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Monthly Archives: February 2017

  • Did you see the mannequal wheelchair this week ?

    You may have seen a wheelchair prop in a shop window on the news this week, the Mannequal news story is about the wheelchair model that has been used in the window of a a couple of shops in Londons prestigious Oxford Street.

    First seen back in 2012 on the run up to the London Olympics, the wheelchair prop is the handy work of Sophie Morgan who uses a wheelchair herself since losing the use of her legs in a car crash at the age of 18.. The 'Mannequal' acts both as a wheelchair for mannequins but also as a style guide wheelchair users and a symbol of inclusivity.

    One of several designs she has created, the mannequal wheelchair is a symbol of disability which Sophie chooses to use as a reference point to raise the profile of people with disabilities and hep to get the wheelchair noticed and accepted in a busy high street setting.

    Sophie refers to inclusivity and hopes that by placing a wheelchair prop in the windows of a shop will help show that people with disabilities are welcomed, considered and that their needs are catered for.

    It was Adidas who first displayed the mannequal wheelchair props back in 2012 but as Sophie points out, they were rather quick to drop it and remove the wheelchairs once the games were over. In total there were 3 wheelchair props in one store on Oxford St at one point which gave great exposure for the cause and made Sophie very happy.

    It is estimated that the purple pound is worth £249 billion on the UK and that disabled customers could bring as much as £420 million per week in the UK. Sophie’s campaign is twofold, as not only does she want to raise awareness of the wheelchair and disability but also help to unleash the spending power that is available.

    Sophie points out that to have a wheelchair mannequin is not so strange and that you see models of different shapes sizes and colour so why should the wheelchair be so different ?

    If you want to read more why not check out Sophies blog where you can see the wheelchair prop here

  • 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.

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