Vicky Matthews and her son Luca, both students at Atlantic TU, set sail from Poole in England to Dublin to raise money for Spinal Injuries Ireland.
Spinal cord injuries are life-altering. While astonishing advancements are being made daily, we are still years away from a remedy. In Ireland, as many as three people sustain a spinal cord injury every week.
Victoria Matthews, an accessibility activist from Ballyshannon Co Donegal, and her son Luca, a Culinary Arts student at ATU Killybegs, boarded The Tenacious, the only wheelchair-accessible ship of its kind, in aid of Spinal Injuries Ireland.
The Tenacious is fully accessible from bathrooms to lifts, from upper mess to lower mess and accommodation, including lifts from the main deck to upper decks. It is also accessible to the visually impaired.
The SV Tenacious Forward Port Watch Tall Ship crew left Poole in June. It veered south towards Jersey and the North coast of France to sail into Dublin as part of the Spinal Injuries Ireland Tall Ship Challenge to raise funds for support and services to help people with life-changing injuries. Over €80,000 was raised.
The crew comprised eight people with a spinal cord injury, their assistants, and people from all backgrounds and abilities.
Matthews is studying Sport with Business at ATU Sligo and her son Luca is a BA in Culinary Arts student on the Killybegs campus. Matthews is not only a disability advocate working on key campaigns to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Ireland, she is also a founding member and chair of ATU Sligo Disability and Inclusion Sports Club.
Matthews has fallen in love with sailing after her experience on the English Channel where she learned about navigating the ship and keeping logs, including wind speed, course details, and wet and dry temperatures.
“I felt part of the voyage crew from the beginning. Captain Simon told us there were no passengers on this trip. Every person had a role, was an equal team member, and contributed to the success of the voyage.
“Our group from Spinal Injuries Ireland became a team very quickly as we got to know each other. There was a great atmosphere of inclusion throughout, where abilities were seen, and everyone had important roles to fulfill. Eight wheelchair users were on-board, and we all had a buddy to support us throughout the trip.”
Matthews is also involved in several organisations focused on inclusion. She is a board member of Donegal Centre for Independent Living, Ahead/USI Disabled Students Advisory Group, Independent Living Movement Ireland, and The European Network on Independent Living.
SOURCE: Materials provided by ATU
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