A step backwards in wheelchair transportation?

When I saw this I cringed: Drive away car invented

It’s basically a single person electric bubble car where wheelchair users can enter in their wheelchairs through the automatic ramp at the back, and then just drive away. How amazing is that – the inventor gave up her job to set up a company to make these cars which are steered by a motorbike-style handlebar and costing only $25.000.

WHOAAA ….. hang on a moment, I can do better than that!

I have a car, where I also stay in my wheelchair!

I also wheel straight in the back up a ramp (which could automatically fold up and the doors close if I needed it to)!

If I were medically able, I could also drive off. (I can’t drive so others drive for me).

Not only does my car pootle around the town locally – I can drive on main roads and motorways! It doesn’t end there – even more amazing is that rather than drive round as a lonely single wheelchair user – I can be in the car with friends, family – and even carry luggage to go on holiday or put my shopping in the back. All for around £7-8 thousand pounds. Match that then bubble car.

Thinking about it – handlebar steering, electric vehicle….. isn’t that called a mobility scooter?

I think I have the better deal, socially and financially with my car and power wheelchair combo. Good luck America with your new invalid carriage for single people with no friends!

Plymouth Aquarium: Turtle + fish = good times.

IMG_2955My Trip Advisor Review is here.

If you find it helpful – give me a helpful vote on my profile. Always good to know if it was useful 😉

Want to visit an aquarium that’s got good access, good food and easy viewing – then this is the one for you.

If you’re looking for a ‘shark tunnel’ and want to touch stingrays – try somewhere else.

If you want a stuffed toy choice of every sea creature imaginable – the gift shop will appeal.

If you’re planning a Sharknado party – this is the place to stock up on all things shark.

If you want to wait 20 minutes for the Sea Turtle to wake up from it’s regular snooze and swim into view for a few minutes, then this challenge is for you.

Remember folks …. Fish are Friends …. and plastic bags kill our sea life. (Yes you will be told this several times on your way round :-p … although your stuffed toy may well be offered in a plastic bag to carry home).

No room at the Inn – well no bed to be precise.

About 9 months ago the dates for the Firework Championships were announced – so we quickly booked into the Holiday Inn, Plymouth. I’ve written a separate blog post on our holiday.

We had chosen the Holiday Inn based on personal and practical requirements. The location meant we could walk to see the fireworks, it had parking and was one of the few places to have air con (as I need to keep the air cool because of my ventilator mask which otherwise gets really hot and uncomfortable)

At the time of booking the only wheelchair accessible room available was one with a double bed.

Out of 211 rooms there are only 2 with wide doors etc and a larger bathroom for wheelchair users which is rather poor. The chances of getting a twin room in hotels with so few rooms are slim.

 

We made the wrong assumption

 

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When we have stayed at other similar places (Premier Inn, Travel Lodge and even other Holiday Inns etc) where we can only get a double bed, we have been offered a camp / folding bed or sofa bed.

I have to take my pressure relief mattresses, turning equipment that goes under the mattress etc and I use a ventilator – so sleeping in a double bed with my husband isn’t an option. However, he has to be next to me to make sure I’m ok and to help me during the night.

Just before we went I spoke to them on the phone to ask for the folding bed and was told they had a policy not to provide these. Also, if we wanted second room for a carer (which wasn’t adjoining through an internal door, so wouldn’t have been any good for us anyway) we’d have to pay for it.

 

 

Making it possible to stay for work or leisure

Hotels have to make ‘reasonable’ adjustment, under UK  equality law,  to enable disabled guests to use their services – including providing aids and equipment. I’m assuming this is why the portable bed is often provided for carers in other places.

Another example is that if a person can not use the bath they can request a bath lift at one of the major hotel chains. Another chain offers low beds that can be raised on blocks to suit different height requirements.  It can make the difference between going or not going on holiday.

Also, it’s not only holidays that are the problem,  I’ve been to many hotels in the past for business trips, attending conferences or running training events for my company – and it really made working life difficult.

Basically, affordable, portable equipment that can help a range of guests have a much better stay are one of the things they can do for customers.

An apology

Holiday Inn isn’t cheap, we didn’t want to pay double and we needed and wanted to sleep near each other. My husband didn’t want to sleep on the floor – so on principle we felt unwanted and cancelled – moving to the Future Inn.

Since then, we have had an apology from Holiday Inn after I made a complaint. The manager was very polite and wrote in detail about the facilities they do have and the training provided for staff. He also explained that they do have a policy of offering a free room for carers and will consider a portable bed.  I hope this is a real genuine consideration.

I would like them to understand that things like a portable bed would have made all the difference and is better than the other option of us taking a camp bed or my husband sleeping on the floor.

I suspect many other people are in the same boat as us (from what my friends have been saying) and I know some wheelchair users who sleep in their chairs because of the ‘bed’ problem. It’s hard finding accommodation when most hotels only make 1% of their rooms wheelchair accessible.

Access for people with mobility impairments is more than wide doors and a few grab rails – its also about giving accurate information so that people can decided where they want to spend there money. We need a higher proportion of accessible rooms to choose from – that have been designed in a way that will benefit a wider proportion of disabled guests – not just mobile wheelchair users who don’t need assistance.

 

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

A lovely afternoon here and it’s right off the main road – so easy to get to.

Clocked up 2 miles following a straight path walk by some of the lakes. We got close to some bunnies, saw some busy bees nesting at the side of a bird hide and quite a few butterflies, dragonflies and damsel flies.

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A short video of the reserve.

 

 

 

 

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The paths were pretty good but you do need binoculars to see the water birds.  There are accessible toilets and smooth car park spaces. The Grebe Hide has a ramp to one of the windows but you can’t see the bird feeders or anything through the side windows. Kevin did the bee video for me to see what they were doing.

 

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Marle Place

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Just over 30 minutes from us is Marle Place. We spent a Sunday afternoon wandering around the gardens, woods and orchards. It costs £6.50 for adults and wheelchair users get in free. However, we were charged for my entry. It’s a strange policy as it’s pretty accessible on powered wheels and specifying only wheelchair users gain free entry as opposed to disabled people in general is somewhat strange. Neither did their website mention access on their visitor info web page.

Anyway, hidden in the web text was a mention of access and a ‘wheelchair friendly lavatory’. Personally I’ve never met a rude loo but there we go.

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We meandered across lawns and I bumped over tree roots through woods. They have an art gallery and a range of sculptures in the grounds. It was a shame there was no information about the works.

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My favourite part was the chickens. They posed for me to try out my zoom lens and very good subjects they made too!

We ended our walk with a cup of tea and cake in the tea shop.

Holiday Antics

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This has been a mad two weeks…

Week 1: Holiday, self catering in the only higher level accessible cottage in Lancashire.

By accessible, I mean we survived. It might sound a bit dramatic but any stay away from home is a test of endurance, patience and stamina. Holidays are hard work for hubs because he has to lift a lot more from different heights etc. After a 7 hr journey ( we have to stop quite a lot for pain relief) we arrive late at night and before we can crash into bed he has to move all the bedroom furniture for access. We were also presented with high beds that would be higher than the arms of my wheelchair once my pressure mattress topper went on. Had to strip the beds, take of the mattress and remake a new mattress from the bits we had brought.

Next we had to work out how to manage in the bathroom without ledges to put my feet on for balance and a bathroom door which opened into the bathroom blocking of the route to the shower. I can’t clean my teeth or physically sit on the loo until I have enough things to lean on at exactly the right height. It’s hard work for hubs and increases the pain and fatigue so it’s not exactly relaxing!

Each day we congratulated ourselves with a ‘we made it, only x days to go’ conversation.

The reading material they provided came in handy as table leg raisers so I could eat and by the end of the week we had a good routine going – just in time to go home lol.

So why do we do it? Because you can’t experience the world and see new things and have pleasure from that without making the effort and putting up with the difficult environments. We had some great days, fab food and it was nice just to have time away together.

On our way back we stopped to pick up my brother’s active/passive cycle I bought from him and a new (second hand) wheelchair to be the base for my next kit chair 🙂 good times.

Radar key rip off

Since purchasing an iPhone I’ve been hoovering up toilet apps. Accessible toilets are my nemesis – no toilet and I can’t go out. In other countries, there are free Apps to tell people where they can find public toilets including accessible ones. The Radar Key Scheme in the UK means that thousands of accessible toilets can be accessed only by purchasing a RADAR key.

To my utter shock, they are charging £4.99 for this iPhone app! That’s a premium price I won’t be paying. Ok so the App sales have a limited market and it probably cost a good bit to have made – but even so. None disabled people can find toilets for free – so why should I have to pay for the privilege!