Taking a gap year with a disability is not only possible, it can also be one of the most incredible experiences for those that take the opportunity. We asked Callum Russell, founder of CrystalEyes for his tips on taking a gap year with a disability and key things to consider before you travel…
For many, disability could be perceived as an immovable barrier for a young person wishing to take a gap year or mini-gap from formal education or employment. However, with the right support and a positive attitude, a gap year or mini-gap for a young person with a disability is a very realistic ambition. In this blog, we explore how to make this a reality and how CrystalEyes can support you.
My name is Callum Russell and I am blind since birth. In 2011, as part of a mini-gap, I volunteered on a project run by Quest Overseas, where I taught percussion lessons to primary school children in a Lima shanty town called Villa Maria. I also undertook independent travel, which included visiting both Rio De Janeiro and Buenos Aires, as well as completing the Inca Trail. Last year, I founded CrystalEyes, which is a bespoke consultancy dedicated to enabling young people with a vision impairment and other disabilities to fulfil their ambitions in either education, employment or voluntary work. This includes working with organisations to ensure that they are as inclusive and accessible as possible for those with disabilities.
Finding a project
Finding a project or career experience opportunity is vital for ensuring a successful gap year or mini-gap if you have a disability or not. There are lots of gap year organisations out there but their quality and reliability vary significantly. A good place to start is The Gap Year Hub’s Gap Year Programs directory, as well as Independent Gap Advice, which has a database of organisations that are known to be reputable. Start by creating a shortlist of the things that interest you the most. It’s then a good idea to contact potential organisations to ask them all the searching questions you can think of, as well as to discuss whether your needs can be successfully accommodated. It’s important to be as upfront as possible to give organisations the best chance of meeting your needs. However, be aware that you may not always get a positive answer, and this is usually due to the nature of the work or a lack of necessary infrastructure. Consequently, it’s good to have some options.
Raising the funds
Once you find the right project or career experience opportunity for you, the next step is to raise the money you need. The amount you will need will depend on where you’re going and for how long, which is the same whether you are disabled or able-bodied. However, those travelling with disabilities may incur some additional costs, such as additional support when traveling independently, as well as the possible need to stay in more expensive accommodation to ensure a more appropriate level of support. An able-bodied young person might reasonably expect to raise something in the region of £5000. But if you have a disability, this figure could rise by at least 50%.
Regardless of the amount, raising the money always seems daunting. But there are lots of ways to do it. Typically, young people get part-time jobs, undertake other paid activity such as private tutoring or babysitting and/or put on some sponsored events. These are all viable options to raise money for your gap year if you have a disability. Another worthwhile option is to ask for contributions towards your fundraising target for birthday or other festive presents.
How long can I be away for?
You can be away for as much or as little time as you wish. An able-bodied young person might reasonably expect to be on a project for three months and travel for a further two in the case of a gap year or a month each in the case of a mini-gap. For those with disabilities, your individual needs might have a bearing on this.
Do I have to go abroad?
The short answer is no, and some disabilities may necessitate staying in the UK. There are a number of good UK gap year alternatives and in some cases, such as if you want a placement in industry, staying in the UK can be a better option whether you are disabled or not.
How can CrystalEyes help you if you have a disability?
- Advice and guidance on the various disability gap year options
- Bespoke support with finding the right organisation and discussing your needs with them
- Tailored awareness training for your chosen organisation for staff and fellow volunteers
- Advice and guidance on raising the funds you need for your gap year
- The implementation of other specialist support, for example, if travelling independently
- Provision of comprehensive mentoring support whilst on your gap year placement
For more information or to make an enquiry, go to https://crystaleyes.me or call Callum Russell on 07557916996.
Image by Romain Virtuel via Unsplash