Get to know me | Interviewed by Wheelescapades

I recently collaborated with fellow disability and lifestyle blogger Gemma Orton, aka Wheelescapades, on a ‘20 Questions‘ blog post.

We initially got chatting on social media and found we had a few things in common ~ We’re both arty/crafty types, we have a mutual love for all things Disney, and we are both wheelchair users. Gemma has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 (SMA2), while I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

To get to know each other even better, we gave each other free rein to ask 20 personal questions!

Here you can find my previous post, in which I interview Gemma.


And below are my answers to Gemma’s 20 questions…

1. What made you decide to write a blog?

I had been thinking about it for a long time, though it took me several months to begin. I wanted to do something productive and worthwhile but didn’t think anyone would care or be interested in what I have to say.
They say you should write what you know. I have been disabled since birth and so consider this my expert subject. However, disability isn’t a particularly popular or fashionable topic to blog about. I knew it would be a challenge and it has been. I do feel like I’m constantly playing catch-up and at times I wonder if it’s worth the time and effort. But when I receive positive responses from complete strangers, I am reminded why I’m doing it.

2. What do you want your blog to achieve?

I want to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy, particularly Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy which is the rare and little-known form that I have. I want to share my thoughts and experiences, having lived my whole life as a physically disabled individual, in the hope that it may in some way help others.

3. What is the most difficult thing for you about having a disability?

Blimey, I could write a list! There are many challenges and frustrations. My condition is progressive and so the difficulties become greater with age. I think perhaps, for me, the most difficult thing about living with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, is the limitations it inflicts. I am limited physically – I cannot run, dance, walk or even weight-bear. Just to be able to stand and support my own weight would make a world of difference! I am life-limited! Yes, UCMD is a life-limiting condition. I will not grow old or see my new baby nephew become an adult. Furthermore, my quality of life is limited. To put it briefly, when I am ill I’m REALLY ill. I have spent much time in hospital with respiratory related issues including repeated bouts of pneumonia, pleurisy, and a collapsed lung. I have literally lost months of my life to UCMD – housebound, unable to eat and reliant on non-invasive ventilation.

4. What is the biggest positive about having a disability?

The positives are much more light-hearted! Concessions, being able to skip to the front of the queue and designated parking (although disabled bays are often occupied by sports cars lacking a blue badge!)

5. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

Hmm, tricky! I do like variety. I guess I’d have to choose… mash potato?! That way I could always mix it up by adding herbs from the garden (or is that cheating??)

6. An apocalypse is imminent, you have 30 minutes to prepare, what 3 items do you pack?

Well, I guess if the apocalypse is coming then it doesn’t really matter as we’re all doomed anyway?! But, I think I would still pack a bottle of Lucozade (I live on it! Purely for the energy boost), my dog and my family!

7. When making tea would you pour the milk or water in first?

Water!

8. What is your favourite way to relax?

I like to shut myself away, snuggle up in bed and listen to music or watch a good film.

9. If you could interview any human, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask?

Wow, I really don’t know. God! (who I don’t believe in – what a cop-out) He has a lot to answer for.

10. What would be your dream job?

I’m one of those people who never knew what they wanted to do. I’ve never been career focused or academically ambitious. All I ever wanted was to have kids! But, if I could be absolutely anything, I think I’d be a dancer. I’ve always loved everything about dance. And yes, I’m a huge Strictly fan!

11. You’ve just won 10 million pounds (congratulations!), what 3 things would you do with the money?

Sort my family out – erase any debts and buy them homes, cars and whatever else they might need or want. Make sure my closest friends are comfortable! Buy a holiday home(s). And finally, a home for myself, FULLY adapted!

12. Where in the world would you most like to visit and why?

Australia. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to visit Australia. The snakes are a little off-putting but still, that’s where I’d head to first. Closely followed by America. I’d absolutely love to do a road trip – Route 66!

13. What one thing would you change about yourself?

Only one?! Again, I could write a list. Buy I’d have to say my body. It doesn’t work too well and I’m flipping uncomfortable in it!

14. If you could play any part in a film, past or future, real or fiction, who would you be?

Men get all the really great roles! So, if I were male I think I’d play the Joker in The Dark Knight. How much fun would that be! Since I’m not a man, I’d play… I don’t know!! Maybe one of the sisters in A League of Their Own (1992) or Uma Thurman’s roles in either Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill.

15. If there was a pill that would freeze you at your current age and you could live forever as you are now, would you take it? And why?

Nope, definitely not. I wouldn’t to live forever. It would get pretty boring after a while! Plus outliving all my family and friends would be Hell.

16. If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why?

My brother. He has the life I’ve always wanted. He is physically fit, handsome, funny, charming, popular, successful and he has a lovely wife, baby and home. Of course I don’t resent him for it and I want nothing more than for him to be healthy, happy and fulfilled. But to experience his life for just one day would be bliss. I’d never ask for anything else.

17. If you could time travel, where would you go?

Good question. There are so many periods throughout history that I’d like to visit. But it would be great to go back around 50 years, when my parents were kids and my grandparents were young. I never knew my maternal granddad who died when I was a baby. So I’d especially love to meet him.

18. If you were made Queen and allowed to pass one new law, what would it be, and why?

Argh, the pressure! I have no good answer to this. So I think I’ll just say longer sentences and harsher punishments for serious crimes. There really is no deterrent in this country.

19. What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

Voicing my opinion and failing to filter! Over the years I have become more outspoken and more impassioned about certain issues. I tend to over-analyse and question everything. Oh and I am rather stubborn. If I believe something in something, I won’t budge.

20. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?

Just happy I guess. As I said before, I never had a particular job or career in mind. I’ve considered various options and ideas over the years. But all I ever really wanted was a home and a family of my own. That’s it. Not much to ask, eh?

I don’t think it is.


I really hope you enjoyed this collaboration with Wheelescapades. Let me know in the comments.

I’d also love to hear from you and find out how you would answer these questions!


To keep up to date with Gemma, go and check out her blog and connect with her on social media.

https://wheelescapades.com/

https://twitter.com/gemmaorton

https://www.instagram.com/wheelescapades/

https://www.facebook.com/wheelescapades/

Getting to know… Wheelescapades | 20 Questions

One thing I love about being a disability blogger is the fact that I am able to interact with other like-minded bloggers.

I recently got chatting with the lovely Gemma over at Wheelescapades. We quickly realised we have a fair bit in common: we’ve both studied art, we have a mutual love for all things Disney, and we both have muscular dystrophy, albeit different forms.

So, we thought it would be fun to collaborate on a blog post. To learn even more about each other, we decided to ask 20 juicy questions. You can find my answers to Gemma’s questions over at her blog!


Here are her answers to my 20 questions…

1. What is your biggest ambition in life?

I wouldn’t say I’m the ambitious type. There’s lots of things I’d like to see and do as you’ll find out throughout my answers. But when it comes down to it I’d just like to be content and happy. For my friends and family to be too. It’s the simple things that make life.

2. What is your dream job?

I love anything arty and creative. I’m too indecisive to give you one dream job title, but I’d like to be in an atmosphere where I am surrounded by creativity. I enjoy making things, drawing, textiles and I’m going to say I would like to work in theatre design, costumes and props.

3. What do you most regret?

I don’t think I have any major regrets. That’s no way to live.

I do often regret not ordering dessert when I’m out with friends and theirs arrives leaving me sugar craved.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Although there are so many places I’d love to visit, I think I’m perfectly happy living where I am. I love England, it’s history, its heritage, the traditions, and yes the weather! I know it’s something everyone moans about, I’m guilty of that too. I know it can be unpredictable and awfully grey at times, but I like the differing atmospheres. We are lucky enough to get sun, snow and thunderstorms, but nothing too extreme or scary.

On a smaller scale I like the area I live in, Norfolk. I’m in a small town, not far from the city, the sea and the countryside. Norwich is a diverse city of art, architecture and music. I can also easily get to London.

5. Dream dinner party guests: if you could invite any 5 people, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

Alexander McQueen, Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Stephen Hawkins, and Banksy. All creative, passionate and intelligent minds that know what they are/were and do their thing with conviction. Need I say more.

6. If you could visit any time period throughout history, when would it be and why?

Well I don’t think wheelchair access is going to be very reliable however far I travel back. As a mega Downton Abbey fan I’d love to dress 20’s style and attend one of Lady Mary’s Luncheons.

I’d also love to go back and spy on myself as a child, my Mum as a child or my grandparents.

7. If a genie were to grant you any 3 wishes, what would you wish for?

This is the one I’ve been struggling with (I take these questions seriously!). Do I go for the big things: world peace, a cure for SMA, an end to poverty?? Or the smaller stuff like a fully accessible luxurious house, enough money to help friends and family, to have a talent that can make me a living?? Basically it depends how good this genie is and what the rules are. There are always rules and consequences to these things! Maybe I shouldn’t rub the lamp…

8. What is your ideal holiday?

My dream is to visit Florence, Italy. The complications, discomfort and fear of losing or breaking my wheelchair has meant that I haven’t flown since I was a child.

I’m not a ‘by the pool girl’, although I do love a spa! My ideal holiday would involve seeing the sights, being around the locals, visiting little cafes, museums and galleries, plus a wheel along a river and cocktails on a roof – With warm but not sweltering weather. Don’t ask me where this destination is, although I’m open to suggestions.

9. If you were Prime Minister for one day, what would you do?

Cancel Brexit. Can I say that? Shouldn’t we have learned by 2017 a united world is a better world.

I think I might need longer than a day!

10. Who or what inspires you most in life?

I can be inspired by the simplest things. I wouldn’t say that one event or person has inspired me to be something. It can be a book I’ve read, a chat with a friend or a film I’ve seen. All these things can inspire thoughts, make me want to be a certain way or do a certain thing. In fact, I am often inspired just people watching. Seeing how people react can trigger a thought or idea.

11. Could you please share 3 interesting facts about yourself?

  • I won first prize in a national textile design competition. My prize was to visit Première Vision in Paris.
  • I eat almost everything with a fork, including Wotsits.
  • I haven’t seen my natural hair colour since I was 16. I’ve had almost every colour, including blue and red at the same time. I’m now 32.

12. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Persistent, sarcastic, tea-drinker.

13. If you could spend one day in someone else’s shoes, who would it be and why?

Can I say my cat even though they don’t wear shoes?

I’d lay around on the windowsill, worry free, watching the day go by. Maybe take a little nap and have some chewy treats. Get “cooed” and massaged on the head if I’m good.

14. What is your biggest fear?

Spiders! I really do hate them. And unfortunately most of my PA’s do too. I didn’t think of that question when I interviewed did I?! – Job title ‘spider catcher’!

Umm on a more serious note… everyone’s fear: losing family and friends.

Disability-wise: losing strength, the independence I have and communication.

15. What annoys you most?

Although you haven’t read question 18 yet, you can refer to it here.

I think moaners annoy me the most (yes I know I moan too, we all do). You know those people that make a big deal of nothing. I know everybody is different, we all have our issues and our weaknesses. But people, stop sweating the small stuff and appreciate what you’ve got. Enjoy the washing up! Appreciate the walk to the shop for milk to make yourself a brew. Yes you’ll get colds, and they are irritating, but the likelihood is you’ll be over it in a few days.

16. What makes you happy?

Being around friends and family, my cats, a day in the sunshine and drinking tea. Netflix days, ache-free days, a facial at the spa, a good book, Seeing the end result of my craft project, festivals and the outdoors too!

17. If your life was a novel, what would the title be?

‘Wheelescapades’ – the title of my blog, as that took me long enough to think up. I’m no good at these things.

18. What is your disability, and what frustrates you most about it?

I have SMA 2 (Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2).

I think it’s probably the small things that frustrate me the most. The little day-to-day things that most people take for granted. Yes I’d love to travel the world problem free and have an amazing job without limitations. But it’s not just me, and my disability that doesn’t get that.

What I’d like is to be home alone (with at least 7 cats), make myself a brew, switch on the TV, do all the crafting I want and get up for a wee when required! I’d love to fall into bed exhausted (without connecting my feed and breathing machine), sleep comfortably and uninterrupted and meet a friend for breakfast at the drop of a hat. I’d even be up for doing the washing up!

Also I’d quite like to just have a cold without wondering if/when it will put me in hospital.

19. In theory, if a magical cure were available, would you want it or not?

Okay, I know I’m probably supposed to say no here, as someone who is trying to change people’s perception of disability, blah blah… But yes, I would take that cure. I wouldn’t change my past life for anything. If I could keep the knowledge I have, the friends and family I’ve got and the experiences I’ve been through, then yes, give me that cure!

20. Why did you become a blogger?

I get into some awkward, funny and difficult situations mainly due to my disability. I also get different experiences and treatment with/from people because I am a wheelchair user. My friends and I would always joke about this; the good and the bad, as a way of coping I guess. Sometimes you have to laugh or you’ll go crazy. Often saying “if only people could hear us” or “I should write a book of all this drama”. Well I guess blogging is my book of tales.

I also wanted a serious side to the blog. Not many websites give you the gritty details of a venue’s (in)accessibility. Yes, they are starting to declare themselves ‘wheelchair accessible’ or claim to have an ‘accessible toilet’. Bbut accessible can mean so many different things. Just getting through the entrance doesn’t make a venue accessible. I wanted to chart good and bad access and to get people to look at it more.


I’d like to thank Gemma aka Wheelescapades for taking the time to answer my questions, and for being so candid!

I’d also love to hear from you! How would you answer my 20 questions?? Please leave a comment.


To keep up to date with Gemma, go and check out her blog and connect with her on social media.

https://wheelescapades.com/

https://twitter.com/gemmaorton

https://www.instagram.com/wheelescapades/

https://www.facebook.com/wheelescapades/

 

My wheelchair accessible holiday to Whitby

Once again the lovely SimplyEmma invited me to guest-post on her blog (go check it out!) and so I chose to write about my recent holiday to Whitby, North Yorkshire.

To read my second blog post for Emma, click here.


I recently returned from my annual, week-long family holiday. This year, my parents and I chose to stay in the UK after all the hassle we had last year with flying (find my review of our trip to Salou, Spain here).

So, back in February we booked a self-catering accessible cottage through Disabled Holidays.

We’ve always loved Yorkshire; the history, countryside, charm and culture. But we also wanted to be near the coast and so we opted for the seaside town of Whitby, situated in the Borough of Scarborough.

Accommodation

A wheelchair accessible holiday cottage in Sneaton Thorpe:

  • A large ground-floor property, all rooms are generously sized. More than enough room to manoeuvre with hoists, wheelchairs and any other equipment required.
  • 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4. Large living/dining area and sizeable separate kitchen.
  • Huge wet room with both bath and shower! There is a wall-mounted shower seat, though these are rarely any use to me as my balance is poor. I therefore pre-requested a static shower chair with armrests (as you can see from the photo, there are no armrests on the chair!) However, there are sturdy, wall-mounted grab rails either side and so this suited fine.
  • The door ridges could be problematic for some wheelchair users. I use a Quantum 600 powered chair which managed the front door but struggled with the patio door. Alternatively, I went around the side of the property and through the gate in order to access the garden.
  • Stunning views of Whitby coastline, the surrounding countryside and the Abbey in the distance.
  • Ideal location: quiet and peaceful yet only a 10 minute drive to Whitby town centre.
  • Overall very impressive and well thought-out accommodation. My only complaint is the beds, which were VERY firm and uncomfortable. I use an electric adjustable bed at home with a regular mattress but I’ve always slept on normal beds when away, without issue. There was however, plenty of room underneath to use a manual hoist should you need to.
  • I would thoroughly recommend this property to anyone with a disability, particularly wheelchair users. My only suggestion would be to take some form of mattress topper and maybe a blanket as only heavy, winter duvets were provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places I visited

Robin hoods bay

  • Historic fishing village, scenic views. 10-15 minute drive, south of Whitby.
  • Pavements are fairly wide and smooth. A reasonable amount of dropped kerbs.
  • Sufficient disabled parking (not exempt from payment).
  • Most pubs and restaurants are wheelchair accessible.
  • Very steep towards the bay itself. I chose not to venture down as the gradient was too steep for my wheelchair.

Whitby town

  • Could do with more dropped kerbs although generally flat in the west side of the town. Pier is mostly accessible (steps to reach the very end but you’re not missing out).
  • The beach is accessible via slope and the sands are firm (powered wheelchairs and scooters may struggle!)
  • You can hire mobility equipment including scooters, manual and powered wheelchairs, beach wheelchairs and even an all-terrain wheelchair from Whitby Tourist Information. I would advise you do this in advance! Call: 01947 821001 or click here for more information.
  • West side of town is much more commercialised than the east side.
  • Plenty of disabled parking (not exempt from payment) and accessible toilets (take your Radar key). I recommend the new Marina car park toilets, located near the Tourist Information Centre, as they’re the best equipped and the most pleasant.
  • East side far less accessible depending on your tolerance for cobbled streets. Manual wheelchairs would struggle unless pulled backwards which is obviously not ideal or particularly appealing. I ventured through the cobbled streets and Whitby Market Place in my Quantum 600 and didn’t get stuck – so it is doable.
  • There are some interesting shops showcasing local arts, crafts and Whitby jet jewellery.

Scarborough North Bay

  • Flat, wide, smooth, even pavements.
  • Dropped kerbs, free disabled parking, ramp access to beach which is accessible depending on the wheelchair or scooter you use.
  • My heavy Quantum 600 power chair got stuck in the sand, and I had to call on the assistance of some friendly locals to haul me back onto the pavement. However, manual wheelchairs shouldn’t encounter any problems as the sands are flat and firm.

East pier and Scarborough town centre

  • Impressively accessible: flat, even, wide pavements and plenty of dropped kerbs.
  • Free disabled parking.
  • Much more commercialised and populated than the North Bay, so if you prefer the peace and quiet, stick to the north.
  • Lots of amusement arcades, fast food and tourist/gift shops.
  • Beach again is very flat and accessible although powered chairs may struggle.
  • Accessible buses and sight-seeing tour buses.
  • The main disabled toilet in town (Radar key required) is small and unpleasant! I would use one of the accessible toilets within the pubs or restaurants.

Whitby Abbey

  • The Abbey is surprisingly accessible for all. I really enjoyed my visit as it was so easy to get around and there was nothing I missed out on.
  • Smooth, even paths and slopes where necessary. Even the grass isn’t bumpy.
  • 4 disabled parking bays, 2 large lifts and disabled toilets at the main entrance and in the tea rooms.
  • All staff were extremely helpful and advised us of the most accessible routes. Even the gift shop was a decent size, allowing wheelchair users to browse without bumping into other visitors.
  • I highly recommend visiting the Abbey!
  • Obviously, the famous 199 steps are in no way disabled-friendly. But you can park at the top and take in the view.

Final Thoughts

While North Yorkshire is admittedly very hilly, rugged and rural, it is for the most part accessible to those with disabilities, as I discovered. It’s not always easy or comfortable to get around in a wheelchair, but it’s worth a bloody good try as the North Yorkshire Moors has so much to offer.

There are many narrow, winding, steep roads and country lanes to navigate. For this reason I think it’s important for anyone with a disability to have access to a car in order to explore Whitby and the surrounding area.

* All photos taken by me


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Walking vs Wheelchair: Accepting the need for a wheelchair

I was recently invited to guest post for the lovely SimplyEmma. She kindly gave me the opportunity to write about a topic of my choice.

You can view my post for Emma here.

Check out Emma’s website and follow her on social media.                       Twitter: @Simplyemma2           Facebook: @SimplyEmmaBlog
Instagram: simplyemmablog


I’ve noticed a lot of discussion within Facebook groups recently, around the topic of walking versus the use of a wheelchair.

Many disabled people gradually lose the ability to walk over a period of time. Often it occurs in stages: from independent mobility, to the need for walking sticks, then a frame and finally a wheelchair.

I appreciate that for the individuals affected, it is an incredibly difficult decision to make. Do I continue to walk for as long as possible, despite the struggle and restraints? Or, do I resign myself to the confines of a wheelchair?

I have noticed, from comments on social media, that this is how some view wheelchairs: objects of confinement and restriction. On the contrary, I see my wheelchair as an essential mobility aid, removing the limitations I faced when walking for only short durations. The powered chair I now use offers me freedom and independence.

Obviously your condition and individual circumstances determine whether or not you have the option to continue walking. Personally, I never had a choice. I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and lost the ability to walk quite abruptly at the age of 10. Not that I could walk very well or very far up to that point.

Nevertheless, the choice was taken from me. I had reached a stage where I literally couldn’t support my own weight. Grit and determination played no part. And so, I went from walking minimal distances whilst wearing leg splints, to using a manual wheelchair that I couldn’t self propel due to a lack of strength and joint contractures. Sticks and frames were never of any use to me.

It was a difficult transition, of course. But not totally unexpected. As a child, I was offered little assurance of how my condition would progress. Doctors simply didn’t know. They couldn’t tell me if I would maintain my ability to walk or not. It was a case of, wait and see; roll with the punches. So that’s what I did.

To be honest, I was to a large extent relieved to be using a wheelchair, despite the fact I was dependant on others to manoeuvre me around. Even just a few small steps was a huge feat and physically laborious. That in itself was disabling me.

Committing to a wheelchair full time meant that I was free to roam with my peers. Kids at school used to squabble over whose turn it was to push me around. I was no longer exhausted, battling to stay on my feet or falling over and injuring myself. Being non-ambulant, I no longer had to wear those unsightly leg splints which pleased me no end!

I had recently started middle school and, within a matter of a few weeks I found myself completely unable to weight-bear. However, less than twelve-months later, I was fortunate enough to benefit from my first powered wheelchair. I can’t emphasise enough how much of a difference this made to my life. I could zip around at break times with friends, I could take myself wherever I wanted to go without the need for assistance, and I could venture into the local countryside. I was no longer confined!

It’s been eighteen years since I took my last footstep. And, I can honestly say I don’t miss walking. Naturally I wish I could stand, walk and run ‘normally’. But I would never trade my wheelchair for my old leg splints, the bumps and bruises from falling so often, and the constant exertion to achieve a few small steps.

 

Find me elsewhere

The first article I wrote for Disability Horizons lists my choice of the top ten apps for disabled people.

No matter what your disability, there’s an app out there that can assist you in some way. With the help of such technology, we the disabled community can make our lives that little bit easier.

New apps are being developed everyday. But for the time being, here are my recommendations.

You can also find a few of my articles on the MDUK Trailblazers website. Find out all about my life with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy here.

The Channel 4 show The Undateables has proved highly controversial and divisive, particularly within the disabled community. Read my take on the debate here.