Affordable and action-packed holidays for disabled people
When you read the list of activities on a Seable holiday, it sounds like the script of a James Bond film: scuba diving, jet-skiing, ascending Mt Etna… The participants aren’t your average action heroes, however.
Everyone on a Seable trip has some kind of disability, either physical or sensory. And they come to Sicily for a holiday where their disability takes a back seat to pleasure seeking.
Peter Warren, 81, from the UK suffers from macular degeneration and only has about five per cent of his vision left. From a balcony in Sicily, he says he is “having the best holiday of my life”.
It’s the first time he’s been able to travel alone since he started to lose his sight. He says: “This holiday certainly raised my self-esteem because I know I can travel abroad… and feel as though I’m on my own.”
Owner Damiano La Rocca explains that Seable specialises in accessible sport and activity holidays for those with limited mobility and the visually impaired.
They started in 2012 and their office in London was inaugurated by Prince Andrew. They make holidays abroad possible for those people who felt they might never be able to go away without a chaperone again. And since most of their breaks are based in Sicily, they could not be more convenient for Maltese.
La Rocca got the inspiration after his father was injured in a car accident. His father’s hospital roommate, Martino Florio, ended up in a wheelchair. La Rocca Senior began a quest to help Florio regain control of his life by teaching him how to dive.
This led Florio to a Guinness World Record in deep-sea diving and was a eureka moment for La Rocca Junior, who discovered how poor the scuba and holiday market was for people with disability. He says: “I realised I could create an innovative tour company which, given the size of the market, could become the market leader.”
In contrast to many holidays for the disabled, Seable are affordable. Damiano says that for a basic price of €974, participants get accommodation with breakfast, transport to the destination, a dedicated chaperone and an excursion during an eight-day stay in Catania. For a couple, the price goes down to €730pp and for large groups, the cost falls dramatically. A full scuba course, including all equipment and final certification, costs €730. Holidays are tailor-made for each participant.
Last year, 30 per cent of his clients travelled without a chaperone or family member, something that is very liberating for a person with disability who might have to rely on help from home a lot of the time.
Scuba is a great activity for the disabled. Deaf participants are in their element as they already use sign language to communicate and with the support of Seable, are able to complete the on-land training much more easily. Those with physical disabilities find that the weightlessness in the water frees them up.
The fact that all of the action takes place on the gorgeous island of Sicily is also a big draw. Participant Matt, who is deaf, says: “I got to experience the Sicilian culture, visit different places, walk around and see the island. He says that Seable were, “deaf aware… which made me feel confident”.
Swimming Paralympian Steven Campbell, 27, is from Northern Ireland and is totally blind. He is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie and gave Seable a run for its money when he joined a trip.
Damiano says: “This was one of the most exciting holidays for us... pleasing him wasn’t easy as he was very active and sporty and wanted to participate in almost every activity we offer.”
Campbell was the first to try windsurfing (now one of the best-selling activities) and he also went jet-skiing and 4x4 off-road driving, not to mention passing the full scuba course.
Damiano goes on: “This has now resulted in a new passion in his life and he is currently training to beat the Guinness World Record in 2015 for the deepest dive by a blind man.”
Seable has already facilitated two world records, one for the first paraplegic man to dive to 59 metres and another for the first blind girl to dive to 41 metres.
For Campbell though, it was also about meeting more blind people so that he “could connect with a network”. He says the holiday allowed him to do the same amount of things a sighted person does. He “loved every single moment”.
Damiano says every holiday is different, as they can adapt to people’s unique needs. As well as sports, there is olive oil making, a visit to the Tactile Museum and Sensorial Botanic Garden and gastronomic excursions, plus trips to Taormina.
He adds: “Our aim is for people to be within an integrated environment so that there are no barriers to friendships.”
As for what holidaymakers enjoy most during the break: “It depends. For some, it has been the freedom to travel independently; for others the crazy activities or simply the fact that we looked after them in a very warm Sicilian way. Sicilian granita was also mentioned a few times.” He adds that the Sicilians themselves have helped make the holidays work so that even Mt Etna is now accessible.
Campbell sums up the power of the experience, saying: “When I was underwater, it was just a totally new world. Everything just felt different. It’s the best way of relieving stress, meeting new people. It shows that just because you’re disabled, it doesn’t mean you’re not able. You can’t spell disability without ability.”
For more information, contact Seable on www.seable.co.uk, tel: +44 (0)207 7494 866.