Wheels In Europe: What Is Possible When You Have A Passion For Travelling
Vera Almeida has a goal. For her 40th birthday, she wants to travel to 40 different countries. Not only that, she plans to accomplish this goal in about six months. Vera sees this trip as a celebration.
It’s a perfect way and time to defy her fears and test her boundaries.
Vera lives in Miranda do Corvo, Portugal with her parents and brother. She was born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, which means she must use a wheelchair full-time. Vera uses a Storm A40, as well as another powerchair model from Invacare, for her mobility needs. But using a wheelchair has never stopped Vera from doing anything she set her mind to. Vera’s day is much like anyone else’s. She gets up, goes to work, comes home, and spends her leisure time in recreation. However, Vera needs an assistant to help her do many of these things.
Vera has a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior from Instituto Superior Miguel Torga, in Coimbra, so she works as an HR Statistics and Reporting Technician at a food distribution company. For four years she also studied English at the University of Reading and also English, Culture and Language at the University of Kent, England, which has enabled her also to teach private English lessons. In her free time, she is a board member of the Portuguese Neuromuscular Association and she volunteers at Junior Achievement Portugal. Vera’s hobbies are singing, reading, and, as you may have guessed…travelling!
In February 2018, Vera will turn 40. To celebrate the special date, she decided to take a six-month trip around Europe. But the trip is not intended to be an extended vacation. Vera has more important plans. “Since I believe accessibility goes far beyond ramps and lifts, I will be visiting 40 European cities and exploring what best is being done in terms of wheelchair accessibility. Hopefully, I will gain new perspectives on current accessibility policies and practices and have the privilege to come across other people using wheelchairs. This will certainly help me to better advocate towards a more inclusive society in my home country, Portugal, where a lot of people like me feel stuck at home due to poor accessibility,” she said on her Go Get Funding page.
Because Vera needs personal assistance every day, all day, she will not be able to travel on her own. The cost of a full-time personal assistant will greatly increase the cost of the trip, so she decided to raise money to help pay for her personal assistants’ expenses.
Vera plans to travel with her personal assistant from June to December of 2018. She will be using a variety of transportation methods- planes, trains, and of course, her Invacare powerchair. A main objective of the trip is to evaluate the best things Europe is doing to increase accessibility for people with reduced mobility. She hopes to gather new ideas from the European policies.
Vera will be sharing about her trip on her Facebook page and blog. Currently, the page is being used to promote awareness of the trip and fundraise. She plans to start in Northern Europe, Ireland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Then she will travel through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other countries. Istanbul is her farthest point of travel, and Lisbon will be her final destination before she returns.
There are a few things that Vera knows she will encounter. Improperly parked cars, steep ramps, high counters, and tight building spaces are all things Vera experiences on a day-to-day basis. But she knows that some cities are more accommodating than others. She does not believe it is entirely the job of politicians to make life more accessible for people with disabilities. Vera believes everyone in society shares in the responsibility. She thinks it is necessary to help citizens become more aware and sensitive to the needs of others. “No matter how good the legislation is, if there is no education that points to acceptance and respect for another, no change can occur,” she said.