Its been a while since we did our top tips for wheelchair pub crawls and some things have changed. New technologies and trends mean that it was well past time for refresh.
1. Cash is No Longer King
We previously wrote that it was better for the average wheelchair user to carry cash to pay for their rounds. We wrote this because it can be hard for the averaging wheeling drinker to get to the bar and even harder to carry a round back with them.
We said that you could avoid these problems by always carrying cash and having a trusted person go for you. We did not say give them your card because you shouldn’t really trust others with your pin and back when we wrote the original post, contactless limits were still low.
Nowadays though, many venues are cashless and even those who carry cash prefer card. Helpfully, contactless limits have gone up to around £30 per transaction. That limit is there to protect people from fraud but there is a catch and the catch is, if someone wants to spend more, all they have to do is split the order up into mini transactions that come in at around £30.
Now, we’re not saying that bartenders, waiters or even your friends will try and scam you, but you still want to know what you’re spending.
So, what do you do?
Enter digital banks.
They have slick apps that allow you to track your spending transaction by transaction. By using a Monzo or Revolut card, you can set strict limits, easily track your spending and protect yourself.
Bottom line – you can be at the bar without being at the bar.
2. Uber Is Your Friend
Now, before you go all ‘Uber are evil on me…”
Uber is and has never been any more evil than every other private hire company in the world.
So, with that out of way, here we go.
Uber is an app that uses GPS to come straight to you and can drop you exactly where you want.
For pub crawls in a wheelchair, Uber can be the only way to get around quickly.
The other thing about Uber is that they have a service specifically for disabled passengers. This is called Uber Assist – by ordering a Assist, you can guarantee a driver with specialist knowledge, who will come from further away and be better equipped to help you.
Uber also provides wheelchair accessible vans for those who cannot transfer. This is cheaper than black cab and again, easier to find in most major cities.
Use Uber and whether you’re in a wheelchair or visually impaired, take the stress of out of getting around on a night out.
3. Toilet Mapping
Nothing says sexy like. ‘accessible toilet mapping’, however if you want to really enjoy your wheelchair pub crawl, then it is a must.
Because good accessible toilet is hard to come by. The key thing is to think about it ahead of time. Where you will be going out and where an accessible toilet might be.
4. The Bag
People in wheelchairs have been carrying around bags long before we could ever lay claim to suggesting.
On a wheelchair pub crawl though, you may be thinking of leaving your bag behind but you shouldn’t.
The things that you put in a bag can be your get out of jail free card.
Spill something? No worries… You’ve got spare clothes.
Hands black from spinning those rims? No worries… You’ve got wet wipes.
Learn more more about what to put in a day bag here.
5. If You’re Staying Out
If you’re staying out or wanting a weekend away, you will be needing somewhere to stay.
This can be the tricky bit because if you need a wet room or hoist, it can be difficult to find rooms that have those features.
For some big chains like Premier Inn and Holiday Inn, it is easier to book these types of rooms than you think. Just go online.
However, if you are looking for somewhere a bit quirkier to stay, then check out AirBnB.
Airbnb has specific accessibility filters that you be assured of what type of property you getting, down to there being step free access to the front door etc.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Bring Your Own Stuff
From reusable straws….
To easy to hold beakers
To non-spill beakers, you should not be afraid of packing your own stuff if that is going to make life easier for you.
How To Answer Those Awkward Questions
People ask wheelchair users awkward questions when they’re sober…
Never mind when they are drunk…
So if you’re on a wheelchair pub crawl, you have to be prepared (and accept) that you are going face some stupid questions.
So how do you deal with them?
There are no easy answers to this one and possibly the best strategy is have stock answers to the most stupid ones. The other way is just not to really respond because all though you may seem rude, opening up can lead you down a rabbit hole of further questions that you really do not want to answer.
Most people are given a wheelchair and that is it.
But you wouldn’t just give someone a bike and not show them how to ride it.
So why do the same way with a wheelchair?
The answer is that the person giving it to you has probably never piloted a wheelchair themselves, and even if they have, they probably don’t have time to show you a few things.
But without the knowledge and skills, a wheelchair is no better than a cage. So we thought that we’d share a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up over the years.
The L Turn
The L Turn is a 90 degree turn in a tight space. It comes in particularly handy at home, for doing things in the kitchen for example. It easy to practice as well.
Place 4 markers on a flat floor in the shape of box.
Go into the centre of the box and turn left or right, so you go out forwards.
If you are in a manual or power chair, practicing Ls in a tight box like the one illustrated above will help you
- Go through doors.
- Turn in tight spaces.
What the L also does is gets the user to start to think about
Starting and Stopping
Sounds too obvious, doesn’t it?
The thing is though, starting and stopping is hard, and that is whether you are in an manual wheelchair or an electric one.
Starting can be hard because of where you start from such as in the middle of a hill. Stopping can be the same, how do you stop on a slope for example?
If you are in a power wheelchair for example, controlling the speed dial is the crucial aspect. It can be tempting to want to go as fast as possible because of impulse to ‘keep up’. However especially in crowds, you need to start and stop on the head of a pin.
Less is definitely more.
Manual Pushing Strokes
If you are using a manual wheelchair, altering your pushing stroke can be very important. This is because depending on whether your going up or down hill, across uneven terrain or through water.
Going Up and Down Hill
For going up hill in a manual chair, you want to try and lean forwards (if you can), shorten your pushing stroke and increase your frequency.
When going down hill, you want to run your fingers down the smooth side of the push rim and gently control your speed.
Making Your Way Across Uneven Terrain
Uneven terrain such as cobbles or fields are very tricky, even with some pro tips, many people will never fully master it but you can still become very good.
- On most uneven surfaces in a manual wheelchair, it is best to try and lift your front wheels as much as possible. The front wheels are the part of the chair mostly likely to get caught. You don’t need to keep the front wheels in the air (if you don’t have the balance), just keep tipping them and then inching forwards.
- Whether in a manual or electric chair, if you’re riding over uneven ground, it is always good to plan your route. By looking ahead, you can avoid many of the hardest hurdles and make your ride a little easier.
- It is important to also look down as much as possible, because it is very easy to get caught out by that little loose paving tile or crack. Those are among the most dangerous environmental factors. The only way to combat this is to keep an eye to the ground.
Wheelchairs have been around for a long time. They have looked different over the years but people have always used wheelchairs. Going back to ancient China, Confucius was often depicted in one.
However, history also show many people with physical impairments were left without any kind of help and often had to crawl on all fours. Confucius was never made to crawl.
So what is the difference between Confucius and the common man?
Status, wealth, knowledge or a mix of all three?
It is not radical to suggest that if you have wealth and status, wheelchairs have always been there.
Have Things Changed?
So are wheelchairs still easily accessible for those with wealth and status, and not so much for those who haven’t?
I recently acquired this beast of a machine from RGK Wheelchairs .
Want to tell you how much it cost? Of course you do. The price was £4325 that price included one of these –
Now I am going to tell you how I paid for it and give you my thoughts on system. So here we go:
- £1200 came from the NHS voucher scheme.
- £2325 came from Access to Work.
- £800 came from my own pocket.
NHS Voucher Scheme
NHS Voucher Scheme
The NHS will either give you a wheelchair from one of their suppliers or give you the value in a voucher. My voucher was worth £1200. There is a few important things to remember with the voucher scheme:
- If you receive a voucher that wheelchair has to last for a period of 5 years. The only way that this changes is if your needs change (we’ll come back to that).
- You will be responsible for all maintenance of the chair and associated costs.
Getting Wheelchairs Through Access To Work
If you are either in part time, full-time or self-employed, Access to work can help you with the cost of purchasing a wheelchair. They will not contribute for the days that you do not work such as weekends. This is why I had to pay £800 towards my chair. You need to prove your employment either by a letter from your employer or providing your company information. A2W are nice and try their best to help wherever they can. It can seem like a lot of work but it is worth it.
So there are ways that you can get the price of wheelchairs down. However, for many who are out of work A2W is not an option and even paying £800 might too much.
So the question that I have been asking myself since I got my new chair is – do I really need to spend so much on a chair?
And the answer is YES – yes I do.
My wheelchair is sturdy, it is light and it can keep up with the active lifestyle that I lead. My wheelchair isn’t just a ‘pair of legs’ – it is integral to my look and persona. If I spend less on my wheelchair, then something has to suffer, the lightness, the sturdiness or the look.
Sacrificing any one of those things because of money is not acceptable. Being independent should not be about money. It is important that a person’s wheelchair can make them look good as much as any kind of functional thing.
Sitting in something that you like the look of is important. It makes you feel more confident about yourself. When I sat with the Occupational Therapist, the look and feel of the chair was sort of dismissed as extras. They are not – they are as vital as seat and wheels.
When I explained about my needs changing because of a change of employment – the OT dismissed that as leisure. Now I like my job but not that much.
Additional and changing needs is about more than wheels and a seat. If we are serious about supporting people to become more independent, then when it comes to wheelchairs – we need to think again.
The NHS needs to begin to think about needs change at different stages of life. 2 or 3 years down the line, what I need from my wheelchair might change. Not because my condition changes but because my life does.
On the manufacturing side, makers are doing to cut down costs and that is great, but they limited by economies of scale and the fact that a lot of chairs are made to measure. This is something that I feel government should look at.
All of us involved in the industry, need to think again when it comes to wheelchairs.
A day out in London in a wheelchair can seem like a daunting experience.
It is all about answering questions like:
“How do I get around?”
“Where are all the accessible loos?”
“What are the best wheelchair friendly attractions?”
Hopefully this short blog should help you answer some of these questions and have better London experience. As always with everything
Transport For London have concentrated efforts and minds to in their words:
“Find out more about our ongoing efforts to make travelling in London accessible for everyone.”
Many more Tube stations, boats and bus stations, now have ramps, lifts and flat services. Additionally, you can find about the facilities at each station here.
However, you might still find to really enjoy your Day Out In London In A Wheelchair, you need to use a taxi service.
Uber is a ride hailing app that uses the GPS in your smartphone to get to where you need to be. You can pretty much get a vehicle of any shape and size in London. This includes accessible vans for those who cannot transfer through Uber WAV. If you need help, go for the Assist option and you will get a specially trained driver to help you. Assist does not cost you extra and can be much cheaper than the traditional black cabs.
Also because Uber charges you direct to a debit/credit card, you cannot be overcharged unfairly!
Have You Considered The Train
Trains are one of the most universally accessible modes of public transport. If you are planning a day in London in a wheelchair, going on the train may be cheaper, faster and more straight forward.
How does it work?
If you are travelling on a any of the major service providers, you can book assistance at both ends of the journey. Assistance can be given to help you get on and off the train, and navigate the stations. This can include putting ramps down, carrying luggage and onboard.
The onboard assistance is interesting. For example, if you cannot get to the buffet car but want something, staff will fetch it for you. Also if a toilet breaks make sure you exercise your right to be moved.
To book assistance, either do so when you purchase tickets at a station or see: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx
Not all disabled toilets are made equal. For some of us, we need proper facilities and they can sometimes be hard to find. Your best bet is to look at http://www.changing-places.org/find_a_toilet.aspx
Things To Do
We’ve done a few London attraction reviews before. See below for a few ideas about where to go:
Living with additional needs is challenging. Living well with additional needs can seem impossible.
Picture the scene:
You are going down the street. Every step or push feels like such a challenge. Every effort feels like the last. Then you hear a familiar sound; that clink, clink, clink of skin against rim and then, you see someone else on wheels effortlessly breeze past you.
And you watch them disappear into the distance – and think, how?
When I was young athlete with Cerebral Palsy Sport – I got to interact with experienced athletes who had lived with Cerebral Palsy for a long time. Athletes like Stephen Miller – who used to do football as part of his warm up!
It was like magic – pure magic.
Except it isn’t really.
People who have knowledge and use it in fantastic ways have always been accused of performing magic.
The archetypical wizard has always been seen as the old man with a long grey beard (hello Gandalf) and this is because we associate age with wisdom, and we associate wisdom with knowledge, and knowledge with magic.
Magic is only ever that which we don’t yet understand.
The great thing about the internet is that is hive of information for niche subject such as rare conditions and unique circumstances. So always google everything – just to see what you can find.
For example – there is an organisation specifically for teenagers with Cerebral Palsy (how cool is that!) – you can access it here – http://www.cpteensuk.org/
Here at ED, we’re particularly into sharing knowledge that you might find useful. Here are some of my favourites:
The DayBag is really one of my favourite magic granting collections. It prepares you for so much and gives you confidence to go at life.
You can read our full Quokka Bag here. But here is the headline – Quokka is the third pocket that you need.
There are so many different sources of information that are now so easily accessible. Use them. Facebook groups particularly, can be great for answering specific questions that you. Scope Community is another good source.
Living well with additional needs can seem like magic – it doesn’t need to be.
Pokemon Go. Has there ever been a more successful launch for any game, ever? I don’t think so.
You only have to look at the look at the surge in Nintendo’s share price – Go added roughly $7.2 billion to the company’s value in the past week. That dipped a little yesterday but Nintendo’s value is still more than 60% up!
These are crazy times that we live in. So in case you have been living under a rock, lost at sea or in a coma, and you have no idea what I’m talking about here is a quick recap.
Pokemon Go is augmented reality app for your smartphone that allows you to become real life Pokemon Master. Using the phone’s camera and some clever code from the people at Niantic – users hunt for Pokemon at real life locations all over the world.
Pokemon Go features all the same elements that made you love the Pokemon games of old. You can capture, train and battle with all the Pokemon that you collect. However there is a catch. As with Niantic last great effort – Ingress – Pokemon Go is a location based game. One that actually requires to be at the location. So you’d naturally think that it would be a challenge for any wheelchair user. Particularly as on the face of it, it looks like you have to interact with your phone on the move.
But never one to shrink from a challenge – I was Pokemon Going all last week. Heres my thoughts.
Location, Location, Location
Now the first thing to note about how Niantic work is – in well developed areas there are always lots of hotspots or in Go speak – Pokestops. Pokestops are places where you have a great chance to snare a rare Pokemon or two. So while many people spend a lot time looking in random places for Pokemon, as a wheelchair user, I don’t bother. When your in built up areas like town centres or shopping blocks, switch Go and get hunting. I tried Go around Leeds city centre and it worked a treat because I really didn’t have to go very far to find a Pokemon. On the flip side – I went hunting on the field at the back of my house and that wasn’t so cool.
Now one thing that did concern me about Pokemon Go was whether I could actually catch any Pokemon. I had visions of me trying to wheel, phone in hand, chasing the little buggers down the street!
That isn’t the case in built up areas. In fact, I’ve found that the best thing to do is find a Pokemon and get as close as possible. Then apply the brakes and fire a Pokeball off. I found firing a Pokeball to be tricky at first with my spazzy fingers but like most other smartphone finger movements – it just takes practice.
My DayBag is my daily box of tricks that hacks life and makes it a little more accessible! So I thought that I’d write a post and tell you what’s in it.
Choosing A DayBag
First of all, choosing the DayBag itself is important. If you a wheelchair user or a wobbly, you want something that is light and ideally with a rigid frame inside it. DayBags with rigid frames on the inside are really useful for keeping important items separate from each other. If you are a wheelchair user, your DayBag choice should consider how long the tassels are! Tassels are the bane of my existence because if they are too long, they can often get stuck in the wheels! Read our review of the Booq DayPack here.
Medication management is something that many of us have to deal with and lets face it, taking different meds at different times of the day can be a real pain! Fear not! The good people at Sabi have you covered. They have a range of different options that will not only keep your meds organised but also secure in your DayBag.
Useful Tools For Your DayBag
Nimble is the one finger package opener that did really well in the Inclusive Technology Prize last year. We did a review (read it here) for last year. Its a great little thing to have on the go because you will never struggle with those pesky sandwich containers again!
Lets face it – we’re a nation of coffee drinkers. Though if you have poor coordination, use a wheelchair or any kind of mobility aid – carrying said coffee can be a challenge. However you can often get around this by carrying your own cup in your DayBag. No barista will ever mind filling your own cup for you. I like to make sure that any flask has nice secure lid and handle. A secure lid means that does not matter which way up the flask is you’re not going to get any spillages.
If you are a wheelchair user, keeping a mini allen key tool in your DayBag is a good idea. You can pick them up quite cheaply from places like Amazon and Argos. They are really useful for just tightening, turning and doing a little maintenance on the move.
Now a days, headphones for me are becoming far more than just a tool to listen to music with. If you are out and about in a wheelchair or using another mobility aid, headphones can be the only way to interact with your smartphone. From taking a call to interacting with an app, headphones are important so choose wisely.
For some people, food and drink spillage are inevitable (myself included) so having something like Care Designs‘s Neckerchief in your DayBag. They’re machine washable and easy to stash away if need be.
If you push yourself around, chances are your hands are going to be quite dirty. You can wear gloves but if you are like me, gloves reduce your grip. Keeping a little hand wash on you at all times is a good idea.
Those are just some of the things that you might think about carrying in your DayBag but everyone is different and I’d love to hear about some of the little things that really help you!
Google Maps is fast becoming my must have tool for independence. Being both visual impaired and wheelchair bound, I always have additional considerations when planning a route to go anywhere.
Google Maps not only helps me plan my trip in advance, gets me out of trouble if things go wrong. It is not just the route planner, it is also street view – which allows me to figure out which I need to go to find a drop curb or the safest crossing.
Google Maps – My Safety Net
I cannot see all that well. My spacial awareness is pretty poor and from what I understand, these are very common problems for many with Cerebral Palsy and associated neuro conditions. If I am going somewhere unfamiliar or via different route – I often became nervous at the prospect.
Having Google Maps on my phone as often put me at ease. Even if I cannot see the map clearly, audio instructions can be fed through my earphones. This means that half the time – people do not even know that I am using Maps.
Recently, one of Google’s new objectives that includes sending men to Mars and building robots – also includes mapping the world. Through direct teams and freelance contributors – Google hopes to map the entire world.
Providing panoramic images of streets and places across the world. These images are integrated into Maps, the reason I love this feature is I can use Maps to form a plan of attack.
Want to avoid cobbles? No problem.
Want to go the flat way round? Cool.
Also if you want to be really strategic, you can even plan a route that takes important stops like accessible loos.
Maps also boasts a bunch of integration with other apps that I love. The one that I am loving most at the moment is booking Uber through Google Maps for journey that I’ve just entered.
BMW have got into the business of making racing wheelchairs? That’s cool right? Maybe in 10 years everyone will be pushing around in racing chairs made by Mercedes?
The BMW racing wheelchairs will be piloted by American para athletes in Rio. As opposed to many racing wheelchairs, the BMW version is made completely from Carbon Fibre. Why is this special? Well most racing wheelchairs are constructed using folded aluminium. There are a couple of very good reasons for this:
- Cost. The cost of carbon fibre moulds to make race chairs (which always custom built) are very expensive.
- British athletes did test experimental carbon fibre frames and for various reasons – did not get on with them.
- Damage. While it is quite difficult to damage carbon fibre – it is not impossible and once you do damage it, that is it.
The Next Generation of Racing Wheelchair?
However, the boffins at BMW’s DesignWorks Team think they have it sussed. According to them, although aluminum is light – it cannot be molded in the same way as carbon fibre.
“Chairs really take a pounding,” said Brad Cracchiola, part of the Designworks team that built the chair. “They’re punching the wheels and a lot of force is going through the chair, translating from athlete into turning wheels. With an aluminum chassis, there’s some flex, and that can take away some of the energy.
“What we really want is to have energy translated as efficiently as possible.”
Now I have to be honest and say that I once saw the neck of chair flex and snap. It does happen and the consequences are often serious. Whatever new developments can be made to mitigate these risks is welcome.
T53 athlete Josh George said this. “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.”
Will It Work?
I found it interesting the select American athletes who will pilot these racing wheelchairs have not received them from BMW yet. Rio is fast approaching and the critical Switzerland track meets are this month. Racing wheelchairs are difficult beasts to master – regardless of whether BMW built them or not. I think the US Paralympic team and BMW will have serious issues in properly preparing their athletes in time. I was going to back a team of racers – I’d still back the Brits.
Airports are a minefield for anybody. The increased security, while entirely necessary, makes getting through on to a plane no mean feat. Airports and wheelchairs? Just adds to the complication.
I’ve been through a few airports, got on a few planes and even done a solo trip or two. So I’ve picked a few helpful hints and tricks over the years. Being the nice guy that I am – I like to share the knowledge that I have.
The first thing in the wheelchair flight survival guide is always to make sure the airline know you are coming. Whatever the airline, whatever type of flight, always make sure that they know you are coming and have a seat booked for you.
Then you need to think about to prepare your chair. If it is going to go in the hold, you need to think about removing anything that could get lost or damaged. I’ve lost cushions and all sorts over the years. Its important to think about what you might need to keep hold of. This might be meds or pieces of assistive tech. Depending on how long your flight is, these things could be really important to you.
On the meds side of things, this is where I think products like Sabi – are so good. They allow you the flexibility to say – “This is what I need right now and this is what I’ll need later.” I really like them because the whole range is useful but stylish to.
Before you travel with your expensive wheelchair, scooter and power chair – give yourself peace of mind – get insurance.
So before you fly with your wheelchair – sit and consider all this stuff. The answers will tell you what know of bag(s) that you need.
I recently did a review of the Cabin Max Mertz and I have to say that I really like it. It means that I can still push my wheelchair myself through the airport. When I reflected on it though – my thought was that I could really do with something else to stash a few essentials into. Then I had a lightbulb moment!
Trabasack is the thing that I need to stash my money, and my essentials and keep them in easy reach.
Top Tips For Check In
There isn’t much to say here really. Mostly staff are really well trained these days. I do have a couple of tips though:
- Lots of airlines now have apps where you can store securely your boarding passes. This means less paper and less stuff to handle because lets face it, us wheelchair users never have a free hand.
- They will need to tag your chair to put it in the hold – do not let them put it on anywhere but the back bar of your chair. Anywhere else and it just gets in the way.
My circulation isn’t generally a problem. But having said that even I feel it a little after a flight of 4 hours plus. Flight socks aren’t sexy. But hey, nobody needs to know your wearing them. Same goes for getting to the toilet. When the queue is a mile deep and the isle is tiny, you may think better of it and wear a discreet catheter.