Wheelchairs and mud – not a marriage made in heaven!

Using a manual chair 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 tarmaced. 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, getting out in the mud, pushing through the mud to the entrance, and looking and feeling like a dirty drowned rat when I eventually got inside.

Not the best start to the afternoon!

My worst mud experiences by far came as a parent, taking my rugby fanatic son to junior rugby matches and training. From Under 9’s to Under16’s, (that’s eight seasons – yes, eight) winter Sundays had to include a trip to our local club or to a match elsewhere.

Yes, there was excitement! Yes, there was banter! Yes, there were bacon sandwiches! And yes, there was mud, glorious mud!

Being a junior team meant we were usually sent 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, however, “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 was my son – immaculate out of the showers in white shirt and smart tie on match days. However, he’d 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.

As you know I like a good rock festival in the summer, and we have a great one at Jodrell Bank called Bluedot (Earth from space – geddit?) Mid-summer, always bone dry, until the last event when there was a record-breaking downpour the night before. Parking in a very muddy field should have warned me off, having to be carried through the entrance gates to a little patch of grass should have set off the alarm bells, but no! I was on a mission! I’ve never been so completely covered in mud during my whole life. The worst part was crossing the sea of mud to the accessible viewing platform, way over there…. I set off and got nowhere, then a friendly voice – can I help? broke my leg years ago, wheelchair for six months, know how crap it is…and off we went. Perfect result, brilliant music but then had to leave my chair and outside clothes on the patio when I got home while I transferred to another chair to go into my house! Hosed it all down next morning.

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

Do Something Different in Yorkshire

Do Something Different Survey Results

Time flies when the sun is out!  Back in June we launched the ‘Do Something Different’ project which is setting up a web based resource aimed at families with children and young people with a wide range of disabilities, plus disabled people and their carers/Personal Assistants.   The resource will feature a selection of venues, attractions, parks, walks, short breaks and will be for anyone who is looking for suggestions on interesting and varied days out in the Yorkshire and Humber area.

To do this we asked you to fill in our survey or comment on our face book groups ‘Visits Unlimited’ and ‘Visits Unlimited Days out in Yorkshire’.

Do Something Different Survey Summary

The results were really encouraging, over 60 people entered the survey and over 40 different places were suggested.  It was lovely to see the wide range of venues and activities that people visit, and we hope that this will help encourage others to try and do something different!

The places listed in the survey were numerous here are some you know and hopefully a few new ideas:  Eureka; Flamingo Land; The Yorkshire Wild Life Park; Castle Howard; The Yorkshire Sculpture Park; The seaside; The South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum; The Cow and Calf; Ponderosa Farm.

We asked for diverse ideas and that is what we got!  Most people said they chose their favourite place because of the accessible activities and venue (85%) and the friendly/ helpful staff and volunteers, (64%).

Here are some of the reasons people recommended their favourite place:

  • Diggerland: The staff have a real can do attitude and help kids with disabilities push their own boundaries.
  • Flamigo Land:  My son being allowed to be lifted on rides as most parks insist you have to be able to stand and get on and off rides.  If your child is daredevil like mine then this great as they can actually enjoy the rides
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park:  Cheap day out if you have a Max card. Food’s nice but you can take a picnic to save money.
  • Wentworth Gardens: The farm is accessible to disabled people, the staff are lovely, it’s not expensive and it’s not too big. Even the shop has reasonable priced toys
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Park:   Staff are very friendly and empathetic to the needs of families with children with additional needs and its easy to get around with or without a wheelchair. There is also plenty of seating in case they get tired partway round.
  • Scarborough:  Accessible with buses and lift to main town in Scarborough.

We asked how these venues could be improved and the most frequent answer was better/ more accessible toilets, some felt the staff could be more aware and more friendly.  Parking and recognition of need for parking close to the venues was also a problem.

These points are invaluable to others as it is first hand experience.  It is this information that will make the Do Something Different Resource of real value.

The project doesn’t end here.  We are now looking at the information available on the website and will then be approaching all of the places mentioned in the survey to see how, using your feed back we can make them more accessible.  We want to offer training and support to enable them to implement the ideas and changes recommended by you.

Its not too late to get involved.  We will be updating you on the face book pages and asking for more information on some of the places mentioned, this resource needs to be current and reliable so in turn we will be relying on you!

Finally a huge thank you to everyone who completed the survey and gave us feedback.  We look forward to continuing this dialogue until we have ‘Visits Unlimited’ across the country.

Also a special thanks to Samantha, Sara and Leanne for the lovely photos.