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Sunday, 21 July 2013

WOW petition: Quick mention, i'll do a proper informed blog soon!

 This is the petition calling for a cumulative impact assessment on the welfare (we can already feel the rumblings of) reform that will affect disabled and sick people across the UK. It so far has had over 49 000 signatures and as an e-petition, needs over 100 000, for it to be considered for debate by the Backbench business committee. They are also hoping to raise a public profile using the media and supportive MPs and other figure heads to help stop the injustice thats occurring within our welfare system. If you believe in living in a fair country, but are against the scroungers but for the real people who benefit and make a difference as part of our society (you know, awesome people like me!) Then please just click this petition. Not only will this improve the rights for people who have disabilities, but it will also prove that people with "disabilities" do have a voice and if you take away what we need in order to be great, everyday citizens of society, then we can use them to prove that you can't just forget about us, most of us are still living and doing because we are fighters! And those of you who know me, we are certainly not *push overs! 

*no pun intented!

Sign the e-petition here!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

T in the park! Laura May's rolling review and reflection...

Freewheel, music and the great outdoors are my 3 essential ingredients to a great summer...throw in some Scottish mayhem and you get yourself a great T in the park. My wheels blessed Balado airfield for the first time this year, on the festival's 20th anniversary. Here is a little review of the weekend, giving hints and tips of festival life with a few extra wheels!

"Disabled" camping

Check out our porch!
If you're someone with a physical disability who is put off camping at, (or even going to) festivals because you're unsure whether the facilities will be suitable...don't be! Whether you're a newbie to the dreaded mythological "disabled" world or have had a condition your entire life and a little nervous to venture into sleeping in a tent for a few days for the love of music, be aware that most festivals have a lot of experience in this area and, every year listen and review themselves to see what they can do better to make things even better the following year. (Just like the festival as a whole...!)
It's possible to pack a 3 friends, a wheelchair,
4 man tent and enough supplies for 4 days
of camping into a vauxhall corsa!

The members of staff working and volunteering on the campsite at T were fantastic and great fun to chat and spend time with! They also held the crucial traits of being open minded, thoughtful and one member of staff even held 14 years of experience under his belt, (Shout out to Ian, if you ever read this!) If you needed a hand with anything from arriving with no tent pegs and guy ropes (never borrow a tent off a family member!), to running and getting a towel out of your tent as you're about to get into the shower, they helped out!

Pretty awesome shower!
Yes, you read that right, the Disabled campsite at T had showers! 2 accessible, warm/hot showers to be precise that in all honesty were nicer than some hotels and hostel facilities I have used.

General campsite tips/info:

  •  If you have "routines" do them! Don't make your body suffer because you're worried that other people will be annoyed for waiting, they won't. And if you take a while, do what i do and get up earlier. I assure you, there is a reason why you have these facilities and they are there for your use, so use them!
  • Disabled Parking was right on the campsite, so it was quick and easy to go back and forth between the car to get extra supplies, when needed.
  • There will be a wide range of different people with different disabilities. I found it really cool and interesting, some amazing stories to be shared!
  • If you struggle with floor to chair/chair to floor transfers, take some strong, male,attractive friends...or, invest in a  good sturdy foldable outdoor chair that you can use as a step and leaver to transfer independently.
  • The Disabled campsite at T (and like most areas where "disabled" people commune, i know this descriptions sounds demeaning, but it's the most accurate way of grouping such a large number of diverse people, if i referred to it as the "alternative" campsite, it'd sound like i was camping with Josh Widdecombe and Alt-J!) is  a very liberal, free, open community which is very nice to retreat to at the end of the day, if you get tired during or need to have a few hours to rest up.
  • Don't be afraid to ask if you need anything! (Like Guy ropes...or tent pegs...!)
Getting around!

Kaleidoscope fields looking beautiful, the little hill was
pretty nice to wheel down too!
To say we were luck with the weather is an insult to the term "understatement", but we were lucky! The sun was beating down, the ground was rock hard and probably the best conditions a wheelchair user could ask for. However, there are ways to make getting round a lot easier and yet not feel "singled out" if you're prepared to invest in a freewheel. I wrote about them a few months ago, so check them out!
How to adapt your wheels for the weather!
My freewheel allowed me to push around the entire site independently, yes my friends did push me occasionally but only because of the heat and fatigue. My lovely friend, Danielle, (who won't mind me saying this!)doesn't have a freewheel and had to be pushed around majority of the time. Which is totally fine, but sometimes and as most wheelchair users will agree, it's nice to e abel to have the ability to do something yourself in case you get into a situation where you have to. I live for the outdoors anyway so pushing around a festival for four days is my idea of happiness. For those of you who are more accustomed to tarmac, just prepare yourself mentally and physically for some off-road pushing! (It's totally worth it!)
If it had been raining and mud (like last years T) I would have struggled, but i'd have done it! Freehweels can withstand mud (to a certain extent), but so can mountain trikes...(see above link).

  • Nearer the time to your festival, figure out/estimate what the weather is probably going to be like to assess what equipment would be best to take with you.
Mild/constructive criticism
  • There were ATM's in the arena, however none of them were accessible and i had to get my friend to get my cash. That's totally fine, but having a chair level ATM would be great for next year!
  • (Someone else's' observation) Apparently all campsites had a first aid station, the disabled campsite however, didn't. May also be a good idea to have one of those put in for next year!
Shuttle bus

T also put on a shuttle bus for disabled campers that went around the arena, with stops at the disabled campsite, King Tuts wah wah tent, Radio 1/nme stage, main stage (and another i can't quite remember!) The buses were really reliable, (if not always in sync) and the drivers we extremely helpful! 


All the stages had disabled viewing platforms or at least particular areas for people with wheelchairs to watch in a safe environment. Like most festivals, it run on a "wristband" system, which makes total sense but was a little awkward when there is three of you, as there was only two "platform" wristbands between the three of us. There were families who had booked way in advance who all had wristbands, so if the platform if your place to be and you know you definitely want to go, go ahead and book as soon as you can so you can have access to benefits similar to this. Luckily, i didn't really spend to much time on the platforms...
At a lot of concerts and events, i get told off and i'm made to go and sit on the platform...luckily at T, the staff within and around the arena were extremely open and happy to let people like me do what we wanted! I enjoy being in the crowd and feeling as well as seeing the music and when it came to Sunday at 4pm...there was no way i'd be sat on that platform! My cousin and his friend promised to stay mildly sober until then so i could get a piggy back. Why? You ask. Two simple words...Frank Turner! Yes, my shorts fell down, and I have had acupuncture because it caused my tendinitis to flare up, but it was the happiest gig ever!  It was always was going to be my highlight, but what Mr T says about forgetting about your crap, leaving it at the gate and sharing space with a few thousand people who just want what you want! Forget about all our different lives, dreams and ideas and live in the moment, having fun! What can compete with the kindness/craziness of cousins offering their best friends to undergo excessive physical exercise to facilitate your frank needs, other fans pulling your shorts up, and complete strangers giving G (chief piggy back-er!)  a rest by giving you a piggy back? Not much really! 

T in the Park was pretty damn well happy and fun! If you're prepared to throw yourself in and enjoy a weekend of living life to the full, go for it...regardless of "ability". We are all human, and at festivals i think the best of what makes us who we are comes out. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Evidence of the contrast between Vancouver's public transport and Britains'.

There are "problems" described within this article that i never even noticed  when I spent time in Vancouver because, in comparison to Britain, these problems are what i'd call "nit-picking". If you look at it; "nit-picking" is a pretty good stage to be at. Vancouverites with disabilities/mobility problems can now nit-pick at an "accessible public transit system" whilst us Brits haven't even got to that stage yet! We are still moaning, groaning and fighting to get the most basic and yet central and vital transit systems to even have the minimum accessibility that is required...this shows, not only, that more things can always be done to improve accessibility, but it also exposes how backward and inward looking, those in charge of the British public transport system, really are.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

London: Old and stubborn?

They say travelling changes you. It's expands your outlook.  It makes You more tolerant of things you can't control.

...but, London?

 It's my capital city. How can i not love it? Westminster bridge, whitehall, lost looking tourists walking in literal circles round Covent garden...then the other bits, the bits you discover after you come to realise you are no longer a tourist here. The bits like the feel of north London, strolling round camden, people daring to talk to each other in bars, running over German backpackers toes in one really belongs here and especially not I.

Unlike most of my recent visits to London, this wasn't a flying "volunteer" one. This was little old me trying to show my Canadian friend round Great Britain (and believe me, she saw quite a lot in a few days!) allowing her to appreciate how diverse this country is. My friend happens to have cerebral palsy and does not use a wheelchair, however walking and standing for a long time is a challenge and so I really had to adapt and think not only about how to get around in a wheelchair but also how to get around London without walking too far, too often.

Buses are fine for me. Not so great for my friend who's travelling alone for the first time and struggles with direction. However, I pat the buses on the shoulder for doing a good job.

Cabs are fine for both of us, when they stop. (And no, it's not because I look northern!) I have heard off a few cabbies that people drive past when they see a wheelchair waiting because they can't be bothered having to get the ramp out...isn't that kind of their job?

The tube! Don't even go there! I've never been on it! Now, I do know a few spinal cord injured wheelchair users who do use it, but their level of injury is either incomplete or a lot lower than mine and so their wheelchair skills are far more superior. If I ever lived in London, I guess I'd attempt certain lines and stations and improve on my escalator and step skills. However, if someone, for example, a vancouverite wheelchair user who's used to the most accessible city in the world and skytrain, this may prove just a little frustrating...

The truth is. To anyone coming from anywhere west of the west coast of Ireland, London is a beautiful, old story telling grandma who feeds you cakes, stories and enchants your mind. However, once you break that enchantment, particularly looking from a "disabled access" point of view, it's an irritating old man who sits in his arm chair all day, refusing to move and gaining more and more pressure sores as the time goes by and the grandkids move on. All the while, grandma is left alone; bslowly but surely forgetting her stories and no ones here to make any new ones...

And sadly, as a disabled traveller that's what I'm worried London will start to become. Many things need to be done to make London a more accessible city. If you believe the rubbish reasoning that the tube cannot me made accessible because it's a very old transport system then well done you, go join the closed minded crew. But if you're like me, and acknowledge that yes, London and the tube and everything about the place is "old" but with the right thinking and innovation, can be adapted, then please don't just accept and hide behind the "we can't do this because of health and safety" excuse. Make a sacrifice, spend some (and I know it's a bloody lot!) money because you know, I might start spending some in your business, too!

The one thing I loved about Vancouver is I didn't have to spend my life in "mainstream" shops I could find anywhere...I could get into pretty much every shop. In London, in these huge grand buildings, there's always a tiny and yet high little step blocking my way into any place that isn't a Starbucks...yes, if im alone (which i often am, i could ask a member of the public to give me a hand, but why should I, when I know I want to just have a browse and that flattening a high step in a huge porch way would not ruin the history of the building, it'd just be a tiny, simple adaptation.

I always say it, but we must adapt in order to survive. Right now, London might still be a cuddly Grandma with lots of stories to tell, but give her and the gran kids a few years, let them grow up. If old grandad doesn't get off his back side and do something soon, then the grand kids will stop coming to visit.