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A week in the life of Braeden – accessible lifestyle of a young person with a disability

When Braeden was approaching the end of high school, I wasted quite a bit of energy on despairing about what life would look like for him, and if I’m honest, what it would bring for me. I wanted him to be engaged and live a full life but I wasn’t sure that was possible after looking at a range of programs. As many of you know, up until Covid graced our shores, Braeden attended a day program. As with most group activities, the participants had various needs and levels of ability, and there were challenges. Despite trying for a long time, we were unable to have Braeden’s main goal, implementation of his speech program, successfully used day to day. It’s difficult for all involved when there are so many demands on support staff’s attention and time. So, when Covid forced a change, and we moved to one to one support, we found a new happy balance. I can honestly say Braeden is living a really full life and with the support he receives, he’s kicking therapy, and personal goals. For that reason, I thought I’d share a week in the life of Braeden. It might give others an insight into what life can look like for a young person living with a disability. Please keep in mind, this is Braeden’s idea of a great life, it will be different for everyone. I am sure many people want to be engaged in work or education but this is Braeden’s week and he’s happy with it.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Day one

Braeden and his support worker headed off to the city and had morning tea under the Sydney Harbour Bridge while watching the ferry action on the water.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel
Braeden wielding a paintbrush. A deadly combination

After fuelling up, Braeden headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art to participate in the free art program offered to people living with a disability. Braeden loves the sense of community with staff and fellow artists embracing his social personality. Braeden’s speech pathologist has visited Braeden at the program and has shown Braeden’s support worker how to incorporate Braeden’s communication goals into the sessions. You can read about the MCA’s Bella Plus Connect Art in this review.

Day two

Fridays are an extra fun day for Braeden as he chooses every element of the day. Some days Braeden has a set activity so although he has opportunities to choose elements of the day, on Fridays Braeden chooses absolutely everything.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Last week Braeden chose a ferry ride to Manly Beach where they had a picnic lunch. Braeden likes full days so on their return trip he chose to use his annual Merlin Pass to visit Wildlife Sydney.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Day three

On Saturday it was a lovely warm summer’s day, so we decided on a picnic as a family. It’s wonderful to now have a car large enough to fit in Braeden’s wheelchair, the inflatable stand-up paddle board and our three person inflatable kayak. You can read about our car in this review.

We had such a wonderful time. We visited Berry Reserve at Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The location has accessible parking, a MLAK locked unisex bathroom and a lovely level pathway which laps the lake. We set up our picnic under the shade of the trees. Next time we’ll pack barbecue supplies to cook on the free barbecues.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Braeden loved being together on the water and it was the christening of our kayak. It’s so much fun being able to do something together. This is a three person kayak. Amelia did stand-up paddle boarding alongside us.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel
Berry Reserve, Narrabeen

After we finished kayaking we visited Collaroy Beach for lunch. We sat under the shade of the trees and enjoyed burgers and chips from Fernando’s Peruvian Rotisserie across the road from the beach.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Collaroy Beach offers great facilities for people with a disability with good accessible parking, a beach wheelchair (bookings are essential) a Changing Places style of bathroom with adult-size change table and hoist and ramp access into the ocean baths. There are also accessible play equipment in the park. Across the road there is a variety of take-away shops including our new fave Ferando’s. You can read more about Collaroy Beach in this review.

Day four

Braeden and his support worker headed out on a adventure. Having previously extensively explored the Parramatta Rivercat Ferry, and Sydney Harbour Ferry, network, they decided to go to Cronulla, one of Sydney’s southern beaches to try the ferry to Bundeena. They packed their can-do attitude as we couldn’t find out in advance if the ferry route is accessible. It’s not entirely accessible but his support worker made it work.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Braeden loved watching the jet-skis zig-zagging across the water way. They did a round-trip on the ferry as the Bundeena wharf is not accessible. A picnic under the trees was a great way to cool down when they got back.

If they had more time they would have borrowed one of the beach wheelchairs at Cronulla Beach but decided to leave that for another day.

Day five

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Mondays are a great day to visit The Grounds at Alexandria so Braeden and his support worker headed there to see the new Disney installation. They both loved it and had a lovely morning tea while there. It was then time to continue taking advantage of the sunshine so they headed to Coogee Beach. There’s a lovely accessible coastal walk which they like doing.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

You can read about the Coogee coastal walk and accessibility in this review.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Day six

Presentation day! Braeden was asked by a disability organization to do a presentation on what he enjoys about travel. Many of the day program’s participants have a goal to travel and the manager thought Braeden might inspire them. Braeden had worked with his speech pathologist the week before on choosing what he wanted to say and they had programmed it into his iPad on the Pictello program.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

He received rave reviews from his speech pathologist, support worker and the manager of the day program. It’s so good for Braeden to be offered these opportunities to use his communication skills in a meaningful way and of course it is a good boost to his ego. He also thrives on the social connection it offers.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

After the presentation Braeden and his support worker visited Canoelands Orchard to do fruit picking. We booked in advance and requested the use of the buggy. The staff did one better and provided a helper. Braeden had a lovely day and we’ve been enjoying the fruits of his labour (pun intended) ever since.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

All that effort fruit picking left Braeden a bit peckish so he then stopped into the Glenorie Bakery for afternoon tea. Morning and afternoon tea stops allow Braeden to use his various communication aids to choose and order his food. The Glenorie Bakery is wheelchair accessible and has delicious pies. Of course we put in an order which Braeden delivered with a big smile.

Day 7

Everyone knows that you must work off those accumulated morning and afternoon teas so it was time to hit the gym. Braeden had a good work out with his new exercise physiologist. I would be a tad hypocritical if I wasn’t enthusiastic when his physios took off on extended travel adventures but it is always hard to say goodbye to our therapists. Luckily the new EP sounds lovely.

A week in the life of Braeden - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Braeden’s after gym routine is either hot chips by the ocean (yeah I know, not good post gym food) or a ferry ride to the city. You will have guessed by now that Braeden loves riding the ferries. He is well known by the ferry staff and I think while he loves being on the water, he also thrives with the sense of community, being known, liked and acknowledged.

Every week is different for Braeden. While the weather is warm and fine he is taking advantage of outdoor activities as much as possible. Some weeks Braeden may choose going to the movies, the art gallery or the zoo. Wherever he goes, his communication goals are worked on throughout the day. He shares his adventures via Pictello. You can read about how we use this program in this review. The encouraging signs we see since he’s had the consistency of one to one support is more consistency in Braeden’s communication and a real sense of community from being included in the world every day as he travels around the city.


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