Sunday, 27 March 2016

An Easter Walk

I love the freedom that my off road wheelchair (Extreme X8) has given me.

But I think what I love more, is the togetherness.

The ability to enjoy the outdoors with my nephews and nieces, watching them discover new things.

At Harcourt Arboretum, Newnham Courtney, following the Easter Treasure Hunt:

 Apparently this is how one is supposed to use an umbrella.

 Peacocks (when my lap became a safe-haven for the smallest niece, who wasn't convinced they were friendly.

Discovering a clue

And finding "the Smallest tree EVER Hannah! Come and look!" 

Uh oh! Another tree with the lowest branches in reach of my power chair's riser function - it soon became a ladder.

There's a table in the barn.

A truly beautiful trip.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Adventures at Greys Court, Henley-on-Thames

Saturday was Disabled Access Day 2016.

So here's a blog about accessing Greys Court, in Henley.

I'd been feeling a little 'cooped up' with work for the past week, so when V suggested a trip to Greys Court for walk in the woods, I jumped at the chance!

It wasn't clear from the website whether you had to pay the entrance fee to go on the 'Estate Walk' through the woodland (it turned out we did) but the website clearly showed that it was a 'style free' walk.

It looked the perfect place to take my Extreme X8 off-road power chair. Or possibly the perfect place for it to take me!

As we drove in, the ladies at the gate informed us that we couldn't go on the estate walk as it had 'kissing gates'. They strongly advised avoiding the woods and having a short stroll across a field, and in the main gardens.

I was hugely disappointed. I do like formal gardens, but I had my heart set on a walk in the woods.

We pondered our options. Whilst enjoying the view.
The map said there was a fair distance before we reached the first kissing gate - why not just see how far we could go, and enjoy the journey?

So we did.

Down steep tracks (V took this pic from about 4m ahead of me - the track so steep that her head was below the level of my wheels!) - Using the 'tilt' feature of the chair I stayed sitting at a comfortable angle while the wheels climbed down the steep slope.

Through muddy sections

Over tree roots, through deep, soggy, 'steal your wellies' level of muddiness.

Oh the bliss! I was like a 3 year old who'd discovered the joy of puddles - only it was the joy of mud! Leaving poor V trying to find a safe way through.

Apparently walking on my tracks worked fairly well.

And her moment of glee at 'Haha, I can take a short cut' quickly turned into my moment of glee at 'Haha, so can I!'

After a while we realised we were doing the walk the opposite way round to the signs...and we got a little lost..not like bad lost, just like 'no idea where the official path we are supposed to be on is' lost.

This turned out to be a good thing. We found ourselves on a country road for about 20 metres, before rediscovering the proper path again - by pure chance we'd totally avoided the 'kissing gates'!

The walk was totally not 'wheelchair suitable' - but was perfectly 'off roader' suitable. A couple of times I looked at a steep, slippery, muddy section of path, with added tree roots, I thought "I'll try, but I may have to turn and go back". Only to discover that with careful driving the X8 could indeed take me places that I long ago gave up as 'unreachable'.

Plus the bonus where I can use the seat raiser to get me to 'tree climbing height' - so I can crawl/slide off the chair directly into the tree.

After a lovely lunch in the cafe - where I could drive my big off roader right up to a table (although I didn't try getting to the counter in it), we headed home. But not before exchanging email addresses with a member of staff so I could send them info on this powerchair!

We'll be going back again when the bluebells are out.

I can't wait!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

New Disability Car Signs!

I love my new disability car signs!
(available from Stickman Communications)


a) they are clear, easy to read and really show up well on my car.

 b) they manage to convey 'I am a person' much more effectively than most of the stickers I've seen.

c) I can easily switch between signs - have the '1m gap needed' for when I have my manual chair, and a 3m gap one for when using my powerchair.

d) When someone else is giving me a lift, I can put the relevant sign in their car.

f) The 'hook' shape means I can also hang it from something - like from the rear-view mirror when parked.

e) The designs cover manual wheelchair, powerchair, scooter, walking stick and 'hidden' disabilities - not just wheelchair use. I've often heard people complain that car signs and stickers don't cater for scooter users, or people who walk, and these at least covered some of those gaps.

So despite the initial disappointment of having to re-design and reprint them due to quality issues with the first run, I am really happy with the end result.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

International Wheelchair Day 2016

It's International Wheelchair Day!!

I'll be celebrating tonight by going to my contemporary dance class - I suspect I will sometimes be in my wheels, and sometimes not, because that is how I roll.

(Film by English Federation for Disability Sport, and Fuzzy Duck Creative)

There is no way I could give you a complete picture of what being a wheelchair is like, not least because it is different for everyone, so instead I will try and give a brief, mainly pictorial, overview.

Very few of us are paralysed. Many of can walk or stand, but only for a limited distance/time, or only with a huge increase in symptoms, and some of us have very variable conditions so we may walk 'fine' one day, and use a wheelchair another. That person who stands up out of their chair in the supermarket a) isn't a faker, and b) might be me.

There are times that wheelchair use is inconvenient. Times that we may need help. Generally speaking you will know when I need help because I will ask for it. Not because I am inferior, or pitiable - but because here and now, there is a task that my body's limitations prevent me from doing.

But if I haven't said I'd like help - then please don't interfere. Your actions probably won't be helpful, but instead will take away my independence. By all means offer help, just respect my answer and don't force your 'help' on me,.

 More annoying than my limitations is people not listening. Not only when I say I don't want help, but also, for example, when I ask them not to lean on my chair. Not only do they hold me captive by doing so, but every movement they make is felt through the chair, which can really aggravate already high pain levels! - So again, what is needed is that you listen, and respect my views.

But does this make my wheelchair use pitiable?

No. They allow me to be part of the community, and are the key to many adventures.

 So whether I am in my manual chair, my power chair (it's an X8 extreme, and I LOVE it!) - or not in a chair at all, I love my wheels for the freedom they bring.

And reflecting that, I have designed an alternative 'Happy Accessibility Symbol' ( HAS). One that reflects the joy and liberty that the right wheels can bring, and today, for the first time ever, signs and badges featuring it are available from my shop.

I don't think it should replace all the standard signs everywhere, but I do think it belongs on my car, and maybe the button badges on my coat and bag....oooh, and perhaps the back of my wheelchair!