Last night I gave a talk on adventure travel for the blind, at an Ignite event in Sheffield. Ignite is a bit of a geeky phenomenon, but the idea is that you give a 5 minute talk on a subject of your choice that broadly fits a theme, with exactly 20 slides which advance automatically every 15 seconds. It’s harder than it looks — not just trying to get your point across in only 5 minutes, but also to get the timing to fit the slides, and to get the attention of a bunch of people with disparate interests. I’m very used to giving talks at work, and actively enjoy it as I love talking about things that interest me. But I deliberated a lot about what to say, how to say it, and how personal to make it. In the end, I went for a set of personal anecdotes making a variety of points about why adventure travel is not only hard for the blind person, but also beneficial for both that person and others in the group.
The idea of “benefit or burden” stemmed from some recent conversations I’ve had with various people. First, with my friend Jerry Gore, an internationally renowned climber and mountaineer, who’s been giving a series of talks around the UK about his recent adventures, and the problems (and solutions) of being a type 1 diabetic on such trips. After the talk I asked him whether he ever felt a liability to his companions on such trips, and he fairly emphatically denied it, on the grounds that people are free to join his expeditions or not, so they know what they’re getting themselves into. When you’re that renowned (and such a nice person) I think people tend to jump at the chance to go on a trip with him!
I also asked the same question of Ben Fogle, when I met him a couple of years ago at a talk in London. This is the other side of the coin — how a leader feels about taking people with mental or physical disabilities on a trip with them. His answer was more enigmatic (and diplomatic), and I’ve written about this already in another post. I’ll summarise his response as the following: “As an experience, it was tough to be responsible for people with such disabilities or problems, but incredibly mentally rewarding to be responsible for changing their lives.”
My talk seemed to go down well anyway, and there were lots of laughs, even though I was trying to make some very serious points (which seemed to be understood, as I had plenty of intelligent questions in the break). I think humour is often one of the best ways to get a point across, because people listen, and they remember it. And in my experience you can rarely go wrong with funny pictures. But one of the most interesting parts of the evening was the fact that I’ve been subsequently asked to give a talk at an upcoming research symposium in Sheffield on Adventure Travel. After some discussion with the organiser, I’ve decided to talk about “Disability in Adventure Travel: the Double-Edged Sword”, where I’ll discuss the problems and solutions that disability brings, and also the benefits both to the traveller and to others. Much the same kind of thing that I’ve often talked about in my blog posts. I’ll also be able to discuss some of my work activities analysing social media and how this might be put to use in the world of adventure travel. I’ll be talking alongside Matt Heason from Heason Events, and Tom Briggs from Jagged Globe, the Sheffield-based adventure travel company, amongst others. All pretty exciting stuff!