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  • Invictus games commence with wheelchair tennis win for UK

    With the Invictus games now underway we will be looking forward to all sports but particularly wheelchair tennis which is such a great game to watch. Today the preliminary open doubles wheelchair tennis has started with competitors Kirk Hughes and Cornelia Oosthuizen from the United Kingdom playing the host team from Canada with Pearce Bourassa and Kelly Scanlan. Naturally the UK won the game with a final score of 6-0 being a brilliant start to the wheelchair tennis tournament.

    Next up was Holland versus New Zealand. The Dutch fans could be heard chanting ‘Holland’ repeatedly, and the stands were filled with easily identifiable orange t-shirts and the national Dutch flag as Jelle van der Steen and Ronald van Dort took their match with a score of 6-3. Although both are players in the wheelchair tennis tournament they are also about to compete in both wheelchair basketball and swimming.

    "It is great to see them playing sports they love,” said Jelle’s father. After their wheelchair tennis match, Jelle and Ronald spoke about their experience playing with one another.

    “We have been playing tennis together for a few months now. A very short time,” Jelle said. They enjoy playing wheelchair tennis, but wheelchair basketball is their sport. “We play wheelchair tennis well but we are wheelchair basketball players.  That is our sport and wheelchair tennis is our extra sport,” Ronald said.

    You can visit the official Invictus site and see more wheelchair tennis by clicking here. Why not tune in and watch some of the Invicta games, hopefully you might be as inspired as me when you get to see some of the wheelchair sports.

  • Folding wheels for wheelchairs

    We like to keep up to date on all things wheelchairs and show particular interest in new technology that may affect us in the coming years. So it was with particular interest when i read about folding wheelchair wheels and how they may just become a mainstream option for everyday wheelchair users who travel frequently.

    SO why would a folding wheelchair wheel be of benefit? the main reason is the ability to stow the wheels with ease in overhead lockers in aircraft or other areas in public transport where space is restricted. The overhead locker option is very attractive as it would mean that the wheelchair could remain in the cabin where it is secure and not be put in the airplane hold where it could become damaged.

    This has all come about as a result of hard work from one man who also created foldable wheels for bicycles manufactured by Morph wheels. "This is the first foldable wheelchair wheel," says Kathleen Hanek, product management Director at Morph Wheels. "It's all about making things easier and increasing accessibility for wheelchair users" she says.

    I think there is also a profit driven motif here somewhere as the early inference is that a pair of these folding wheelchair wheels will cost something in the region of £800.

    Currently the folding wheels are a little heavy and weight approximately double what a standard wheelchair wheel does due to their construction using solid rubber tyres rather than pneumatic. But as we all know, solid tyres have their benefits and are not prone to punctures !

    Early feedback from wheelchair users is very positive - "I've never seen anything like them," says Bob Vogel, a paraplegic wheelchair user who writes for the New Mobility magazine owned by the United Spinal Association. "I love the innovation. I don't see your average user taking the time to fold a wheel to get it into a car," he says. "If it takes an extra 20 seconds per wheel, that's a lot of time."

    Of course like many great inventions it took a British designer to get the concept off the ground and this all started with work by a British designer called Duncan Fitzsimmons.  After receiving enquiries from us folk in the wheelchair community, he eventually decided to teamed up with Maddak and redesigned the bicycle wheels for use on wheelchairs.

    The design process consulted a number of wheelchair users in a focus group to ensure that a practical design was born and that the end result was a truly usable product that would benefit wheelchair users in their everyday lives. As a result, the design was named the top design in the transportation industry in 2013 by the London Museum of Design.

    "The trick was to create a wheel that wasn't just a folding wheel," Hanek says. "It needs to act and feel just like a normal wheel when it's unfolded."

    It would be fantastic to see the price of these folding wheelchair wheels come down to an affordable price so that they could be made available for more wheelchair users before too long.

  • Paperweights and wheelchairs

    In a hugely digitally led era we found it amusung to see Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson handing out specially produced paperweights to Lifetime Achiever Award winners at the British Healthcare Trades Association’s (BHTA) Centenary celebrations.

    Pictured in her wheelchair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson looked very proud to be dispensing the relatively useless largely defunt objects to those who have made significant difference to peoples lives, while the BHTA President Mike Lord congratulated the guests for their efforts and thanked them for their valuable contributions to the healthcare industry.

    The British Healthcare Trades Awards will be presented on Thursday 30th November 2017 but it was good to see the lifetime achievers together to recognise the good they have done which has helped to imrove the quality of lives for all including those of us who use wheelchairs.

    The Dame does so much good work including being Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, a formidible Paralympic athlete and her more recent role as a motivational speaker not to mention her being a mother and all taken in her 'stride' as a wheelchair user. Tanni as she likes to be known, realised at age 13 that Wheelchair Racing was her chosen sport and from then onwards did all that she could to excel in everything that she turned her hand to.

  • Protecting the wheelchair during air travel

    With another story of a wheelchair getting damaged in transit with an airline we look in to what else can be done to minimise the risk of this happening to you and your wheelchair.

    Last week Andy Lathams custom wheelchair was damaged beyond repair by handling agent Swissport who operate in many airports in the UK. Its not clear what happened to the wheelchair only that it was left in such a bad state that it was not usable and this was at the start of his holiday with his wife.

    The self propelled wheelchair was loaded on to the Ryan air plane in a folded state and somehow during the loading process it contacted with the aircraft and caused damage to the airplane also leaving it unfit to fly and causing all passenger to have to leave that aircraft.

    Andy who was left partly paralysed following a brain hemorrhage is dependent on his wheelchair for most of the day. Once disembarking it was clearly evident that the wheelchair had received a series of heavy knocks that had caused one wheel and the frame to become badly bent.

    If you are planning a trip soon and fear that your wheelchair may become damaged then there are a few basic steps that you can take to best protect your valuable wheelchair from unnecessary damage. The first one is to buy and use a bag that is designed for the transportation of wheelchairs. Check that the wheelchair bag has a modicum of padding in all areas including the base where it will rest on the ground but also the side panels which will contain the wheelchair.

    In order to reduce damage to the wheelchair it is best remove all components from the frame so that they too can be placed in the bag and do not protrude which will help to prevent them from being broken. So, wheels, footrests and headrests off and placed to one side. next fold the wheelchair and once folded use the clip (if supplied) to secure the wheelchair in the folded position. If your model doesn’t have a clip then a short bungee elastic is useful to maintain the chair in the folded position. By doing this you are removing the stress on the hinges and joints of the wheelchair frame. Finally, place the removable components in to the pockets in the wheelchair bag and ensure that no parts are sticking out or particularly in to the wheels or spokes.

    We also advise that wheelchair tyres are part deflated if it is due to be put in the hold. We have heard of examples of tyre pressure causing the tyres to burst when the pressure adjusts. This can be prevented by reducing that pressure but of course mans that you will need to carry a suitable wheelchair pump to ensure you can increase the pressure once you have landed.

    If you use a wheelchair cushion then we recommend taking an extra inflatable cushion which can be deflated and packed away with ease. If your main cushion is lost then you can use the inflatable wheelchair cushion and it can also come in handy during the flight itself.

    Finally we have found it a good idea to wear compression socks during the flight. As a wheelchair user your lower limbs may encounter poor circulation and the wearing of these socks is good for preventing leg swelling and helps the body to stay warm in colder weather.

  • Safe use of mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs

    When we read this we thought it was suitable to write a quick post although it doesnt relate directly to wheelchairs it does relate to electric wheelchairs.

    To many folk, the boundaries are a bit vague when it comes to what can be used on the pavements legally and safely, powerchairs, electric wheelchairs, scooters and e-bikes included.

    Having watched the recent news of a cyclist becoming prosecuted for causing the death of a pedestrian it shows that its not only cars and larger vehicles that can cause lethal damage and that some of the bigger mobility vehicles including scooters and electric wheelchairs are soon to come under closer scrutiny when it comes to use on pavements.

    All of these rules come under the broader heading of traffic laws and that includes electric wheelchairs and scooters. Ministers have been urged for some time to change these laws after alarming figures show an increase in the number of crashes involving mobility scooters and powerchairs.

    It is being suggested that the Highway Code needs to be reviewed to include the large number of unconventional vehicles on the roads and of course pavements. It comes about following an incident in Gosport Hampshire where a child was struck by a mobility scooter and dragged along a pavement suffering cuts and bruises.

    This incident is being described as hit and run although as he was walking with his family at the time i can’t see how this can be quite right as surely someone would have challenged the occupant of the scooter to resolve what had happened.

    When you have any wheeled vehicle sharing space with pedestrians then it makes sense to have some rules to ensure safety for all. Some scooters and electric wheelchairs are quite substantial in weight and can travel at speeds that could potentially cause damage to people or property.

    Perhaps some form of licensing is needed to regulate the use of smaller vehicles and differentiate between those that are required for genuine mobility reasons such as powerchairs and electric wheelchairs and those that are currently used out of convenience which includes some scooter users.

    As our towns and cities are getting busier it would make sense to restrict the use and speed of some of the larger and heavier non-conventional vehicles, leaving users of powerchairs and electric wheelchairs with true mobility issues to go about their business in a safe and dignant manner.

  • Our top tips for eating out in a wheelchair

    When it comes to eating out, it can be a little daunting when you are in a wheelchair. There are many fundamental considerations we like to make as a wheelchair user before we feel we can commit to the meal knowing that it will be an enjoyable experience and a relaxing one.

    There are of course many guidelines set out in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which are intended to make things easier and more accessible for wheelchair users in relation to the provision of goods and services including restaurants where the owners and operators are bound to make their premises accessible to wheelchair users. These include making sure that doorways, aisles and walkways are of a minimum width and that the height of table tops and counters need to be of a certain height to make them comfortably accessible for wheelchair users.

    So we've been able to get in to the premises in a wheelchair and get to a suitable table where we plan to eat. What other considerations can there possibly be ?

    Knee room under the table is important. Although some table look spacious on top, they might not have sufficient space under the table top to accommodate the wheelchair with ease. Then there is the whole business of using the comfort room as they call it in some countries. To you and I, the toilet needs to be accessible with ease. The door handles have to be in easy reach for the wheelchair user and the force required to open the door must be suitable, as we know some have ridiculously strong springs that make pushing them open from within the wheelchair can be a challenge in itself. Once in the toilet there needs to be adequate space to manoeuvre and accessible grab bars needs to be installed both behind and on the sidewall that is nearest to the toilet.

    We don't want the task to be too daunting when considering attending a meal in a wheelchair and often as not a call prior to booking or arriving can sort many of these potential hazards out to check that it is suitable. Here is our list of the sort of questions it is useful to ask:

    • Where is the nearest suitable parking ?
    • Is there a ramp for wheelchair access ? or are there any steps to be negotiated and if so how many?
    • Is the toilet wheelchair accessible and friendly?
    • Do the tables fit a wheelchair?
    • Is there enough room to move the wheelchair?

    If you feel we have missed out any important bits please let us know. We hope that this is helpful and helps you to prepare for a good night out and that your venue is well equipped for the wheelchair.

  • MP bravely volunteers a day in a wheelchair

    The MP for Hertsmere in Hertfordshire has volunteered himself to spend a day in a wheelchair so that he can really experience the challenges set by wheelchair users on some of the countries more challenging roads.

    Oliver Dowden MP for Hertsmere has previously undertaken similar 'challenges' including spending the large part of a day blindfolded in his constituency so that he could experience what is was like including the hardships made worse by excessive bumps and potholes and pavement with adverse camber.

    The core of the challenge is to to travel up Shenley Road, Borehamwood in a wheelchair where he will see first hand the diversity of issues that wheelchair users face when they travel everyday. The challenge was proposed by another wheelchair user named Lara Croft and has gathered a lot of support through Social Media, with many folk commenting about the difficulties of using wheelchairs,  crutches and other mobility vehicles in the area.

    The areas pavements and roads are looked after Ringway on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council. SO it is thought that there will be some presence in the area in the first week of September when event is likely to happen.

    There are many aspects of daily life that are made far harder for wheelchair users by inadequate thought and planning and inadequate spend. But second place only to narrow doorways and parking bays is pavements in the list of the most inconvenient daily issues faced by wheelchair users, where Uneven and rough terrain particularly with sloping surfaces make moving manual wheelchairs virtually impossible.

  • Air travel with wheelchairs is it improving ?

    It seems all to often that we post about damage to wheelchairs that occurs during air travel. This is a time that we hope and trust that the handlers, who move many thousands of items each day, take good care of our precious wheelchairs and that they recognise that wheelchairs require a little more care than the average suitcase or backpack.

    Travel can be stressful enough for anyone in these times of heightened security whether you are a wheelchair user or not. Queues seem longer and the various checks seem to become more involved at ach end of your flight. In some respects there are benefits of travel in a wheelchair ! yes we do at least have somewhere to sit the whole time and often as not we get some form of priority when it comes to boarding.

    The downside as we all know is the unknown treatment of our mobility equipment and in particular the wheelchair. The potential problems of air travel as a wheelchair user start fairly early on and include the obvious issues of actually getting on the plane, then moving on to difficulties checking in any equipment, and then once on the plane being able to go to the toilet is also a challenge that many of us cannot overcome.

    So any resulting damage to wheelchairs is the biggest concern of all. From reading a number of articles of the past few years it would appear that both electric wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs are having the same types of problems that ultimately are preventing some trips.

    Some electric wheelchair users have resorted to using a manual model with a powerpack to reduce the chance of damage to their power chairs. Mainly because when flying, the motor can be stored in a suitcase where the idea is that the more breakable parts are kept safe.

    Having read up on various folks experiences it seems the whole wheelchair travel saga can be broken down in to some simple but reoccurring issues:

    1              The handling of the wheelchairs by airport staff

    2              The handling of compensation post incident

    3              The provisioning of a replacement wheelchair to facilitate continuation of holidays or everyday life

    In the eyes of the airline industry, it seems that a wheelchair is the same and equally as robust as any other piece of luggage and can therefore be being flung on to a trolley of suitcases and powerchairs can be left lying on their sides while being moved on conveyor belts.

    In addition, it is often the more fragile wheelchair accessories including supports and removable parts that get the worst treatment and sometimes simply go missing as they could not be reattached.

    We all know that all wheelchairs are different, but you would think that given some basic training all airport staff would do a better job and it would benefit all wheelchair users in the meanwhile. It would also help to keep their costs down as repairing broken wheelchairs and particularly powerchairs is not a chap pastime.

    As for any compensation, it is often made incredibly difficult to successfully claim fully for the loss and inconvenience. So much so that one man has who set up an organisation called Reduced Mobility Rights after experiencing the challenges of travelling with his disabled son and his wheelchair. Roberto Casiglioni now helps others to make successful compensation claims for damage and or mistreatment.

    The unfortunate downside of all of this is than many folk find themselves unwilling to entrust their all important wheelchair to an industry which all too often seems not to recognise their value and get it wrong. So any final tips for those who are embarking on some air travel this summer ?

    Remove all detachable parts such as head rests, arms rests, footplates and joysticks from the wheelchair and carry them onboard.

    If you can, then why not submit a Special Declaration of Interest before flying, allowing compensation claims above the usual cap to be made should there be a problem.

    Label wheelchairs clearly with instructions on how to move them and which parts should not be used to lift and carry.

    These simple steps should go a long way toward protecting your cherished wheelchair and allowing you to travel safely and not fretting about your wheelchair.

  • Crowdfund my wheelchair

    An alarming trend seems to be developing on the number of people who are being refused a wheelchair by the NHS and are having to resort to other means including crowdfunding in order to get the wheelchair that they need. Having to turn to the public to finance their mobility needs is not going down well and we read that this trend is a building one and has been since 2014.

    The good news is that it seems that this wheelchair scarcity has been recognised and there are now plans to turn the situation round. Just last month, medical practitioners at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual meeting all agreed and unanimously passed a motion calling for wheelchair users to have “timely access to chairs suitable for their individual conditions”. This is after a number of warnings that cuts in services, a postcode lottery of availability and delays means that disabled patients are finding it increasingly difficult to get wheelchairs from the NHS.

    Much of this was triggered by a junior doctor named Hannah Barham-Brown who found herself in the position of having to fund her own wheelchair two years ago. It was this that caused her to rise the profile of this problem and bring it to the attention of the BMA.

    “When I tell people I had to Crowdfund for a wheelchair, they are gobsmacked,” says Dr Barham-Brown who is 29. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) in 2015 during her time at medical school. “I kept dislocating my knees,” she says. Within six months, she needed a wheelchair. However after going to see her GP, she was told that NHS wheelchair services would only offer her a heavyweight basic wheelchair or a £140 voucher towards another wheelchair.  As Barham-Brown’s condition means that using a manual chair would dislocate her joints if she tried to push herself along then an electric wheelchair was the only option and that was going to cost upwards of £2,000.

    Thanks to a friend help she used crowdfunding to raise the £2000 that was needed to purchase a suitable electric wheelchair and this enabled her to continue her studies and complete her course. This did however cause a great deal of distress “Without a chair, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this job I’d trained so hard for. I wouldn’t be able to be a doctor”. “It’s the basic tenet of the NHS: you have a need and it’s met. But it isn’t,” she says. “People are housebound and trapped in their homes. Yet nothing is being done.”

    CCG's or locally CP led clinical commissioning groups are ultimately responsible for securing and funding wheelchair services and the NHS is now working with the National Wheelchair Leadership Alliance (set up by Paralympian and crossbench peer Tanni Grey Thompson in 2015) to review the situation regarding the provision of wheelchairs through the NHS “to develop best practice standards as well as introducing personal wheelchair budgets to give people more choice on the best wheelchair for them”.

    And there is change on the way already, during the next 12 months all CCG's in the country are scrapping the wheelchair voucher scheme and introducing far more suitable personal budgets for wheelchairs, a scheme which is more individualised and is based on an assessment of their individual needs and goals.

    In addition further progress is being made by the setting up of a national data collection scheme which is gathering data on the efficiency of wheelchair services in England. “The national data collection is a massive step forward in terms of understanding the needs of wheelchair users and what equipment is, and can be, provided,” explains Grey-Thompson. “However, in reality, it’s going to take some time for the information to be universally gathered and useful across the whole of England. This should be of a high priority in order to be able to provide the right equipment.”

    We know that this issue has been getting worse for some time now and we hope that as wheelchair users these positive signs are sufficient to ensure that the right types of wheelchairs are made available to all users whether they be manual or self propelled wheelchairs or for those who cannot propel themselves electric wheelchairs and powerchairs.

  • Uber offers wheelchair friendly cabs in Liverpool

    All to often private taxi form Uber is in the news and often for the wrong reasons with bad press for its gig employment rules however today it is good news for wheelchair users and particularly if you are in Liverpool.

    Liverpool is today added to the list of cities that Uber offer a wheelchair taxi service which can be accessed by phone or by its app. From 4pm today, Uber is offering wheelchair friendly cabs in and around the city all of which have rear-entry wheelchair ramps and restraint points to allow wheelchair users to ride comfortably along with one additional passenger.

    All users of wheelchairs know that i can be very difficult to get a suitable taxi that caters for their mobility needs. Uber says public transport is not always accessible or sufficient and taxis can be an expensive way to travel. The new wheelchair friendly cabs are now available at the touch of the screen on their smartphone app and what is particularly good news is that the cab will cost the same as it would for a regular cab and trips wont need advance planning as they have done for so long if you require a taxi that will cater for your wheelchair. Plus, Uber has said that all of their 'top-rated' drivers have received Disability Equality Training.

    For the initial phase to celebrate the launch wheelchair users are also being offered a discount on their first trip with a value of up to £15 as an incentive welcoming those with mobility issues and wheelchairs to try their new service. Liverpool is the seventh city where the new wheelchair friendly service has been launched, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Wolverhampton.

    Neil McGonigle, General Manager of Uber in Liverpool, said: “Thousands of people in Liverpool already use Uber to get around the city - whether it’s to an early morning train, to meet friends and family, or home after a night out. “With the launch of uberACCESS we can now offer the same reliable option for wheelchair users to travel on their terms at the touch of a button.”

    Ruth Owen, Chief Executive of Whizz-Kidz, said: “When Uber launched wheelchair accessible vehicles in London, many of the young people we work with told us how useful it was to have another option for getting across town.

    "We are delighted that disabled young people in Liverpool will now be able to take advantage of this brilliant service.”

    So if you are a wheelchair user and you live in one of the cities that Uber provide this service to we would loe to hear what you think and how you have been looked after as a wheelchair user.

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