The Beginning of the End for Disabled Parking Abuse

If you read through disability forums and blogs you will find one subject always crops up and one that undoubtedly annoys disabled people more than anything else and that is the abuse of disabled parking bays by the non-disabled. As a wheelchair user and a driver I am not alone in forever not being able to park in supermarkets, authority run car parks, doctors surgeries or hospitals and other areas that offer disabled parking.  Often somebody without a disability has decided that they “will only be a few seconds” or that they like to park their precious vehicle in a larger parking bay in case it gets damaged by other users.

As a community disabled people have been shouting and screaming about this for many years but sadly it has been falling on deaf ears. A survey of disabled people recently asked:
Do you believe disabled parking regulations are enforced enough in your area?
A massive 90.5% said NO! 

Now help is at hand for all providers of disabled parking as well as being a very welcome deterrent to abuse of disabled parking bays Disabled Parking Management solutions provide monitoring of disabled and also parent and toddler bays to minimise their abuse, their services recently provided in three car parks of the Greater London area have resulted in disabled bay abuse falling by a massive 70%. Now that really has to be something worth applauding and investigating further.

Many disabled people take to placing stickers like those you can see here on the windscreens of abusers or even tackle them personally only to receive a torrent of abuse or pathetic excuses. With the unpredictable society that we live in it is not advisable to confront people this way, however as disabled people we need to make a difference and highlight these valuable services to the likes of supermarket chains, health service and hospitals and local councils that like 80% of people reading this will not be aware that monitoring services that really can make a difference are available.

Gemini Parking Solutions are dedicated to providing a whole range of parking enforcement systems and the monitoring of disabled bays.

If you want to make a difference and protect your right to park as a disabled Blue Badge holder don’t just moan about it; do something positive, write to your local authority, supermarket, GP surgery etc where you are experiencing parking difficulties and tell them of the services available and how it would assist you and fellow disabled people and ask them to at least enquire about the services by calling Gemini Parking Solutions on 0871 200 2143.

The time has come for us as disabled people to take a stand and do something positive about this problem that has been with us since disabled parking bays were introduced.

Let’s stop moaning and start acting!


Evacuation Chairs Assembled by Disabled People

As a qualified access auditor that has been actively undertaking access audits since 2003 I still remain shocked at the complete ignorance of many of our largest businesses that are housed in multi story buildings that fail to consider the needs of wheelchair users or others unable to manage steps and stairs in getting out of their buildings.

In the early days they just simply didn’t address the issue and never made any provision for either an area of safe refuge or how they would get wheelchair users out in an emergency. Now they are finally beginning to realise that a disabled person left in a burning building is actually a problem!

Sadly we are still only half way to resolving the problem, many of those that have addressed the issue (and that’s probably only about 20%) have simply gone out and bought evacuation chairs and placed them at the top of stairs believing that their job is now done.

I should say at this point that there are great deal of people that simply don’t know what an evacuation chair is or how it works, I would suggest that you watch the video clip below to fully understand what an Evac chair is and how it is used. The video clip shows the manufacturing process being undertaken within the Middle East for the specialised company Evacusafe.

Evacusafe set up in the Middle East to give job opportunities to mobility impaired people in conjunction with the Zayed Higher Organization (ZHO) who provide opportunities for local people in the community that have special needs or mobility issues. The video clip shows a number of disabled staff members actively undertaking important roles in the manufacture of the companies evacuation chairs as well as demonstrations of the chairs in use during evacuation displays.

You would be surprised just how many staff members within a multi-storey buildings that have evacuation chairs simply don’t know what they are let alone know how to use them safely.

Thankfully there is a company that specialises in evacuation chairs along with providing dedicated training to ensure that the staff are fully capable of assisting the mobility impaired and wheelchair users safely out of the building. We can only hope that as companies like this promote their life-saving products more and more then we will eventually be safer disabled people visiting multi-storey buildings. Evacusafe can be contacted on 01256 332723 or click the evacuation chairs link.

My advice as a wheelchair user and as an access audit is next time you go into a multi-storey building ask the building manager or head of staff if they have evacuation chairs and if their staff are trained to use them. Remember that you will not be able to use the passenger lift in the event of a fire or other emergency!

Wheelchair users should seriously think how they will get out of a building just as much as they think about access and how they will get in!


Coping With a New Disability

I recently had a couple weeks stay in Stoke Mandeville, the National spinal injuries centre in Aylesbury, this was just for checkups and a few tests that I’ve neglected to have done over the years. I mixed with many newly injured patients while there and all the memories of the fears and worries about what life will hold and how I would cope on the outside world came flooding back. I guess I am a hardened wheelchair user after 35+ years but I couldn’t help but feel for everyone of them. 

The changes which have to be dealt with after becoming disabled are a whole mixture of physical, psychological and of course financial ones, all have to be dealt with when the time is right. 

Many moons ago when I had a motorcycle accident that put me in a wheelchair there was no such thing as making a claim for compensation if the injury was caused by the negligence of another party, at least if there was I wasn’t aware of it and it most certainly wasn’t publicised the way it is today. I would seriously recommend anybody that thinks their injury was due to the actions of somebody else to check out the information on steps to take or advice from professional and competent injury solicitors. 

Any money received will I assure you come in very helpful and almost vital in the years to come as well as make up for any earnings lost through your injury, both now and in the future, as well as covering expenses such as medical bills and any specialist equipment required. Money can never truly make up for the shock and anguish brought about by no longer being fully able bodied, it can deal with the simpler practicalities, removing worries about your future finances and leaving you free to concentrate on adjusting to your changed circumstances and generally coping with life. 

Everybody deals with becoming disabled in a different way, many people put on a mask and will laugh and joke but won’t really feel the full extent of what has happened to them until they are outside in the big bad world, others go into a deep depression and need a great deal of reassurance, guidance and almost mothering assistance until they are able to cope but some surprisingly just take the bull by the horns and see “okay this is happened now I need to get on with life” A great approach if you are that type of person. 

Never be afraid to seek information, the Internet is now a wonderful place and offers you all the guidance, advice, information and assistance that you need.

In practical terms it’s vital that you get as much help as possible to enable you to lead an independent life in your own home, the best place to start is the original hospital where you received your treatment and any rehabilitation, they will have heard your questions many times and I can assure you fully understand your fears. I’m guessing it sounds corny but the old saying of “a trouble shared is a trouble halved” really is a true one.


Mazda Tempting me back to Motability

I have been toying with trading in my six year old Ford and going over to Motability but something has been holding me back, probably just me wanting to hold on to my DLA money that was until I spotted the Maxda CX-5 and started working out the for’s and against’s of leasing and not owning. 

Mazda Cx-5
Motability Leasing For’s

• Insurance paid
• Servicing included
• Breakdown cover included
• Repaired if needed
• Tax paid

Motability Leasing Against 

• Never own the vehicle

Oh dear, can’t think of anymore but after working out the cost to purchasing a car, lets use the Mazda CX-5 as an example and the depreciation, running cost, insurance, servicing etc after 3 years it comes to more than I would pay out to lease a brand new one via Motabity! 

So why the Mazda CX-5

Come on, you don’t need to be a petrol head to see the beauty in the design, it’s a good size SUV that is easy for me to get in and out of, great boot space for even my rigid frame wheelchair and claimed 5th place in the top 100 cars in the Auto Express Driver Power Survey 2013, 47.10 MPG (combined) front and rear parking sensors (I need them trust me) Bluetooth, cruise control, privacy glass, fog light and a ton of exciting stuff in the cabin including push button start. 

Currently the Mazda Cx 5 165Ps Se L 2Wd is being offered by Jennings Mazda with a low one off advanced payment on Motability. (see current details for price changes)


Evacuation Chairs and the Importance of Training

Many of you will have read previous articles and blog entries from me concerning means of escape from multi-storey buildings and also the importance of knowing how to get out of a building before you go in it especially for wheelchair users. So today I’m going to revisit the subject but this time looking more at the importance of evacuation chairs along with the essential need for correct training that unfortunately is lacking in most of our multi-storey buildings currently open to members of the public. 

Firstly imagine if you will multi-storey buildings with passenger lifts only and no stairs, no building in the UK or any civilised country would be passed by Building Control because stairs are used for emergency evacuation and are essential for getting out of the building in an emergency because 99% of passenger lifts in buildings will not work in an emergency situation with only 1% of lifts being deemed fire protected lifts that can be used in emergency.  

So what is this all got to do with disabled people getting out the building?  

Obviously wheelchair users cannot go down multiple flight of stairs (well some very fit WH users can but they are certainly in the minority) so if the building does not have means to use the stairs in an emergency when the lifts are not accessible i.e. evacuation chairs then the wheelchair user has no option other than be taken to an area of safe refuge or be abandoned at the top of stairs and hope that the Fire Brigade get to them before the flames and smoke does! All sounds quite frightening when you think about it in the cold light of day.

You would think that the easy solution would be to simply change regulations to ensure that evacuation chairs are placed at the top of all flights of multi-storey buildings, if only life were that simple!

This then throws up a whole new problem and means that in an emergency situation we have evacuation chairs being used by untrained staff and even passers by trying to assist disabled people down stairs in a hurry and in doing so probably injuring or even killing disabled people as they lose grip of either the chair or their own footing.

So what’s the answer?

In a nut shell its install evacuation chairs on all landings of multi storey buildings but and here is the important part ensure full evacuation chair training is undertaken and that staff or trained volunteers are on hand to offer safe evacuation assistance. If no trained members are available then the chairs should not be used and an alternative safe refuge provided.

If you have any concerns contact a professional evacuation chair specialist such as Evacusafe that can offer a range of training including online training courses.


Will Household Goods Ever be Disabled Friendly

In these days of access improvements in the built environment such as access to shops, services and facilities receiving a great deal of attention and many making major changes to meet the needs of the disabled, why are product manufacturers allowed to continue making household goods like microwaves, cookers etc etc with no consideration for the disabled. 

One example is the electronic panels of just about all modern electrical items such as microwaves, cookers, dishwashers etc, the blind don’t stand a chance with these touch sensitive switches that are completely flat and have no raised or tactile sections at all, yes they bleep, the manufacturing world is obsessed with making things bleep but that’s no good if you don’t know what switch/button you are pressing! 

Dishwashers are so un-wheelchair friendly, if you have ever tried to get a wheelchair close enough to fill or empty the dam things you will know what I mean, I have a Neff but as far as accessibility is concerned is more like Naff!. 

So what can we do? Well, in these days of every manufacturer having a website and email address its so quick and easy just to google the company, find their website and then their “contact us” page, finding Neff took me all of 20 seconds and just 2 minutes to fill in my findings and the issues I have with their product. Chances are they don’t even know we have issues with their inaccessible designs but if enough of us spend a few minutes telling them they may well just consider the needs of the disabled in future designs. 

Go do it, complain and make a difference!


Wheelchair Egress More Important Than Access

I can almost guarantee that 95% of wheelchair users that enter into a multi-storey building will be thinking ahead and be concerned if they will be able to access the upper floors via lift, is the lift wide enough and will there be disabled toilets. These are quite natural concerns, I know because I’ve been there and got the T-shirt. 

What I find astonishing and to be honest quite frightening is that I can almost guarantee that the same amount of 95% of wheelchair users will not be considering how they will get out of the said multi-storey building in the event of fire or other emergency! What we all tend to forget is that the second that the fire alarm is activated, the standard passenger lift will automatically lower to the ground floor, the doors will open and the lift will then become inoperable. The wheelchair user will then be stranded on the upper floor, potentially in a burning building. 

There are of course provisions that the buildings manager needs or rather should be addressing such as safe refuges for wheelchair users on all upper floors along with a Personal Evacuation Plan “that includes” wheelchair users and disabled people along with installing evacuation chairs and of course trained staff that know how to use them. 

One solution to this major problem is the installation of a wheelchair platform lift, these come in many shapes and sizes with designs able to meet the needs of all buildings including through the floor lifts for domestic use. The beauty of these type of lifts is that they can in an emergency have an individual power supply, in the same way that a stairlift has a battery backup so that the user can get up and down the stairs in the event of a power cut. Of course we all know that these type of wheelchair platform lifts are put into buildings primarily to give access to wheelchair users but the benefits of providing safe evacuation far outstrip any access benefits.

The highlighted links in this article are here to provide you information and a source to find further details of all types of home and building wheelchair, chair and stair lifts but the main and sole purpose of this article is for you, the disabled person to remember that egress from within a building is far far more important than access into it. In my view if disabled people can’t safely get out of a building or be safely housed until the emergency services arrive, then they should not be going into the building in the first place. 

Remember, getting out of a building is far more important than getting into it!


Supermarket Home Delivery ( best thing since sliced bread)

My new years resolution this year was to try and make life easier for myself and the wife by streamlining many of the everyday and mundane tasks that take up so much of our time, we already do 90% of our Christmas and birthday shopping online so we decided to give the supermarket home delivery a try.

Neither of us particularly enjoy trudging round our local supermarket and because of our village location we are restricted to one supermarket that is more of a glorified corner shop than a supermarket so we're not really getting the choice offered by supermarkets in larger towns and cities but hey ho what we did discover was by having our groceries delivered we were able to choose from much larger stores including Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco and Waitrose so all of a sudden we were spoilt for choice.

It did take us about an hour and a half busy tapping away on the computer to select all of the shopping that we wanted, this was a little off putting but we then found out that our shopping list is saved online so next time we simply select what we want from our previous delivery.
Anyway without waffling on, the long and the short of it is that we saved ourselves not only time from not trudging around our so-called supermarket but we also saved money because we were shopping in a larger and more competitive store through our online selection. We had to pay £5 delivery charge but I'm guessing that the petrol to run our vehicle there and back would almost come to £5 if not more.

So now we are what you might call hooked on supermarket home delivery, it's great fun but you need to be aware that prices can vary quite considerably from supermarket to supermarket, we found mySupermarket a real help, this is a price comparison site that specialises in supermarket home delivery and is well worth checking out by clicking the highlighted link above.