expression said it all. And I think he began to understand what many see as the fundamental flaw of the empathy exercise: they end. My Cerebral Palsy is a constant, all-day, all-consuming affair, much like any permanent disability and I understand why some people are angry about the idea that it is possible to simulate it. The exercise cheapens and reduces the experience, in their opinion.

I think that if the experience is framed in the right way, it could be such that people would never forget it. Even if the experience isn’t particularly powerful, the understanding is there at least for the moment, so that people might think about it in the future, and that’s a good thing. Honestly, that’s what I think empathy exercises are about – not about changing someone’s perspective in a mind-blowing way, but introducing small changes which allows leads them to momentary understanding which might come back. 

Empathy exercises may not be the societal game changer many people want it to be, but you have to start somewhere.