Friday, 31 August 2018

Off the beaten track

I wouldn't call myself an avid hiker but outside of the nettle and wasp season, I do really enjoy getting out there, off the beaten track, in the woods and exploring the countryside. I thought, with my Freewheel, that I'd found the best solution for off-roading, but to be honest, I've had so many problems with it that I just don't trust it that much, so I started looking for something better.

Mountain Trike

When I Googled off-road wheelchairs, most of the results were big electric scooters, and as many of you know, it's really important to me that I get exercise, so powered vehicles aren't my thing. Then I found the Mountain Trike website. They've updated their site since then, and now the first thing you see is the price. I had to search for prices and I nearly gave up when I found them. It seemed too expensive. However, I did want to try one out, so I kept searching. That was when I found Experience Community, a Huddersfield-based group that are about getting disabled people into the countryside.

Back in January, we were supposed to be going on holiday but had to cancel, as I was too unwell. Later in the week, however, I felt up to some day trips, so we had a drive over to Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield, to try out a Mountain Trike. The guys at Experience Community were absolutely great. It helps that some of them are also active wheelchair users, so one of them showed me how to use the trike and took us for a walk along the canal bank. By the time we got back, I was sold!

How it works

The main difference between the trike and a normal wheelchair is that you propel it using levers. The advantage of this, is that you don't get wet, dirty hands and wrists when it's wet. It also means that you can pretty much get across any surface. The wheels have got huge tyres with big grippies that are perfect for mud, grass, sand, etc. The mechanism makes it much easier to progress over uneven ground than in a normal chair. Plus, it's got mega-suspension that takes out all the bumps and vibrations, to make it really comfy.

Photo of me taking the dog for a walk with my mountain trike

To steer, there is a side to side mechanism on the right lever. That's also where the brakes are. You just push the handle to the left or right and that makes the back wheel change direction. It is a bit weird at first, having rear steering. It's like driving a B&Q trolley! Also, when Liggy pulls to the side, I turn the other way, which total baffles her. 


Hills

In my normal chair, going up steep hills can be a little scary, as the centre of gravity makes it want to tip over backwards. Going down is fantastic though - great fun! Well, the mountain trike is the opposite. Going uphill, though slow and hard work, is great. The trike feels very secure and even on steep hills, it shows no signs of tipping, mainly because the trike wheel is at the back. Going downhill, on the other hand, is quite scary! The brakes do help but any thoughts of sailing down at high speed, in manner of rollercoaster, have to be totally suppressed! It's quite hard to brake gently and when I brake, I get thrown forward, which is what those little front wheels are there for. They stop me falling too far forwards.

So, if you like getting out and about and don't want to be restricted to concrete and asphalt paths, I strongly recommend this piece of kit! Rather cheekily, I got mine second hand off eBay, but I would certainly use the guys at Experience Community, and I've already had it into them for a gold service.



Photo of me sitting in my mountain trike and Liggy sitting on the lawn

Thanks to my brother-in-law, Graham, for the photos.


Friday, 10 August 2018

Adapting the home

When we bought our current house, back in 2015, we knew it needed a couple of things doing urgently. The bathroom was completely unusable for me, so that had to be replaced before we even moved in. We got a stairlift fitted pretty quickly too. The rest was always a bit of a middle to long-distance dream.

Most of the spring was taken out with a major rebuild of the downstairs of the house. The main aim was to make the kitchen accessible but we wanted to really make better use of the space too. It's just as well we got on with it when we did! Now Neil is back to commuting to and from work every day, I need to be able to cook independently and safely, and the recent renovations have allowed that to happen.

The kitchen

Our kitchen was quite small and the entrances were too narrow for a wheelchair. There wasn't enough worktop space and I couldn't stand for long enough to prepare food anyway. So here's what we did...

1. We knocked through into the dining room to make one big open-plan room. It's now a lovely L-shaped room with plenty of space and fully wheelchair accessible.

2. We included one lowered worktop. We also bought a spare wheelchair for in the house. So now, I can sit and prepare food in comfort, wheeling myself between the fridge, cooker and work prep area.

Picture of lowered section of worktop with food ready to prepare and wheelchair

Picture of worktop with potatoes ready to peel and chop


3. We splashed out on an oven with a retractable door. This makes it much easier for me to get things in and out safely.

4. We went for a hard-flooring option. Actually, it's vinyl, but not like the 1970s lino that I imagined. It looks really clean and modern. It's hard-wearing enough for wheeling over and for Liggy to run around on.

The toilet

Our downstairs toilet was not dissimilar to the sort you get on an aeroplane. It was tiny and really difficult to get in and out. So we built a new utility room, with a toilet at one end. Again, it's fully accessible in my chair, though I often don't need to wheel in.