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  • Wheelchair glamour hits the catwalk

    It’s nice to see wheelchairs on the catwalk and it seems there are no limits for the Australian girl Justine Clarke who entered the Australian Miss World challenge in her wheelchair.  The beauty contest is held annually and was this year in hosted Adelaide in Southern Australia.

    Justine who has used a wheelchair for over 2years suffers from a severe leg deformity which prevents her from waling without assistance. However it doesn’t prevent her from doing much and her plucky courage has made her and her wheelchair some news by entering the competition. The quote that is making several newspapers is 'It does not define me... I can still be strong, feminine and beautiful'. As she arrived on stage in her wheelchair she announced 'No matter what your race, size or disability, you are beautiful'.

    Justine did not progress to the next stage but will still work closely with charities including the 'Beauty With a Purpose' movement - a mission to benefit 'the most vulnerable in our society. She went on to say 'A wheelchair does not define me or limit me. I can still be strong, feminine and beautiful.'

    Although Ms Clarke has been un a wheelchair for about two years she has chosen not to let the full story about her condition emerge. Speaking with one journalist from herself propelled wheelchair she commented 'I don’t really want to go in to what happened but I want to be a role model and empower young women. For somebody in a wheelchair to be able to compete is a big thing. I really hope it sends a message that no matter what your race, size or disability - whatever makes you different - you are beautiful.'

    Justine was driven by the unusually large percentage of disadvantaged children who are wheelchair users in Southern Australia and her plan is to continue to work with Variety the charity for children and spread the Beauty With a Purpose message. She hopes to help raise awareness for young wheelchair users and encourage fund raising efforts to help the cause.

    Certainly seeing a wheelchair on the catwalk was an empowering sight and her Justine’s comments about a wheelchair not defining her hit a note with many at the event. Being able to compete in a wheelchair does define her message that 'no matter what your race, size or disability – whatever makes you different – you are beautiful.'

  • Taxi drivers face fines for refusing wheelchairs

    A new law will soon come in to affect which will impose penalties on taxi and private hire drivers who refuse to provide services to wheelchair users and will make it an offence to charge a higher fare to wheelchair users.

    Most wheelchairs are folding wheelchairs these days so there is no real reason for any form of taxi to refuse to give users with wheelchairs a ride and these fines can be up to £1000.

    These penalties are due to come in to affect from April the 6th this year and will be enforced with immediate effect. All drivers are expected to offer appropriate assistance to wheelchair users to ensure that they and their chairs are treated much the same as any other fare.

    The rules will soon apply across the whole of Great Britain for taxis and private hire vehicles designated as wheelchair accessible and this includes all black cabs in London and taxis in many other cities.

    In addition to the proposed fines, drivers could face the loss of their licenses if they fail to comply with the new ruling for wheelchair users. Robert Meadowcroft, the chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said it was “a victory for all people with disabilities who experience daily struggles with accessible transport”.

    Many disability charities have campaigned long and hard for this to become enforced as “People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”

    It is reckoned that historically the struggle faced by those in wheelchairs has mean that they are less able to find employment nor to play an active role in society. it is now down to the government to ensure that more is done to incentivise the private hire taxi industry so to increase the amount of wheelchair accessible cabs so that users can remain in their wheelchairs during their journey.

    Faryal Velmi, Transport for All’s director, has also called or more training for drivers of taxis to improve the treatment of all disabled passengers. There are further plans afoot this year to address other barriers faced by disabled people including users of wheelchairs using all types of public transport.

  • Wheelchair spaces at football grounds

    Wheelchairs at football grounds. It has been a contended issue for many years but now it seems to be making some progress as Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement to disabled access and wheelchair users. A recent report has shown that clubs continue to prioritise spend elsewhere but at last might face legal actions and possible financial penalties if they do not meet the needs of disabled fans in wheelchairs.

    There are a number of basic standards set out to ensure that grounds are suitable for wheelchair access and many of the premier clubs still fail to meet these standards, including Watford, Liverpool and Chelsea. A deadline for these basic standards to be in place is looming.

    In 2015, the footy league promised to massively improve stadium facilities for disabled fans and stated that football clubs would have to comply with official guidance by August 2017 which is not far away.

    An investigation made by the BBC in 2014 found that 17 of the 20 clubs in the top flight had failed to provide enough wheelchair spaces at matches. The select committee's report on "Accessibility of Sports Stadia" names Bill Bush as stating that top flight clubs who fail these criteria will be punished and fined up to £25,000 or more if the issues weren’t addressed and wheelchairs catered for in a more acceptable manner.

    So what do the football clubs have to say about this ? Watford have already indicated they will fail to fulfill the pledge on wheelchair spaces, indicating in a club statement that "all known demand from disabled supporters has been met".

    In one quote David Butler, chairman of independent disabled supporters group WFC stated that  if the extra 61 wheelchair spaces required under the league's guidelines are provided at Vicarage Road, "700 able-bodied supporters would be displaced from cherished seats that they may have occupied for many years. Chelsea football club plans to demolish their Stamford Bridge stadium and plan to meet all guidelines when the ground is rebuilt. And, as for Liverpool they have not made any claims officially but are understood to be exploring options to promote wheelchair access as part of redevelopment work at Anfield.

    In fact another study showed that only three Premier League football stadiums provide the actual required number of wheelchair spaces so let’s hope that in the coming months leading up to the deadline there is some good news from many clubs to better cater for wheelchair access.

  • Wheelchair user prevented from boarding bus - post ruling

    Well it didn’t take long for this to happen, a wheelchair users was refused space on the bus she wanted to catch in Wakefield Yorkshire because the wheelchair space was taken by a mother with pushchair. Not best pleased by this, Kirsty Shepard was even told by the driver of the Ariva bus that she was not allowed to board the bus at all despite there being plenty of space.

    This came only five days after the Supreme Court said that bus drivers must be more accommodating towards wheelchair users. Ariva responded by saying they were investigating the matter urgently.

    Bizarrely, Kisrty said that the woman with the pushchair on the Rothwell to Wakefield bus was happy to move, but the driver still would not let Kirsty on the bus in the wheelchair, presumably because it would mean that either the pushchair or the wheelchair would be compromised from a safety point of view. When a bus has to display a sign that reads "Please give up this space if needed for a wheelchair user" you would think that most folk including the driver would understand and be accommodating but clearly not always.

    The Supreme court found the company, First Bus, should do more to persuade non-wheelchair users to move from wheelchair spaces, but did not have the legal power to remove them. Ms Shepherd said the Arriva driver told the passengers to get off, saying it was her fault the journey could not go on.

    "He leant forward and said 'I can't let you on love, I've got a pushchair on'," she said. "I said 'well please ask her to move'. He said 'I can't do that'.At this point in time, the lady with the pushchair actually moved of her own accord. but the driver still would not let Ms Shepherd on.

    "The people on the bus started shouting saying 'just get the next bus, we've got homes to get to'," she said. Kirsty then spoke to the driver's manager who was also not willing to let her on board the bus.

    Mr Pauley, who was the centre of the original ruling was contacted and questioned about the wheelchair V buggy incident that Kisrty had experienced and he said he could not see why Ms Shepherd had been denied the bus journey. "On her bus there was a buggy space, so there were two separate spaces. When that lady [with the pushchair] moved into the buggy space that space was free and available for a wheelchair, so I don't know why the driver didn't let her on."

    He said he thought the Supreme Court ruling had gone far enough to help wheelchair users.

  • Wheelchair versus pushchair Supreme Court case ends

    The long winded battle over the rights of a wheelchair user versus a pushchair user has finally been settled by the supreme court. This article has been all over the news recently and stems from an incident in 2012 when the wheelchair user was denied access on to the bus as the only space that was safe for wheelchair transport was already in use by a mother which a child in a pushchair.

    Originally described as discrimination, the wheelchair user Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, has campaigned to see a little more understanding and courtesy towards o accommodating wheelchair users on public transport.

    The outcome is that bus drivers will now have to do more to accommodate wheelchair users although bus drivers would not be asked to remove non compliant customers from its vehicles.

    Mr Paulley said the ruling would make "a major difference" to wheelchair users allowing them greater freedom and confidence of being able to board a bus in their wheelchair knowing that they are likely to find a safe and suitable space. During the hearing, the court said the bus company should consider additional steps to persuade non-wheelchair users to move, without making it a legal duty to move them. Although it must be made clear that the judgment falls short of making it a legal requirement for the bus companies to compel non-wheelchair passengers to move from the space.

    Described as "an important milestone" by the disability charity Scope, it seems like good news for all wheelchair users and hopefully part of a bugger recognition of the daily problems faced by users of wheelchairs.

    Bus drivers are now feeling that they may be put in an awkward position by having to ask non wheelchair users to vacate the space intended to securely transport the wheelchair but it is hoped that the running and the associated press will increase the awareness of the plights facing those in wheelchairs.

    When asked whether the verdict had gone far enough, Mr Paulley said the issue would always involve "a matter of judgment" from drivers. However, Mr Paulley's solicitor, Chris Fry, said the ruling had fallen short.

    "The judgement should have gone further - there's no right as things currently stand to force someone off a bus. So it goes as far as that, but not that far yet."

    So although no one wants to see a pram or pushchair being transported in an unsafe way, most fold and this would allow them to be stowed and the space be occupied by a wheelchair.

  • Wheelchair tennis is not for Novak

    Wheelchair tennis is a remarkably good watch both live and on television and the speed and agility with which players cover the court in their wheelchairs always shocks me. It was good to see Novak Djokovic give it a go this week all in aid of charity.

    The charity event was held in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday and two-time paralympic gold medalist wheelchair tennis player Dylan Alcott was ready to beat Novak.

    Once Novak was strapped in to the wheelchair there was no comparison between the two players. Alcott was covering ground with ease in his wheelchair while Novak remained comparatively motionless in his wheelchair which highlighted just how difficult the game of wheelchair tennis is.

    "Oh my god, I have to play tennis. How do you do it?" Djokovic asked, while trying to figure out how to turn his new wheelchair.

    Once the match was over there was a press gathering and a photo with Alcott in his wheelchair alongside Novak, where Alcott said “big love to the man himself Novak Djokovic for being such an incredibly good sport throughout the whole night, needs to work on his leg spin and wheelchair tennis though!”.

    Although the result of the wheelchair tennis was a little disappointing for Novak, the vent was a success and helped to raise much needed funds for the Novak Djokovic Foundation to help children in Serbia get access to good preschool education.

  • Electric Wheelchair Review - Drive Medical Cirrus

    In 2017 we will be reviewing some of the electric wheelchairs that we sell and we aim to give you some impartial advice to help you make an informed decision as to which powerchair suits you and your lifestyle best. As you will already  know there is an ever increasing choice of electric wheelchairs on the market and they all look slightly different. So we have decided to point out the key benefits of some of them to help you to find the powerchair that will work best for you.

    This week we have selected the Cirrus electric wheelchair from manufacturer Drive DeVilbiss. Firstly we want to point out that this is a folding electric wheelchair, why ? because not all models fold and this could be one of the criteria you use to select the right powerchair. Folding is good if you wish to transport the wheelchair with ease and it will help it to fit in to smaller spaces such as the average car boot. The folded dimensions are 77cm (L) x 92cm (H) x 37cm (W).

    The Cirrus powerchair will cruise along nicely at 5pmh and feels stable on most sound surfaces. This is made possible as it has less bulk then many models which is because it was designed to fold. The second benefit of having less bulk is that it is better suited to indoor use. However we have found that the turning radius of this electric wheelchair is not as tight as some of its competitors at 33" which is a big consideration if you plan to use it primarily inside. The manufacturers quote the range as 15 miles but we were not able to test this in the time that we allocated.

    While we are on the topic of the ride itself it is worth pointing out that this powerchair has a higher ride height than many, allowing greater clearance over raised obstacles than other electric wheelchairs in the same class. Its ride height is a whopping 4 inches. Another consideration is its ability to climb and descend with ease and although we had no scientific way of measuring this it seems fine and so we have used the manufacturers figure of 6 degrees, which is in line with most of its competitors.

    If you wish to see th full specificationd of the Cirrus electric wheelchair please click here

    Moving on to comfort levels, this electric wheelchair is very good on this point and i imaging it would cater well for its maximum user weight of 21 stone or 135 kg. It is worth pointing out that the heavier the user of the powerchair the less the total range will be. So if you way 20 stone you may not see the full range of 15 miles, particularly if you are in a hilly area.

    While we are discussing range, clearance and climb ability it is also worth mentioning wheel size, as this will affect performance of any electric wheelchair in many ways. The drive wheels on this Cirrus wheelchair are 12.5 inches in diameter and are puncture proof. In essence, the bigger the wheel, the more comfortable the ride and the better the powerchair is equipped to smooth out any rough ground. In addition a bigger wheel will make lighter work therefore increasing the range of the wheelchair battery(s). The position of the drive wheels can vary, but on the Cirrus powerchair they are the rear wheels. On the front, there are  8-inch caster wheels which help maintain the powerchair's stability and stop it from tipping when you're getting in and out of the chair or if you're riding on rough or uneven ground.

    In terms of accessories and features, the Cirrus powerchair has all the basic things covered including a seat belt, seat cushion, pouch and swing in/out footrests. The arms rests are also height adjustable to meet your specific height requirements. Both the seat and seat back have plenty of padding which do give a very comfortable effect although our trial lasted less than two hours.

    Electric wheelchairs are not cheap items to buy and we always provide the best price we can. However it is still worth looking at the likely cost of ownership of your prospective powerchair. One thing we do like a lot about the Cirrus is the product’s warranty which covers the powerchair for repairs or replacement during the 12 month period which also extends to the wheelchair batteries, which is obviously conditional on the batteries being used and recharged in the correct way. Drive Medical have a great reputation for customer service which also adds a lot of confidence when you purchase an electric wheelchair.

    At the time of writing this aritcle we are able to offer the Cirrus electric wheelchair for under £1000 delivered to your door ! Call us on 0800 0556377 / 01803 872020 if you would like us to do this.

  • Disrupt Disability promotes more wheelchairs for the world

    Did you know that the WHO or the World Health Organisation estimates that over 65 million people worldwide need a wheelchair and yet 80% of them, that's about 52 million cannot afford a suitable wheelchair or one customised to their needs.

    That is where we mention Rachael Wallach and her plans to change this by making an online library of free, open-source designs and instructions for making wheelchairs available to all. She has created an enterprise called Disrupt Disability and her manifesto reads :We are creating wheelchairs that are affordable, modular and fully customisable" simple as that !

    Not only is the initiative about getting more wheelchairs available but also emphasis on wheelchair personalisation right from sizing and positioning but also accessories and style with one  of their shouts being "We are proud of the wheels we wear - Our wheels will be unique. As beautiful, fashionable and individual as we are" which syas an awful lot about the passion behind this wheelchair project.

    So far the project is attracting all manner of interest. In early 2017 there is a wheelchair design competition hosted by the Royal Society of Arts and sponsored by the Global Disability Innovation Hub where students are  challenged to design visionary, customisable, user-centered wheelchairs for their library of open source designs.

    The brief for this is as follows:

    1. Want Your Wheels: Changing perceptions of wheelchairs and wheelchair users. How can a wheelchair be an extension of the body, an item of fashion, or wearable technology? How can wheelchairs be desirable, aspirational lifestyle products?
    1. Wear Your Wheels:

    Designing a modular wheelchair. How can we develop a modular system of interchangeable customizable wheelchair parts that will give users maximum choice and control over their wheelchair? How can a modular system enable users to tailor their wheelchair to their body, lifestyle and environment?

    Disrupt Disability has also been named by nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech for good funder as part of their celebration of 100 inspirational social innovations for 2016 of rit s work describing them as "applying digital fabrication and distributed manufacturing (for example, manufacturing in makerspaces) to wheelchairs, giving wheelchair users choice and control over the form and function of their wheels".

    One of the key things that inspired Rachel to start Disrupt Disability was het time travelling in South East Asia in her wheelchair. During her time there she noticed early on that she had hardly seen any other wheelchair users, and no one else was wheeling themselves. it was this that prompted her to get some informative data together to see just what was the worldwide shortage of wheelchairs.

    We will be looking in to this initiative more in the coming future and tracking the progress of this wonderful startup and its progress in making wheelchairs more accessible.

  • Wheelchair racing Paralympian slams train operator

    Getting caught short when in need of a toilet is no fun. Paralympian, wheelchair racer and disabilities campaigner Anne Wafula Strike did just that a couple of weeks ago while on a train from Coventry to Stanstead on December 8 when a humiliating incident happened.

    Anne who was in her wheelchair on the train was unfortunately forced to wet herself on the train because of the lack of disabled facilities on a three-hour journey last month. She has decided to go public with the story to help raise the profile of her campaign and the very real everyday issues faced by wheelchair users.

    The problem was mainly down to the wheelchair accessible toilet being out of order although no explanation was given. So railway staff suggested that she left the train early in her journey to use the wheelchair friendly facility at the next station. However, there were no staff to help her and her wheelchair down from the train carriage, and so she was forced to relieve herself in her wheelchair.

    Ms Wafula Strike, who was recently awarded an MBE for her charity work was to say the least embarrassed by the whole incident and has blasted the train operator for the lack of wheelchair friendly disabled facility on the train and commented that it was a "basic human right" to be able to use a toilet.

    Anna who was born in Kenya and has lived in the UK for many years decided to go public to raise awareness of disability issues and those everyday challenges faced by wheelchair users.

    She told The Guardian : "Being forced to sit in my own urine destroyed my self-esteem and my confidence. People with disabilities don’t want perfection, we just want the basics and to have our independence. But lack of access and inclusive facilities make us feel as if we are an afterthought."

    Since the incident the train company has issued an apology and is looking in to why their services failed her on that day in December.

  • Wheelchair dancing spoiled for Fred

    Wheelchair dancing seems to becoming more and more popular and for those who are not familiar involves dance between one able bodied partner and one wheelchair user, the results are often quite spectacular when a well practiced couple take to the floor - with non marking tyres of course.

    There has been a lot in the news about the wheelchair user who has been banned from the dance floor due to the worry of his tyres marking the precious wooden floor and as per normal it has erupted in to more of a debate on equality and discrimination which has led one individual to sue a certain company after he was banned from an event over claims his wheelchair damaged the dance floor.

    Mr Waldon who hails from Oxford has been a paraplegic since an accident back in 1984, prior to that he had been a keen dancer who preferred disco and Northern Soul music to dance to. About 15 years ago he started to dance using his wheelchair and it has become a large and important part of his life which now takes him up and down the country attending jive, blues and swing dance events and competitions. Fred comments:

    "I think if I hadn't found jive dancing I would probably be dead," he said.

    "It's very easy if you are paralysed to put on a lot of weight, especially in the winter when I used to suffer chronic chest and kidney infections. With dancing, as well as getting the exercise, I get out and meet lots of really, really lovely people."

    In October, Jive Addiction Limited organised an event in a London hotel which is where all the commotion started. Fred was asked to stop his wheelchair dancing as the staff believed his wheelchair tyres were causing damage to the dance floor. This had never occurred previously and Mr Waldon thought they were joking to begin with.

    "I was taken to an area of the dance floor I hadn't been on and shown a black scuff mark which rubbed off easily," he said.

    "I explained that my wheelchair has been specially constructed for dancing with able-bodied partners and was fitted with wheelchair sports tyres that are specially made not to leave marks."

    "I felt anger and embarrassment because I am there with people I want to dance with," he said.

    The evening went badly wrong from there on in for Fred who was not only prevented from enjoying his wheelchair dancing but says that he was also made to feel like a vandal. So as a result, Mr Walden is suing Jive Addiction for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, claiming that the company acted in breach of its obligations under the Equality act, an order that it should comply with its obligations, and damages for injury to his feelings - which is of course very hard to quantify.

    Although Jive Addiction Ltd has not made a statement however its terms to include a line that prevents anyone damaging the dance floor with any object, and denies that it is discriminatory, however, Mr Walden's solicitor, Chris Fry from Unity Law, disputes this.

    He said: "It's a fundamental misunderstanding about the Equality Act that having a policy which treats everybody the same is compliant. It isn't.

    "The act encourages companies to think about the outcome of that policy.

    "If you have a policy which says wheelchair users are not allowed on a dance floor, then essentially you are preventing disabled people from participating in this activity. "It's a breach of the Equality Act because it's discriminatory."

    It is a shame when this sort of thing occurs and it’s not only wheelchair users who suffer under this act. So far, Mr Walden has received many letters of support other companies that put on dance events here in the UK and is determined to see his legal battle to a satisfactory conclusion early in 2017. Of course, In the meanwhile Mr Walden continues with his wheelchair dancing.

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