More than 20% of working age adults in the UK live with some form of disability, including almost half of over 65s. That’s about 14 million people. Human beings are resilient creatures, and many surprise themselves with their adaptability.
For many, the bigger challenge is a psychological one. Whether aged 20 or 90, it can be frustrating to rely on others to carry out the daily activities you once took for granted.
Mobility aids have existed for centuries, but, in recent years, technological innovations have made it possible for those living with any degree of immobility to enjoy freedom and independence on their own terms. Such aids also take some of the pressure off family members, who can rest assured that their loved ones are able to live as they wish without worrying that they are putting themselves in danger or struggling to cope.
Incredibly, the first wheelchairs are believed to have been invented in around 600BC. Stone carvings originating in both China and Greece clearly show people conveyed on wheeled devices.
Wheelchairs have evolved with the times, but the biggest breakthrough in terms of boosting independence was the introduction of powered chairs in the late 20th century.
Powered wheelchairs evolved rapidly over the past couple of years. AXUS powerchairs provide a great example of the advanced mobility technology that is now available in 2022. These are a far cry from the chairs that were available even a decade ago in terms of comfort, practicality and performance.
AXUS has developed five models of powerchair, all of which use the latest battery technology and power-efficient motors to offer a range of more than 20 miles on a single charge.
There is something to suit everyone. For example, the ultra-compact AX3 is just 50cm wide with a mid-wheel configuration that allows it to turn on the spot! It means effortless mobility even in a small house or flat where space is at a premium.
The AX5, on the other hand, has a high-power motor and specially designed suspension that can handle uneven terrain. Ideal for outdoor adventurers who want to spend time in nature without the need for a friend or carer in attendance.
Each model can be further customised in various ways, such as colour, seat width and extra features. AXUS offer home consultations as standard to help customers make the right choice.
Traditional Manual Mobility Aids
Powerchairs are highly versatile, helping users remain independent around the house, at work, whilst shopping and enjoying leisure pursuits. However, powerchairs represent just one of a range of mobility aids that can give you the confidence you need to remain independent.
For those who can walk unaided but are a little less steady on their feet, fear of falling can be debilitating. In this case, manual aids from traditional sticks and canes to rollators provide that extra bit of support to boost confidence, as well as making walking easier and reducing the risk of falls.
At the other end of the spectrum, mobility scooters literally go the extra mile. They are predominantly for use outdoors or in accessible indoor environments like supermarkets. Sime offer incredible performance and features, especially those designed for both road and pavement use. With a maximum speed of 8mph and a range of more than 30 miles, the world really can be your oyster.
Other mobility scooters, known as travel scooters, have more modest performance credentials but can be easily separated in into four or five lightweight parts without the need for tools. They are designed for easy transportation by car, train or even plane.
Limited Mobility Doesn’t Mean Limited Freedom
Reduced mobility, whether through injury, illness or disability can add extra complications and frustrations to everyday life. However, one positive aspect is that modern technology has brought us a range of mobility aids we couldn’t have even imagined a generation ago.
Make no mistake, everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, whether disabled or not. It is wonderful to have family, friends and carers to lend support. But, it is equally important to have the freedom and independence to live life on our own terms.
Mobility aids like powerchairs, rollators and scooters make this possible for millions of people, eliminating the need to rely on the support and assistance of others.
My summer kicked off back in June with a holiday to sunny Cornwall, and I’m still longing for those soothing sea views.
Living in the landlocked midlands, as I do, situates us far from the coast. So, for me, a trip to the seaside is a real treat.
I stayed in the biggest accessible room I’ve ever seen at a Premier Inn, located in Camborne.
There was enough space to have a party, and the disabled facilities were well-considered. I would highly recommend this particular hotel for wheelchair-users who require multiple carers and mobility equipment, due to the expansive floor area.
Whilst in Cornwall, I spent my days being chauffeured around by a good friend who lives locally. What a lovely obliging boy he is!
In all seriousness, it was great to get away and spend time with one of the few people I can completely relax and be myself with.
The first three days were gloriously hot and sunny, which allowed us to explore Godrevy, Polly Joke poppy fields, Lands End and Penzance.
On the Friday night, we had a mate date in Falmouth where a lively sea shanty festival was taking place. I chucked pizza at myself (unintentionally) and stained my lovely lovely dress. Standard.
We briefly met up with a group of people, one of whom instantly recognised my midlands dialect, which amused me somewhat since I didn’t think I had an identifiable accent. Apparently I do!
She and I talked about how different the Cornish lifestyle is. And it’s true. People seem friendlier, happier and more patient. The pace of life is slower and calmer, and the area itself couldn’t be more of a contrast to what I’m familiar with. It’s a place you move to, not from. Idyllic!
On the weekend, the weather took a turn for the worse, along with my health. For no obvious reason, my chest played up on the Saturday, and so we chilled at Ross’s place all day – the most immaculate abode I ever did see. Ralphus (the dog) tried to cheer me up by licking my entire face rather enthusiastically. I have to say, it was the best snog I’ve had in a while!
By Sunday, I was feeling much better, so we drove to Newquay with the intention of visiting the aquarium. However, once parked up, we encountered a rather unfortunate wheelchair malfunction. After laughing inappropriately, I grabbed a somewhat confused passer-by for assistance, before making our way home, without saying hello to the aquarium fishies.
Next time, fishies. Next time!
Though sad to leave, it was a much-needed positive start to the summer after a tricky few months.
Cornwall, thanks for the memories. I’ll be seeing ya! ♥
The show was magical and this theatre is, by far, the best and most accessible I’ve visited.
It’s been a while since I roamed around Birmingham at 11pm – Such a rebel!
Things I’ve been enjoying
It’s a Sin – Set in London during the 80s AIDs epidemic, this 5-part miniseries has a great cast, a brilliant soundtrack (in my opinion), and the final episode is heartbreaking.
This is Going to Hurt – Having read the book by dry-witted former doctor Adam Kay, I was keen to check out this TV adaptation, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is funny, brutal, tragic and eye-opening. I highly recommend this one!
Lord of the Rings – Now 20 years old, I decided to indulge in a solo movie marathon and revisit this epic trilogy.
Samwise has always been my favourite character. And why? His loyalty is unwavering and unconditional. We all need a Samwise in our lives!
Plus, the actor, Sean Astin, starred in The Goonies (1985), and remember, “Goonies never say die”!
~ BIG 80s fan here!!
Duolingo – At the grand old age of 33, I’m attempting to learn French, (super cool), after dropping the subject in year 9, in favour of German. And this time, I’m sticking with it.
Spring is now well on the way, and with that comes warmer, sunnier, happier days ahead.
Though I’m no longer able to drive, which is incredibly limiting and frustrating, I will endeavour to get out and about as much as physically possible.
June – I’m off to Cornwall to spend some time with a good friend, and, of course, to see the sea – a rarity for this landlocked Midlander.
August – I’m excited to return to the Birmingham Hippodrome to see Les Misérables (for the second time).
I love the theatre, having seen many shows over the years. It’s one of my favourite things to do.
I withdraw, avoid social interaction, lose interest, lack motivation, procrastinate, overthink, overreact, become defensive, eat less, lose weight, neglect myself, don’t care what I wear or how I look, mood swings, sleep more, insomnia, chronic fatigue.
*DISCLAIMER: The information here is based solely on my personal experiences and circumstances. I am NOT in any way seeking to provide medical advice or instruction.
What I Do Find Helpful:
Saying no: As hard as this can be, it is sometimes essential for both my physical and mental health. It’s also important for me to acknowledge that I am not responsible for how others react. If I’m unable to attend an event or social gathering and others take this personally, that’s ultimately their issue, not mine.
Being selective about who I spend my time with: Age and life experience has made me review and evaluate the people in my life – who adds value and who doesn’t. Who are the “no matter what” friends? It may sound harsh, but I’ve learned it’s not only okay, but necessary to distance myself from certain people. It’s easy to find friends when you’re young, fit, healthy and carefree. But when times are REALLY tough, that is when you realise who and what matters most.
Listening to music (through earphones): A form of escapism, allowing me to block out the rest of the world and any unwanted distractions.
Getting out of the house: It can be anywhere, doing anything or nothing. Sometimes I just sit by the river and stare. Other times I like to venture out in the car, though for me, this means relying on someone to drive me around.
Express: Sometimes I lock myself away and cry, other times I sit all day in total silence. I would say, do what you need to; scream, shout, talk it through. Whatever works for you.
Do what you love: However small or insignificant it may seem, I try to do something, every day, just for me. It could be as simple as listening to my favourite song on repeat, writing, sketching, reading, watching TV or YouTube.
Self care: When I’m feeling low and I can’t be arsed with skin care, presentable attire or brushing my hair, I just spray myself, liberally, with my most expensive perfume. Granted, I’ll still feel like crap, but at least I smell great. It’s a small comfort requiring no effort.
What I Don’t Find Helpful:
Unsolicited advice: Superficial comments such as, “stay positive”, “get better soon”, “it could be worse”, and, “take some multivitamins” – This is neither helpful nor constructive.
Talking when not ready: We are often encouraged to talk and share our troubles. And, while I totally agree that it is ‘good to talk’, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to keep our thoughts, feelings and concerns to ourselves, I also think it should be on our terms. We are all different. Some people find great comfort in talking, while others don’t. I, personally, am the latter.
Embraced fluffy socks to hide my corpse feet (even when leaving the house!)
Accidently drove my wheelchair into the bathroom sink, bashing my knee – ouch!
Redecorated my bedroom and deliberated for too long over duvet covers
Failed at knitting so took up crochet
Started learning French through Duolingo. In my opinion, so much easier than lessons at school! Although, to be fair, I did spend most of my time staring out of the window
Learned to play pool…online…sorta…
Went to my first ever supercar fest – Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb. I’ll be honest, I haven’t a clue about cars but it was a fun day and something different
A particular highlight was our accessible canal boat ride through the prehistoric Dudley tunnels, mined during the Industrial Revolution. We got soaked (from the rain; we didn’t fall in the canal), and I ended up looking like Alice Cooper with mascara running down my face. But it was memorable!
Despite restrictions, I’ve managed to get out and about a fair bit – Roaming around aimlessly in the car, wandering along accessible forest trails, casually entering a local arboretum without paying, and even attempting the Malvern Hills!
Taking on the great outdoors is definitely challenging in a powered wheelchair, and it’s been met with limited success. But, for me, it’s not what you do but who you do it with.
Grabbing a Tesco meal deal with someone you love ♥ is (to me) far more precious than partying with a room full of semi-drunk acquaintances.
For me, being stuck at home for prolonged periods of time, due to chronic illness, is the norm. Hospital admissions, operations, cancelling plans and missing out on events and opportunities is a way of life.
Over the years, many birthdays, holidays and celebratory occasions have been lost to my condition. Whole months have been wiped out to repeated bouts of pneumonia, pleurisy and pneumothorax.
~ This is the case for thousands of disabled and chronically ill people throughout the UK! ~
I know what it is to struggle, to feel trapped, isolated and helpless. Such an existence really puts life into perspective and opens your eyes to what is truly important.
Attitudes to Lockdown Restrictions
Since lockdown began, I’ve seen and heard many petty complaints from ignorant individuals, which I find incredibly frustrating.
People whining about being unable to go out partying or bar hopping to get pissed.
To those self-absorbed cretins ~ GET OVER YOURSELVES!
Despite warnings, many continue to flout the rules, refuse to wear face masks and generally take life for granted, with little regard for the wellbeing of others. Some naively appear to think they’re invincible.
Trust me, it’s a hell of a lot easier to breathe through a protective face covering than a ventilator!
So please, have a little care and consideration. Protect yourself and others.
During lockdown, I can honestly say I did not miss going to pubs, restaurants, cinemas, shops or salons. To me, these are life’s luxuries.
Yes, we all need that escapism and we all enjoy going out and socialising, myself included.
But, when the time comes to look back on my life, I’m pretty certain I won’t be thinking, “damn, I wish I’d done more pubbing and clubbing”.
The one thing I REALLY missed during lockdown was quality time and physical contact with my family and closest friends. Being able to sit with them, touch them, hug them and talk face-to-face.
~ It really isn’t what you do, it’s who you do it with. ~
Since we’re all still stuck at home, twiddling our thumbs, I thought I’d suggest some reading material for you.
The six books I have chosen focus on the themes of disability, mentalhealth, positivethinking, overcomingadversity, trauma, and recovery.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing this former Olympic hopeful who beat the odds and transformed her life after suffering a horrific accident.
Janine Shepherd radiates energy, enthusiasm and an endearing wit. Her memoir is a must-read!
Some of you may know that Lucy is a good friend of mine. Like me, she is a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user with a form of muscular dystrophy.
‘Wheels of Motion’ is a poetry anthology unlike any other. If you live with a disability yourself, I highly recommend you check this out! (Available on Amazon).
Amberly Lago is another remarkable, kind and generous woman I was able to interview following the release of her memoir, ‘True Grit and Grace: Turning Tragedy into Triumph’.
Fitness fanatic, Amberly’s life was turned upside down following a debilitating motorcycle accident in 2010, leaving her with significant nerve damage and lifelong chronic pain.
She now devotes her life to helping others.
Acid attack victim, Katie Piper, is now a well-known media personality, activist, documentary maker, charity founder and mother.
She has achieved so much since her brutal assault in 2008, which left her partially blind and with full thickness burns. Katie has endured over 200 operations and invasive treatment to ensure her recovery. She really is a true inspiration!
I read Katie’s first book, ‘Beautiful’, around eight years ago. It’s a real eye opener! Yes, it is shocking and distressing, but also incredibly motivational. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Purple Tuesdayis an International call to action with the aim of improving customer experience for disabled people. It is vital that we, disabled people, are able to access the same services as anyone else.
Purple Tuesday is a year-round initiative that has the power to change lives!
Working together to make businesses and organisations more accessible and inclusive is mutually beneficial.
Facts & Figures
20% of the UK population (around 12 million people) and 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability.
Disabled people make up the world’s largest minority group.
Last year over 750 organisations took part, making a collective 1,500 decisive, practical commitments towards positive change.
The Purple Pound – What is it?
The consumer spending power of disabled people and their families is worth £249 billion and is rising by an average of 14% per annum. Worldwide, the Purple Pound equates to a staggering £2.25 trillion, yet less than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access this disability market.
Added Expense of Disability
• Heating ~ disabled people often feel the cold much more than able-bodied people
• Electric ~ charging technology and equipment such as wheelchairs, non-invasive ventilators (BiPAP/CPAP)
• Extra laundry costs
Obstacles Disabled People Face when Shopping
• Lack of disabled toilets (Changing Places)
• No lifts/lifts broken
• Narrow doorways
• Non-automatic doors (meaning we have to wait for someone to open the door for us)
• Narrow aisles
• Unreachable shelves/items
• Cashpoint/checkout too high to reach
• Physical barriers e.g. ‘Wet Floor’ signs, clothes and other items on the floor
• Poor customer service
• Lack of clear, visible signs
• No audio description available
• Inappropriate lighting, music (too loud) – affects those with sensory disabilities such as Autism
• No staff available to assist disabled customers