Thursday 5th March 2020
My good friend and fellow wheelie wench, Lucy Hudson, is a published author!
As today is World Book Day, I thought I would encourage you all to check out the two poetry anthologies she co-wrote with writer, Justin Brown.
My good friend and fellow wheelie wench, Lucy Hudson, is a published author!
As today is World Book Day, I thought I would encourage you all to check out the two poetry anthologies she co-wrote with writer, Justin Brown.
I was recently sent a few products to try, by the lovely folk at Manage At Home and PETA [UK] LTD.
This stylish food preparation board, made from sustainable Rubberwood, is a multi-purpose, top quality kitchen aid.
I was so impressed with this piece! It is really attractive and doesn’t look at all like a standard disability aid.
It is designed for those with weak hand function, including impaired grip, poor hand control and tremors.
Using only one hand, the Easi-Grip board allows you to grate and slice food effortlessly. The spiked area ensures food is kept in place for peeling and cutting.
Several essential items all-in-one: Stainless steel fine/coarse graters, slicers, collecting bowl, spiked area, and long-lasting wooden board.
I have muscular dystrophy ~ contractures, poor grip, and very little strength. Despite this, I found the Easi-Grip food prep board really easy to work with, and a huge asset. I no longer need to ask for any help, which is a big deal for me!
My mum, who has osteoarthritis, loves this equally as much as me! Suffering with joint pain and stiffness, she found it significantly easier to use than regular kitchen tools.
This popular trio of knives has undergone a recent design revamp – the ergonomic handles are now thicker, making them easier and more comfortable to use.
The bright lime green areas indicate the “soft-feel” non-slip areas, as well as making them a bit more modern and aesthetically appealing compared to standard kitchen knives!
I would highly recommend all of these products to anyone, regardless of (dis)ability. They are top quality items and I am so thankful to Manage At Home and PETA [UK] LTD for sending them to me. I love to cook, and these kitchen aids have made life a little easier for me.
In October 2018, I was able to privately purchase a new powered wheelchair, replacing my worn-out 8 year-old Quantum 600 mid-wheel drive.
I opted for a Sunrise You-Q Luca, mainly due to it’s compact and manoeuvrable design.
I chose a rear-wheel drive (having found my mid-wheel drive Quantum to be less capable over rough terrain).
I received a voucher from NHS Wheelchair Services to the value of £1750, and a £2,500 grant from the Joseph Patrick Trust.
The total cost of the chair was just over £7,000. A huge expense, but compared to most other powered wheelchairs on the market, the You-Q Luca is definitely one of the cheapest options!
I really wanted flip-up armrests on my new wheelchair to make transferring easier. However, over the past year, the soft foam pads on the armrests have slowly disintegrated.
Bearing in mind how expensive this equipment is, and how long it took to raise the necessary funds, I take good care of my wheelchair!
I have repeatedly attempted to patch-up the armrest pads with super glue. But they are now in a state of non-repair.
Considering the price and the fact that the wheelchair is only 15 months old, I am really shocked and disappointed with the product.
The wheelchair itself is great. The armrest pads are total crap!
I bought the wheelchair from a company called Better Mobility.
I cannot fault their customer service or the assessor who bought a number of demo chairs to my home to try prior to purchase. He was very knowledgeable, patient and not at all pushy (as some sales rep’s can be).
However, I find the quality of the armrest pads to be extremely poor.
As you will see from the image below, to replace them will cost an additional £83.40 – a rather hefty sum to replace an item on a relatively new powered wheelchair!
I am reluctant to pay the £83.40 to replace the armrest pads, particularly as they are likely to disintegrate again within a few months. In the meantime, I am left with an unsightly product that is literally falling to pieces.
My little blog consists mostly of disability reviews, guest blogs and interviews with notable disabled people, such as NTA award-winning Emmerdale actor James Moore (check it out, folks!).
In order to raise awareness, I have discussed my own disability (Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy) and how it affects me, though I’ve always made the conscious decision to avoid talking about anything personal.
People who know me well often describe me as incredibly private and somewhat closed-off. They’re not wrong. But I have my reasons. That said, I’ve been trying to open up a little more and share a closer insight into my everyday life in recent blog posts.
For me, 2019 really has been a year of major highs and lows.
The summer was genuinely the happiest time of my life. Everyone noticed.
Now, I’m the type to roll their eyes at the mention of people “glowing with happiness”, sceptical old bint that I am, but apparently it is a thing.
I was kinda hoping it would last longer than it did. But hey, that’s life.
Soon after my birthday came a swift punch in the gut (not literally, fear not!) and that marked the beginning of one of the unhappiest periods of my life. These things come to try us!
I’m not going to lie, this past month has been pretty crap.
Yeah, Christmas is a time to celebrate, have fun and be with those you love most. But it can also emphasise and remind you of what you’ve lost. And who you’ve lost.
I have some amazing people around me – family and friends. Thanks to those of you who patiently put up with me being a miserable fecker!
Some have offered wise words and advice, some have made me laugh when I really needed to, and others have simply been there to listen. You lot are what life is about (Ooh, deep!).
Let’s get this year out of the way and I promise, in 2020, I’ll pick myself up and get back to “the old Carol” ~ generally pratting about, laughing at inappropriate things and maybe even smiling occasionally 😱
I don’t want to get too serious. After all, it is Christmas – oh, joy!
Life ain’t all shits and giggles. I really wish it was. But it just isn’t.
Sometimes life gives you lemons (bastard lemons!) So what you gonna do? Throw ‘em back even harder, I say.
I may be pixie-sized but I’m pretty damn defiant. I’ve faced a fair few battles over the years. Truth is, the battle never really ends. But you gotta trudge through. What’s the alternative?
When I was 8 or 9, I fell off a horse. The horse decided she’d had enough of this trotting bullshit, and wanted to play silly buggars. She bolted downhill then stopped abruptly, throwing me forward.
I landed with my arse in a muddy puddle and lost my bloody boot. Yeah, I was a bit shook up. But I could either sit in that puddle and sulk (well, I couldn’t get up and walk off!) or get back in the saddle. So, I got back on psycho Sally!
Point is, life can be a bitch, but you gotta carry on and you gotta help yourself. Find what makes you happy and go for it!
I have a few things lined up for the new year, including some truly thrilling blog posts (I can sense the excitement already!).
Merry Christmas, folks. Take care! See you in the new year.
They kindly sent me the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift to try out and review.
I’m a 30 year-old woman with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Consequently, I am a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user. I can’t use a regular bath or shower, and therefore need to make adaptations and use appropriate mobility equipment.
Generally speaking, most disabled people, particularly wheelchair-users, prefer a level-access shower room to a bath. Personally, I’ve always loved to sit and soak in the bath. I find it relaxing and therapeutic as it helps to ease any tension in my muscles. So, for the past 20 years, I have used various bath lifts, including the Aquatec Orca Bath Lift.
The Bellavita is quick and easy to assemble. Compared to other bath lifts, it is much lighter in weight (9.3 kg) and therefore easier to remove from the bath for cleaning and travel. This does not make it any less sturdy than other similar models, and can support users of up to 140 kg/22 stone.
I was impressed by the sleek, compact design which is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. It is certainly less bulky than other reclining bath lifts I have tried, thereby freeing up more space in the bath to stretch out.
The side guards are detachable for user preference. This does not affect the function or stability of the bath lift.
The overall length of the Bellavita is only 57 cm – much shorter than most other bath lifts. For me, this is definitely a big advantage and something I look for. The fact that it is so comparatively small, lightweight, easy to remove and install means that it can be folded up and stored away if necessary and transported in smaller vehicles.
The entire chair, including the easy-to-use hand controller is fully waterproof. The buttons are large, brightly coloured, and easy to press, even for those with very little strength.
The Bellavita includes a non-slip, comfortable seat cover in either blue (as seen in my photos) or white, which is wipe clean and effortlessly removed.
It is recommended to charge the Bellavita Bath Lift after every use, though I find once a week is enough.
As the name suggests, the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift reclines! Though some other bath lifts claim to do this, the Bellavita reclines to 50°. As a result, you feel like you’re able to make full use of the bath rather than being restricted.
One of the biggest advantages of this particular bath lift is that it is the lowest available! The seat, when fully lowered, is only 6cm from the base of the bath, meaning that you feel fully submerged and ultimately use less water to fill the bath.
I would definitely recommend the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift to anyone with impaired mobility who still wants to enjoy the luxury of a bath.
The team at ManageAtHome have been fantastic ~ extremely professional, supportive, friendly and efficient. Check out their website to view the full range of products available!
ManageAtHome provided the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Tabi, who has spinal muscular atrophy Type 2 and uses a powered wheelchair, is a 35 year-old musician from New York City. She began singing to exercise her weakened lungs and writes about the physical and social obstacles she faces.
She is already an established performer, having opened the first ever Annual NYC Disability Pride Parade in 2015, followed a year later by her own show, ‘A Concert on Life, Love and Being Different’. In 2017, this show sold out at the Rockwood Music Hall. Tabi has also performed at the Prudential Center and Brooklyn Dodgers stadium.
Her self-penned debut album entitled, ‘I Wrote Life’ covers numerous musical genres and is both uplifting and poignant. With soulful, catchy melodies, this impressive first outing demonstrates artistic skill and authenticity.
The album was produced at Dubway studios by Russell Castiglione, who previously recorded Trey Songz and Norah Jones.
“Producing this album was like helping her tell her story, her struggles, and her achievements to the world and that was very humbling.” ~ Russell Castiglione
It was master engineered by Dave McNair, who has worked on albums by Maroon 5, Cyndi Lauper and the legendary David Bowie !
“Tabi puts her life into her songs. It’s refreshing to hear an artist being so real in their work.” ~ Dave McNair
Tabi is a talented lyricist and storyteller with a distinctive tone and impressive vocal range. The album is a well-crafted, subtle infusion of R&B, rock, folk, jazz, blues, country, and dance, with a notable 90s pop vibe.
Each track is a candid representation of the different elements of her life. Though revealingly autobiographical, it is also highly relatable, owing to universal themes such as love and loss. The songs ‘I Won’t Hide‘ and ‘I Am Able‘ reveal deep insights about falling in love and healing after a broken heart.
The self-penned album is optimistic and motivational, with songs such as ‘Keep Rolling On‘ inspiring strength and hope in the face of adversity.
The title track ‘I Wrote Life‘ recounts a specific childhood memory, which summarises Tabi’s attitude to life…
“I remember as kids the teacher would say, write on the board a word today, so then everyone wrote their favourite thing, and there I was just imagining, how great it would be to live long and happily”
On Friday 5th April, I attended an evening performance of Les Miserables at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Over the years, I’ve seen several different shows at this theatre, and have always been impressed with their accessibility.
I am a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user, and so my primary focus is wheelchair access. However, the Birmingham Hippodrome is continually making improvements in order to be more inclusive and cater for all disabilities.
We all know how difficult it can be to book tickets for shows and concerts when you have a disability. But I can honestly say, I’ve never had a problem booking wheelchair-accessible seating at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I’ve never had to dial the booking line the minute tickets go on sale, which is often the case for other venues, and there’s even a choice of where to sit!
The Arcadian is a manned carpark situated just around the corner from the Hippodrome. It offers sufficient disabled bays and cost £7:50 for the duration of our stay (around 4 hours). This is Birmingham – parking aint cheap!
The Birmingham Hippodrome, refurbished in 2000, is easily accessed via the main entrance. There are multiple double doors as well as an automatic door, with security staff always on hand to assist if required.
There is then a wide, gradual ramp to the right of the central stairway. This leads to two large glass lifts/elevators. Again, there’s always multiple members of friendly staff available to assist with doors, directions and the operating of the lifts.
We sat on one of two raised platform areas at the back of the Stalls (lower level), known as the Lounge. Despite being at the very back of the audience, we had a great view of the stage, and since we were elevated, we didn’t have to head-dodge!
There was also plenty of leg room and space for multiple wheelchairs, so it was very comfy.
There are multiple accessible toilets, all of which are clean, spacious and impressively well-maintained. They even smell good! From my point-of-view, the only thing lacking in this department is the addition of a Changing Places facility, which would no doubt be a huge asset. For this reason alone, I had to deduct a star from my rating.
In 2018, the theatre made a conscious effort to be all-inclusive by installing gender neutral toilets.
“The theatre offers a programme of signed, audio described and captioned performances. Touch tours have been introduced, so blind and visually impaired can familiarise themselves with the props and scenery before attending a performance and assistance dogs can be accommodated with care being provided for the dog during each act.” ~ Birmingham Hippodrome website
I had already seen the 2012 film starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, and was therefore familiar with the songs and storyline. But honestly, there is no comparison!
Now, I’m generally a fan of Russell Crowe, but as Javert he was total crap. The guy who played the same role in the theatre production puts old Russ’ to shame! Man, what a voice.
The entire cast was brilliant, with no weak links. How they maintain such a high quality performance, night after night, demonstrates the talent and professionalism of each individual.
All credit too, to the costumers and production design. Particularly impressive were the ensemble scenes at the barricades, and the moment Javert meets his watery end.
For me the highlight was the solo performance of Bring him home by protagonist Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman in the film version). NOTE PERFECT!
If musical theatre is your thing, go and check out Les Miserables!
So, this year I managed to make it to the first day of Naidex, having last visited over a decade ago!
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Naidex is Europe’s biggest trade, professional and public exhibition for all things disability and independent living.
Fortunately for me, it is hosted fairly locally at the Birmingham NEC, which is around an hour’s drive from where I live.
First thing’s first, I was pleasantly surprised to find that disabled parking was free – winner, winner! For all other events attended at the NEC, the parking charge is a hefty £10.
Together we did a few laps of the place, trying our best not to bump into people. In fact, within the first 10 minutes of arrival, some bloke cleverly decided to walk backwards and very nearly fell on top of me. Thankfully he was young and not unattractive, so I didn’t mind so much.
It was a challenge to navigate the crowds, making it difficult to approach people and stop to chat. I spotted a few familiar faces but was only able to talk to a few, unfortunately. I did manage to briefly catch up with Mr twodoughnuts, though he wasn’t overly impressed with his first experience of Naidex. I have to say, I agree with his assessment!
For those of you planning to attend Naidex in the future, I would advise pre-planning your route as it’s tricky to locate specific stalls amongst the crowds and chaos!
As disorganised as it was, I was gutted that I couldn’t be there for the second and final day, purely because my mate SimplyEmma was judging on the Changing Lives Award panel!
Honestly, it depends who’s going! It’s a good excuse to meetup with friends and fellow disability bloggers from all over the UK. And, it would be nice to represent the #MDBloggersCrew (properly) at some point. But otherwise, it wasn’t really my cuppa.
If you attended Naidex 45, let me know what you thought by leaving a comment!
Last week, Channel4 aired the final episode of its reality series The Undateables, a dating show for disabled people.
For those who are unfamiliar, individuals with any disability are invited to appear on the show, now in its sixth season.
With the help of dating agencies and personal introduction services, they take part in blind dates, speed dating and match-making in the hope of finding love.
Now, I’ve seen almost every episode since it premiered in 2012, and I have to say I am a fan and supporter.
I appreciate and understand the controversy surrounding the show, particularly within the disabled community, although I personally disagree with much of the negative criticism. For this reason, as someone with a physical disability myself, I would like to offer my point of view.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that all participants have applied of their own free will. Following their appearances, all have reported a positive experience, even those who did not find love as a direct result of the show.
Tammy from series 5 says, “I put myself forward for The Undateables. At no point during filming did I feel like I was being used for entertainment. It’s an entertaining show [but] we all just want to find someone who loves us for us.”
The program has been invaluable and life changing for many, leading to long term relationships, marriage and babies. Furthermore, despite the claims of some, disabled individuals have not been coupled exclusively with other disabled people.
For example, Brent, a young man with tourettes married his able-bodied date Challis.
Steve with Crouzon syndrome married able-bodied Vicky whom he met on Twitter after the show gave him much needed confidence – he remains friends with his able-bodied date from the show.
Then there’s Carolyne from the first series, whose childhood sweetheart left her when she became paralysed following a spinal cord lesion. She later met Dean who is able-bodied. The couple had their first child together in 2014.
These are just a few of the many success stories resulting from the show.
Some critics have called into question the editing, which it can be argued is an issue with any reality TV show. However, taking into consideration the accounts offered by the participants themselves, it would seem to me that great care has been taken to ensure fair and accurate representation.
Again, I personally have no issue with the tone or editing, and have never found it to be exploitative, patronising, sensationalist or insincere. Quite the opposite in fact, I feel The Undateables realistically and positively depicts a range of disabilities, thereby raising awareness and breaking down social barriers and stigma.
James, who has Asperger’s, took part in the show last year. He told ITV’s This Morning, “It [the show] provides a lot of education on a wide range of things, not just conditions… The fact that people will tune in knowing they will learn a bit more, maybe take away the stigma, is a very positive thing. It paints a very positive picture of British audiences.”
The format itself is understandably a contentious issue: why is it not the norm for disabled people to participate in mainstream dating shows such as First Dates, (also a product of Channel4), and ITV’s Take Me Out?
Why must the disabled community be confined to a show exclusively for them? There is no definitive answer, though I would argue that it comes down to choice and demand.
As previously stated, those who partake make the choice to do so. Many have learning disabilities and are supported by family, friends and caregivers, as viewers will know. Therefore, to suggest they are being taken advantage of by producers, which some critics have, I feel implies that these people are not able to form rational decisions and make up their own minds. This is inaccurate and unjustified.
Secondly, the show is now in its sixth year (as of Feb 2017), which proves there is continuing demand from both the viewing public and applicants eager to find love, friendship and companionship.
I have found that questions and accusations such as the aforementioned are often posed, more often than not by those with disabilities. This indicates to me that, in fact, it is not predominantly the able-bodied community who have issues with the show. Yes, you may hear the occasional, ‘bless them’, ‘aw, how sweet’ and ‘good for them’ from able-bodied viewers – how very dare they indeed!
But to conclude that this is a form of ‘inspiration porn’ is in my opinion, vastly overstretching the mark. I take issue with the term ‘inspiration porn’, particularly in relation to The Undateables.
Frankly, even if viewers are in some way inspired by the determination and go-getting attitude of those they see on the show, why is that so awful?
Paralympians are equally as inspiring as Olympians. Yet there are some, particularly in the disabled community, who deem this to be ‘inspiration porn’. That is to say, people draw inspiration from disabled athletes solely due to their disability rather than their sporting achievement, as well as to feel better about their own lives. Personally, I think this is nonsense and insulting to both the able-bodied and disabled.
I cannot speak for the entire viewing public, obviously, but I have watched the show with friends and family over the years, and the feedback has always been one of support and genuine happiness for the love-seekers. Not one person I have spoken to has ever indulged in this so called ‘inspiration porn’ to, as critics say, feel better about themselves. This is the one accusation that frustrates me the most.
Okay, the title… Are Channel4 saying that we, the disabled, are undateable? Put simply, NO!
Producers have themselves stated that the title is to challenge this common misconception within society. Furthermore, as viewers will know, during the opening sequence of each episode, the prefix clearly falls from the word ‘dateables’, thus indicating the contrary.
The show itself is proof that no one is undateable – an eye opener to many viewers who may have previously thought otherwise, or have just never considered the fact that like them, we (the disabled) also need, want and desire love and intimacy.
For one reason or another, there remains a section of society that has never encountered anyone with a disability. Through no fault of their own, they consequently may be ignorant to the needs, desires and feelings of disabled people. I think The Undateables is a great way to introduce this concept to such individuals.
As James with Asperger’s says, the show is successfully removing stigma and raising awareness.
I have an older brother with complex learning disabilities, and so I’m able to draw from his perspective in addition to my own. He has expressed a keen interest to appear on The Undateables, and my family and I would be more than happy for him to do so. Neither of us feel alienated, uncomfortable, ridiculed or patronised by the show. Again, I do appreciate the criticism but for those who bother to watch it with an open mind, I believe you will find it to be well-meaning, sincere and sympathetic.
Those involved have benefitted, it has given others in similar circumstances the confidence to look for love, and it has made society realise that we all have basic human needs and desires, and the right to pursue them.
It’s easy for viewers to criticise on social media, having watched only one episode, or even one at all. But I implore you, ask the participants. Their response says it all, for me anyway. It seems to me the majority of negative critics haven’t actually seen the show and are therefore judging it superficially. It is certainly not a freak show and is not treated as such.
The dating agencies, often run by the parents or relatives of those with disabilities, aim to match clients based on common interests. Disabled people are not matched with others with similar disabilities. To assume so says more about those who think this than anyone involved with The Undateables.
So finally, I urge the harsher critics out there to actually WATCH (preferably more than once!) before judging so narrow-mindedly.
Who knows if Channel4 will commission another series of the popular show. Based on viewing figures, I’m guessing it’s more than likely they will. If so, I’ll certainly be tuning in.
Winter is well and truly here and so too is the frosty weather. British winters can be long, dark and unforgiving.
To help you make the most of the season ahead, I bring you Part 1 of my Winter Edit – advice, tips and tricks to ward off the chill.
Because I am unable to weight-bear, I suffer from poor circulation, making my feet permanently cold. I have what can only be described as corpse feet – purple and puffy!
I have tried all sorts of remedies over the years to treat recurrent chilblains, but I’ve found the best to be Gehwol Fusskraft Red cream (available on Amazon).
I slather it on generously before putting on a pair of thick woolly socks, and find my feet are subtly but noticeably warmed and chilblains are kept at bay.
We all know it’s best to layer clothing when cold. However, this is not so easy to do when you’re a wheelchair-user.
Getting dressed is a daily struggle for me, so having to battle with more than one top fills me with dread.
So, my advice put simply; if you can layer, do. If like me you can’t, keep reading…
I live in leggings as they’re stretchy and comfortable. You can buy leggings everywhere and anywhere these days but I favour Marks and Spencer heatgen thermals.
There are socks, tights, vests, long sleeved tops and of course the leggings I love. Again if you’re able to, I recommend wearing these items under your usual attire for added insulation. But they’re ideal to wear alone too. M&S also feature a men’s thermal underwear range.
A great alternative to M&S is the Uniqlo Heattech range for men, women and children. This extensive selection is it is competitively priced, practical and fashionable. Definitely check this one out!
When trying to keep warm it’s worth considering where you are and what you’re doing as this will determine which fabrics to opt for.
It’s important to maintain a warm and consistent temperature in your home throughout the winter.
Exposing yourself to extreme and varied temperatures can leave you vulnerable to ill health and infection. Government guidelines advise heating our living rooms to 21C (70F).
Most of us now have central heating which can even be controlled from our mobile phones.
My family home is primarily heated by a wood burner which warms the whole house.
However, I cannot prepare and light the fire myself due to my disability. I therefore store a fan heater in my bedroom which is simply operated by the flick of a switch. There are many different electric heaters now on the market. Here’s a budget option and a higher end option for you.
You could also pre-heat your bed with an electric blanket or a hot water bottle so that it’s nice and toasty for you to get into at night.
I hope this was helpful! If so, please SHARE