ENABLING SAFE & INDEPENDENT TRAVEL
Dr Desirée Gallimore holds Master degrees in Psychology; Deafness and Communication; and Business Administration. She also has a Ph.D. in Education (Sensory Disability). Desirée is a psychologist (disability), a leading mobility specialist, and a published academic. She has worked in the profession of disability for over 30 years. Desirée is a specialist in travel-training/travel instruction with people who have multiple disabilities assisting them to lead independent and self-directed lives. She has consulted in schools and communities in both developed and developing countries educating teachers, other professionals, and families about methods and techniques of independent travel.
People with disabilities travel to school, work and leisure activities. To access these environments a person needs to have safe and independent travel techniques. Most importantly, a person needs to know what to do when things go wrong.
As a solution we work individually with people and their support workers. We also provide parents and professionals with mentoring, knowledge and confidence to engage in and deliver a range of safe and effective mobility programs.
Lizzie: “Where are you Martha?”
“I’m on the train from Adelaide to Orange (1130 kms/702 miles)! We’ve stopped at Broken Hill. I’m going to have dinner soon and what’s more, I’m going to have a glass of wine with it!” The voice of my 36 year old niece, almost squeaking with excitement, told me how much she was enjoying the journey. She was on her own, with not a care in the world.
Go back a few years, and the epiphanal moment etched forever in my brain, was walking with 16-year-old Martha, down a street near our home, on our inaugural travel-training mission. Martha was going to learn how to get around independently. I soon realised how ill-equipped I was to guide Martha in negotiating these unfamiliar streets safely.
Martha had come to live with us from her home in country NSW in order to take advantage of the fabulous special education facilities at the local secondary college. In my naiveté, it had not occurred to me to think through the nuts and bolts of how Martha was actually going to get to and from school independently.
So, I thought, it will just take a little time. I’ll teach her how to get the bus. And how to cross the roads (how many are there?) to get to that bus. And where to get off the bus… and then how to get to school, and then how to do it all in reverse. The enormity of the challenge came to me within five minutes of leaving the house.
Martha and I reached our first road to be crossed. It was a complicated junction. Suddenly I was terrified for her. What is the point of saying look to your left? Are you always going to remember to do that? Will you look to your left again after looking to the right and then looking at oncoming cars – do you see there is a blinker on that means they are coming towards you as you are crossing, so look to your left again…
I knew that my fear would soon be imparted to Martha, even though she is the most cup-half-full person I know. It wasn’t that she wasn’t up to the task, it was me.
Fortunately, a friend listened to my wail, and made a reference to a service providing travel-training. Very soon after what must have sounded like a desperate phone call from a madwoman, someone appeared on my doorstep and said “I am here to show Martha how to get around”. “I can also teach you how to travel-train Martha”.
That someone was Desirée Gallimore.
From that moment on, I felt the burden of fear and worry lift from my shoulders. I was amazed that this service was available, and I felt completely privileged that we should be able to access it. I learnt along with Martha how it was done.
The second epiphanal moment came three years later, after Martha had left us to return to her home in the Blue Mountains having completed her schooling. I opened the door one day to see her beautiful happy face, beaming with the smile of someone who fully knew the significance of what she had just achieved. She had walked to the train station in Katoomba, caught the train to Central, hailed the bus to Circular Quay, hopped on the ferry to Manly and then walked up the hill to our house in Fairlight (122kms/76 miles). A four-hour, complicated journey, door to door, on her own.
That about summed it up for both of us.
Martha: I remember; it wasn’t too bad that first time with Lizzie! But it was better with Desirée and she helped me a lot. After we caught the bus together, she would follow me to school just to make sure I got there. Once I forgot to get off the bus and went a long way – all the way to Hornsby! I wasn’t scared. I was surprised to see Desirée there when I finally got off the bus and she drove me back. I didn’t do that again. Now I can travel all over the place, on buses and on trains and it doesn’t bother me at all. And it’s good with the Metro cards now – I don’t have to manage the right money. Sometimes when I went to school I would forget to keep it for the bus and spend it at the shop along the way.
I like to be able to get around on my own. Why not? You have to be able to get around! Now I go to work, to the library, to the café, and even travelled twice all the way from Adelaide to Orange and back, on the train. That was a long way. I read all my books from the library. It doesn’t bother me at all. I can go anywhere. I adore Desirée.