GIFTED REVIEW ♿ The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Lucy sat infront of a statue of Henry VIII she is in her wheelchair wearing a red coat

Not many people know that I absolutely adore history. It’s probably a cliche to say I also loved the Kings and Queens of England, the most, but in reality, History as a topic fascinates me, I love to watch any documentary, listening to podcasts and devour books about history and historical figures. Perhaps it’s because history is partly unsolved, the fact we have dates and evidence of what happened, but there are aspects of things that happened in history that we as the technical savvy google devouring world will never truly know.

Tudor history, the stuff that you cut your humanities education teeth on, was what really captivated me and has been a favourite of mine ever since primary school. As a kid, I vividly remember my first trip to the Tower of London, aged 10, buying ‘The Kings and Queens of England from the gift shop,’ I read it so much that the book fell apart! 

It was in that book I read about The Mary Rose, Henry VIII beloved warship that sank in the Solent in 1545 and was recovered in 1984, after decades of research and excavation lead by Alexander Mackee by The ship was raised along with 19,000 artefacts and pieces of timber were raised along with remains of about half the crew members. 

The ship and it’s contents have been perfectly preserved thanks to the muddy bed of the Solent in a purpose-built museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I was so excited to be gifted the chance to visit, as the Museum sounded so exciting to me, so my parents and I, who sat in the back of the car eating Sherbet Lemons constantly, getting increasing excited, drove down to Portsmouth for the weekend, on what turned out to be our last trip before the coronavirus lockdown came into force.

I reviewed our trip for the blog.

Lucy and her Dad in the Dockyard

The Mary Rose Museum is situated in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard 500 metres from the entrance when you hear the words ‘Historic’ and you are in a wheelchair you know it’s going to be questionable access, there is a considerable walk up to the museum over cobble-stones. 

Lucy and her Dad stood in front of a ships figure head for HMS Ben Bow  at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

They aren’t impossible to get over, but it’s a bit it is a bit uncomfortable and I did need some help to manoeuvre over them, For those visitors who find Cobbles impossible, there is free a Buggy service, that can pick you up from the entrance and take you to the Museum, you don’t have to prebook this and is available from the visitors centre near the Dockyard entrance.

 as you approach the Museum, HMS Victory is moored close by meaning that if you have to queue to get in, you can look at the fabulous sight of Lord Nelson’s Ship… Such a fantastic piece of history so close!

Lucy and her Dad stood in the Dockyard with HMS Victory behind them

The Museum building looks very modern and sleek, and yet doesn’t look like an eyesore in a location that is steeped in so much Naval History, and once inside the foyer of the building, it’s light airy and spacious. It flows easily any way-finding is very easy, The Building has recently undergone a renovation and the team at the Mary Rose consulted with disabled people to make sure that the building best caters for those with additional needs, the care and consideration in the museum really show throughout.

Personally I judge the access of an attraction on how much of it I can explore of it independently, there is nothing more empowering than wondering off around a museum on a little adventure, taking as long as you like to look at the artefacts without others rushing me, wondering if I am going to get stuck somewhere or worse knock over a precious, rare vase

Thanks to entire step-free access at The Mary Rose, you can easily get around the entire museum on your own, something which I’ve never been able to do before. The museum is set over three floors, all of which can be accessed via a spacious glass-walled lift, meaning you can admire the wreck of the Mary Rose as you travel between floors, the lights in the lift go out as the life ascends and descends, giving you chance to see just how remarkable the wreck is.

The Mary rose is dimly lit in the dark

The lift may benefit from having an audio description inside the lift to help visitors who have a visual impairment experience the view from the lift as this is the first time you get a glimpse of the ship.

Over 19,000 artefacts were discovered onboard and these make up the other half of the museum, they are displayed in glass cases that I could easily view without having to fight for position and the information displayed next to items was informative a clear and all information and guides are available in large print formats.

It is so astonishing that the items are so well preserved, so much so you can see the wear and tear that the items gained during 1545. It really is incredible. You can even see the engraved ‘H’ on items that stand for Henry.

The Anchor of the Mary Rose lies on a grey floor, wooden pieces of the ship can be seen to the left of the anchor

Facial reconstructions from the skeletons found on the ship, again help to bring the human stories to the facts figures and items you see, there are lots of videos and interactive activities and sensory resources, including tactile plans and painting of the ship. Visitors are also welcome to handle certain artefacts, both historical objects, and replicas

The Mary Rose was pulled from the Solent in 1984 and spent many years after that constantly kept damp in an attempt to preserve it, it was eventually sprayed with wax and the Museum keeps the wreckage on an airtight floor level behind automatic doors.

The first time you see the ship, that close it’s really quite something, as a history nerd it really made the hairs on my arms stand up on end, I found it quite emotional as I thought about the crewmen who went down with the vessel. 

The wreck of The Mary Rose as seen from the lift, is lit by white and blue lights

The light levels in the museum are kept low for conservation purposes, but if you require assistance issues, a member of staff will help you with your journey.

A soundtrack of Ocean waves plays as you walk throw the areas where you are close to the ship and projections of actors dressed in period clothing, working on the are projected onto where the deck and cabins would have been. You really feel involved in the story, as if you are on the ship.  I was completely engrossed in what I was experiencing and the information film projected on the wall behind the ship really helped you to live it.

Where elements of items are missing, the Museum hasn’t replaced the missing pieces with plastic replicas, but have instead incorporated a clear plastic that replicates the item, letting your imagination fill in the blank while being respectful to the artefact.

The Mary Rose Museum seems to be really committed to accessibility, holding Special “Relaxed Opening” mornings are held every month, hands-on experiences for visitors, given by fully experienced and trained member of Staff, audio loops, subtitles, and transcripts are available in exhibition spaces and the museum has a fully accessible toilet with adult changing facilities, including a hoist and adjustable table.

I am often put off by Museums, some are in pokey old buildings that are exempt from making adjustments and if I can get in it can be sometimes difficult to explore without causing a scene or mass logistical panic. 

Mary Rose Museum has been well thought out at every stage and as a result, I was allowed to be a complete history nerd and enjoy my hobby like anyone else. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.   If to too are a history lover, I recommend a trip to Portsmouth and The Mary Rose Museum to your to-do list after Lockdown.

To find out more about The Mary Rose Museum and plan your trip, visit https://maryrose.org/ and get 20% off your ticket price when you book online.

This experience was gifted to me, by the Mary Rose Museum in exchange for this review.

Lockdown Lethargy

2020. The year I had so many plans. The year I was going to finally start making a name for myself. For years, I thought that my career lay in the media, making television and telling stories.

It was only 12 months ago I can’t to the realization that any success I did have in television had happened and wasn’t ever likely to be repeated anytime soon, at the age of 22 I’d already achieved my ambition of working in television.. so what do you do when you’ve accomplished so much so young? 

It has taken the loss of a job I was good at and cruelly dismissed from to make me realise what I was really made for. The Advocacy of Disabled People. My confidence had been knocked and as I started on a brand new career it took the support of my loved ones and my friends to help build my confidence again. Slowly but surely we were getting there, I was getting in the swing of things, the jigsaw was falling into place and I felt self-assured. 

And then, like that mean kid who ruins the puzzle by stamping on it, Coronavirus hit. 

Within weeks, work commitments dwindled, Social plans halted and someone pushed pause on my life. Locked down and because of my Disability shielded from the world until further notice. 

Like most people, this had been such a test for me. Everything has been taken away from me and to some extent, I feel robbed of my identity.

I’m used to being this smiling happy girl, with brightly coloured hair and makeup on my face, with the filthiest laugh. But I’m really struggling. I feel useless, fat and ugly and I can’t get myself out of it. I have stuff I could be doing and Every morning, I wake up with a plan to accomplish something. The broken night’s sleep I’m regularly having to mean that my energy is depleted and the enthusiasm to do anything disappears as quick as the motivation arrived

I’m unable to move as much because there’s nowhere to push to get the cardio going. In trying hard to make a concerted effort to stand every day to strengthen and stretch my legs.

My hair which is usually my trademark has gone from ruby red to a rusty bucket with a fat face to boot. 

I haven’t seen my friends and I’m waving at the family through a window 

Facetime is great but I can’t wait to see the people I love 

I’m writing this down not because I want sympathy; there are thousands and thousands of people in the same or worse position than me, I am lucky to be in lockdown with my Parents and have so many friends who call and check in every day, even when I’m grumpy tearful and anxious. I am fortunate living in a house with a garden and a roof over my head but I miss adventure and day trips. I miss having a purpose. 

I feel guilty, for moaning but also guilty for not using this time wisely enough, there’s so much pressure to be organised, have a plan, learn a skill, sort stuff, why aren’t I doing that? Should I be?

Instead I’ve become accepting of the sadness that comes with this time, taking each day as it comes and being kind to myself, understanding and acknowledging his much I’ve dealt with in my life, came back swinging when others thought I wouldn’t survive.

Those that know me or have read previous blogs will know that I use writing to get out the thoughts and feelings I am wrestling with, out. I also know that there’ll be loads of people just like me who are struggling. I am writing it down, so I can look back on this extraordinary time and see where I was and how I managed to bounce back… because I will bounce back.

My career, just like my life is there waiting for me when I return, and once I’m back I’m going to be the best I can be, even if the new me isn’t fluent in three languages, this world ain’t gonna know what’s hit it. Lucy Wood 2.0 – Thinner, fitter, Joyous – with the best hair you’ve ever seen 

 I’ll see the people I love and I’ll never let them go. 

When you’re going through a storm, steady the ship and look for the lighthouse and then look for the rainbows.

GIFTED – Accessibility Review of Bear Grylls Adventure – Birmingham

This post is an accessibility review of a gifted experience from the Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a little bit of a scaredy cat, I flinch at sudden noises, I hate scary movies, and roller coasters, can’t watch Jurassic Park and I have an irrational fear of pigeons and flapping birds,  so when I was tasked with road testing the Bear Grylls Adventure Centre in Birmingham for accessibility, I have to be honest and tell you that I felt more than a little nervous at doing something so far out of my comfort zone.

Bear Grylls Adventure Centre was  opened in October 2018 within the site at the NEC and it is ‘Home of Earth’s Greatest Challenges, a new Adventure Theme Park where you can take on incredible mental and physical challenges’. An Assault and Archery Course, High Ropes, Dive and Snorkelling Packages and the indoor Skydiving experience are all up for grabs, but I wondered how on earth it would be possible for me, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy, could channel my inner survivor and complete anything on offer.

As we drove to the venue the butterflies in my stomach reached fever pitch.The building  was looming ominously through the trees and this did nothing to ease my nerves. The disabled parking is accessed via gate one and is at the side of the Centre. As I got out of the car, they were playing what I can only describe as ‘Adventure Superhero Music.’….again, not helping the nerves.

I went in through the Automatic doors and entered the survival themed building, the open plan layout showed off the tropical diving tank and the most beautiful fish I’d ever seen and there was Base Camp and the assault course that looked impossible.

The friendly receptionist Sarah was there to greet me. She put me at ease and talked me through how it all works, gave me a wristband which enabled access to the activities, upload  photos and videos of my experiences and worked the lockers. These are big enough for a backpack and also operated by your wristband. Another band with the activities I was booked on to, was wrapped around my other wrist.  Base Camp was scheduled to start at 11am, Indoor Skydiving at 1pm and snorkelling at 2pm. I was a set.. Just as soon as I’d signed the waiver….

I made a promise to myself that if there was any possible way I could do any of the activities ahead of me, I’d at least try..

Base Camp

As 11am approached I wheeled over to the Assault Course,that looked completely inaccessible, to all intense and purpose, the equivalent to being my Everest.  I was nervous and I mumbled ‘I… I don’t think I can do the Assault Course’ That was when I met Stark. A man in a bright orange shirt walked towards me and introduced himself.

‘Hello. I’m Stark, How you doing?’

Stark was not in the least bit interested in what I couldn’t do, he wanted to know about my strengths and what I could do.  He put me at ease straight away, and felt more like a supportive Friend, not someone I’d only just met.. We had a chat and he was not one bit phased about what I can’t do physically. He explained what I’d need to do for each obstacle in turn, and asked if I thought each one would be at all possible, and without making me feel stupid if I said, ‘No I can’t do that’.

Stark then announced he was fetching his colleague, Will, who, if I was happy, they would hold me up by putting their arms through mine and holding me under my armpits and help me through the Assault Course. They were physically holding me up so I could attempt to move my legs and walk through the stepping stones. It’s not everyday you’re offered the chance to be held up by two very handsome, strong young men. This was already turning out to be the best day ever!

There were six of us in our group and we had a briefing about the importance of teamwork, and a warm up before we started the course. By now, we were all up for the challenge ahead.. Stark and I had agreed, I would with assistance, walk through the stepping stones, drop down to the floor and crawl on my stomach through a cargo net as a minimum. Everybody else who took part in the session did the whole course like lightening leaving me for dust. Before I knew it, I was on my feet flanked by Stark and Will (who is a Marine in Training).

My little legs slowly moved forward and with every step Stark’s encouragement powered me through as I made my way through the stepping stones. As I have no standing balance and cannot walk at all, the effort of trying to move my legs drained them of all energy. Before I knew it I was on the floor and heading for the Cargo net..  

I used every drop of energy to get me through the other side of that net, the adventure music blaring, Bear Grylls Himself reiterating the values of the marines. As I pulled myself through, Will and Stark kept urging me on, telling me what a good effort I was making.  It really helped me to dig deep and keep going. I’d still under there now if it wasn’t for them.

I was doing it, me, Lucy Wood, the scaredy-cat. I was under the Cargo net, and I was smashing it.

I emerged, free from the net, completely done in. Will and Stark picked me up and put me back in my wheelchair, I couldn’t  do anymore of the assault course I was exhausted. Stark was so proud of me and I met up with everyone else at the end of the course. I’ve never in my life had a dry mouth AND a dry throat at the same time.

Archery was next, which I was terrible at, but I managed to fire at least one arrow at a target successfully

Next up was the focus on the four things you need to survival:  Shelter, Water, Fire. and Food, we walked through a cave experience, I was lifted from my chair and assisted through the cave by Will and Stark, and then into another room learn about venomous snakes.. And dined on Mealworms.. Dry and crunchy,seen as you asked…

And with that the Base Camp was over. I was elated, I’d already done more than I could ever have possibly dreamed.  It was such an exhilarating feeling. and I’d made the executive decision the diet was off and I was definitely having a cheat day.

I headed to the Indoor Skydiving, which was accessed via two lifts. As we arrived we were greeted by James, my Skydiving Instructor, whom we had just seen flying effortlessly through the air like a superhero. I was gobsmacked..  It looked incredible.

James again asked how well my legs worked and we talked about how they were going to get me in the tunnel itself and went to get his colleague Hayley who’d be on hand to help, Hayley would take my wheelchair away while James held me in the wind tunnel. The fact I couldn’t totally straighten my legs wasn’t a problem and in fact it actually seemed to help. Before I knew it, I was in my flying suit, watching a briefing video on safety and hand signals. A giant jar of ear plugs was handed round and we were fitted out with goggles. Then we were led through to the flying chamber and we were sitting at the side of wind tunnel waiting to fly… we were told that we’d get two goes at 1 minute long.

‘Who’s up first’ James asked, nobody volunteered and after a pause, I heard my voice saying ‘I’ll do it…’

Going first felt like I was setting myself a huge challenge. I was petrified.

I parked myself in the doorway of the tunnel and James pulled me forward, the fan was deafening and the force of the air took my breath away. I couldn’t speak. I felt  like I could have backed out, but there was no turning back as James and Hayley soon had me flying and it felt amazing.

I looked up to see my Mum filming me from the viewing area. The look on her face will never ever leave me as long as I live.She looked so proud of me and had the biggest smile on her face.  I don’t think she could quite believe that I was actually doing the I-Fly. I couldn’t believe it either, and as I started to relax, I felt so free within my own body, something that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before, I knew James and Hayley were guiding me but I couldn’t feel them holding on to me.It was only when I watched the video back I saw how the two instructors were with me the whole time.

There were five people taking it in turns in our group and when the fourth person came back I moved forward again. For an extra £7 in your second flight you have the option to fly higher in the tube.

‘You. Up?’ James signed. I shook my head, no.  I was quite happy with the flying experience as it was and didn’t fancy going up to the top.  I had enough adrenaline from the first flight.

I have never known something to be so petrifying and so enjoyable at the same time. The skill of the instructors James, and Hayley, is just amazing. They were mesmerising to watch. I was left speechless as I watched James flying up and down and round and round like a superhero. It’s quite easy to imagine how you can get addicted to adrenaline adventures.

I had never snorkelled before, the thought of sticking my face in the water and breathing through a tube panicked me a little bit. I always thought that not knowing what was under the sea when you go on holiday was better because if I thought about it before I’d freak out and panic..

I sat down with my instructor Annie who asked me sign a waiver and talked me through how to snorkel. I’d been told that the venue had their own sling and hoist and as it transpired, while they did have a hoist I should have bought my own sling. Annie disappeared off, and came back a few minutes later to tell me that with help from two other staff members and my mum, they would still like me to take part in the activity. I  was suited up in a wet suit and we were good to go.

Annie and the team had a real ‘can do’ attitude and made sure that everything was done safely and professionally. Annie’s colleague, Will was in the tank as I was lowered into the water and Annie joined us in the water when it was time to get out.

‘Just hold on to the cage, and in your own time, take a deep breath’ Will said.

As I put my head under the water it was so quiet and peaceful, the fish, including the sharks and the rays, swam so close to me.  They were beautiful. I kept my breathing slow and steady and felt so utterly relaxed that I didn’t want my time in the water to end.

Annie, Will, another member of staff and my Mum lifted me out of the tank after 20 minutes. I was soon back in the changing room drying off and readying for home.

While getting changed, the reality of what I’d done during the day hit me, it was me who’d been crawling under cargo nets, eating mealworms, flying the equivalent of 12,000 feet in a wind tunnel and snorkelling in a tank full of the most beautiful marine life.

When I go to theme parks, or do anything that’s remotely geared up more for able bodied people, there’s mountains of restrictions placed on me, ‘we can’t let you do this, because of your chair’, or ‘unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to do that with you if you’re unable to walk’ are the norm. The  Bear Grylls Adventure is different. I’ve never known an attraction be so accommodating and so keen to help me experience everything I possibly could while I was with them.

Everyone involved in my adventure  day wanted me to get the most out of my time there. They believed in me and they didn’t allow my disability to get in the way, it just wasn’t an issue. Everyone I came into contact with made me and my Mum feel so welcome, and bent over backwards to ensure that I left feeling like I’d had the most amazing time, and I did just that.  I had had the very best time!

If you are like me and have a disability and would like to have some adventure in your life, but are unsure about the Bear Grylls Adventure, all I can say is enquire, contact them and see what they can offer you.  I honestly thought I’d be unable to do much of anything that is on offer, but in reality, for the very first time I felt that it was my ability and not my disability that was the focus, and as I walked out of the doors, I heard the ‘Super hero Adventure Music’ again this time I knew exactly what it was for, because it was empowering.  Perhaps there’s a wonder woman inside me after all.

To book your Bear Grylls Adventure package, visit there website today

Standing Proud

I have a condition called Cerebral Palsy, it’s a chameleon of a condition, changing drastically and affecting those who have it in varying levels of severity, some have difficulties speaking, while others. Like me have difficulty walking. In my case it effected my ability to walk completely and I use a manual wheelchair to get where I need to go.

I have increased muscle tone in my legs, meaning that they are always turned ‘on’ and ready for action, I have never stood and so the tendons in my legs are shorter than yours and I am, when I do stand aided, on my tip toes for just a few seconds. Bottom line is my legs are shit.

As a result of being in a wheelchair all day, my body is in some sort of weird spasm most of the time. When I was younger, I’d never notice my pain much, but as I have grown up, I realised I am in constant pain all the time – Each day my pain levels vary, and on the very rare occasion that I’m pain free, I know that the following day, or the days after my pain spike is going to be big.

I am a young woman who is determined not to be too severely hampered by pain and so each day is, like for so many with a disability, a balancing act. I do everything I can to elevate the pain I have, and I have learnt to work with it and not against it. I take CBD Oil daily which really helps, early nights to stretch out my body that’s been crumpled up all day, and mindfulness are a regular part of my routine.

I had many ways to straighten my feet including these plaster boots on for 6 weeks at a time to try to create muscle memory and hold my feet on the correct position for standing and walking

As is often the case when I was at school as a young person with a disability, there was lots to explore to help my body, we tried most things that didn’t require surgery.

I stood everyday Monday – Friday for what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact, only 90 minutes in a standing frame, similar to this, it was the equivalent to torture there was no easing you in gently, two people would push, pull and manoeuvre me and many of my classmates into these frames, being told to ‘push up tall’ as the Velcro straps where done up tight around my torso and hips, no room to wriggle or settle myself into any sort of comfortable position, we were taken into class, and left for an hour and a half to concentrate on the first lesson of the day, whilst in the most indescribable pain.

It was no use trying to get an early release or a day off standing, if it hurt they’d say ‘You’ve not been in there long, try a little bit longer’ or the classic reply of ‘5 more minutes’ if I’d been the lucky one to be stood in the eyeline of the classroom wall clock, we’d pray for a medical visit, a swimming lesson or a school trip that would get us out of standing, the only thing that would  guarantee me getting out of the stander, was being sick, I’d never made myself sick on purpose but the sensation of standing would make me dizzy and sick. Delightful.

I was 15 when I stopped standing, My Parents and my physio couldn’t see the benefit, I’d had a growth spurt and it seemed like my brand-new boobs were playing havoc with my already limited ability to balance. I can’t say I wasn’t overjoyed at the fact I didn’t have to stand anymore.

I left school, attended college and university with never any mention of standing again, but as I said earlier, I was getting older, and my pains were more noticeable. The turning point of this pain management was one evening, Mum had made me an appointment with the Doctor, I’d been miserable and irritable all week, weeping and yelping in pain, not sleeping and at the end of my rope, the pain spikes had started to affect my mood with my family and I decided to do something about it

During my GPs appointment my lovely GP asked me to straighten my leg on the bed and was shocked when I couldn’t. He’d never seen me out of my chair before and once he did the first words out of his mouth was ‘You need to see a Physio’

That was three years ago and since then, I know see a neurologist annually and am currently on my second round of Physio and Hydrotherapy.

Before my first physio, no physio had touched my body for a long time my core was no existent and I spent a lot of time sat out of my chair unaided learning to turn my muscles on and balance it took so much concentration that it felt like my brain was boiling and after that set of sessions we started to see some gradual improvement.

I have now gone back to start my second set of physio, I realised I was developing a new ache as I started to learn my Level 1 in British Sign Language, my physiotherapist team are amazing and I told them my concerns, that I believed Sign Language was making my hands worse and they put my mind at rest, telling me it’s just the muscles getting stronger.  They have given me exercises to help both my hands, core and stamina – which help so much.

Conversations later turned to long term maintenance, and I mentioned how I used to stand as a child, how it was awful and how despite all that, I might, possibly like to try it again.

At the time of writing this, I am still attending weekly physio sessions and this week stood up for precisely 28 minutes today with very few wobbles in my legs. I still can’t get used to the dizziness and the sick feeling, while I’m stood up, and my legs and hips are killing but. I think my legs are getting a teeny tiny bit more used to standing in a frame.

The last few weeks, my brain, upon realising I’m stood up for the first time since I was 15, panics and sends my legs into spasms, that make my feet jolt and feel like I’m falling, today my brain, for the most part remained calm. My legs still shake uncontrollably at the end of a session

I am convinced that my constant pain that happens because I’m in a wheelchair, directly affect my confidence and mental state. If I’m having a huge pain spike, I feel low and if I feel low, I start to feel useless, which effects my confidence

Standing is NOT comfortable, it’s painful and if I’m honest, just recently there have been times when I’ve just not wanted anyone to stand me, but I’ll keep going, because I know all the discomfort now will be worth it and I know the standing is helping.

I’ll never stand unaided and I will never walk but I can’t tell you how freeing standing in that frame is. I almost never want to sit down

Adventure Seeker

who has a disability, trips and visits often must be planneddays; sometimes weeks in advance. There’s nothing more humiliating than turningup to a venue and realising you can’t get into an event or building, can’t usethe loos, or have someone looking at you, staring, in full internal panic whilethey cobble together a solution to this include this disabled person who daredto venture out of the house. There have been times I’ve left places and gohome, so upset and frustrated at my barriers that I’ve just wanted to stop athome with Netflix.

It shouldn’t be like this in this day and age, it’s the 21stcentury and you’d think in the age of the internet, finding access informationabout anywhere I want to visit should be easy to find, but it isn’t, it’s afunny little foot note hidden away on like a weird treasure hunt, and when youdo find it, it’ll often cover parking and toilets or direct you to a phonenumber for further assistance… exhausting, huh?

It’s time for a revolution for those with disabilities andaccess needs, we deserve better, we deserve adventure

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNBMLfI-d78

A new App, AccessAble, has officially launched into theApple and Google Play Stores. Developed by a national disability organisation,it aims to transform the quality and availability of accessibility information.

The App provides Detailed Access Guides to 10,000s of placesacross the UK and Ireland. These Guides aren’t personal reviews, but step bystep descriptions of what accessibility is like at a particular place – theyare 100% facts, figures and photographs. Crucially each Guide is created havingbeen visited by an AccessAble Surveyor, who can collect over 1,000 piece ofinformation for just one venue. The type of information collected is all drivenby AccessAble’s 35,000 strong user community.

Users can create a profile, save their favourites and set their own preferences using AccessAble’s Accessibility Symbols.

Log in, Save your access preferences and you’re good to go!

Guides are detailed and I mean really detailed, it includesinformation on things I hadn’t even thought I might need and the app is not acomplicated thing to use, it’s fast, and very informative on a wide range ofvenues from restaurants to cinemas, sporting venues and even hospitals thisapp  makes me feel so confident to trynew places and explore.

The real beauty of this, is that this is an app meaning youcan download it to a phone, iPad #or tablet and this wealth of information isat your fingertips. Plans changed?  Nodrama just search for your desired activity using the ‘near me’ function andthe app will give you all the information it has about things to do nearby.  This app isn’t just useful for people withdisabilities and access requirements but new parents with buggies can alsobenefit from this app too.

If you know someone who is perhaps a bit nervous of goingnew places and trying new things, tell them about the work of AccessAble andgive them the gift of adventure. Its time disabled people came out of theirpigeon holes and lived life without fear of being denied spontaneity.

Adventures are out there and is waiting for you

Lucy Wood – AccessAble Champion

Giveaway

AccessAble is available for download on Andrioid and IoS and to celebrate the launch of their brand-new app, have a £50 iTunes/Google Play gift card to give away to one lucky winner. To enter, simply download the AccessAble App, leave a review in the app store and email hello@AccessAble.co.uk with your iTunes or Google Play username.

Closes at midnight on 28th February. Winner will be randomly selected

My Sign Language Journey

Last year  I made the decision to take up British Sign Language (BSL), it wasn’t new to me, I had attended a specialist school for people with a wide and varied range of disabilities, so much so my class mates and I were taught the basics of BSL to help me communicate with not only my deaf friend, but others who had communication difficulties.

And I’d often thought many times over the years, about gaining my level 1 qualification. After all as far as I was concerned BSL is a legitimate language in it’s own right and is a tongue I use far more than, French that I’ve actually got a qualification in.

It had been along time since I’d signed, I could remember the finger spelt alphabet and the odd phrase, so before I considered the qualification I signed up for a 10 week taster course before I went for it big time – and as I thought I fell in love with BSL all over again, it had been 20 years since I last signed, and in that time signs had evolved and changed a little and these days Makaton (a simpler form of sign language) is used for those who are hearing but cannot communicate.

The 10 weeks flew by and I made some great new friends, none of us really wanted to stop – Sign Language craves repetition and makes you inquisitive of the regional dialects of Sign Language, yes you can be deaf and still have an accent.

Those 10 weeks, with someone who was calm, encouraging and who has now become a close friend was enough to nurture my confidence and go and get my Level 1 Qualification.

This was a big thing for me, but I knew that this qualification would help show future employees how serious I am about advocating the rights of people with barriers and that not only that I would become fluent in a very exciting language.

The lady who teaches me is deaf herself, I recommend to anyone who is thinking about learning BSL at a qualification level to lean from a D/deaf teacher, you learn far more than just signs that way, the importance of your face, your body language, the movement and position of your hands all come far quicker when your mentored by a individual who is D/deaf.

It forces you to interact in your new-found language, you can’t be nervous, even if you don’t know the signs, if you want to be understood you must express yourself by any means possible. It’s quite liberating.

I’ve found a passion that I never knew existed, Sign Language craves repetition, you will find that if you stop signing for a short amount of time your brain gets filled up with other things and so the language you learnt makes way for reminders about groceries, to do lists at work, and just exactly what time are you meeting your mate for drinks?

Think about it, how long ago did you learn a language at school?  Do you ever use it?

A few of my friends from my 10-week course didn’t want to give up what we’d learnt so we decided to set up Happy Hands Sign Language Club a place for those who are local and have an interest in Sign to come together a support one another in Sign Language practice

It’s brought people together who I’d never ordinarily meet and we’re becoming a great group of people, people who have some one who is deaf in the family, have recently had a diagnosis of deafness, those interested in sign language and those who are learning. We are becoming a support network and I couldn’t be prouder of what sign language has done to enrich my life and those around me.

All I Want for Christmas is Accessible Christmas Shopping

I love Christmas. I’m 31 now and my Mum still must tell me every Christmas Eve, that there’s to be absolutely no present opening or movement to happen before 6:30am.

I hate Christmas Shopping. I mean, shopping excursions are a nightmare for people with disabilities at the best of times, but November hits and shopping centers and high streets get horrifically busy, fellow shoppers seem to lose all festive thought of good will to all men and it becomes more like the Hunger Games.

I live just outside Birmingham, best known for its shopping centers. The Bullring has 140 stores to peruse and the annual German Christmas Market. You’d think that it would be a dream for someone who loves Christmas, but I have a disability add that to mix and it’s a whole new level of festive anxiety.

I’m in wheelchair: and for starters, Birmingham is hilly, hills for anyone in a wheelchair may as well be Everest. I need to know where the flattest straight forward routes in and out are, so I’m not exhausted before I even start. Once you’re in a crowd your view is of claustrophobic pushing and shoving, and while shopping complexes are on the flat and easy to push around, The Bullring, like every shopping Centre is sprawling, I get lost in a sea of nothing but backsides,  disabled toilets are often miles away from each other, and I am inevitably the furthest possible point away from a loo when I need one.  And don’t get me started on queuing for the lift, infact just talking about it is, making me sweat.. All in all, It makes me feel harassed, anxious and in need of alcohol.

I like many disabled people, annually put my faith in the Online Shopping Gods that everything will arrive on time. Finding somewhere to store all the ridiculous oversized boxes that delivered a set of earrings and a pen, working out how long I have before my Dad complains that the hallway looks like Royal Mail Sorting Office This year I dared to be adventurous and wanted to try the traditional Christmas Shop.

I used the brand new Accessable App
The App means that all the guides are in my pocket when I need them, Change of plan??  No Problem! 

Armed with the brand new AccessAble app and website, packed with detailed Accessibility Guides tell you all about a venue’s access. They are 100% facts, figures and photographs, I went to The Bullring.

Everyone’s accessibility needs are different, so having detailed, accurate information is so important. Trained surveyors to check out every listing in person and the information that’s collect been decided by disabled people, there’s detailed information about the important stuff, widths of disabled bays, exactly where the toilets and how roomy they are, and even what the lighting is like in the venue. It might seem boring to you, but to disabled people this knowledge is great and takes the stress out of going places. And Christmas Shopping is stressful.

finding accessible parking spots and a lift is easy no more exhaustion before I even start shopping!

With the information about where the facilities were, I was able to plan a route around the shopping Centre that meant I could spend time enjoying retail therapy! I could even relax a bit and go for a drink and something to eat knowing that I wouldn’t get lost finding a toilet, is a game changer, as the solution to not knowing where or if there were facilities is often to not drink anything for hours just to save hassle.

Hunts for the Disabled Toilets are a thing of the past thanks to the AccessAble App 

The App is brilliant, and means that the Access Guides are there if you need them, I spontaneously nipped into Debenhams to buy a party dress! What a revelation! I wanted to know where the lift was I was able to locate the accessible Changing rooms away without walking around and around through crowds and looking for signs and getting lost! Amazing!

I could find detailed information about changing rooms in the clothing stores I visited 

If I could gift anything the disabled community this Christmas, it’s would be the sense of freedom that AccessAble is giving disabled people and what’s great is that it’s totally free to download and sign up with an account! Go on, try it. Make 2019 the year of an adventure. The more you know, the more likely you are to go! Merry Christmas!

Stan Lee – The King of Empowerment

I was sad to hear about the Death of Stan Lee recently, I didn’t realise just how much of a comic book fan I was until my childhood was nearly over,I live in a small village with the best Fish and Chip shop for miles around, at the end of our road, maybe if that had been a Comic Book store, I wouldn’t resemble a small fridge freezer.

I can remember seeing the XMen cartoon for the first time in the early 90’s, back then, you didn’t see disabled characters at the helm of anything – In fact I didn’t see anyone like me in many forms of entertainment at all growing up.

So as a 12 year old, when I saw professor X, a man in a wheelchair who was seriously cool, joining together a load of misfit mutants, who basically saved the world, after a bunch of normals screw humanity over, I felt like a badass I was in a wheelchair like Professor X, and I spent the rest of my childhood trying to master mind power. I wasn’t a superhero but, my god, I wanted to be.

For me, the XMen are empowering, Most of the X-Men are mutants, humans who are born with superhuman abilities. The X-Men fight for peace and equality between normal humans and mutants in a world where antimutant bigotry is fierce and widespread.

Alright so I’m not a ‘mutant’ but I’ve been called worse and I wasn’t born superhuman, despite what the Channel 4 coverage of the Paralympics might tell you. Take the Comic book-ness out of it and you have a group of people who advocate equality between able bodied people and, for want of a better phrase, ‘disabled’ people, your basically describing my morals and personal ethos. Disabled people aren’t special, society thinks we are inspirational, when, we just wanted to be treated with respect and like an average Joe.

The rise of disability hate crime means that prominent and loud voices of disabled people need, more than ever, to be heard. If you give the idea to disabled people, that they are warrior like heroes that is a very empowering vision and when you become empowered you are unstoppable.

Stan Lee made me feel so cool and years later I started to blog as The Four Wheeled Wonder Woman (yes, I know she’s DC, not Marvel) the two things shouldn’t mix disability being alluded too with the term wonder woman thrown in for good measure, but when you do it’s a powerful image.

I may be a on Four Wheels, but I can still save the day, I use the persona when I need a confidence boost, minus the outfit, when I’m the Four Wheeled Wonder Woman I am unstoppable,

It’s not about shouting and argumentative, it’s about having strength to pick your battles and standing your ground, understanding that there will be people who disagree or dislike you, but you have morals and a willingness to never give in.

When I first saw those X Men Cartoons, I was a struggling withmy disability, I was growing up and realising society misunderstood me, Comicbooks and the XMen and Stan, made me see that just because I was different didn’tmean I was deformed.  But more because I am Disabled, I am strong, andI am powerful.

Stan Lee 

Painting the Town Purple

Going shopping is a nightmare for me, being sat down means that all I ever see is arses in my peripheral vision pushing, shoving and in some cases tutting at me as I try to navigate narrow pavement of a high street, badly placed A boards and inconsiderate parking make it stressful to even attempt to visit a high street.

And then when you manage to get into a shop, I’m often left feeling too awkward to leisurely wander around the shops. Walk ways too narrow, that I feel attempting to view something on a shelf will cause mass disruption an chaos, so I let the person I’m with lead the way as I closely follow behind.
Tills too high and feeling rushed not by the staff necessarily but the impatient of customers in the queue behind me make me anxious. Never saying ‘excuse me’ fellow customers often just stand there staring silently hoping I will see them through the power of the mind and kindly moving out of the way like I’m an XMen character

I have money burning a hole in my pocket, and a desire to go on adventures, disability representation is getting better but is it effective if the items these disabled people a refreshingly advertising are in store that are totally inaccessible. It kind of defeats the object, doesn’t it?
Today (Nov. 13th) is Purple Tuesday, a campaign to make customer-facing businesses more aware of these opportunities and challenges and inspire them to make changes to improve the disabled customer experience over the long term.
Nearly one in every five people in the UK has a disability or impairment, and over half of households have a connection to someone with a disability. Their collective spending power – the Purple Pound – is worth £249 billion to the UK economy.

Hundreds of companies have signed up to Purple Tuesday, as a step to improve shopping experience, and I am extremely proud to be working with one of Purple Tuesday’s Supporters, AccessAble. Having the access information about a place your going to visit is a massively useful step for someone who’s first thought doing anything remotely exciting, is ‘is this possible’.
We need to make disability issues everyone’s issue, if we think about access, it helps everyone and if we look at tackling disability awareness training for employees’ company wide it makes society more inclusive and it enriches the lives of disabled people.

Disabled people don’t sit in doors all day making bird boxes anymore, we want adventure, excitement and experiences and now with high streets suffering is the perfect time to refocus redesign and retrain High-street stores and their staff who work in them to see that the futures bright, the futures purple.

Clip Clapping over your rickety rackety bridge…

Manners Maketh Man. That’s what they say. My Mother and Father brought me up to be polite, kind and respectful back before social media took hold of our daily lives and trolls had rainbow hair and wishing gems in there Belly buttons Those where the days.

I’ve had two instances of bullying throughout my life so far, once at University and where the lecturer believed I was never gong to get anywhere in life because I was disabled, and the other by a fellow disabled person I went to School. but I’ve always been confident in the belief that I can do anything and those that belittle or tell me I can’t will just have to eat there words.. and they do.

These instances have changed me, for the better. Life on four wheels gives you a thick skin, to brush of stares, gorps, mutterings about you under the breaths of trolls.  You have to think of each stare as if you’re famous, and that the reason the people stare is because your kind of a big deal.

I have said before that Social Media gives me an opportunity to show people exactly what it like to have a disability, being as open an honest as I can breaks down taboos and shows people that it’s not all free parking and government handouts.

There’s down days, sometimes dips and there’s euphoric days where you don’t just jump the bar of expectation but you clear it, where your rolling on tarmac and floating on air – sharing life’s little triumphs and terrors with my online friends is helpful and the kindness is mind blowing.

But of course, socail media is like a bridge and under every bridge, there lives the trolls, with brains the size of peas and mouths in the gutter, living red faced and angry about the world.  the fact that I’m kind and approach life with vigour, yet I’m disabled winds them up so they lever any attack on me and my spaz chariot, in an attempt to get a rise.

What of course they don’t seem to realise is, that I have had every insult hurled at me in lifetime, very little offends me and these days, so I smile and pass a comment. I find ‘Quote tweet’ works wonders I highlight it and let Twitter do the rest, they soon delete it and retreat to there hovel.

What is harder for me to grasp is the increase abuse I seem to be receiving from the disabled community. People often ask me

Is there much in fight between disabled people?

The answer is yes, it’s unbelievable how rife it is. In recent weeks I asked for feedback about my blogs and my plans for YouTube videos. It was the second response that really took me back.

In the anonymous survey I was told by a woman who follows me on Twitter that ‘I was a disgrace to the disabled community, that my openness and posts about my pain levels and down days verge on sounding like self pity.’ The absolute character assassination went past my social media content and became personal.

I take all criticism on board, especially where I asked for it. And maybe I will tone down the whinging, but calling me a disgrace to the disabled community really is unfair. Just because I don’t get on with all Disabled people doesn’t mean I don’t like disabled people. My best friends were disabled, they died far too soon than is fair for this world and I miss them more than I could possibly explain. I’ve spent my entire life, instilling in disabled people that you can do anything you bloody well want. I can’t get in with everyone and even when you identify as a minority group there are people within that group I cannot stand. Sorry my fellow Brothers and Sisters it’s how it is.

I live a life that is, where possible, limitless. I love life, laughing and everything in between, I but my face on and don’t wear joggers out of the house. I don’t let the fact I’m disabled stop me from anything and I never use it as an excuse to shy away. I am disabled and proud. It’s not the be all and end all.

This person follows me on Twitter and has done for a while, of you really think I’m a disgrace, unfollow me, you really mean nothing to me.

I wobbled for a little while, questioned if I was a disgrace to the disabled community. I came to the conclusion that I can’t please everyone. I have a voice, and up until now have been a ambassador for the disabled community I’ve disgraced so much.

Let me clip clop over your bridge, dear troll, I’m going to break so much ground it’ll devastate you