The summer holidays are finally here! Perhaps you are still searching for a break away or you are planning next year’s getaway. MFON caught up with accessible holidays provider, Revitalise Holidays, to find out how it supports people with additional needs. We also hear from Luke about how he found his holidaying experience.

Finding accessibility 

Revitalise Holidays is the UK’s largest specialist provider of respite holidays for disabled people and their carers in the UK. It caters for over 150 conditions, including Alzheimer’s, MS, paraplegia, motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy. From its three specialist centres in Essex, Southampton and Southport, Revitalise provides 4,500 holidays each year to people who might otherwise have no opportunity to take a break.

One of the biggest barriers when holidaying as a disabled person is accessibility. Revitalise centres are fully accessible with specialised equipment available on request, including hoists, profiling beds, airflow mattresses and bariatric beds. Accommodation is also wheelchair friendly, with buzzer systems installed throughout. Each centre also has hair and beauty salons, porterage of all luggage and fully licensed bars.

Guests on Revitalise breaks are supported by skilled care and nursing staff, as well as volunteers who provide companionship and assistance. Revitalise breaks are for three to seven days or more and guests can travel solo, or with a loved one or carer. The charity is also exploring opportunities to diversify, in order to support whole families in the coming two years.

The group has two centres across the country catering for adults with a variety of different disabilities and aims to provide a refreshing alternative to traditional residential respite care – a proper holiday. A third centre, Netley Waterside House, is closed for major redevelopment work, supported by a fundraising appeal that will also deliver exciting improvements across all three centres

Overdue break

Thousands of disabled people and carers have spent the last two years shielding, longing for a much-needed break. However, these vital, stress-free holidays are more difficult for disabled people and their carers to find. Accessibility, affordability and stigma are major barriers that are often found when booking a holiday. This is only exacerbated further by new challenges faced by holidaymakers in a post-pandemic world. Revitalise is a critical lifeline in the disability and care sector, with a vision to ensure that every disabled person and carer can enjoy the holiday they want with the support they need.

Whilst all Revitalise centres are fully accessible, this is unfortunately not replicated in many locations and venues across the country. Disabled people and their carers miss out on all too many exciting opportunities because there is no access or appropriate provision made to include those with extra support needs. Before even leaving their home, disabled people must carefully plan whether a place is fully accessible to them; this worry becomes even more intensified when planning a holiday to an unknown location. It is time for more organisations to take action and give disabled people confidence in knowing that they can comfortably access time away from home.

Time to relax

Deborah Auty, Head of Communications at Revitalise, said, ‘We would like disabled people and their carers to know that Revitalise is here to welcome you, support you and provide people with the much-needed respite they deserve. As the country is returning to business as usual, we have not forgotten the service of our carers and the difficulties faced by disabled people trying to access time away from home. We understand fully the impact the pandemic has had on anxieties around getting away for a break, but please rest assured our centres are equipped to keep people safe whilst having fun, taking time to relax and meeting new friends.

‘I have no doubt the past 24+ months will have been an isolating and difficult time for so many; our nurses and volunteers understand and are here to help guests enjoy a holiday knowing that their care and wellbeing is our priority.’

Luke’s story

My name is Luke and I am a 27-year-old with multiple disabilities. One of these happens to be a physical disability called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It affects me in a way that means I require 24-hour-a-day support with certain aspects of my life, including transferring via a hoist, as well as all personal care and access to things around me. However, like anyone my age, I just want to do things the same as my peers, be it going out for a meal and the cinema, taking part in art clubs or just hanging out with friends. It also means that, like anyone else, I want to go away on holiday, meet new people and enjoy myself with good food and the occasional drink.

Staying away anywhere becomes a military operation for anyone with a disability. I have to think about how accessible a hotel is, will a hoist fit in the bathroom and room, how accessible is the area and the things to do around where we are staying, and who will go with me to support me in all my needs. You reach a point where you think, ‘What is the point of going away if you can’t relax?’ because you are stressed out over the experience. It certainly isn’t a break for me and is even worse for my carer.

In 2018, I happened to find Revitalise when I was looking at accessible places online and it piqued my interest. They offered trips out, alongside lovely meals, a bar, entertainment every night and a chance to socialise with other people like myself. But, best of all, I didn’t have to worry about access, equipment and support. So, after some thought, I booked for a week’s holiday and had an amazing time. I enjoyed it so much that I have been a total of five times now. The staff always go above and beyond to make the experience fun and relaxing.

I know that it can seem really scary thinking about going away, especially if it’s the first time, but I couldn’t recommend it more. You meet so many great guests, volunteers and staff. You find yourself enjoying it so much and the time just flies!

Autumn prices start from £449 pp for a three-night stay and £729 pp for a seven-night stay. Care support packages are priced additionally and are based on individual support needs. Prices are per person for a twin share room, but singles are also available at a small additional cost. To enable as many people to enjoy a Revitalise break as possible, the charity is able to offer funding for those who need some help towards the cost of their holiday.