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Monthly Archives: August 2016

  • UK Accessibility information for all

    Accessibility is key for us wheelchair users whenver we go somewhere new and its often a little unnerving until you get to the destination to find out how well wheelchair users are catered for. There is far more information than there used to be and in general most places are more accessible than they used to be but not always.

    So, one named Marg McNiel has done some useful work for us and estimated ha has covered more than a million miles to doscover the accesiblity of British public venues around the UK, taking photos along the way, so that he can share his experiences and hopefully make things a little easier.

    Mr McNiel has been taking photos since he was a kid in the 50s and more recently has been focussed on producing a photographic access record of Britain and Ireland.  He estimates that the website currently covers more than 1,300 venues across Britain and Ireland, with many more of his photographs yet to be added. Developing ME in the 90's triggered this and encouraged him to come up with See Around Britain, a web site dedicated to showing access to various types of place acroos britain.

    The key is to identify how wheelchair friendly the places are and the venues include accssible toilets, Shopmobility centres, defibrillators and accident and emergency departments. The site is available onlinea but also via an app that will work on IOS and Android platforms. The information includes an abundance of very useful photographs of locations such as churches, museums, cinemas, railway stations, hospitals, hotels, National Trust venues and other cultural attractions.

    An interactive map helps to guide you to the area you are interested in and provides information for everyone and not solely wheelchair users. McNiel said: “Our approach and philosophy is totally different. We are mainstream and fully inclusive of disabled people, so we reach as many disabled people with impairments as possible.

    “The photos save a thousand words and don’t lie. They are not pretty-pretty, they are everyday life reality.”

    Not content with limiting his work to the UK he has also colated information and photographs for some sites in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

    Using the site is very easy and quickly revealed the information i wanted to see if the venues i may want to visit are wheelchair friendly. There is a disability icon in the top right of the navigation which aids the visually impaired by allowing you to customise the content of the page.

    Mr McNiel wants the site to help disabled people but also anyone else who wants to check out if a location is suitable before they visit, such as families with young children, and foreign visitors, and also people with impairments who don’t see themselves as disabled. From a wheelchair users perspective the more information the better as long as it is updated and gives reliable information to assist wheelchaur users.

  • Benefit office closed to wheelchair users

    Do you sometimes you read a news article and think what on earth and re-read it in disbelief ? So again we read about wheelchair users and the type of challenges they are faced with on a regular basis.

    Take this one, which centres around a health safety issue at a disability centre in Croydon South London, where quite rightly wheelchair users are agitated after being stopped from using lifts at the disability assessment centre despite being invited along by letter.

    This somewhat bizarre situation is affecting many wheelchair users each week and effectively means that nobody in a wheelchair can be seen for the fitness-to-work test and are instead being turned away at the centre door.

    It all centers around the use of the lifts by folk in wheelchairs as the office in qustion is on the first floor of a multistorey office block. The restriction is in place because, as per fire regulations, all people who enter the building have to be able to exit using the stairs in the event of fire or other emergencey such as a bomb scare. So the knock-on outcome is that nobody in a wheelchair can be seen for the fitness-to-work test.

    For some wheelchair users this has meant that they have travelled their as a result of a letter sent to them and have been turned away on arrival due to them being banned from using the lift in the event of emergency. But alas, there is an alternative plan, that forces those in wheelchairs to travel 7 miles away to Balham where there is a ground-floor assessment centre.

    There have been many complaints from locals about having to travel out of their borough just to be put through what they describe as humiliating tests in a bid to retain their benefits - because of health and safety rules.

    One wheelchair user, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "I was asked to go to Stephenson House for an assessment, but when I told them I used a wheelchair I was told to go to Balham".

    "I asked why and they said it was because the Croydon assessment centre was on the first floor and that even though there are lifts, health and safety rules mean I'd have to be able to use the stairs in case of emergency".

    "The whole thing is ridiculous - we have to jump through enough hoops as it is without being told be can't use lifts."

    Another wheelchair user said they turned up for an assessment earlier this year only to be turned away at the door.

    They commented: "I turned up at the right time and right location - and even though I told them I used a wheelchair weeks before I was turned away at the door because of the health and safety rules.

    "The whole thing is a farce which makes life even harder for disabled people."

    A spokesman for Maximus who operate the building in Croydon said it was being investigated why claimants had been booked to be assessed in Croydon, adding: "Whenever a customer informs us that they have mobility issues we arrange for them to be seen at another local centre that has assessment rooms on the ground floor."

    The spokesman commented that changes to wheelchair access at the centre was the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

    A spokeswoman for the DWP said: "Access guidance is included in appointment letters so that alternative arrangements can be made if needed, and anyone unable to travel as a result of their condition is offered a home visit.

    "If claimants are unable to use the stairs at Croydon Assessment Centre, they can be booked into centres in nearby Wimbledon or Balham instead, and a taxi is offered if required."

  • Baby Evelyn gets to grips with her homemade wheelchair

    Its always sad to hear of infants having to cope with disability and particularly when confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their days due to any form of paralysis. However it seems that one toddler is taking all on the chin and adapting well to her new mobility thanks to her dads inventive skills and his take on a wheelchair for a toddler made from a Bumbo chair.

    Evelyn was only four months old when doctors located a tumor on her spine. she then underwent eight rounds of chemo and is gladly in remission however the tumor has left her with paralysis from the chest down as the tumor had crushed her spine damaging the T4 vertebra.

    Brave parents Kim and Brad wanted the same freedom for their daughter so went to town to buy some bits from a hardware store and within a day or two had build a very special wheelchair to give Evelyn as much freedom as is possible.

    Now according to the Canadian press little Evelyn is zipping about and loving her new found freedom in the homemade wheelchair that cost under 100 dollars to make. Her mum says that she absolutely loves it "she went backwards first, then she went forwards, then she figured how to turn and now we have a speed bump in the middle of our living room because she goes that fast'.

    Little Evelyn started using the wheelchair at just 7 months and now follows mum just about everywhere including shopping trips, although her Kim does say things take a little longer ! Evelyn is now learning to use a ZipZac, a manufactured version of her own wheelchair.

    Mr Moore is proud of his little girl and wants her to know that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.
    'The willpower that she has, and how adaptable she is to her situation, is something I never really expected. And how quickly she’s grasping it has really blown me away... nothing can stop her,' he said.

    What a brave girl and brilliant parents who have learned how to cope and not be put off by the use of a wheelchair.

  • 1 in 5 blue badge spaces abused

    We read with interest on the BBC web site that the council in Ascot have used wheelchairs to block able bodied spaces in the high street to highlight the abuse of parking without blue badges parking in disabled bays. The idea being that able bodies drives feel that same frustration as blue badge drivers do when they find a disabled parking space abused. Using wheelchairs to block the spaces was one of many ideas considered by Windsor and Maidenhead councils.

    Its claimed that as many as 1 in 5 spaces intended for the disabled who are typically wheelchair users are being misused by those who are not entitled. It was quite impressive to see a long stretch of town center road dotted with wheelchairs every few meters. Motorists were clearly bemused by the demonstration as they drove down the high street past the local Tesco store.

    See the video of parked wheelchairs here

    Lets hope that they successfully raised awareness and that this deters folk from abusing the parking bays. The other aim of the campaign was to try to increase the number of parking spaces for the disabled in this particular area.

    Space invaders themed signs on the back of the wheelchairs with a ‘which space are you invading’ slogan stated that ‘one in five Blue Badge spaces are abused’. It comes after a complaint by a local resident that lead to the spaces begin moved to more convenient locations in the town helping wheelchair users to get easier access to the shops.

    Organised by the Ascot Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) and the Royal Borough's Access Advisory Forum it seems to have been a success. There are 2.45 million blue badge holders in the country many of whom are wheelchair users or have very limited mobility.

  • Wheelchair user denied place at Grammar school

    Josh is aged twelve and suffers from spinal muscular atrophy type 2 (SMA II) which causes muscle weakness leaving him unable to stand or walk alone. However using an electric wheelchair he is pretty mobile and leads little support. His elder siblings had attended a grammar school which was always earmarked as suitable for Josh should he pass to get in to the grammar stream. The school is suitable for wheelchair use and has lifts and automatic doors that were needed for him to get around without fuss.

    Having passed a series of tests that qualified him to attend the school called Wallace High School in Lisburn in Ireland he was then refused entry due to him being a wheelchair user. Josh had performed well in previous schools and it was believed that the grammar was the right place for him to continue his education so it was a shock when his application was declined.

    Josh's mother, Ms Clarke said "We expected to hear confirmation from January but heard nothing until May 2015, the week before schools were being released to other P7s,".

    "Josh's primary school principal and the education board called me into a meeting. Wallace wanted to take our decision to send Josh to their school to judicial review and served a pre-action protocol letter".

    "We then made the decision to go to the second choice school - Friends - where he was accepted and is thriving. Wallace's reasons for not accepting Josh were statutory - basically, not academically able, detrimental to the teaching of other children and not a good use of resources."

    "They said we did not visit school so we were not in a position to pick it, they said they were concerned about mental health issues and depression and he could be isolated - he does not have any depression or mental health issues,"

    This all came as a terrible shock to Josh and his mother, so the family sought Equality Commission support and the case was due to be heard before a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

    Fortunately a settlement was reached prior to it going to tribunal and the board of governors apologised and regretted its earlier decision and for the upset that it had caused.

    Apart from the upset it caused the school had clearly neglected their duties under the requirements of the disability discrimination legislation and European law. As a result of this the school has committed itself to the training  of all staff so that they are aware of their obligations and responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act and best practice.

    Lets hope that Josh and his wheelchair are accepted wherever he chooses to school.

  • Pokémon Go now more accessible for wheelchair users

    Have you seen the hoards of folk mainly young but not always walking around like zombies staring in to their phones ? if so the chances are they are playing Pokémon Go, which i learn is now more accessible for wheelchair users ! not sure it will affect me so much.

    Thanks to Canadian company B corporation Komodo OpenLab who thought Pokémon Go would benefit from using its Tecla product, which is an assistive hardware device designed to make it easier for people who might not generally be able to interact with smartphones & tablets etc. making it easier also for wheelchair users with spinal injuries or MS.

    So how does it work? the Tecla controller installed on the users’ wheelchairs allow control over iOS or Android devices paired via Bluetooth. A control unit switches the target device for the hardware controller between their wheelchair, and the smartphone, and it also works with single or dual switches, including those that respond to light touch and sip-and-puff switches for users with less range of motion in their hands.

    The team who designed Tecla first did some concept testing with this system intended for wheelchair users earlier in the summer and had some positive results and good feedback so were able to release the upgrade to the general public just last week. See the video of how it works right here.

  • Picking the right wheelchair for elderly persons

    With so much choice on the market and so many different types of wheelchair it is quite difficult to know what to look for when you simply want a wheelchair foe an elderly friend or family member.

    Independence is very valuable as we all know and it can be saddening when a family member first requires the use of a wheelchair. All the more reason to make sure the model you buy is suitable and that all the options have been considered.

    There are two basic types of wheelchair, being manual and electric and the choice of which of these to go for really depends on the level of mobility the user has. Manual wheelchairs can be self propelled of will need the help of another to be pushed along. These are generally referred to as transit wheelchairs.

    Self propelled wheelchairs

    Self propelled wheelchairs can of course be pushed by another but also offer more freedom if the user still has strength in the upper body, allowing them to propel themselves. Transit models will require an attendant at all times as the rear wheels are smaller and out  of reach, meaning that the user cannot propel themselves. If the elderly relative lives alone then a transit model may not be suitable for this reason. However, if the user simply needs the wheelchair to get out and about then it may be the best choice for them as they are lightweight and are easily transported.

    Electric wheelchairs

    Electric wheelchairs are operated by the user although some models have options for attendant control also. Electric models come in many guises and can be intended for solely indoor use, outdoor use of sometimes both. Budget is likely to dictate some purchases as electric wheelchairs or powerchairs as they are referred to can become quite expensive. For this reason the users living space and their lifestyle should be considered before making the choice.

    Comfort is key when selecting a model and is more important is the user is likely to spend long periods of time in the wheelchair. Look for as much adjustment as possible as it is this that will allow the maximum comfort. Please refer to our previous article on wheelchair posture to give you an idea of how the user should be seated. Of course cushions and other wheelchair accessories can be used to improve comfort levels and support. But size and particularly seat width are important considerations. A snug fit is preferable to a lose fit as this will provide more support to the back where it is needed and reduce the amount of slumping in the chair.

    Here at UK-Wheelchairs we are always happy to listen to your requirements and then to offer advice on which model is best suited to the needs of the wheelchair user in your family, so please feel free to call us on 0800 0556377 or 01803 872020 from a mobile.

  • Husband surprises wheelchair-bound wife

    Carl Gilbertson’s wife Laura was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) as a teenager. MS causes the body to deteriorate by wrongly attacking healthy parts of the body. This can cause many problems, particularly with vision, movement, sensation and balance.

    Because of this debilitating autoimmune condition, Laura has been forced to live life through a wheelchair since her honeymoon with Carl ended.

    Now, after 10 happy years of marriage, Carl decided to mark the occasion with a once-in-a-lifetime present. Carl, alongside the Liverpool Media Academy, held a surprise street performance of Laura’s favourite song ‘Just the Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars.

    Both Laura, and the many strangers watching, were reduced to tears after such a moving gesture. The performance made it online, and has since been viewed over 300,000 times on the Love What Matters Facebook page.

    Carl topped off his romantic gift by adding a personal message on his Facebook, dedicated to Laura.

    “At our wedding breakfast I said that ‘it is the greatest honour anybody could ever bestow upon me for you to take me as your husband and the most enduring privilege to be able to call you my wife’. It was never just a line for a speech it was how I felt and you spend every day reinforcing it.

    Your strength, courage and dignity take my breath away and though most Saturdays at kickoff time you may not think it, you’re the only thing that really matters.

    My babe, you’re amazing – just the way you are.”

    See the video here

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