A blogger with a disability uses his own experience to help others who want to travel abroad.
Charlie Randell, 23, from Dartford, who has cerebral palsy, writes a blog titled Not Quite Politically Correct (NQPC).
As a young wheelchair user, he shares the ups and downs of his trips abroad with his followers and offers advice to anyone with a disability planning their own.
One of the difficulties faced by disabled jet-setters was recently highlighted by Victoria Brignell from west London, who is paralyzed from the neck down. She made headlines when she was stuck in her seat for an hour and a half before being helped off a BA plane at Gatwick.
Now Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes, has spoken of the difficulties she has faced and called on travel bosses to do more for passengers with disabilities.
Baroness Grey-Thompson says she once had to get out of her seat on a plane because there were no staff to help her.
She is working with a national newspaper on five demands for the travel industry to follow.
They include: fines for airports and train operators who make disabled passengers wait more than 20 minutes on planes and 10 minutes on trains for assistance; that all wheelchair users can use their own wheelchair to the aircraft door and it will be waiting for them at their destination; storage for at least one collapsible wheelchair in the cabin of each aircraft; an accessible toilet on each aircraft; and a fully trained handicap champion on board each flight.
As a regular vacationer, Charlie agrees with all the points but is suspicious of one.
He said: “In terms of 20 minutes to get off the plane, it’s a challenge because sometimes it takes that long for everyone to get off the plane.
“It’s difficult because when does this 20-minute timer start?”
He also said: “With accessible toilets, that’s something I’ve often thought about because on trains there’s a toilet and it’s accessible.
“So I can’t understand why it’s not the same in one place.”
Referring to Victoria’s experience, Charlie said: “I personally find it hard to be really angry about it because I can see both sides.”
As an avid tourist, one piece of advice Charlie would give his followers is to plan ahead.
He said: “I want to live in the moment but because of my condition that means I have to be a plan freak.”
Recently Charlie came back from Amsterdam and one of his problems was finding an accessible toilet.
On top of that, he struggled to get into restaurants and had to resort to outdoor seating instead. Luckily for him, the weather wasn’t too bad and he was still able to enjoy his food.
In his blog he wrote about a trip to Edinburgh where the cobbled streets proved to be a challenge.
From this experience, Charlie offered advice such as renting an electric wheelchair or scooter to get around more easily.
He explained that the further away you go, the more difficult it is for a person with a disability.
He said: “I would love to go to Thailand, but I have to think about the logistics to do it.”
There was one instance where Charlie was told his hotel was fully accessible, but when he arrived it was not.
Charlie is also passionate about fitness.
It was watching the London 2012 Paralympic Games and seeing Ellie Simmonds, OBE win the silver medal in swimming, which inspired her to step up and try for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
He missed that, but undeterred, he instead turned to bodybuilding and weightlifting, and created fitness and health content for NQPC.
In the long term, he dreams of opening his own brand of gyms that meet the access needs of people with reduced mobility.
He wants to create a system where you can book a member of staff to train with you if your friends or caregiver aren’t available.
The trainer will then get to know your personal needs.
The facilities available at disabled gyms are not widely advertised so Charlie wants to let people know what is on offer.
Charlie’s blogs also provide helpful advice on dating with a disability.
Charlie met his partner Gina in 2017 through a mutual friend and they bonded over the fact that they both had YouTube channels.
Dating hasn’t always been easy and the couple have encountered some strange looks in the past.
Charlie said: “The look was always something and something I was used to, so I developed thick skin.”
His partner Gina initially felt quite uncomfortable because it was something she had never experienced before.
They are both very public about their relationship and laugh at all the negative comments about them.
He said, “One [dating] the advice I would give is to keep going and keep meeting people.”
Gina is very involved in disability awareness.
She helps Charlie with her videos and blogs to expand their platform and reach out to the disability community.
His blog consists of advice he gives people for going to school, going out at night, going to festivals and more.
He shares his experience through words, videos and podcasts, helping to change people’s lives.
Charlie likes people coming up to him and answering all their questions.
He helped answer questions from people with disabilities as well as their parents.
He said he would not return his handicap because there were so many opportunities available to him. This is its “unique selling point”.
Disabilities can still be taboo and Charlie and Gina are working hard to help change that.
Charlie said: “The subject of disability is a nervous subject and no one wants to talk about it.
“But the more we talk about it, the more awareness arises.”
You can visit Charlie’s blog at www.nqpc.co.uk and find him on Instagram on: @n_q_p_c and YouTube: NQPC