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Monthly Archives: December 2016

  • 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.

  • Off to the South Pole by Wheelchair

    To the South Pole by wheelchair ? surely not it sounds impossible until you introduce a determined Swedish man and a converted wheelchair that moves about on skis.

    Aron Anderson, a 28 year old paralympian from Sweden contracted cancer in his lower back as a child and was left semi paralised and in a wheelchair but this hasn’t stopped him from achieving some fairly remarkable feats including this first by setting a record of reaching the South pole by wheelchair after battling for 21 days in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees and averaging minus 30 degrees.

    Adapted wheelchair

    Aron used a wheelchair that had been adapted to move on skis however much of the land he had to cross was not the plateau you would expect but in fact quite undulating.. So as with a self propelled wheelchair, he had to power himself along which at times was virtually impossible. At one point in the 21 day journey he faced uphill gradient in his wheelchair for 6 days in a row. At these temperatures the amount of energy burned is enormous as was his appetite.

    Towards the end of his journey, Aron said "the glide on the snow here is really hard" and that he now wanted "some real food, I'm kind of tired of this freeze-dried food."

    Fund raising for the Children with Cancer Foundation, Aron has so far raised five million Krona (£442,670) to fight cancer among children in Sweden. He has more wheelchair challenges up his sleeve for 2017 !

  • Wheelchair rugby loses funding

    Just as our sport seems to be really flourishing its seems that wheelchair rugby is about to lose all its funding leaving it in a dubious position prior to the Tokyo 2020 games. It seems likely that the lack of financial support means there is little likelihood Britain will have a national wheelchair rugby team at all in future years unless the decision is reversed.

    A couple of days ago Liz Nicoll the CEO of Sport announced that wheelchair rugby will not be funded for the Tokyo cycle. The official reason is the lack of funding and not the lack of potential our team has nor their ability. So whey was wheelchair rugby targeted for one of the few sports to have its funding removed ? Who knows. However the implications of this are significant and it means that we are unlikely to have a team like we do currently with a 5th place world ranking and only lost to Australia, the Rio gold medalists, by two points in extra time.

    Only a few years ago in 2012 there was a total of just 7 wheelchair rugby teams in the UK. 4 years later this has burgeoned to 22 teams and it continues to grow with new clubs in Norwich and Brighton about to start playing competitively. And the growth carries on with new programmes in many areas opening including military recovery centers and spinal injury units, plus aspiring rugby foundations at Saracens, Gloucester and Exeter. The sport is really gaining momentum and to hear of these cuts is nothing short of disastrous.

    So why was wheelchair rugby singled out as the only paralympian sport to receive cuts ? With podium potential funding in place in the last cycle is was clear that wheelchair rugby was more than likely to win a medal in the next cycle. If you compare it to other sports, even cycling took 12 years before it started to get the consistent medal success that it does today.

    Wheelchair rugby brings with it so much more spirit than simply being a sport. There is a great feeling of positivity among its players, many of whom claim that wheelchair rugby has helped to transform their lives off the pitch by helping them to build confidence and focus.

    Former GB squad member Luke white is quoted as recently saying “It’s difficult to overstate the impact that wheelchair rugby has had on me. Within a very short space of time I went from playing no sport and being physically inactive to playing wheelchair rugby at least three times a week and doing gym work too. My perception of what kind of person I was and what I was capable of changed dramatically and I was much happier with my new perception. Furthermore, the change was permanent”.

    Only £2m investment has been requested from UK Sport for wheelchair rugby, surely something can be changed to get this funding back in place and continue to drive the fun that can be found in wheelchair rugby ?

  • An intelligent wheelchair wheel lock

    Still on the theme of wheelchair safety, we look at the most common cause of accident to wheelchair users which occurs during transfers all too often as a result of the wheelchair sliding away as the user stands and pushes down on the arm pads. This type of accident generally occurs with elderly users and more often than not it is due to them failing to apply the wheelchair brakes before attempting to stand. When a wheelchair user has help from a carer then it is less likely to happen as someone is on hand to ensure that the wheelchair brake is applied and also to assist with the whole standing process.

    In order to overcome this type of wheelchair associated accident, a US company has come up with an idea that makes total sense and if deployed will prevent the injuries that can occur as a result.

    Dr Grady Dugas from LA has come up with a solution that automatically engages wheelchair brakes as soon as the wheelchair occupant starts to get up. It doesn’t use the normal lever operated brakes but some more effective wheelchair brakes that operate within the wheel hub.

    The patented invention works by recognising when the wheelchair users weight is lifted from the seat. At this point, sprung levers rise and cause a series of gear blocks to contact with teeth in the rear wheel hubs. The teeth on the blocks then mesh with the hubs to prevent the rear wheels from turning and the wheelchair from going anywhere.

    This clever design doesn’t affect the folding of the wheelchair nor any other aspect of its operation. In addition, handle-mounted overrides can be used to disengage the locks in order to allow attendants to roll the empty chair.

    Much thought has gone in to this wheelchair safety accessory and some fairly high tech materials have been used to ensure that the finished production item is both safe and functional and will provide benefit to a wheelchair user in a reliable fashion. Dr Dugas comments "The technical support proved very helpful in the development process. All in all, Zytel allowed us to engineer a lock that provides outstanding durability, good looks, and low maintenance, while adding little weight to the wheelchair."

    If you are interested in reading more about this wheelchair wheel lock then please click here

  • Wheelchair lap belts make sense

    There are some alarming photos in the press currently of the wheelchair user getting 'tipped' out of their wheelchair having apparently hit a curb. The photos and video are spread across the Daily Mail, The Sun and a handful of other newspapers in the UK and clearly show a wheelchair in the hands of a carer suddenly tipping forward causing the wheelchair occupant to be ejected forward on to the pavement. By chance one of the cars that was passing this busy street as the wheelchair incident occurred had a dash cam fitted and has captured the entire scene. A fellow motorist was able to stop and assist the woman who had come out of the wheelchair.

    The footage was captured mid afternoon one day in October in Bristol and clearly shows the lady slumped in her wheelchair, possibly asleep, moments before the curb is hit. The wheelchair then tips forward and the shaken woman leaves the wheelchair with her hands and arms stretched out in order to break her fall. If she had been wearing a seat belt or lap belt then the consequences may have been rather different. We sell many wheelchairs that come as standard with a restraining lap belt which would prevent the occupant from being ejected from the chair. We also sell lap type wheelchair seat belts separately, which can be fitted to most wheelchairs retrospectively.

    Should a wheelchair lap belt be used ?

    Wheelchair-related physical restraints including lap belts, and other alternatives are designed to provide safe and adequate seating and mobility for individuals using wheelchairs, with or wit out a carer or attendant. Physical restraints and lap belts are also helpful for positioning users in their wheelchairs to reduce the risk of injury during wheelchair tips and falls. Strangely, although widely prescribed, little evidence is available to direct professionals on the appropriate use of these restraints and lap belts and for whom these restraints are indicated.

    However, there is evidence to suggest that wheelchair fitted with seat belts and other restraints can be hazardous if used or fitted incorrectly so do be careful when considering the use of one. These belts are often referred to as positioning belts. Positioning belts may reduce risk of falls from wheelchairs and should be given careful consideration, but caution should be exercised if the individual cannot open the latch independently. We always advice that the wheelchair users should be able to operate the seat belt themselves wherever practically possible.

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