Annabelle Arch from World Travel Market London took a Big Bus Tour around the UK capital with blind world traveller and writer, Tony Giles, to discuss what the industry can do to make travel more accessible.
Tell us who you are
I’m Tony the Traveller. I’m totally blind, I’m partially deaf and I’ve been travelling around the world for 20 years.
What’s it like for someone with a disability such as yours getting around London?
Surprisingly good. It’s a really accessible city considering you’ve got 9.5 million people here, and so much traffic.
What about using the Underground?
I find it really easy actually. They announce the stops, and that’s a simple thing that makes all the difference.
How do you organise your travels abroad? Is it easy online?
It’s easier in many ways but online accessibility can still be an issue. I use my laptop with speech software that allows me to get the info I need and communicate with hostels and the people I’m going to stay with.
Isn’t it hard communicating in a non-English speaking country?
It can be challenging at times. I learn basic words online — thank you, toilet and water are the most important.
Where would you recommend for new solo travellers with a disability?
England and New York are great world destinations for disabled travellers.
How can the travel industry make things better?
There’s plenty that can be done. Airports are making progress, for example with tactile lines on the ground so you can find toilets or check-in desks. I think all aircraft should have their safety cards in braille.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
My first bungee jump in New Zealand — I’ve done 17 so far. When you can’t see, you need to feel it — the bounces and swinging around in the air. I’ve also done three skydives and tried zorbing, where they put you in a big football and roll you down a hill!
How are you spreading the word about travelling with disability?
My ebooks, Seeing The World My Way and Seeing The Americas My Way. Publishing online helps show people they don’t have to travel around the world, but they can overcome their challenges, both physical and mental.
Where are you heading next?
Greenland. You can find out more about my travels at tonythetraveller.com
Will you ever stop travelling?
No — never stay still, never stop discovering.
Tony — thanks so much, and a big thank you to Big Bus Tours, who will be at WTM London in November.