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,


Chris the mudlark

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.

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