Living Well | Making a property into an accessible home

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It’s fair to say that most of us dream of buying our own home, right? That first step on the property ladder is an exciting milestone in our lives. It is representative of independence, responsibility and yes, becoming a ‘real’ adult!

However, for many it can be a lengthy and stressful process. Finding a suitable property in the right location, and at an affordable price is not easy, particularly for today’s generation.

For those of us with a disability, the task is far greater. To some, being able to live independently in your own home, whether renting or buying, feels like an unreachable goal. If and when you’re able to find a property to suit your requirements, you then face the inevitable task of adapting it to ensure it’s fully accessible.

While this can be daunting and even off-putting, if you choose to take a positive perspective, it could be considered a fun, and thoroughly rewarding project.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need to wait for an accessible property to become available. Alternatively, why not find the home you love and adapt it so that it’s perfect for you.

1. Taking Your Time

Perhaps most importantly, don’t rush the process (tempting though this may be). Of course, we’re all impatient to leave the family nest and move into our own place. This is major undertaking (particularly for disabled people) and a great expense, therefore it needs to be done right. It may take months, it may take years! Believe me, I know how disheartening the waiting game can be. But is really is essential to take your time.

2. Consulting A Contractor

Once you have found a suitable property, where applicable, the next step is to consult contractors (ie. builders). If structural work is necessary, seek advice and obtain quotes from at least three builders. I would also advise checking out a range of accessible homes. This will provide information and inspiration, thereby enabling you to plan your new home effectively.

3. Estimating The Budget

Obviously, there is no point obtaining quotes and making calculations if you are unaware of your overall personal budget. It is imperative, from the start, that you establish an estimated budget, and that you stick to it. You could fund the adaptations using savings, your original house buying budget, or you may choose to investigate the option of long term loans. Either way, ensure you have a genuine estimated budget.

4. Making It Your Own

When modifications are required to make a home accessible, it will affect the physicality and aesthetic of the property. For example; ramps, wider doors, level access, hand rails, lifts, lowered units and ceiling track hoists – these are all very visible features. You may feel like you are having to forego style and character in favour of practicality – and it’s okay to feel that way. But regardless of the extent of the adaptations, you can always make your mark. With a little planning and creativity, you really can make an accessible property your own. Have fun with furnishing and decorating your new home.

5. Making Room For Your Things

Whilst working with professionals (occupational therapists, builders etc) who will help to adapt the property to your specific needs, you’ll also want to make sure there is room for your personal items and equipment. Make a list of everything you will need to store – from wheelchairs to hoists.
At the end of the day, thorough planning is key! Prepare, plan and be patient…

Inclusion in the Workplace: Improvements

While some progress is being made to accommodate disabled employees, there is still much more that could be done to help us to feel comfortable, confident and able to perform most effectively, at work.

This post highlights three crucial changes that need to take place to promote inclusivity within the workplace.

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1. Better help for those with hidden disabilities:

It is evident that wheelchair-users, like myself, need physical modifications such as accessible desks, ramps at entrances and exits, and lifts. But, due to a lack of information and awareness, those with hidden disabilities are still being denied access to the minor adaptations required to enable their working day.

For example, some people with debilitating anxiety conditions can find it incredibly difficult to work in an open-plan environment. Providing a private space or even desk screening can resolve this issue, thereby enabling optimum productivity. However, some businesses would rather maintain their open plan aesthetic than implement these simple adaptations in order to assist disabled employees.

2. Inclusive bonding activity and rewards:

There is currently a lot of focus on workforce team bonding activities, since this has been found to be a successful method of encouraging inclusion. However, many of these activities are physically demanding ie. assault courses and river rafting – totally unsuitable for wheelchair-users and those with physical disabilities.

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Of course, there are many more inclusive bonding activities, accessible to everyone regardless of ability. For instance, hosting a Weekly Quiz would unite team members whilst also providing a stimulating, competetive challenge. Then there are shared, adrenaline-fuelled experiences like skydiving, indoor skydiving and sailing. All of these sports cater for people with a diverse range of disabilities.

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Believe it or not, bonding activities can be tailored to the needs of the individual, and made more inclusive through various adaptations.

So-called ‘escape rooms’ are increasing in popularity. Players are locked in and must work together as a team, solving puzzles and riddles in order to escape before their allotted time is up! These ‘escape rooms’ are fun, exciting and can be easily adapted for those with disabilities.

If you are feeling particularly creative, you can following the guidance here and devise your own unique, inclusive bonding experience. This way, you can ensure it will be perfect for all involved.

3. The opportunity to prove ourselves, just like everyone else:

Though it should really go without saying; as disabled people, we want the opportunity to prove ourselves, just like everyone else.

We don’t want token gestures from employers. Disabled people are skilled, talented, capable and willing to work hard. We can offer a unique perspective and want to prove our value as employees. We want to be there because we have a genuine contribution to make, and we want to be taken seriously in what we say and do professionally.

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The important issue of workplace inclusion is something that requires immediate attention. Both employers and employees need clear access to information and education. Knowledge will promote confidence, which is essential for disabled people to access employment and for career progression.

Interview | Accessing University as a Disabled Student

My good friend Lucy recently graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University with a First class honours degree. Like me, 24 year-old Lucy who lives with her family in Kent, has a progressive form of muscular dystrophy.

Now that she’s free from study, I thought I’d grab her for a chat and ask a few questions about her university experience from the perspective of being a physically disabled student.

Perhaps the insight, information and advice offered here might be helpful to anyone out there with a disability who is applying to university or considering higher education.

Lucy with her carers and peers at university.

1. Hi Lucy, can you please describe your disability and how it affects you.

Hey! Right, so…I have Congenital Muscular Dystrophy – Merosin Deficient, meaning I lack the merosin needed to knit the layers of my muscles together. Because of this, I get progressively weaker over time due to my muscles being unable to properly repair themselves.

This weakness means I can’t really do anything for myself without support from other people. It also makes daily habits difficult as I lack the strength to hold things and do things. A few examples might be that I find it difficult to feed myself as I find certain cutlery too heavy to lift, I can no longer read books unless they’re digital as I cannot hold them or turn pages, and I need regular hoisting for transfers and the bathroom.

Being a muscle defect, my organs and my lungs in particular are affected, meaning I have regular medication and ventilator intervention to aid my breathing. Lying down helps with this, as well as only being able to write/type lying down, which means I lie down most of the time.

2. Did your disability put off going to university?
And what, if any, concerns did you have prior to applying for university?

I knew it would be difficult to apply to university but I wouldn’t say my disability ever “put me off” of applying. I’ve been very lucky with my education in that my parents have always pushed for inclusion and for me to receive education befitting my abilities. I went to a mainstream primary school, a grammar school for my secondary education, and college after that. So applying for university, whilst scary, was the logical next step for me.

That’s not to say I didn’t have any concerns regarding how I would be able to access higher education with my disability. One of my main worries was that Uni is a very different environment from school in that the campus is a lot bigger! Having hoists and a portable bed so I can lie down is all well and good when it’s accessible but, what if I was timetabled for lectures in a different building to my equipment? It wouldn’t be possible to transfer every 5 minutes, so it took a while to negotiate a timetable solely in one place – it was tough but doable.

3. Could you please explain the application process and any challenges you faced?

The application process itself was exactly the same as if I were an ‘able-bodied’ student – I applied through UCAS and SFE (Student Finance England). However, perhaps most importantly for me, I also had to apply for extra DSA (Disabled Students Allowance) as well. It was the next steps that were a bit different…

After applying and being accepted, I began having regular meetings with the disability officer who would be supporting me during my time at Uni. The disability department at my university in particular was split into different fields: physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental health.

We discussed suitable timetabling, storage for my hoists and bed, even suitable places for my carers to chill out whilst I was in lectures. It was all sorted over the summer months before term was due to start.

I chose to live at home with my family throughout the duration of my course (2015-18) rather than on campus, so that was one less thing to organise.

4. What support did you receive and was it difficult to get this support in place?

I have my own team of personal carers, provided by an agency, who supported me whilst a student. In my case, this wasn’t something the university or disability officer organised or supported with.

The DSA I used mainly to pay for transport. I paid for a wheelchair-accessible taxi to take me to Uni or the library each day. The finance was also used to supply me with a MacBook and accompanying software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and Claroread, as well as a printer and allowances for things like ink cartridges and paper.

I personally found the process of co-ordinating with my disability officer really straightforward at the beginning. She really listened to what my needs were and to the best of her abilities made sure everything was in place before I started my course. However, it was once I had enrolled that her involvement became less proactive. I think a major learning experience for me would be that I should have been more proactive myself in maintaining regular contact with her.

There are undoubtedly going to be a number of disabled students on the system at whichever university you attend. Therefore, I would say if you feel you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to ask! Because, when I did ask, she generally followed through. I only wish I’d asked for her help a lot more than I did.

5. How would you rate your university experience from a disability/inclusivity perspective?

Looking back on my experience as a disabled student, I’d rate my experience quite highly to be honest. There were certain things I found more difficult but generally I was included really well. I was able to lie down in lectures and participate fully, timetabling was set so I remained in one classroom for the entire day (something which my peers were VERY appreciative of, and made it known to me regularly). My equipment both on campus and at the library was easily accessible and staff were very helpful in its safe storage. All members of staff – from lecturers to security and housekeeping were continuously supportive and understanding of my needs.

6. In your opinion, what improvements need to be made to make higher education more accessible to disabled people?

As previously mentioned, I’ve been lucky in having the family support and confidence to access university, but I know how difficult it can be to have that confidence. I think one of the main reasons for this is because the process isn’t made clear or obvious. I mean, I had to work out my own process moving forward after my application. Whilst every process for establishing individual needs at Uni is going to be different, I think it’s important that the availability of such a step is highlighted.

I think UCAS and all university websites should, as a minimum, have a clear disability section outlining key contacts of enquiry. It’s far easier to make confident decisions if you’re fully informed and know that there’s going to be the support you need behind you.

I won’t rose tint – accessing higher education as a disabled student can be like having to find your own way in the dark! By no means is it a clear, easy-to-follow process.

7. What advice would you offer other disabled people considering university?

Having now completed university, I guess I’d advise others to try their best not to get anxious about the process. Yes, it’s daunting. Yes, it’s tough. But ultimately it is worth it.

As long as you’re clear and assertive about your needs, there will always be people around to support you. If you need support with campus or timetabling issues, ask the Uni. If you need help in class, ask your lecturers. If you need a pen, ask one of your peers! It all sounds really obvious and stupid but I can’t stress enough how important it is to just ask for help. But most importantly, be confident in yourself and just be yourself!

8. As a physically disabled individual, what do you consider to be the potential challenges around the social aspect of university life?

I think the social aspects of life in any context can be difficult for disabled people but at Uni it can be especially hard for some. I think one of the most important things to remember is that, actually, it’s not just you and it’s definitely not just disabled people that have this issue.

Many students relocate for university, sometimes half way across the country, sometimes half way across the world. So you’re all going to be in the same boat in that respect.
However, I’m not dismissing the fact that disabled people have it tougher than most. I think the most important thing is, once again, confidence. Many people lack the confidence to introduce themselves to disabled people for a multitude of different reasons – they don’t know what to say, they don’t know if you can respond, they don’t know if you want to be spoken to. All of these things can seriously put people off because they don’t want to embarrass themselves, or you for that matter, so it’s up to us to have the confidence that they lack.

Introduce yourself to people at Freshers’ Fayre, be an active member of your class and, if possible, join a society or two. Be the best version of yourself and people will be drawn to you.

*All images courtesy of Lucy Hudson.


I’d like to thank the lovely Lucy for putting up with my interrogation! 

She is in fact a brilliant poet, having co-authored the poetry anthology ‘Wheels of Motion’ which can be purchased here!

You can also follow Lucy on Twitter


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Interview | Life with my Assistance Dog

“Petworth has changed my life greatly…he has given me a reason to get up every morning.”

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Harriet Butler about life with her beloved assistance dog, Petworth.

Harriet, 26 from Worcestershire, studied media and cultural studies at University and currently volunteers at KEMP hospice. Like me, she has a form of muscular dystrophy.

Here she explains all about the application process and why she wouldn’t be without her canine partner…


1. What is your disability and how does it affect you?

I have Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This form of muscular dystrophy predominately affects boys but in rare cases females like me can have the condition. Duchenne is a progressive muscle-wasting condition that affects every muscle in the body. I was diagnosed at the age of nine. When I was younger I was able to run and jump around but over time things became more difficult and eventually impossible. When I was twenty-two, I broke my ankle and now I am unable to weight-bear and so I rely on a wheelchair to get around.

2. What made you decide to get an assistance dog and what did the process involve?

Several years ago I visited the dog show ‘Crufts’ at the Birmingham NEC. Whilst I was there, I watched an assistance dog demonstration. I was blown away by what the dogs could do.

In June 2014, I had a spectacular fall and broke my ankle. Before my accident I could still walk short distances on the flat. I had surgery in which pins and plates were inserted. I had hoped I would be able to regain my mobility but it became apparent that this would be impossible. Once home and in a difficult place in my life, I applied to Canine Partners. They are a brilliant charity that provides assistance dogs to those with physical disabilities.

Once I had applied, I was invited to an assessment day at their centre in West Sussex. I met some incredible dogs and did some task work to see how a potential assistance dog could help me. I also had an Occupational Therapist come out to visit my home. She checked that my garden and home environment were suitable. I was then added to the waiting list and Canine Partners would start the process of finding me a suitable dog. They try to find a dog that fits in with your lifestyle and the tasks you need help with. For instance I required a tall dog to pass me items because I am quite high up in my electric wheelchair.

Eventually I got the much-anticipated call from advanced trainer Chrissie to say they had found me a potential dog. I was invited to meet Petworth and it really was love at first sight. We seemed to click straight away and I really liked how unusual he looked. Petworth is a curly coated retriever Labrador cross. He has extremely long legs and a lovely curly coat. We discussed the tasks I would like him to do. The following day, Chrissie phoned to check that I wanted to go ahead with Petworth. Of course, I said yes.

The final stage involved going on a two-week training course and learning how to work with Petworth. I have now had Petworth for over two years and I couldn’t be happier.

3. How does Petworth assist you and how has he changed your life?

Petworth can assist me in so many ways, providing me with a degree of independence away from carers. He picks things up when I drop them (I do this very often due to my reduced dexterity). He gets help when I need it; he goes and finds my Mum. He brings the post to me when it arrives. He opens and closes doors around the house and also pushes automatic door buttons when I’m out. He turns on and off the lights in my room and bathroom. He assists me with taking my coat/jumper off and shoes and socks. He fetches my phone for me if I leave it in a different room. He is able to open and close cupboards so at feeding time he fetches his bowl for me. He also helps me tidy up by putting his toys away in a box. When we go shopping he can help getting items off the shelf. Once we are finished shopping, Petworth can help me pay and gives my purse to the cashier.

Having just written down the things Petworth does for me, I’m quite amazed. He really loves to help me but it isn’t all about work, he still gets time to be a normal dog. We both enjoy going to the park or going on a long walk. One of my favourite things is teaching Petworth a new task; he is a very quick learner. As my condition is progressive I can train Petworth to do more tasks that will benefit me in the future.

Petworth has changed my life greatly. In many ways he has flipped it upside down. Before I had him I was too scared to leave my house. I was always worried I would drop my phone or keys. I always felt like all eyes were on my wheelchair and me. I didn’t have a social life and I became very isolated. Now I feel like a different person as Petworth gives me so much confidence. People are more interested in Petworth than my chair. He is a fab talking point and people love to ask me questions. I don’t have to rely so heavily on carers. Most importantly he has given me a reason to get up every morning. He looks after me and I look after him.

4. What, If any, are the challenges of having an assistance dog?

This probably sounds cheesy but I don’t think it is a challenge. Petworth really has enhanced my life and opened up many doors…literally!

The main hurdle we face is good old British weather – come rain or shine Petworth needs a walk. This means wrapping up warm, getting my waterproofs on and embracing whatever Mother Nature has to throw at us.

I was initially worried that I would struggle looking after a dog due to fatigue, but in reality Petworth gives me more energy by completing his tasks. I am responsible for exercising, grooming, feeding and playing. This has helped me maintain some muscle strength and it has given me a purpose and a sense of achievement.

5. What would be your advice for others who are considering getting an assistance dog?

Go for it! Having Petworth has completely changed my life and an assistance dog could do the same for you. I know some people think I’m too disabled or I’m not disabled enough but I still recommend applying. I would try to speak to somebody who already has an assistance dog to see what is involved and if it’s for you. The best advice I can give is be patient. It is not a quick process and the charity waiting lists are long at the moment, but it really is worth the wait.

*All images courtesy of Harriet Butler


I would like to thank Harriet for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly.

For more information about assistance dogs, visit the Canine Partners website.

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My First Ceiling Hoist

As some of you may know, my very first ceiling track hoist was *finally* fitted on Monday 11th December.

I now have a straight track in my bedroom and a separate H-frame in my ensuite bathroom.

Why I need a ceiling hoist

I am 29 and completely non-ambulant due to Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Being rather petite, I have always been manually transferred (yes, lifted by family and carers) rather than hoisted. This method has always been preferable since it’s much quicker and frankly less faff. But, we’re all getting older and more frail.

I live with my parents who are both in their 60s. They are my primary source of support, though I do employ a carer part-time. My mother underwent a full knee replacement in August 2017, and is therefore limited in how much she is able to help me. Consequently, we have reached a stage where a ceiling hoist is a necessity.

A long and frustrating process!

Back in October 2016, Mom was told she needed a full knee replacement. The following Spring, my only carer announced she would be leaving within the next few months to pursue a career as a paramedic. With this in mind, I contacted my local community occupatinal therapy team to request an assessment. I was told they’re vastly understaffed and, with an extensive waiting list, I would need to be in a terminal condition in order to be seen. I appreciate their predicament, I really do, but I was unwilling to be fobbed off so easily.

I was instructed, over the phone by an OT I had never met, to “camp out”, meaning I should wash, dress and be toileted on my bed. Yes, for a prolonged and indefinite period of time, I should go without a shower and simply not wash my hair. (Due to my physical limitations and my wheelchair, there’s no way I could wash my hair over the sink).

Disgusted at her casual disregard, I asked my neuromuscular consultant to issue a letter of support. On receipt of this, an OT suddenly found time to visit me in my home for an assessment. Following this, representatives from Prism Medical and TPG DisableAids attended separately to advise, measure up and draw plans. Both rep’s then submitted quotes to the purse holder at County Council who, of course, approved the cheapest option.

NB: A portable hoist was trialled but proved unusable with the layout of my room and the type of bath in situ.

Prism Medical

We were expecting Prism to arrive at 9am on 24th October 2017, as arranged. Having waited over an over with no sign of anyone, I called only to be told they weren’t coming because of a “technical issue”.

To cut a long story short, Prism claimed they couldn’t connect the track from my bedroom to that in my ensuite bathroom. This is despite consulting with occupational therapists and agreeing to do the job. Prism also claim they left telephone messages for both myself and the OT’s, on the previous Friday, to inform us that they wouldn’t be attending. Neither I, nor the community OT’s received any messages. I call bullshit!

Dad even removed the partition above the bathroom door in preparation.

Later, I learnt that Prism have similarly disappointed several others, resulting in formal complaints being issued against them. So when the purse holder at County Council told me she would renegotiate with Prism rather than approve funding for TPG to carry out the work, I insisted otherwise.

Having to fight for your rights and basic needs is, unfortunately, very much part and parcel of having a disability. ‘Tell, don’t ask!’ This is my motto. In my experience, if you are not clued-up and assertive, those in authority simply fob you off.

TPG DisableAids

Thankfully, Funding was approved after a different OT, accompanied by the rep from TPG, visited to discuss and re-evaluate the situation.

Rather than trying to connect the single rail in the bedroom to the H-frame in the ensuite bathroom, it was decided that two separate hoists would be best.

My carer had by then handed in her notice and would be leaving at the end of the month. I was seriously starting to worry the hoist would not be in place before Christmas.

But much to my relief, TPG (who, compared to Prism, were infinitely more professional and efficient throughout) booked in for the 4th December.

Then, just my luck, we were hit by the worst snow in 7 years! It was like flipping Narnia.

I tried to remain optimistic though in reality I knew there was no way TPG would be able to make the journey from Hereford. And they didn’t.

So, it was third time lucky, on the following Monday that the long-awaited ceiling hoist was installed. I no longer need to worry about hiring new carers as lifting is not an issue. Furthermore, the pressure is off Mom – literally! And, the thing I am perhaps the most happy about – my dealings with community OTs and the County Council are over.

For now at least…


(Apologies for the poor quality of the images. All were taken by myself on a Samsung S5!)

Hoists in Hotels | MDUK Trailblazers

Last month Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers launched their report following an investigation into the need for hoists in UK hotels.

Over 100 Trailblazers responded to the survey, sharing both positive and negative experiences.

This is an important issue that affects the lives of so many disabled people, myself included. Without the essential facility of a ceiling hoist, we are denied the opportunity to travel, whether for work or leisure purposes.

With only 18 UK hotels having installed ceiling hoists for disabled guests, this is clearly an overlooked and ill-considered feature. Who is designing these ‘accessible’ hotel rooms, anyway?!


I was one of the respondents to the Trailblazers survey. Here is my view:

“I am an infrequent traveller, not because I lack the desire but because it is so difficult to find appropriately adapted and affordable hotels. Even getting away for a single night is an almost impossible challenge, since hotel rooms are, disappointingly, not equipped with ceiling track hoists as standard.

Although some people get around this problem by hiring (at an extra cost) or taking with them a portable hoist, this is not practical for all. Portable hoists are cumbersome, difficult to store, transport and manoeuvre. Furthermore, many people simply don’t have access to a vehicle large enough to carry such large-scale equipment.   

I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and am completely non-ambulant. I can’t safely transfer and so I either have to be hoisted or manually lifted. Understandably most people, excluding family, are reluctant to do the latter. So, if I want or need to get away from home, my only current option is to ask family members if they are willing to lend their time and support (far from ideal).

With less than 20 hotels in the UK equipped with ceiling track hoists, our options are severely limited. For those of us who need this facility, a premium cost is incurred, and then we are restricted to specific locations. Sadly we are not free as others are, to occupy any hotel room in a hotel of our choice, anywhere in the country.”


Click here to find out more information and from other contributors.

Changing Places Awareness

Imagine being denied the basic human need to go to the loo; being unable to access a toilet whenever you need to. Imagine having to hold it in all day, every day. Having no choice but to strictly limit your fluid intake to the point where you cannot risk drinking from morning until evening.  

My experience

This was my life until 2011, when I underwent medically unnecessary surgery to insert a suprapubic catheter. Of course I didn’t want an operation or an indwelling catheter. By no means was this an easy fix, believe me! But I just couldn’t do it anymore; I was making myself ill and relied on assistance from others in order to carry out the seemingly simple task of toileting. No longer could I inflict undue stress on my body and mind.

So, I resigned myself to the only option available to me, that being the suprapubic catheter. I no longer depend on other people, nor do I have to struggle and suffer the indignity of using small and frankly ill-adapted disabled loos. But, 250,000 disabled people in the UK still do.

The truth about disabled toilets

Often there is not enough room to fit a wheelchair in disabled toilets, let alone space to transfer, adjust clothing and accommodate a carer too. Baby changing facilities get in the way, grab rails are too few and carelessly installed, the toilets themselves are too low, and hoists… what hoists?!

Changing Places

The 19th July 2017 marked the second Changing Places Awareness Day and eleven years since the campaign began. I’ll admit it’s only relatively recently, through social media groups, that I first heard of Changing Places toilets. Though there are now 1000 registered Changing Places toilets across the UK, I have yet to see one.

What is a Changing Places toilet?

Each registered Changes Places toilet includes:

  • a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench
  • a tracking hoist system, or mobile hoist where not possible
  • adequate space for the disabled person and up to two carers
  • a centrally placed toilet with room either side
  • a screen or curtain for privacy
  • wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench
  • a large waste bin for disposable pads
  • a non-slip floor

To support and raise awareness of the need for Changing Places toilets, Muscular Dystrophy UK established the #FitToBurst campaign (Keep up to date on Twitter!)

As a Trailblazer myself, I offered my thoughts in response to the question (posed on Facebook): What does it mean to you to have more Changing Places toilets?

 

Here is my full response:

To be honest I’ve never seen or used one. I don’t know if it’s because I live semi-rurally (are they located predominantly in cities/larger towns?)

If so, I think it’s important that there are Changing Places loos in smaller towns, villages and more rurally as there are people in need in these locations too.

The lack of such a facility locally makes me feel restricted, excluded from society and considered less important. I don’t know if I’m correct in assuming that Changing Places toilets are mostly in cities, but if so, it makes me wonder why. Is it a funding issue? Is it ignorance, i.e. the belief that disabled people don’t live rurally?

The majority of disabled toilets I have used throughout the years have been vastly inadequate, filthy, often neglected or used for storage!

As I say I’ve never seen or used a Changing Places loo – unfortunately. But I can think of so many people locally, young and old, who would greatly benefit from having access to one.


To read what other Trailblazers have to say click here.

Find out much more about Changing Places by visiting their website.

What I took on holiday to Whitby | Wheelchair Life

I recently spent a week in historic Whitby, staying in an impressively accessible cottage (read all about it here!)

But before setting off, I had to prepare and plan, even more so than the usual holiday-maker, as I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and am wheelchair-bound.

There are many things us wheelie folk need to take with us when travelling, besides clothes and a bucket and spade!

Here is my definitive guide…

1. Both my manual and powered wheelchairs: This year we ventured up north to Whitby where the terrain is rugged. I therefore thought it wise to take my manual wheelchair as a backup, should my power chair struggle. The luxury of travelling within the UK is that there is no luggage limit. I have a Citroen Berlingo wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in which there’s plenty of room for all the added extras I need to take with me. I personally would never take my powered chair on an airplane, having heard so many horror stories of loss and irreparable damage. But travelling by car means that I can easily take both my wheelchairs.

2. Wheelchair charger: No brainer! I wouldn’t get far without it.

3. Bipap machine and a spare mask: It’s always best to take at least one spare of everything you NEED when travelling.

4. Extension lead: you can’t be certain of where plug sockets will be located in your holiday accommodation. I need at least one situated next to my bed to power my NIV (Bipap) machine throughout the night. This isn’t always the case and so an extension lead can be extremely useful if you have a lot of equipment to charge.

5. Lightweight thermal blanket: I struggle to adjust my position in bed and I often find the duvets in holiday accommodation too heavy for me to turn. So, I prefer to take my own blanket, which can be rolled up and compacted. This means that I don’t have to worry about those heavy, immovable duvets when travelling.

6. Medication:

  • Antibiotics, should I become ill whilst on holiday (best to cover yourself!)
  • Antihistamines (Boots Hayfever Relief Instant-melts are pricey but good if you can’t swallow pills)
  • Spare inhalers (I use Salbutamol – marketed as Ventolin)
  • Painkillers (Nurofen Meltlets Lemon are good for those who can’t swallow pills)

7. Lists: As someone with a disability, it’s good practice to do a little research before travelling, even if only for a day trip. I like to make a list of accessible places to dine, attractions, transport and even the places to avoid.

Time spent pre-planning will allow you more time to enjoy your holiday.


If you have a disability, what extra items and equipment do you take with you when travelling?

Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

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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