New Year, new whatever.

No one actually says “New Year, New Me” anymore. Everyone just shares memes about how they’re still going to eat shit and drink too much alcohol. Most people don’t actually  do that anyway. So the following year they decide to do “Dry January” and become some kind of micro-social media inspiration icon for a few weeks.

If you haven’t noticed, i’m using the blog-o-sphere as a brain clearing tool right now.

Then there’s those of us who see the final 3 weeks of December as an inconvenience. Ever wonder why that first term between September and Christmas (I’m talking to students for a second) is so stressful and you seem to need to complete half of your degree (not exaggerating, seriously 3 assignments in the space of about 5 weeks) in a short space of time? The answer is Christmas holidays.
Yes, i look forward to having a rest but i don’t enjoy…
Christmas songs, Christmas films and Christmas day because all of your friends abandon you for “family”and I don’t see anyone accept for my dog, Mum and aggressive pensioners in Morrisons for a few weeks. That’s what Christmas is to me. Bullshit.
Everything is so crammed  in, you need 3 weeks to recover. But wait, you don’t actually have 3 weeks to recover. As, due to the amount of assignments you’ve had to get through you’ve not even had chance to start your dissertation. The grand ideas that you have to change the world are still just ideas and you start to wish you were a bit boring with hardly any ambition and wonder why on earth you decided you were mad enough to want to be some kind of adaptive outdoor practitioner that enjoys researching and making things better for everyone. Because, actually you really have no idea where to start, no one really to look up to and then your body decides to come down with the worst cold you’ve had in a few years on the 21st December, so you spend the next 8 days feeling crap and unable to taste your own amazing Jamie Oliver roasties.

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They looked so good and from what i could taste, tasted good..I

But other than that, 2016 was the best year i’ve had in…years! I just needed that little rant to clear my head so i can get back on track with chasing appointments, understanding how to conduct an interview, create a survey, read around my lit review, plan a 3 day journey, a festival and not wade through piles of books and weird kitchen gadgets i got for Christmas in order to get to my desk. It helped!

So…

I’ve not written anything blog-like since the summer. I know, sorry. After that little outburst, i’m sure you’ve figured out why.
“Because, third year.” That’s why.

That excuse is literally one of the most honest excuses i’ve ever had. I arrived back in Crewe in September, refreshed, bright and ready to use all of my reclaimed confidence and positivity that i seemed to have lost somewhere in 2013. People actually said to me “This is the Laura May we’ve all heard of!” I was back. I am back. It’s weird.

So what you’ve just read isn’t me being down or miserable or anything along those lines, it’s just me channeling my inner karl Pilkington and hoping you all figured that i love new year because it means i can just get back on with life. I might enjoy Christmas in a few years time, when i no longer live at home, have a real life non-hypothetical  boyfriend and don’t get a cold so i can actually taste my Jamie Oliver recipes.

That’s then or whenever and, this is now.

I’m just in a sloggy bit of preparing for life and my career. I throw parties when i want to. I don’t need Christmas to go out, cook or have a good time. I live life to the full and December just feels like a time for people who don’t know how to do it, so i don’t quite get it. Why only have fun once a year when you can have fun all the time with the right kind of work-life balance? I’m actually the opposite to miserable, i’m bemused.

It’s nice to be back on my macbook. I have two laptops. One designed for uni work with all my dyslexic technology on it, and my own one that i use for blogging and the creative side of my life. It helps keep my brain organised.

So will i be writing anymore blogs before the end of March?

I hope so. I’ve got a few ideas from a few things that have happened recently. I’ve also been advised to blog whilst i’m conducting research for my dissertation, it’s supposed to help my focus issues. So i’m going to try and make some sort of schedule because that’s the only way i ever get anything done.

Happy New Year.

I guess i’m suppose dot have mentioned Brexit, Trump and the death of loads of famous people?
Ye, that was pretty shit.

Terrain Hopper review – A day at the beach with Access the Dales.

We live in Britain, It’s August, so what’s better than spending a sunny summer’s day (seriously, it wasn’t raining or blowing a gale) than at the beach?

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Pit-stop: I had to put a barricade between my burger and Angus…

Last week, I was invited to the Lincolnshire coast by Debs at Access The Dales to test drive a Terrain Hopper on Mablethorpe Beach. It’s quite a distance from where I live (on the other side of the country) in Lancashire, so i decided to make it a weekend and had Mum and my dog join. I first met Debs and Andy from Access the Dales in May when i tried out the terrain hopper on the Winnats pass in the peak district for some university research. They’re aim is to “make the inaccessible accessible” and want to inspire more people to get outdoors on challenging terrain, in all-terrain wheelchairs. So, as you may have guessed, we have a lot in common!

What is a “Terrain Hopper”?

It is essentially an electrically powered off-road wheelchair that is designed to tackle the likes of sand, rocks, loose gravel, snow and many other types of terrain that are pretty much impossible for a manual wheelchair to travel over. It therefore enables people who are less able to, or unable to walk over these surfaces, to get out and enjoy parts of the countryside they wouldn’t be able to access in

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Angus enjoying a test drive.

their everyday wheelchairs.

Product Range

Like many all-terrain wheelchairs, there are a range of models available. I have tried an ‘overlander 2‘ in the past, but didn’t have access to a harness and the seat was pretty big compared to me and I found myself sliding off it, so going down hill was pretty unnerving. However, this time I was in the ‘Terrain Hopper – mini‘, that’s designed for children or ‘petite’ people. When buying a scooter, different parts are added  to fit a person’s choice, such as tyres and the option for a roll bar.

Fitting

The harness made all the difference to me. As i have no movement or feeling from below my chest, my only way of keeping myself on a moving piece of equipment like this on rough terrain is by pure luck and strength of my arms, which is pretty difficult when you are going down an extremely steep hill. (Or on a fairground ride, that was a good idea…)

Above: Testing the ‘Overland 2’ near suicide cave at Winnats pass in the Peak District in May 2016.

With the harness however, I didn’t have to worry about this. The fact I was in a smaller buggy also helped, however though i’m “slim” i do have rather long legs and it was pretty difficult trying to get them in whilst transferring. I’ve figured that the best way of finding the right fit for you, starts by finding the right model (just like buying a car) and then  choosing what you would like adjusting. There are a range of different seats, seating positions and harnesses available, so you’ll be able to make the terrain hopper fit you!

Handling

As someone who’s main modes of transport come in the form of a light weight manual wheelchair, mountain trike or downhill and wind powered pieces of kit, the heaviness of the manual steering when i first tried to move the buggy took me by surprise. But as soon as I was on sand and rough terrain, it didn’t feel heavy at all and the terrain hopper felt as though it was in its natural environment. If you feel the manual steering isn’t for you, or you have limited arm movement, there is also a joystick option.

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A lovely flattering collage of myself, Mum, Debs and not forgetting Angus, on the sand dunes. Photo courtesy of Access the Dales

As I was using the smaller vehicle with smaller tyres, my adventurous ambitions overtook my ability and i managed to get stuck on the sand dunes! Then Debs in her overlander 2, managed to clear them fine. It just shows that when picking the right product for you, you need to think of what you’d like to do and where you’d like to go. With me, the more hardcore and bigger the tyres, the better!
After the first obstacle however, i soon picked up a good technique of navigating the soft sand and managed to conquer some kinder sand dunes!

Is it for me?

Right now, for purely personal use, my answer is  not yet. I think the Terrain Hopper is a fantastic piece of kit that can enable people with a wide range of abilities to get to many places but I have what i need at the moment when it comes to all-terrain wheelchairs. I just need endorphins to get my buzz outside and I like to feel like my arms have had a good work out at the end of the day. However, in the near future I could see the terrain hopper working for me professionally, whether it be taking people along routes that would be near-impossible for my trike to conquer or instructing people in more  challenging environments. Price wise, it’s cheaper-to-average when it comes to the general price of battery powered off-road wheelchairs, and there are lots of ways you can obtain funding if the terrain hopper is right for you.

As with any expensive piece of equipment, it’s always best to have a test drive first! Just get in touch with them, or take a look at their many test dates they have available : Terrain hopper test dates.

For more information and to keep up to date with Debs and Andy’s adventures, be sure to check out their website: Access the Dales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling on a plane as a wheelchair user.

Travelling in cars, catching trains and flying on aeroplanes should be all part of life for anyone of us who lives life, needs to get somewhere and likes going places.

If you happen to be a wheelchair user, that doesn’t change.

I guess we are in the middle of holiday season and everyone’s jetting off and enjoying time in the sun (real sun, that stays clear from clouds for more than ten minutes). So, I thought it might be helpful to a few people to let them know what it’s like flying with a spinal cord injury or as a wheelchair user, as I get asked about it a lot, with a few different people expressing a fear of the unknown. Well have no fear, i’ve written a guide to let you know what to expect.

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Trying to board a plane, hold passport, book, earphones and life together whilst taking pictures thinking about a blog you will eventually write in over  a months time is always a good idea, right?

 

I wouldn’t call myself a frequent flyer, but I guess it’s easy to say I’ve done a fair bit of solo travelling, before I chose to tie myself to uni for at least three years, and still do. This Summer I’ve been on holiday. An actual holiday that I booked through a travel agent because I wanted to relax, get a tan and have fun. No stressing with booking last minute rooms and coaches, which I will admit is all part of the fun of travelling, but for once I just wanted to get away with my best friend, without much effort.

I’m writing this from my own experience and from how I function. Everyone does everything slightly different, and I want to make it clear that this is just a guide on what to expect when you get on a plane and have a wheelchair as extra baggage.

Booking a flight

It’s all pretty simple. Every airline is different and if you book through a travel agency or even better, one that sells holidays specifically for people with disabilities, then they sort booking assistance with airlines out for you. I used Enable Holidays for my holiday recently and everything went very smoothly, so i highly recommend them.

However, if you are booking a flight yourself simply:

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Cheesy selfie in a roasting hot salou…to show it’s worth overcoming any plane fears you have! (Also, the one i took at the airport wasn’t flattering at all!)

Look up what you need to do to inform the airline of any assistance you need.You book your assistance with your airline whilst you book your flight/s and they organise the exact assistance you require with the airports you’ll be travelling to and from.

At the airport

In my case, when I am travelling alone I arrange to have assistance when i arrive at the airport. There’s often a sign where you arrive directing you to the assistance desk.

  • Make your way to the assistance desk and the people their will help you through to departures. Often, once your checked in, through to departures and if there’s time, they let you do your own thing until boarding.
  • If you’re travelling in a taxi and fully alone and in a wheelchair and can’t carry your bags, just ask your taxi driver to watch your bags whilst you find a member of staff or internal phone to help you to the check in desk.
  • My best piece of advice i can give to anyone travelling alone is “be vocal”. If you need to ask something, ask.

Getting on the plane (the exciting bit)

So once you’re at the gate you do all the usual passport checking and are usually met by another assistance person. It also differs depending on the airport. At places like Manchester and Heathrow you roll down a tunnel and transfer into an aisle chair at the entrance of the plane. As i mentioned, I’m strong enough and have a level of spinal injury that enables me to independently transfer. The reason you don’t transfer onto the plane seat straight from your chair is because as you may know, the aisles are too thin for even a chair as skinny as mine.

However, if you’re at a smaller airport getting on the plane is  bit more of an “adventure.”

As you can seIMG_2304e in the picture, everyone who’s unable to walk up the steps to the plane, goes up a lift into this interesting van contraption. It can get a little cramped, which shows just how many people with physical impairments travel.

In this case, i was the only person who needed the aisle chair and transferred once we were docked onto the side of the plane.

One you’re in the aisle chair, you’re strapped in and guided down the aisle by the assistants.

As i mentioned, i have the strength to transfer myself from the aisle chair to the seat. But not everyone does. In this case, the people who take you on the plane lift you over to a seat. (don’t worry, this is part of their job) and that’s that.

Now, i know a lot of you are thinking “where does my beloved chair go?!”
Again, this depends on the airline and type of plane. When i fly to Canada, it’s a long haul flight and big plane, so they keep my chair on board. However, with short haul flights they tend to put it in the hold. I can’t say to anyone to be “100% worry free” about your chair not getting lost, but i can say that it’s never happened with me. I find emphasising how important your chair is to you, helps.

Extra bits I’ve worried about and dealt with (mainly for people with sci)

Ok, long haul flights. 10 hours and no intermittent catheterisation is a big worry. So this is what i’ve done about it.
The first flight i went on post-injury was to New York. I think it was around 5-7 hours. My bladder is extremely temperamental, but i thought i’d be able to hold on. I wasn’t able, and so i didn’t leave a puddle in the chair, transferred into the aisle chair and had a wee (i can do ic in my chair) behind a curtain at 30 000ft. It’s probably one of my finest achievements.

Once i needed to travel to Vancouver, i gave in and used an indwelling catheter. The first time, my bag seriously needed emptying. To solve this problem, i transferred back into the aisle chair and was able to empty it over the loo. (That just proves how tiny plane toilets are!)

Leaving the plane

The same applies getting off, as does getting on. Once you’ve done it once, you kind of know how everything works and the more polite and friendly you are, the more polite and friendly people are going to be to you!

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or message me with them. If i don’t know the answer straight away, i will be sure to find it out for you.

Happy flying!