The bad, the good and I guess it makes me the ugly…….

Yesterday my wife, LG and and Grandad took a trip to the cinema. This is no easy thing to organise in the first place. Our cinema choice is severely limited by access restrictions before even leaving the house. We have three in Norwich and one in Dereham. Dereham I am yet to try in my wheelchair however a recent purchase of a Spree book means this will change in the near future I am sure. Norwich is an issue as parking at two is limited which means only one really is an option for us. There is a multi storey car park nearby (within easy pushing/wheeling distance) and it has an abundance of disabled parking bays meaning it is ideal. Well in location at least.

It is an Odeon cinema and they have an extensive guide online, they tell you all about their wheelchair spaces, their premier seats and so on. Unfortunately in the Norwich one at least they don’t have premier seats that are accessible in many if any screens, I cannot sit in my wheelchair at the front of a huge cinema looking up to watch a film. The pain is unbearable, it leaves me with the choice of watch the film in pain or drag myself up stairs to comfy seats and watch the film in pain. Not much of a choice really. I have tried to call and speak to a person, but no efficiencies mean that it is an automated service. I had similar issues when trying to book seats for the Star Wars premieres, I cannot book me, a carer and 2 “normal” seats. I am becoming increasingly frustrated with cinema trips, they are anything but relaxing.

Follow this up with our lunch at Frankie & Benny’s, Riverside, Norwich and it was a completely different story. Usually I arrive at a restaurant and immediately a table is set and a chair removed for me to wheel up to the table. Now I’m not saying this isn’t good service, it is. However most restaurants miss one vital step, that is asking me if I can transfer out of my wheelchair (which I can) and whether I would rather sit in my chair or at the table. Why you ask, well wheelchairs aren’t designed to be sat at a restaurant table easily, I am often knocked or get my handles bashed, not fun whilst you are eating, and also because some chairs are more comfortable to sit on when eating. I want to give the staff here for top marks, first of all for asking the question, and secondly for asking me the question not the person who was pushing me. Top marks for awareness here. A simple, can you transfer from your wheelchair sir? and this is your table would you like to transfer and we can take your chair or stay in it were two fantastic questions and I wish I had taken the name of the staff to thank them properly. It is a small thing but it shows fantastic awareness. MY chair is my legs when I go out but I am not super glued to it. The Odeon could learn from this and offer alternative access/design and more comfortable seating options in their screens.

That leaves me the ugly, not much more I can say really………………..

Access for disabled travellers has improved – but more work is needed – Tourism – Eastern Daily Press

AN ARTICLE I WAS INTERVIEWED FOR BY OUR REGIONAL NEWSPAPER

With millions of disabled tourists contributing billions to the economy, attraction owners and accommodation providers are waking up to the importance of accessibility. But, as Lauren Cope reports, there is much more to be done.

Source: Access for disabled travellers has improved – but more work is needed – Tourism – Eastern Daily Press

What is Access?

What is Access?

When people talk of access issues in the majority of people’s minds a person in a wheelchair springs to mind, probably stuck somewhere. It certainly was mine for many, many years. Then I became disabled, as a result I met more and more disabled people and I realised that just like all people we come in all different shapes and sizes and we all have very different disabilities, and very different problems in day to day living.

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The town I live in has a beautiful Train Station, as a child growing up I regularly enjoyed using it, as a teen I was cool heading into the city, as a 30 something I am now stumped. My LG would love to catch the train to meet my wife for lunch (who works near the station) and I’m running out of excuses as to why we can’t do it. I have explained the truth to her but it doesn’t make sense in her mind.

The truth is the return journey to Platform 2 leaves me stranded on one side of the railway station where the only way off is 2 flights of stairs (a small issue in a wheelchair). It doesn’t compute to her because she cannot understand why there isn’t another route it is “silly daddy” yes, yes it is! It is also the bizarre truth. I have been contacted recently by the local press as they want to run a story on it and wondered whether the Access Group that I am chair of were aware of the issue. I explained we were, it was on our list of issues to work on and many residents have contacted the various MP’s and companies involved for many years. The paper wants to do a story on it and we hope the publicity will get it moving again.

View from platform on Wymondham side looking at the track disappearing into the distance towards London
Tracks to nowhere……………

The Bridge you have to cross to get to or back from Platform 2 at the Station

I did mention to the reporter that the Access to the platform goes far greater than wheelchair users, and a friend posted on social media. It has attracted many comments, elderly people struggle with the volume of steps, holiday makers with large cases, parents with more than one child, parents/grandparents and carers with pushchairs/buggies/prams, a cyclist who cannot carry their bike over the bridge, those with elderly dogs (there is a grooming parlour for pets on side 2) all have commented today and I am hoping many will be joining us tomorrow to meet the reporter and make the companies with a vested financial interest realise just how much potential income they are losing out on. It just goes to show how quickly one can lose access (even temporarily with a leg or arm break) or more permanently, or how throughout one’s life things are forever changing and at different times access is an issue. It is one of the reasons why Wymondham Access Group welcomes everyone as members as everyone has something to offer, and everyone can help promote good access. Reporting a faulty pavement, straightening up a dustbin for example (things mentioned at our last WAG meeting).

Watch this space I guess…………..

The Marina Theatre, Lowestoft – Well Done

The Marina Theatre, Lowestoft – Well Done

Yesterday we had a fantastic family trip to watch the Gruffalo’s Child at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Not knowing the layout of the area around the theatre we arrived in plenty of time and were pleased to discover that almost outside the door of the theatre there were 8-10 time limited disabled parking bays, one of which became available as we arrived. We (well my wife) unloaded the car, wheelchair, me and our LG and we set off to find somewhere for lunch. Attached to the Marina Theatre was the box office and cafe so we decided we may aswell eat there. They had great level access at the doors and the box office even had a low level till point. It led straight into the cafe where there was plenty of room. To me in a cafe plenty of room means it was easy to move around without bumping into food stands people and without making them get up to let me through. They had contactless payment so I could easily pay for lunch from my chair. As we made our way to a table (they bring your food and drink over so no worries there, I indicated to my wife where I wanted to sit as I would not be in the way of others and made my way to the bathroom. A member of staff who was having her lunch immediately got up and moved a chair away from the table to allow me to park up. Fantastic – this is the sort of service I would love everywhere. Making room for your chair is so difficult and having a member of staff so on the ball to the needs of disabled people to do that was perfect.

The one issue I would say is that the disabled toilet was snug (but then you can only work with the space you have. There was room to maneuver round once inside and plenty of grab rails so as to transfer to the toilet, although I did bang the door a few times. Pleasantly there was no hand dryer but paper towels, and this was within reach of the toilet so that I could wash my hands and dry them before redressing and transferring back into my chair. Usually the heater is on the far side and I have to dress and transfer with wet hands before getting to the dryer!

From here we went to the theatre and there was once again easy level floor access with plenty of room for my custom built larger than average wheelchair to get round and through the doors and into the theatre itself. I quickly identified that the crutches (that are mounted on the back of my chair for those few times when I have to walk a short distance) would block the view of others behind me. The staff once again were fantastic, and the lady that showed us to our seat/parking space took my crutches and put them safely away in the office. No fuss whatsoever and not once did I get that feeling I often get of “being a nuisance” and it was all the staff in the theatre.

To cap it off the performances were AMAZING, three brilliant actors kept adults and kids alike captivated for an hour. At an hour in length the show was perfect time for me so that I did not become too uncomfortable, any longer and I would have need an interval but this was ideal.

Using the toilet as I left inside the theatre, this was even smaller and there was not room for me to turn my chair around. I transferred from it to the toilet and back easily enough but needed my wife (carer) to open the door and wheel me backwards out again. It was the only slight issue but hey at least the design meant there were at least 2 disabled toilets in the complex and certainly enough staff on hand to help you out if you needed anything.

I would without a shadow of doubt highly recommend from all aspects of access, parking, facilities and staff attitude (and this cannot be underestimated) and levels of performance, a trip to the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. It may have been an hours drive to get there but we had a lovely few hours having lunch and watching a fantastic production.

I even had enough spoons left to take a trip to the seaside (it is after all a coastal town) and watch my LG and wife make sandcastles and “skim” stones and see a ship come sailing by!

 

Advertising and Education – this is what we need

I have become a fan of Mik Scarlet not least because of his forthright views and honest and sometimes scathing failings of people/businesses/councils in relation to accessibility and giving disabled people a voice but also because he does pieces like this on The Norfolk Broads National Park that has got me super excited. Why?

Well not only because it is good to shout about where we are doing things right and spreading the word far and wide but more simply Norfolk is my home county and I have struggled going round many of the places in the video in my manual wheelchair with an army of family and friends pulling, pushing, grunting and groaning so I can join them or killing the motor in my pavement mobility scooter and sinking in the mud. I would love for every county, city, town etc to start using the army of disabled people with a variety of Disabilities to produce films such as this, I even know a wonderful film production company owned by a good friend who has seen the changes in our nights out, and how difficult finding accessible meeting places can be who I’m sure won’t mind the plug Apricot Productions

I was buzzing after seeing the video, thinking about trips out, trying some offroading hand cycles and when my LG is older even being able to go sailing with her – Super excited, now all we need to do is encourage others to follow suit and share their accessibility information IN A VARIETY OF FORMATS.

Film review: Me Before You

Mik says it all……………….

Disability now

Trailed as one of the films of the summer, this screen adaptation by Jojo Moyes of her own 2012 novel has caused a storm among disabled movie-goers. Mik Scarlet has been to see it for Disability Now.

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