His name is Martyn Sibley and he is a pioneer in inspiring, informing and changing the world around disability issues. Martyn is a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This means he cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book or shower by himself. He has a Masters degree, has travelled the world as far as Australia, drives his own car, runs his own business, he has been SCUBA diving and lives independently in London. He aims to inspire, inform and change the world around disability issues. Martyn is an active blogger, publisher and online marketer. Recently, he has completed his European Disability Road trip. You can read all about the trip and his ambitions to reach even further in the following interview.
What was the original idea behind your European Disability Road trip?
The idea was to discover the level of access for my wheelchair across different countries. I wanted to review transport, cafes, bars, tourist attractions, people’s attitudes and government policy.
Furthermore, I wanted to meet disabled people and interview them about their lives. Also, I was keen on showing non-disabled persons a positive image of disabled people.
My overall message is that everyone – no matter if disabled or not – can live their own dreams.
Which stops did you plan to go to and which did you actually go to?
I started in the UK. The very first plan was to go to Holland, then Germany and Poland before reaching Lithuania – where my grandfathers place of birth is. Then I would go down to Austria, Italy, Spain and up home to Britain. This was to be achieved in a mobile home that I was promised sponsorship for.
However, life throws us challenges. Maybe the universe tests to see if we really want something – who knows. The mobile home offer was withdrawn after I had announced the trip to thousands of people. So, I chatted with my personal assistant, shortened the route to go to Prague after Lithuania and back through Germany, Luxembourg, Brussels and France. This saved fuel costs. Still, I had more costs for hotels.
Using my social media community; I made £2000 in one week, making the trip possible.
Why did you think your blog and the social media channels that you use are/were the best way to depict and to accompany your trip?
I have started my blog over 3 years ago, telling readers my personal story of being disabled: the challenges, the strategies I use and the successes. Through social media I built a large readership.
When I decided to do the trip I had the perfect publishing and communication tools available. I was able to blog, share pictures, vlogs and tweet throughout to many people.
Did you convince any other people that you met to become more engaged in using social media tools to interact with other disabled people?
This is difficult to say. Many of the people and organisations I met were passionate about disability rights, but unsure of social media. Maybe I need to do a new trip promoting social media?
How do you evaluate the use of social media tools in the places that you have visited? Do you think people should become more acquainted with it? If yes, how?
Again, it’s difficult to say in all of the countries I visited how well they use social media. In the UK I deliver many trainings and the feedback is generally:
– to not give away too much private information
– not understanding how to use the tools
– tweeting about what you ate is boring.
However, others say:
– it is cheap marketing
– it brings people together and empowers them
– they have a new work lifestyle because of social media.
You use lots of video posts. Why is/was that an adequate tool for your blog and for the trip?
Many people are too busy or too lazy to read lots of words. Videos give you a few minutes to tell a powerful story. Not only is it easy but people connect more with you and want to follow your journey in life.
How did other bloggers and the media react to your project?
The media in the UK were not as interested as I had hoped, but many bloggers and readers thoroughly enjoyed it. However, in Poland I was on TV, radio and interviewed for their national disability magazine.
Where else do you plan to go? Do you have any other project in mind?
I am leaving to live in Spain for 10 weeks for a European Union funded project. This follows my stay in Asturias last year, too. Also, I am going to have a busy summer in England for my business. However, I plan to go to Peru in autumn 2013 which will be very challenging but amazing for me.
German version of the interview.
(Foto: Martyn while driving (c) Martyn Sibley; Map: Europe Disability Road Trip (c) Google Maps/Martyn Sibley)