Travelling independently; another string to Alisdair’s bow

Hi, I’m Al and I’m 36. I came to college in 2000 and have stayed with Henshaws ever since. I’ve learnt so much since I’ve been with Henshaws, but I’m really excited to tell you one of the biggest achievements I’ve made recently – travelling on my own all the way from Harrogate to Scotland and back again!

Headshot of Al with trees behind

As a teenager, I attended the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. I wanted to move on and become more independent, but my teacher couldn’t find anywhere in Scotland to meet my needs. She found Henshaws College in Yorkshire, which was a really good fit for me. I spend 3 years at college, with a focus on living skills such as finances, numeracy cooking, food prep and shopping. I made so many friends at College and learnt so much. When it was time to graduate, Henshaws were renovating a house for people with disabilities, and I was lucky enough to be able to move in with my friends. I’ve been there ever since, and I absolutely love my home!


I also continued my journey with Henshaws at the Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough. I’ve build on the skills that I learnt at College. I love the ‘seed to plate’ idea that we’re working with. I’ve learnt to plant and look after loads of different food, and when it’s ready I pick it, cook it and eat it. Last week we made courgette and lemon spaghetti. It’s a healthy way to eat, and so tasty too. I get on really well with Wendy, my workshop leader, and we have good banter. She says that she’s proud of me; I do well and she likes that I’m always willing to try and strive for new goals. I’ve always been confident, and I use the skills I learn here in other parts of my life too. I love the Keep Fit sessions Billy runs and look forward to that every week. I’m always learning, adapting to situations and assessing what new skills might be useful.

Al and female Art Maker working outside on raised bed of veg

Because I’m registered severely sight impaired, I asked Henshaws Disability Support Service (DSS) to help me plan to achieve my biggest challenge so far. I really wanted to visit my family in Arbroath, without them having to come down to escort me. The journey is more than 5 hours, and I knew I’d have to change trains too. Nic (a rehabilitation officer in the DSS team) is brilliant. She helped me work out the route, look up train times, and practise booking tickets. I’d already learnt how to book a taxi, so I could use this skill to help. We then had a training session at Harrogate and York stations, getting used to the layouts, and asking for assistance at the ticket masters office.  When I’m asking train staff for support, I always say “would you mind”, because it’s important to be polite.

Nic practised different scenarios with me, and what to do if there was a problem like a delayed train. I always have my phone fully charged, and have learnt how to access numbers too.  I like to ring my mum and dad at Edinburgh, and again at Dundee, so they know my journey’s going well. They meet me at Arbroath station, and they’re always so proud that I’ve travelled so far on my own. Last month, Dad asked me to go back for his birthday, and we did some gardening together. I’m going back next week as well, to see my parents new kitchen. It wouldn’t have been possible before, and I’m so glad that I’ve done the travel training. I enjoyed doing it too. It’s helped my independence and is another string to my bow!

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Al by train, with train support staff
Laura and Michelle

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