Press release: New Changing Places facility at Ogden Water 16.02.24

Press Release from Calderdale Council: New Changing Places facility at Ogden Water

A new Changing Places toilet is now open at Ogden Water Country Park, improving facilities and accessibility at the Calderdale beauty spot, particularly for those with severe disabilities or complex needs.

As part of the Changing Places programme, a partnership between the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and  Muscular Dystrophy UK. Calderdale has been awarded funding for three Changing Places toilets in the borough.

Changing bed in new Ogden Water facility
Changing bed in new Ogden Water facility

The first of these was installed at Todmorden Learning Centre and Community Hub last year and work to install a Changing Places toilet is also underway at the Fire & Water building in Sowerby Bridge.

These fully accessible toilets are for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. They include specialist equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and space for carers.

Ogden Water
Ogden Water

The installation of the Changing Places toilet at Ogden Water complements the wheelchair-friendly routes around the reservoir, making the site a more inclusive place to visit. It also provides the opportunity for people with a range of disabilities to enjoy the countryside and the associated mental and physical health benefits.

The Changing Places facility is currently open from 8am until 4pm, as part of the winter opening hours which will run until late March. The opening times will increase to 6am until 6pm from late March until late October.

Creating a Welcoming Space for Every Visitor at Ogden Water

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Cllr Tim Swift, said:

“Ogden Water Country Park is a popular place for walks, picnics and family outings. We want to make the site as inclusive as possible. To enable more people to enjoy the beautiful countryside and experience the many accompanying benefits.

“There are already wheelchair-friendly routes around the reservoir, but the opening of a new Changing Places toilet will support wider access for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets, ensuring that they, and their family, friends and carers, can enjoy their visit with the peace of mind that there are facilities which meet their needs.”

Ogden Water
Ogden Water

Funding for the Ogden Water facility has been provided by DLUHC in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK. With further support from Calderdale Council and the Friends of Calderdale’s Countryside. Thanks is also given to the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access

Forum for their support and guidance.

For more information about Changing Places toilets and to search for existing facilities across the country,  Click Here

To join Accessible Calderdale Click Here

Double the Impact: How Accessibility & Collaboration Make Sites Shine

Imagine exploring a stunning park, only to encounter steep steps and uneven paths that block your way. This was the reality facing accessibility audits of outdoor spaces until our incredible volunteer, Hakar, joined the team. Combining their boundless energy with tech know-how, we formed a dream duo, conquering green havens like Brackenbed Park and Branston Park twice as efficiently.

But collaboration isn’t just about speed. It’s about harnessing diverse perspectives to craft truly inclusive spaces. Hakar’s agility allowed them to dive into every corner, capturing details invisible from a wheelchair. This, paired with my experience, ensures accessibility isn’t an afterthought, but an integral part of the design.

However, not every audit is smooth sailing. My visit to Grayston Unity highlighted the importance of clear communication. Despite their dedication to inclusion, a missed appointment arose due to miscommunication. Thankfully, their commitment shone through, and the audit revealed a space brimming with potential. Even the newly treated floor, posing a temporary obstacle, couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm for creating an accessible haven for all.

So, what are the key takeaways?

1. Accessibility is for everyone: It’s not just about wheelchairs. Uneven surfaces, poor acoustics, and unclear signage can hinder anyone’s experience.
2. Collaboration is key: Combining different skillsets and perspectives leads to more comprehensive and inclusive solutions.
3. Communication is crucial: Clear and timely communication prevents missed opportunities and ensures everyone is on the same page.
4. Challenges are temporary: Obstacles like wet floors shouldn’t deter us from striving for an accessible future.

By embracing collaboration, clear communication, and a commitment to inclusivity, we can unlock the true potential of every space, ensuring everyone can enjoy the beauty and opportunity it offers. Remember, accessibility isn’t just good for some, it’s good for all. Let’s keep working together to make that a reality.

Links to:-

Brackenbed Park
Grayston Unity

To join Accessible Calderdale Click Here

HBDAF Access Map Press Release December 2023

Disability Access Forum launches revised Hebden Bridge Access Map

Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum (HBDAF) has just published its updated Step-Free Access Map and Guide to Hebden Bridge town centre. The map was first published in 2018 but is now fully updated to December 2023.

Previous editions have been useful for ​both residents and ​visitors to the town​. Websites for local events, such as the Folk Roots Festival​​​,​ have included links to the map​.​

The new map is available to view and print at this link

http://hebdenroydtowncouncil.gov.uk/disability-forum/access-guide-map.pdf

Paper copies of the map and guide are available from the desk in the Town Hall foyer.

There are some changes to the Step Free Guide, as shops, cafes and other businesses have changed hands since our last update in 2022.

The access map and guide is one of many things which HBDAF does to improve access to life for disabled people in the Hebden Bridge area. Also we consult with businesses, charities and public bodies to improve access to existing and planned places, events and services.

“We need new members to help us with our work, and to share their access suggestions, concerns and lived experiences. We welcome all Deaf, disabled or neurodivergent people and those with long-term health conditions. 

Especially welcome are younger disabled people to join us so we can better represent our diverse local disabled community.

We also welcome non-disabled people as Associates to help us with our work.”

HBDAF meetings are held on the third Monday of the month at 2.30 p.m. in Hebden Bridge Town Hall and via Zoom. Contact sechbdisabilityaccess@gmail.com for details, or phone 01422 844914

HBDAF is a working group of Hebden Royd Town Council

HBDAF Access Map

Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers In North Halifax, Ovenden

Accessible Calderdale: Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers in North Halifax, Ovenden

Part of the Accessible Calderdale Project.

Meet and Eat Ovenden Flyer
Meet and Eat Ovenden Flyer

Meet and Eat

For disabled people, families and carers.

For disabled residents and carers living in North Halifax.

Venue:

Blackburn House

Nursery Lane

Ovenden

HX3 5SJ

Date:

Wednesday 31st January 2024
11.00am to 2.00pm

We welcome all disabled people to a warm and friendly accessible venue, hot meal provided and opportunity to meet like minded people.

Gentle relaxation available too from Everybody Needs Massage with Kay.

For more information, and making sure we meet your access needs please contact

lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

Or call on: 07596 707795

You can read more about the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum here

More about the Accessible Calderdale Project

The Accessible Calderdale Project, commenced in 2018 with the aim to reduce inequality, remove barriers, promote inclusion and improve access to our local community and visitors, enabling all people to have equal opportunities, make a positive contribution and lead purposeful lives.

“We aim to create choices and a more cohesive community where everyone has the opportunity to interact and play an equal part in society.”

You can keep up to date with the Accessible Calderdale Project on our Facebook page.

Our Aims and Objectives

Working in co-production with our Accessible Calderdale Disability Forum, we work towards removing both the physical and non-physical barriers to inclusion by:

  • Raising awareness and changing attitudes towards disabled people to enable positive interaction in everyday life
  • Promoting accessible venues, places of interest, green spaces, new builds & regeneration projects
  • Disability equality and customer service training
  • Working collaboratively with key organisations

Co-production/Partnerships

A co-production and partnership approach is central to our work. We work closely with a wide range of colleagues from key organisations and stakeholders including Calderdale Council Visit Calderdale, Visit Hebden and Visit Todmorden to improve the accessibility of information provided on their websites, to ensure that there are up to date access statements, and that all venues, businesses and organisations are able to have access audits.

We encourage disabled people to review local places and for this to be used on Visit Calderdale website.

For more information please contact:- lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

 

Accessibility was a major issue during my stay at Lumley Castle.

My latest excursion was to the far North – historic Durham, Lumley Castle to be precise, for the Visit Durham Autumn Conference.

Accessibility was a major issue during my stay at Lumley Castle.

I’d agreed to go to represent all our groups and ended up presenting, much to my surprise!

Very interesting event almost scuppered by a mix-up on my arrival the night before.

We’d booked a room for the night before (we have documentary proof!), but when I arrived – no booking to be found. No booking for any accessible room under any name at all!

Turned out, after a frantic half-hour. That there was a booking for me on the day of the conference – I’d been put on the wrong page!.

After a quick check by the cleaning staff, I was in!

But into what? A long portable ramp was deployed to overcome two steps on entry to the corridor. This had to be left in place for my whole 24-hour stay, although the entrance led to five other bookable rooms.

I was then shown into a comfortably large room and left to explore.

It was listed as an accessible room on the website but after a thorough look around I could only find one vertical grab rail in the shower pod which constituted any form of aid – no rails around the toilet, no bath, no accessible shower, no shower seat, in fact no room to turn around in the bathroom!

Watch this space!

Luckily, the Conference was great – string of interesting talks and presentations, lots of lovely people to meet.

An image of five people in front of a large fireplace. Chris is in the centre.
An image of five people in front of a large fireplace. Chris is in the centre.

 

My talk went down well I think. In it I had listed several places I’d audited in Durham, including Raby Castle, which I luckily gave a glowing report. As I finished, a smiling gentleman came up to me and shook my hand, introducing himself as the interim Chair of Visit Durham. Turned out he was the CEO of Raby! I’ve now got an invitation to return!

Afterwards, I bought some “Coals from Newcastle” from the display of local trades held next door. Black honeycomb as you ask. Then headed home in time for dinner.

Next trip – UK Tourism in exotic Leeds next week!

Intrepid Chris

Read more about the Autumn Conference 2023 Here

 

Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers In North Halifax, Mixenden

Accessible Calderdale: Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers in North Halifax, Mixenden

Part of the Accessible Calderdale Project.

Meat-and-eat-flyer-North-Halifax-Mixenden
Meat and eat flyer North Halifax-Mixenden

For disabled people, families and carers.

For disabled residents and carers living in North Halifax

Venue: Holy Nativity Church, Sunny Bank Road, Mixenden, Halifax, HX2 8RX

Wednesday 29th November 2023 11am to 2pm

Opportunity to meet friendly, like-minded people in a warm, relaxing and welcoming space.

Have your say about your local area.

Refreshments and lunch provided at no cost. Booking essential.For more information, and making sure we meet your access needs please contact lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

or Katie on 07908 624549

You can read more about the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum here

More about the Accessible Calderdale Project

The Accessible Calderdale Project, commenced in 2018 with the aim to reduce inequality, remove barriers, promote inclusion and improve access to our local community and visitors, enabling all people to have equal opportunities, make a positive contribution and lead purposeful lives.

“We aim to create choices and a more cohesive community where everyone has the opportunity to interact and play an equal part in society.”

You can keep up to date with the Accessible Calderdale Project on our Facebook page.

Our Aims and Objectives

Working in co-production with our Accessible Calderdale Disability Forum, we work towards removing both the physical and non-physical barriers to inclusion by:

  • Raising awareness and changing attitudes towards disabled people to enable positive interaction in everyday life
  • Promoting accessible venues, places of interest, green spaces, new builds & regeneration projects
  • Disability equality and customer service training
  • Working collaboratively with key organisations

Co-production/Partnerships

A co-production and partnership approach is central to our work. We work closely with a wide range of colleagues from key organisations and stakeholders including Calderdale Council Visit Calderdale, Visit Hebden and Visit Todmorden to improve the accessibility of information provided on their websites, to ensure that there are up to date access statements, and that all venues, businesses and organisations are able to have access audits.

We encourage disabled people to review local places and for this to be used on Visit Calderdale website.

For more information please contact:- lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

 

Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum: Giving Disabled People a Voice

Having a voice with the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum

Thanks to the funding from Postcode Neighbourhood Trust, we have been able to continue our work with the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum. This funding has enabled us to create an accessible platform where local disabled people can openly share their lived experiences. These discussions shed light on the challenges and daily barriers they face.

We focus on the things that are important to local people. Including getting out and about and how to get there. Both these go together. You need to be able to get on a bus, drive and park, and arrive safely at your destination. You also need the information before you leave the house, and to be clear on what to expect when you get there.

We aim that the whole customer experience of a day out, a trip to the park, visiting a museum, going to the library, shopping or eating in a café is as accessible and inclusive to all.

Disabled people with a wide range of impairments, family members, and carers make up the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum. They all have deep insight and local knowledge of what works and where to go. Also what doesn’t work and what we can do together to make improvements. Our group meets regularly on line, face to face and in local parks and greenspaces.

We make sure that our group is represented at local strategic level, ward forums, consultation meetings, and events as well as our own focus groups and peer support sessions.

For more information on the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum please get in touch with

Lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

Tel 07596707795

You can read more about the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum here

 

Walk and Ride South Pennines Festival September 28th 2023

Walk and Ride South Pennines Festival September 28th 2023

Part of the Accessible Calderdale Project.

Flyer Walk and Ride South Pennines Festival September 28th 2023
Flyer Walk and Ride South Pennines Festival September 28th 2023

Walk and Ride South Pennines Festival September 28th 2023

11.00am to 1.30pm

The Accessible Calderdale Project

For all disabled people, family members and carers.

We welcome everyone

Join us for good company, beautiful countryside and lots of fun.

Please bring a picnic and we will provide drinks and snacks. Changing Places accessible toilets available at start and finish.

Meet at Todmorden Learning Centre and Community Hub,

44 Burnley Rd, Todmorden OL14 7BX ( https: /tlchub.org.uk/ )

For more information on getting there, any access needs and booking a place please contact:

lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com Or call on: 07596 707795

https: /southpenninespark.org/event-list/walk-and-ride-festival/

You can read more about the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum here

More about the Accessible Calderdale Project

The Accessible Calderdale Project, commenced in 2018 with the aim to reduce inequality, remove barriers, promote inclusion and improve access to our local community and visitors, enabling all people to have equal opportunities, make a positive contribution and lead purposeful lives.

“We aim to create choices and a more cohesive community where everyone has the opportunity to interact and play an equal part in society.”

You can keep up to date with the Accessible Calderdale Project on our Facebook page.

Our Aims and Objectives

Working in co-production with our Accessible Calderdale Disability Forum, we work towards removing both the physical and non-physical barriers to inclusion by:

  • Raising awareness and changing attitudes towards disabled people to enable positive interaction in everyday life
  • Promoting accessible venues, places of interest, green spaces, new builds & regeneration projects
  • Disability equality and customer service training
  • Working collaboratively with key organisations

Co-production/Partnerships

A co-production and partnership approach is central to our work. We work closely with a wide range of colleagues from key organisations and stakeholders including Calderdale Council Visit Calderdale, Visit Hebden and Visit Todmorden to improve the accessibility of information provided on their websites, to ensure that there are up to date access statements, and that all venues, businesses and organisations are able to have access audits.

We encourage disabled people to review local places and for this to be used on Visit Calderdale website.

For more information please contact:- lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

 

Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers Park Ward Halifax

Accessible Calderdale: Meet and Eat For Disabled People, Families and Carers in Park Ward Halifax

Part of the Accessible Calderdale Project.

Accessible Calderdale Poster for Meet and Eat in Park Ward
Poster for Meet and Eat in Park Ward
Are you a disabled person, a carer, or a family member living in or near to Park Ward?
We are holding our Meet and Eat get together on:
Wednesday 25th October 2023, Wednesday 13th December 2023 , Wednesday 17th January 2024, Wednesday 13th March 2024
At 11.00am to 2.00pm
Meet other disabled people in a friendly. accessible and warm environment.
Join us for refreshments and free food.
Every Body Needs Massage will be with us too.
For more information email lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com
or text 07596707795
Thanks to Community Foundation for Calderdale VSI AllianceWest Yorkshire Integrated Care Board for funding these sessions.

You can read more about the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum here

More about the Accessible Calderdale Project

The Accessible Calderdale Project, commenced in 2018 with the aim to reduce inequality, remove barriers, promote inclusion and improve access to our local community and visitors, enabling all people to have equal opportunities, make a positive contribution and lead purposeful lives.

“We aim to create choices and a more cohesive community where everyone has the opportunity to interact and play an equal part in society.”

You can keep up to date with the Accessible Calderdale Project on our Facebook page.

Our Aims and Objectives

Working in co-production with our Accessible Calderdale Disability Forum, we work towards removing both the physical and non-physical barriers to inclusion by:

  • Raising awareness and changing attitudes towards disabled people to enable positive interaction in everyday life
  • Promoting accessible venues, places of interest, green spaces, new builds & regeneration projects
  • Disability equality and customer service training
  • Working collaboratively with key organisations

Co-production/Partnerships

A co-production and partnership approach is central to our work. We work closely with a wide range of colleagues from key organisations and stakeholders including Calderdale Council Visit Calderdale, Visit Hebden and Visit Todmorden to improve the accessibility of information provided on their websites, to ensure that there are up to date access statements, and that all venues, businesses and organisations are able to have access audits.

We encourage disabled people to review local places and for this to be used on Visit Calderdale website.

For more information please contact:- lorraine.accessiblecalderdale@gmail.com

 

Update regarding accessible toilets

Our Accessible Calderdale project and the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum are at the heart of many of the new designs and developments across Calderdale.

We thought it would be helpful to give people some up-to-date information about accessible toilets as we know this is something very important. Difficulty in finding a loo is often a reason disabled people find it hard to plan a day out.

 logo of the Changing Places campaign and brand
Logo of the Changing Places campaign and brand

 

Photo of a fully accessible large toilet space with changing table, toilet, sink and hoist.
Photo of a fully accessible large toilet space with changing table, toilet, sink and hoist.

 

Drawing of a fully accessible large toilet space with changing table, toilet, sink and hoist
Drawing of a fully accessible large toilet space with changing table, toilet, sink and hoist

 

The Changing Places campaign

For many years we have supported the Changing Places campaign.

Changing Places are a specific type of accessible toilet. They are different from a standard accessible toilet in that they have lots of space, an adjustable bed, and a hoist. These features are necessary for people who need a lot of help and who cannot go out and about unless these types of facilities are available.

Changing Places is also the name of the national consortium of organisations which campaigns for and registers Changing Places toilets. These organisations work to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the Changing Places toilets they need to live full and independent lives.

Changing Places accessible toilets give more disabled people with a wide range of impairments the opportunity to get out and about with the knowledge that they can either go to the toilet or have space to be changed. This can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health, as well as their social and economic participation.

They can be opened with a Radar Key.  Or a key is often available at the venue.

https://news.motability.co.uk/everyday-tips/radar-keys-explained-what-are-they-where-can-i-use-them-and-how-do-i-get-one/

There has been a campaign for many years to improve toilets for disabled people and children.  

Due to the success of the campaign there has been a lot of funding available for local authorities to apply to have Changing Places toilet facilities in local venues.

Some of these venues could be:

  • A shopping centre or
  • Theatre or
  • Museum or a
  • Park

In Calderdale we worked closely 18 months ago with the local council to receive funding for 3 new Changing Places accessible toilets.

Todmorden Community Hub – about to be opened with a launch

Fire and Water – in progress

Ogden Reservoir – in progress

Where are Changing Places accessible toilets?

There are already Changing Places accessible toilets in the following venues:

Eureka

https://play.eureka.org.uk/plan-your-visit/access-information/

Orange Box Youth Centre in the centre of Halifax

https://www.closomat.co.uk/changing-places-at-the-orangebox-to-optimise-youth-potential/

Square Chapel theatre in the centre of Halifax

https://squarechapel.co.uk/visit/

Brighouse Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre

https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/sports-and-fitness/venues/brighouse-swimming-pool-and-fitness-centre

The new bus station in Halifax

https://www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/hbs/widgets/10395/faqs

For more information on Changing Places see:

https://www.changing-places.org/

Shroggs Blog (that’s got a nice ring to it!)

Access Audits

I really like this part of the job – an access audit, auditing somewhere outdoors. Fresh air, sunshine and nothing else to do but explore every path, check every bench, observe every pond – and possibly enjoy a cup of coffee at the end.

There’s a limit to how many accessible toilets you can investigate, how many access ramps you can measure, how many parking spaces you can count – let’s get outside!

Well, we couldn’t quite tick every box today, there’s – no coffee shop in Shroggs Park – but it’s still a beautiful day out.

What a team

What Shroggs Park has in abundance though is lovely people. I was accompanied on this outing by locally famous urban warrior/activist Joan (complete with dog), and what she didn’t know about the park is not worth knowing.

What a team! I know what I’m looking for, Joan knows what’s where and who everyone is, and the dog attracts other dog walkers as well.

We spent a fruitful couple of hours covering every path, climbing every gradient (and this park has its fair share of gradients!), checking every bench, and reading every sign.

What you don’t notice – taking notes and photos, chatting to everyone you meet, asking questions – is that you quickly cover a considerable distance. All this exercise for free! Love it!

So, we circulated slowly and chatted to everyone, learning about the history of the place – there used to be a pond there, the children used to tend a garden over there, I think there used to be some toilets and a café in that building over there, no they’re going to knock that down, the bus used to come up ……and so on. We also collected a lot of dog walkers en route – we should have a field over there to let the dogs off the lead, why don’t they do that?

A particular destination was the children’s play area. Some money has come into this sort of provision, so watch out for upgrades in your local park – you might be lucky. If nothing seems to be happening, ring up and ask why.

 

Shroggs Park new accessible Roundabout. We saw on our Access Audit.

Conclusions from our Access Audit

Having walked every path, overcome every gradient (there are some challenging gradients here), checked every worn surface and reached every bench I remembered I had to take pictures for my report. So, a quick recap and images of gates, potholes, worn paths and wonky benches. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) most of my pictures featured part or all of a dog as we had attracted a fair number by now! The combination of taking our own dog and having a wheelchair is irresistible to all dogs!

But lots of potential here. I like old municipal parks – space, tranquillity and good access. They were built for the right reasons, and we should treasure them. Something for everyone, whatever your age or status or interest.

What we need here is some care, improving surfaces, upgrading the play area, repurposing of some areas – but a lick of paint, some serious gardening and a bit of imagination will do wonders.

See you next time, Chris

Delivering face to face and not on Zoom!

Our New Co-Designed Accessibility & Inclusion Training Course for Calderdale

July 2023

Well, after what seems like a very long absence, face to face accessibility & inclusion training is back!

Covid made us all relatively expert at Zoom, Teams, Skype and all the others, but I’ve got very limited interest in taking several hours to look at tiny images on a screen and trying to read the tiny script. It’s just not the same as talking to a real live group of people!

So, here we are! Our all new, shiny interactive integrated team made its first appearances at the Artworks Gallery and the Orange Box.

It’s amazing how quickly the old skills come back – timing, remembering the old stories, injection of humour, interaction with the delegates – love it!

But this time, something new, something I’ve not had to deal with before, I’m part of a super new Team! Four of us in the same room at the same time – the delegates didn’t stand a chance!

It’s strange at first – you don’t need to fill the whole session, you can learn from others, you can ask questions – but I like this brave new world. Slightly easier on us because we’re sharing, but tougher on the delegates because we’re relentless, we don’t get tired!

An Image of a group of people sat watching a presentation on Accessibility & Inclusion Training An Image of a person in a wheelchair delivering a session on Accessibility & Inclusion Training

Our brand new three hour session, Accessibility & Inclusion Training

Our brand new three hour session covered all the bases and gave a strong introduction to access and inclusion. Delivered as part of the Calderdale/Culturedale project, with an eye on Calderdale year of Culture 2024, we were keen to roadtest our scheme, ready to roll it out in earnest.

We covered the lot in a very concentrated but lively session, including lots of lived experience.

I kicked things off with the basic structure of Social model, appropriate Language and appropriate Behaviour. Can be a bit worthy and politically correct, but that’s not my nature and with a lifetime of lived experiences, mostly happening before legislation was enacted to protect people like me, I can usually hold an audience.

After I’d wound everyone up it was Katie’s turn to express the voice of reason – some legal stuff, can you actually get away with that? Is that actually legal? Then some numbers – how many of us are there?

Nadia then gave us all an astonishing insight to her life from her electric wheelchair as she enjoyed a weekend at Glastonbury (Where? Really?), her experiences in dance workshops and so much more, holding goal attention until you could hear a pin drop as she programmed her voice apparatus.

Big thanks to the lovely Sam from Curious Motion who brought a new perspective to our training and highlighted the importance of soft skills and how a bit of compassion and values goes a long way.

And then, after an exhausting, mind-stretching few hours, we finished with some much appreciated mindfulness to relax the tension we’d created with our mix of knowledge, horror stories, humour and general bloody mindedness. Great way to bring the event to a close.

How was the session?

The sessions seemed to go well and were certainly appreciated. The delegates seemed to gain something, and we’ve also learnt a lot. Hopefully there’ll be plenty more sessions including our accessibility & inclusion training for us to inflict our unique blend of knowledge and experience on you all, delivered in our own personal style.

We’ll know what we’re doing by the end of it all!

Anyway, feedback so far has been excellent which is always energising. I particularly liked one comment made to me over a cup of coffee at the end –

“Chris, I particularly liked your comedy moments, lifted the whole thing for me!”

“Comedy moments? Comedy moments?” I replied, “That’s my life you’re talking about!”

See you next time, Chris

Wheelchairs and mud – not a marriage made in heaven!

Wheelchairs and mud

Using a manual wheelchair means the wheels are narrow so they sink easily. Having absorbed that fact early on I don’t usually make mistakes nowadays.

On outdoor audits I try for dry days; I’ll look for ruts and footprints in the dry mud and work out how bad it would be on a wet day. Sounds like I know what I’m doing but I can still be caught out.

I once arrived for an official conference during my early days working in Calderdale – it was very wet, but I thought the car park would be tarmacked. Wrong!

I thought there would be empty designated parking spaces at the entrance. Wrong!

I ended up parking in the mud at the back of the car park, got out in the mud, pushed through the mud to the entrance, and looked and felt like a dirty drowned rat when I eventually got inside. Not the best start to the afternoon!

My worst mud experiences….

My worst mud experiences by far happened as a parent when I took my rugby fanatic son to junior rugby matches and training. From Under 9’s to Under 16’s, (that’s eight seasons – yes, eight), we had to include a trip to our local club or to a match elsewhere on winter Sundays.

Yes, we experienced excitement! And, we engaged in banter! Yes, we indulged in bacon sandwiches! And yes, we encountered mud, glorious mud!

Being a junior team meant they usually assigned us to the furthest pitch, away from the clubhouse – the one through the underpass, beyond the motorway, past all hope of rescue (don’t ask where the toilet is). I always had pushers, though. “Come on Dad, take your hands off the wheels, trust me.”

I never crashed, but the chair would be covered in mud over the footplates.

The final insult came from my son – immaculate out of the showers in a white shirt and smart tie on match days. However, he would walk into the shower fully clothed in his kit, get undressed in the shower, stuff the sopping kit into a bag, and pass the whole dripping mess to me to wash for next week! Adding insult to injury.

I ruined so many clothes during those days, not to mention the frequent mess in my car.

Thankfully those days are behind me now, or so I thought.

Wheelchair User Tips for Attending a Music Festival

I love attending rock festivals in the summer, but it can be challenging as a wheelchair user. I recently went to Bluedot Festival at Jodrell Bank, and the weather was terrible. It rained all night before the festival, and the ground was a sea of mud.

I parked in a muddy field and had to be carried through the entrance gates. I was covered in mud by the time I got to the accessible viewing platform. But I had a great time, thanks to the help of a friendly stranger who offered to push me around.

Here are some tips for wheelchair users who are planning to attend a music festival:

  • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for rain or mud.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Bring a change of clothes and shoes in case you get really muddy.
  • Ask about the festival’s accessibility features, such as accessible viewing platforms and toilets.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other festival-goers.

I hope these tips help you have a great time at your next music festival!

My Favourite Mud Story

But my favourite mud story doesn’t involve me directly – a few months ago I was auditing a potential communal garden which was bordered by an open wire fence. Whilst writing some notes I noticed pre-school children playing on the other side of the fence. They’d found an interesting puddle, and were absorbed with buckets and spades. The boys started conversation – why are you in that chair? do your legs work? my Grans got one of them. How fast will it go? The usual. Whilst answering as well as I could I noticed a little girl sitting

in the puddle and using a spade to pour the (very) muddy water down her outstretched arms and onto her (very) white dress! Whilst driving home I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of the loving parents coming to pick up their beloved child in her (once) white dress!

Until next time,

Cheers,

Chris the mudlark

Patient with ALS in Australia first person to tweet using direct thought via brain-computer interface

ALS Patient Tweets “Hello, World!” Using Brain Implant

Philip O’Keefe, an Australian man with ALS, has become the first person to tweet using only his thoughts.

O’Keefe received an endovascular Stentrode brain computer interface (BCI) in April 2020, which allows him to control digital devices with his mind.

In a tweet on December 25, 2022, O’Keefe wrote, “hello, world!” He used the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI to share his experience with the world and offer inspiration for the future.

O’Keefe’s tweet is a significant milestone for the field of BCI research. It shows that BCIs have the potential to restore independence and communication for people with ALS and other paralyzing conditions.

How does the Stentrode BCI work?

The Stentrode BCI is implanted in the brain through the jugular vein. It contains a small chip that records electrical signals from the brain. These signals are then sent to a computer, which converts them into commands that can be used to control digital devices.

The Stentrode BCI is designed to be user-friendly and dependable. Patients can learn to use it in a matter of weeks.

What are the benefits of the Stentrode BCI?

The Stentrode BCI can help people with ALS to regain a degree of independence. They can use it to control their computers, phones, and other devices. They can also use it to communicate with their loved ones.

The Stentrode BCI could also be used to help people with other paralyzing conditions, such as spinal cord injury and stroke.

What are the limitations of the Stentrode BCI?

The Stentrode BCI is still in its early stages of development. It is not yet clear how long it will last or how effective it will be in the long term.

The Stentrode BCI is also not a cure for ALS. It cannot stop the progression of the disease.

What is the future of BCI research?

BCI research is rapidly advancing. Scientists are working on developing BCIs that are more powerful, more user-friendly, and more durable.

BCIs have the potential to revolutionize the way we treat a wide range of neurological conditions. They could help people with ALS, spinal cord injury, stroke, and other paralyzing conditions to regain their independence and quality of life.

More information on BusinessWire here.

Updates from our own Access Consultant – Chris Cammiss

December news! & Accessible Calderdale Updates

Seems to be a very long time since I wrote anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy – oh no!  Work is as interesting and demanding as ever, if not more so, and the rest of my life hasn’t been dull either. Read on for news of the Accessible Calderdale Project.

I recently completed a long report for Calderdale on a huge road project connecting Halifax to Huddersfield, touching Elland etc which involved a lot of driving along busy roads, checking out possible crossings, negotiating roundabouts, coping with tricky gradients and discussing the dreaded “shared space” beloved by planners and hated by disabled pedestrians.

I’m still on the Accessible Calderdale project – stalled by Covid but still in operation – and found myself at St Matthews Parish Centre this month. Lovely, welcoming space inside but a crazy car park, too steep to push my wheelchair out of and a busy road to cross from the church without the benefit if a crossing. (The absolute downpour I encountered didn’t help – especially as I left my coat in the car. It’s a man thing).

I also noticed that the Calvert Trust were advertising for Trustees this month so I thought I might apply to see what they were all about. I’m happy to report that they’ve co-opted me onto their Operations committee. Little do they know…..

A lovely weekend break Shropshire

Outside work my car passed its MOT. It’s Motability but they extended my lease because I couldn’t get around car showrooms which were shut during lockdowns.

Had a lovely weekend break Shropshire in a country house which has an RHS connected garden. Very accessible garden and only one tiny portable ramp in the house. The staff used it so much they are going to leave it in place permanently!  On one day we mentioned a nearby house with a stunning garden which was unfortunately shut for the winter. They immediately rang them up and arranged for the garden to be opened up just for myself and partner!

Finally, I’m fully jabbed and now hopefully bullet-proof. Both Covid jabs, official booster, flu jab and even Shingles. Are there any more?

Northern Rail work continues at pace. Very exciting developments. Next week I go to check out a mock-up of an accessible toilet pod. If it stands up to scrutiny then it could be the answer on hundreds of Victorian stations which don’t have appropriate buildings to construct an accessible toilet in or don’t have many buildings at all. Watch this space for developments.

My most recent Audit on the Accessible Calderdale Project

I conducted my most recent Audit on the Accessible Calderdale project at AgeUK in Halifax. Great place, friendly staff and the strangest door system I’ve ever come across. Two narrow single doors next to each other, with a central column? Unless one was originally “in” and the other “out” I can’t fathom it.
Some work to do soon for the new Leisure Centre – can’t wait for that! Just my cup of tea.

Outside of work, we had to say goodbye to our beloved caravan (over twenty years old) which had endured so many fierce winters on the Cumbrian coast that the chassis was about to collapse. A new one just wouldn’t be the same.

And my final act of the month so far has been to successfully complete an online Speeding Course. Yes, I’m afraid to admit I was caught on camera speeding around. Not racing up to Cumbria, not chasing around Manchester where I live, but driving around Halifax a few mph faster than allowed! But online was better than the classroom version I did a few years earlier! (another story)!

Have a great Christmas and see you again in the New Year.

Britain loses hundreds of public toilets

Cash-strapped councils have closed a fifth of conveniences, leaving some people with no choice but to stay close to home.

Vanishing Conveniences: Accessible Toilets Under Threat

Across the UK, public toilets are disappearing at an alarming rate, leaving many with limited options and a growing sense of urgency. This critical shortage, driven by budget cuts in cash-strapped councils, disproportionately impacts those who rely on accessible facilities the most.

Austerity measures have eroded legal obligations for councils to provide public toilets, creating a loophole exploited to save money. This has resulted in a staggering 19% decrease in public lavatories over the past six years, with the total plummeting from 3,154 in 2015/16 to a mere 2,556 in 2020/21. The consequences are dire, especially for vulnerable groups like the homeless, disabled, and individuals with specific medical needs.

The lack of accessible toilets creates a daily struggle. For those with mobility limitations, the absence of proper facilities can severely restrict their movements and participation in everyday activities. Similarly, for individuals suffering from chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the sudden need for a toilet can quickly turn into a desperate search with potentially humiliating consequences.

Malvern Theatres: A Boost for Accessibility with New Changing Places Toilet
Malvern Theatres: A Boost for Accessibility with New Changing Places Toilet

Furthermore, the loss of public conveniences poses a significant public health risk. Homeless individuals are forced to resort to unsanitary alternatives, increasing the risk of disease transmission. Outdoor workers may also struggle to find appropriate facilities, compromising their health and well-being.

This alarming trend demands immediate action. Rethinking the legal obligation for councils to provide accessible public toilets is crucial. Additionally, exploring alternative funding models, such as partnerships with private businesses or community initiatives, could offer sustainable solutions. Ultimately, ensuring everyone has access to clean and accessible toilets is not just a matter of convenience, but a fundamental human right and a critical public health concern.

Continue reading here

The Captcha Conundrum & Accessible Alternatives

Bridging the Gap: Accessible Captcha and the Quest for Inclusion

For developers of accessible websites, discerning legitimate users from automated systems presents a constant challenge. Balancing security with inclusivity can be a tightrope walk, especially when considering traditional Captcha methods. While we at Visits Unlimited employ invisible systems to minimize accessibility barriers, even these solutions aren’t foolproof.
Raghavendra Satish Peri’s insightful article on digitala11y.com dives deep into this dilemma, exploring various Captcha methods, their pros and cons, and the accessibility pitfalls encountered by massive platforms like Wikipedia.

This brings us to the story of an accessibility advocate attempting to contribute to Wikipedia. Faced with a mandatory Captcha during registration, their frustration echoes the plight of many visually impaired users who encounter accessibility roadblocks even on the most widely visited websites. The lack of readily available alternatives, like audio verification or one-time mobile codes, further underscores the need for robust yet inclusive Captcha solutions.

The quest for truly accessible Captcha goes beyond mere convenience. It’s about ensuring equal access to online platforms for everyone, regardless of their abilities. This demands a shift in approach, with a focus on developing innovative methods that not only deter bots but also empower users with diverse needs.

One promising avenue lies in leveraging advanced user behavior analysis algorithms. These can track interactions, mouse movements, and other subtle user signals to distinguish humans from automated scripts. Such solutions hold the potential to be both invisible and highly accurate, creating a seamless experience for all users.

Ultimately, inclusive web design cannot afford to compromise on security. However, by embracing innovative technologies and prioritizing user-centric solutions, we can bridge the gap between accessibility and security, paving the way for a truly inclusive online experience for everyone.

You can read the full article on Digital A11Y’s accessibility blog here.

The high cost of living in a disabling world

Many disability advocates, including Jan Gru in his excellent Guardian piece (Read the article  here ), paint a stark picture of living with a disability and accessibility today. While progress towards inclusivity has been made, challenges remain. One major hurdle? The invisible burden is placed on disabled individuals every day. From wrestling with inaccessible doors to navigating unfriendly buildings and enduring discriminatory attitudes, these obstacles chip away at the very fabric of daily life.

A screenshot of the article showing a person in a wheelchair at the bottom of some stairs. Accessibility
A screenshot of the article showing a person in a wheelchair at the bottom of some stairs

The Pandemic’s Impact:

The pandemic exacerbated these struggles for many. Not only were disabled individuals more susceptible to the virus itself, but their rights were sometimes sacrificed in the name of public safety. Denied access to essential services or even facing forced institutionalization, they bore the brunt of misguided policies.

Accessibility: Beyond Ramps and Elevators:

Accessibility demands more than just ramps and elevators; it’s about equal opportunities. Disabled individuals deserve the same access to education, employment, and housing as anyone else. Creating this level playing field requires a multi-pronged approach:

1. Education: Dispelling misconceptions about disability is crucial. Only through understanding can we dismantle barriers and foster a more empathetic society.

2. Enforce Existing Laws: We already have legal frameworks protecting the rights of disabled individuals. But they’re only as effective as their enforcement. Holding perpetrators of discrimination accountable is essential.

3. Invest in Accessible Infrastructure: Building ramps, installing elevators, and ensuring transportation accessibility are foundational steps towards inclusivity.

4. Support Disabled-Led Organizations: These groups championing change deserve our full support. We can empower them by providing resources and amplifying their voices.

Conclusion:

Living with a disability shouldn’t be an impediment to fulfillment. By collaborating and amplifying the voices of those navigating these barriers, we can build a world where accessibility is not an aspiration, but a reality.

Read the article  here