Here at Access Cornwall we delighted to be joined by Helen Martin and her daughter Holly (Come on Holly Pop) who have joined the team to become valued contributors to our work in reviewing places and sharing valuable information to help make days out and activities around Cornwall as accessible as possible.
Here Helen shares her story. Do take a look at her brilliant Facebook pages Come on Holly Pop and Accessible Lizard (links at the bottom).
Hi all, My name is Helen Martin, some of you might already know me as Hollys mum and regular blogger on her Facebook page ‘Come On Holly Pop’.
Holly was a happy healthy teenager, into horses, swimming, riding, music and many more hobbies and interests. If she wasn’t on a horse she was in the sea. She was a fun and sociable girl! On the 12th of April 2021 Holly had a riding accident at home which left her with a severe traumatic brain injury.
She spent over a year in Bristol Childrens Hospital undergoing intensive recovery and rehab and has been home now for just over a year. Holly is doing really well considering the extent of her injury but has a long way to go yet, as her mother I am determined to make sure she gets the opportunity to continue her recovery so she can be the best she can be!
I set up her Facebook page, ‘Come On Holly Pop’ as a way for her past team to keep in touch. Aware that the hospital staff couldn’t be updated via a personal social media account it was a simple solution for them to be able to follow progress as Holly was discharged home. After 410 days it was like leaving family behind!
From there the page has grown into something bigger and has become a platform to share not only Hollys progress stories but also a way to spread awareness of some of the difficulties faced by those with disabilities. I hate to dwell on the negative so, where fit, I also use it to shout about the things and places that go well, that are accessible to us and are a real asset to Hollys continual progress.
I now have over 1500 followers and regularly get ‘raising creator’ status awarded to the page for original posts. Small fry compared to some but as a page set up just to keep people in touch with Hollys progress I’m pretty pleased with how it’s developed.
As a side project, if you like, I set up an additional page called Accessible Lizard. It’s loosely based on the Accessible Bude page which we found really helpful on a recent holiday. One of the things we have noticed is how many venues think they are accessible but are actually not. Often, for us, it can be simple additions that make a huge difference. A small furniture rearrangement, access to a ramp, well trained staff etc can go a long way. This is a location specific page with the aim to help locals and visitors alike and to encourage people to share their positive experiences of accessible locations on the Lizard. It’s looking at accessibility from all angles, not just the view from a wheelchair user and her mum. I hope business owners might also be encouraged to embrace a few changes when they see what can be done.
I am really passionate about making the world a more accessible place. A lot of that starts and ends with customer service. In a recent blog I wrote about the troubles I had booking a hotel room. How something that was simple pre accident has become a confusing mess. The hotel I booked is part of a big chain and brand new so I thought it should be straightforward. Unfortunately the chain meant I was put through to someone in a call center who didn’t know the hotel and informed me it wasn’t wheelchair accessible at all, did not have level or ramped access. No wetrooms and no wheel chair appropriate rooms. A contrasting opinion to a member of staff who did know the hotel.
The whole process has led to worry and confusion over what should be an enjoyable weekend away. A really easy fix can be made here! The staff in the call center need to have access to appropriate information on the hotels they are booking. It took, in total 3hrs to book a hotel room and be reassured we’d get through the front door. Book somewhere else? Where? Wheelchair accessible hotels are rarer than you think and they will book the accessible rooms out to anyone. Don’t get me wrong, they shouldn’t leave rooms empty! But with a limited supply available there’s very few to go round as it is.
My family is hugely supportive but they do laugh at me. A trip out, a program on the tv, a family walk barely go by without me commenting on accessibility. Hollys dream was to become an army medic and later a paramedic. She was always wanting to help those that need it the most. It might be a slightly romantic way to look at things but Holly is now helping people. In a different way she is helping to demonstrate, to educate and to open discussions on accessibility to an audience who was otherwise unaware or unsure on how to proceed.
I am really looking forward to helping out at Access Cornwall. Personal reviews and experiences are hugely beneficial to businesses and customers alike. With Holly and myself working together we can cover both a wheelchair user and a careers perspective of venues. My past role was as an HLTA in a local primary school and included work as a SEN TA which I hope can also give me a broader perspective of how a venue can meet everyone’s needs. I also hope to continue championing future projects to make the world a more accessible place. Beach wheelchairs, opening up parts of the south west coast path to be more accessible, more changing places style bathrooms and better car parking are some of the areas I’m keen to push forward for the good of everyone.
Visit Helen’s Facebook pages here: