Helping children with disabilities to go on family holidays
A FISHPONDS family is creating a camper van to help people with disabled children go on holiday.
Jemima Alexander and Cody Selby are using their own experience and input from other families in the Accessible Iris project, which has raised more than £30,000 in an online crowdfunding appeal.
Their eldest daughter Cali, seven, was born with a rare and serious chromosome condition called Edwards' Syndrome.
She cannot walk or talk, is tube fed, needs oxygen at night and cannot stay away from home overnight without a large amount of heavy equipment, which means that holidays or even weekend visits to see friends and family are impossible for Jemima and Cody to do with Cali and her five-year-old sister Alba.
Jemima said: "As Cali has got older, she's got bigger and her medical needs are more complex.
"We found that we couldn't get away together as a family at all – we can't event fit in a car together with all of her stuff.
"Yet again this summer, we're splitting up our family in order for us to take both children away.
"It is a hidden problem but one that's very common with families who have got a child with a disability, particularly if it's a complex one."
Jemima and Cody used to take camper van holidays before Cali was born, and Cody had been "designing his ideal camper van in his head for many years", asking other families with disabled children what accessible features they would need.
Finding that "there was a great demand for an accessible camper van, but no supply", they decided to make the project a reality when the start of the COVID-19 pandemic meant Cali had to shield and the family had to stay at home.
They bought a van and Cody started preliminary work on a conversion but the couple knew they would need help to raise the money needed to make the van fully accessible, including wheelchair fastenings and storage, a powerful electrical supply, adjustable and safe beds, blackout blinds, hot running water and a large fridge-freezer.
At the beginning of July they launched a crowdfunding campaign, initially asking for £14,000 towards the costs.
They have been "blown away" by the response, which has seen the appeal top £30,000 – enough to pay more of the costs and subsidise holidays for families on low incomes when Accessible Iris is ready to rent as a not-for-profit project.
Jemima said: "It's been incredible – we've had so much support, people have been very generous and we've managed to raise awareness of the issue."
Picture: Jemima Alexander and Cody Selby with daughters Alba (left) and Cali.