Toni finally takes to the air with support from the county council
Meet Toni Radulovic from Wantage who has finally achieved her dream of a microflight despite having been diagnosed with MS some years ago.
Her lifelong dream of flying in a lightweight airplane and paragliding seemed to be further away than ever when in 2006 she was diagnosed with the condition.
It was only when Toni shared her ambition with a member of Oxfordshire County Council’s sensory impairment team during a standard assessment that her dream quickly started to change to reality.
Volunteer run charity Flyability became involved and plans reached fruition last November. Not only has Toni now realised her dream with a trip around the Oxfordshire countryside in an ultralight aircraft, but she also now has plans to go paragliding this spring.
“It was such an exhilarating experience,” Toni said of the trip. “I thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to go up in a microlight. It was truly amazing to be up in the sky and see the local countryside up close.”
“It was the perfect day for it. So clear and sunny, I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were. The team was almost as excited as I was and was able to allay any last minute jitters of mine!”
Toni has lived with multiple sclerosis for 15 years, a condition which has since affected her vision. Due to this, she was struggling to manoeuvre her wheelchair safely and needed support to understand how best she could continue to use the aid and importantly, retain the independence it enabled her to have.
Irregular eye movements and deterioration in eyesight are common for people with MS, meaning that many people with the symptoms require additional support alongside the care they receive for the condition, such as from the sensory impairment team.
That’s where Rachel Gaisford came in, a visual impairment specialist with Oxfordshire County Council. Along with other members of the team, Rachel supports Oxfordshire residents living with blindness and sight challenges through adaptations, rehabilitation and other forms of assistance.
During assessments, Rachel will ask residents about their lives, what they would like to achieve with the right support, and any activities they are interested in participating in. Toni had two particular activities in mind: flying in a lightweight aircraft and paragliding.
“The support we were providing Toni was actually only short term,” said Rachel. “Our intention was to discuss techniques for Toni to help her use her wheelchair comfortably, and a few other aspects of life with visual impairment. But as soon as we heard about her desire to get up in the air, we knew we could help make it a reality!”
A picture perfect view
Rachel contacted Flyability, a charity initiative from the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association run entirely by volunteers, to see if it could help.
Flyability specialise in making flight and flying activities accessible to those living with a disability, including training pilots with a disability need and encouraging others to try out air sports.
The trained volunteers at the organisation quickly determined that they could indeed help get Toni in the air, and that her circumstances wouldn’t be a reason to avoid flying.
A second trip on the cards
Now that she’s been up once, Toni can’t wait to try her hand at paragliding in just a few months. The session is scheduled for spring when the weather is slightly warmer and more predictable, making it an easier and safer time to paraglide.
Toni will be taking part in what is known as a ‘tandem paraglide’, where a highly trained instructor will be going on the trip alongside her to ensure all goes smoothly.
“I cannot wait for the spring. Paragliding is something I’ve thought of for a long time but wasn’t sure would ever be a reality with my circumstances. It’s been such an exciting experience.”
For more information about this release contact the Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council communications team on 01865 323870 or email email@example.com
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