Amputation won’t hold back fearless local from next adventure
GOING away on holiday is part of the Australian way of life and Tanya Fishley, a double amputee from Chinchilla, was determined to keep hitting the open road despite the many obstacles in her way.
A relative newcomer to the disability travel space, Mrs Fishley, 50, lost her legs in 2018, after decades of coping with chronic conditions caused by a series of accidents which led to the progressive degeneration of her lower limbs and ankles.
Mrs Fishley said when coronavirus hit and state borders closed, she had to put interstate and overseas travel plans on hold, and instead decided to checkout her own backyard – regional Queensland.
“The problem for travellers like me with disabilities is finding suitable accommodation,” Mrs Fishley said.
“I’ve had experiences of booking somewhere that claims it provides accessible rooms, then turning up and finding out that’s not the case.”
Mrs Fishley said the first trip she made after her amputation surgery was a “nightmare”.
“I came across online accessible travel sites shortly afterwards when my husband Lyle was considering having a holiday to see his family in Canada,” she said
“Having had my own negative travel experiences and hearing a lot of horror stories about overseas travel for people with disabilities, I was just seeing if it would be possible for me to go with him.
“The more I researched and the more people I talked to, the more I realised that overseas travel was still possible, and I thought ‘bewdy’, because having holidays is part of life after all.
“Then of course COVID came along and threw a spanner in the works – that’s when we started to check out options here in Queensland.”
Recently returning from a trip to Roma, Mrs Fishley said she stayed at the disability-friendly, Overlander Homestead Motel, where the facilitates were second to none.
“The owners are very understanding as they have family members with disability, and everything is well designed for people in wheelchairs - the doors are wide, the bathroom is huge, there’s plenty of internal room to move my wheelchair around and even the door handles are wheelchair height,” she said.
Overlander Homestead Motel owner Amanda Weyman-Jones said it was vial those with a disability were provided with safe accommodation.
“Disabled people still have lives and it’s important they’re able to get and experience what life has to offer,” she said.
The motel was built by Mrs Weyman-Jones parents in 1984, with her disabled brother’s needs in mind.
“I don’t know of a similar motel … others say their bathrooms are wheelchair friendly but more often than not, they aren’t,” Amanda said.
Also travelling in February, Mrs Fishley trekked to the Sunshine Coast with her daughter for an Elton John concert, and is already planning a trip with her husband to Gympie later this year.
“As soon as evening comes, my prosthetic legs come off, and I’m in the wheelchair, everything has to be wheelchair accessible - the bathroom, bed, even the lounge chairs,” she said.
“You go somewhere in a wheelchair and the lounges are either so high or so low that it’s like climbing a mountain to get back in your wheelchair.
“So that’s the type of information that’s very important to know before you book.”
Supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for the past two years, Mrs Fishley’s NDIS plan has funded her manual wheelchair, a shower chair, two prosthetic limbs with absorbent liners, and paid for her car to be modified with hand controls.
A National Disability Insurance Scheme spokesman said, “fortunately a number of Australian online accommodation sites and tourism agencies catering specifically to the needs of travellers with disabilities have sprung up in recent years as the travel industry more broadly has become aware of the substantial spending power of this market segment.”
The spokesman also noted that tourism Research Australia recently estimated that 1.3 million Aussies with disability have taken at least one domestic day or overnight trip in the previous two years, and they tend to spend more on average than those without disability as they often travel with carers or support workers.
The next adventure is just around the corner for Mrs Fishley, as she’s in the process of renovating a caravan to make it wheelchair accessible - giving her even more freedom to explore the land we call home.
“If you have a disability, don’t sit at home and feel sorry for yourself – hit the road and enjoy!” Mrs Fishley said.