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Thursday, 16 January 2020

It's bin day

Bin day happens at least once a week... sometimes twice. It often means I'm trapped. I get part way down the street and then the path is completely blocked by a bin... or several. If it's full, I don't stand a chance of moving it. I just have to turn back and take the car instead, or abandon my plans.

How to be good bin-citizens

This morning, I had a rare moment! It was almost as if someone had set the bins out, ready for a perfect bin-citizen photo...

Photo shows one side of the street. There is grass between the pavement and the road and hedges down the side of people's properties. It's blue bin day and each house has their blue bin set as close to the hedge as possible, leaving the path free for wheelchairs and buggies. It's all very neat and tidy!

Today's challenge: be a good bin-citizen. Don't block the path!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Say nice things...

You'd be amazed at some of the things that I hear as I go around just doing life. I don't think most people mean to offend but some people (me included) do tend to open their mouth before engaging their brain. Sometimes though, people say really nice things. Here are some of the things people have said in the last few days (either to me or near enough for me to hear):

  • Your dog is so well-behaved!
  • I love your wheels!
  • It was lovely to meet you!
  • We're a team.
  • I'll move my car; you can have my space (when visiting a client).
  • Thank you for your help/your hard work.
  • What a beautiful/clever/amazing dog!
  • That (chair) is soooo cool!
  • You must have serious arm muscles!
  • I love you!


I'm challenging myself here too! Every day this year, try to say something nice to or about someone. At school, we were never allowed to use that word. "Find a better word," teachers say. Actually though, no... just be nice!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Alternative text for images

At work, I've been doing a lot of work to ensure that people with screen readers can access everything we produce. Like I said the other day, it's not a binary state. You can't say it is fully accessible or fully inaccessible. Like with many things, we can all do our bit. Start somewhere. Don't do nothing, just because you don't know everything.

What can I do?

1. Whenever you post an image of any kind online, always give it a text description. Usually there is a specific place to add this, called 'Alt text' but if it's on social media, you could just add it into your post. The only time you probably don't need to do this, is if you are sure that only a known number of people will access it, and they can all see. For me, I know that all my Facebook friends can see, so I don't tend to do it. However, on Twitter, I have followers who are blind. It wouldn't be very friendly to post stuff that they can't enjoy, would it?

2. Ah, that's for another post!


Post a photo and write a text description of it, that a blind person could use to imagine your image. I wonder how many people will do this!

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Accessibility is not a binary state

Believe it or not, this has come has a bit of a revelation to me!

What is accessibility?

Of course there are certain things that we associate as being accessible or not. For example, step-free entrances are accessible, whereas a flight of steps isn't. Poor contrast on a website isn't whereas good contrast is. 

We have guidelines, which tell us what various places/services need in order to be classed as accessible, and that is helpful... to a point.

So what's the problem?

The problem is, everyone is different. I have three people in mind. We are all wheelchair users. I also have a ramp in mind. One of my friends would definitely NOT be able to get up it. I would (with some difficulty). The other chap would get up it, no problem. 

There are so many disabilities and they all have different access needs. A blind person (I presume) quite likes all those little pavement bumps that let you know there is a road, crossing, steps, etc. As a wheelie with a spinal cord injury, they really cause me a lot of pain. So we have to compromise all the time.

You think you've got access as good as possible but then find there is a new problem. Things change. People change. Equipment changes. So accessibility is a bit of a moving feast.

Is there a solution?

Yes. I don't expect everyone, everywhere to get it right all the time. What I do expect, is for people to listen and acknowledge the issues. If a solution is immediately possible, then do it. If not, let me know what you will do in the short and long term. 

I've just discovered a new issue with some eLearning. It's an issue that will be in every package I've produced. I'm aware of it now but I can't fix them all immediately. I can thank the person who let me know about it, ask if they have had any other issues, listen and try to understand... and put a plan in place to get it put right. 

I wouldn't dream of laughing it off and saying, "Oh yeah, that's silly, isn't it?" and then doing nothing (with a gormless expression on my face). Yet some do. Fortunately most don't. Most want to get it sorted.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

There's a reason for most things

What is he/she doing?

I often get that look - the look that says, "What is she doing?" It's usually when I'm wheeling along and make what appears to be a strange movement or even a determination to stick to my chosen path. I got that look yesterday, whilst wheeling along the promenade next to the beach.

There was a lot of thick sand on most of the path, but a narrow section that was sand free. I charted my course so that I was on concrete rather than sand as much as possible. 

Sometimes it's the camber. Camber is the way the pavement slopes to one side or the other. Sometimes it does both, creating a small section down the middle that is like the top of the mountain. Camber is effectively a sideways hill. Gravity means that I will automatically descend a hill, unless I work hard to fight against gravity. So I usually plot my path to avoid unnecessary effort.

Broken glass and dog-poo are often obstacles in my path. They aren't pleasant for anyone, but for me and for Liggy, glass is a danger and poo could end up on my gloves, wrists, clothes and then, anywhere I touch. Not nice. So I'm constantly scanning the path to avoid them.

Look for the reason

So you're walking along and a wheelchair user does something unexpected... swerves suddenly or takes a certain part of the path. Rather than silently cursing them and assuming they are stupid, look for the reason. There will almost certainly be a reason. Ask yourself what is on the path that they might be trying to avoid? What might cause them difficulty? How can you help them to navigate the path without difficulty?

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Making the world a better place

When I started this blog, my focus was mainly on wheelchairs, how to choose and use a wheelchair, improving the image of the humble wheelchair and other mobility aids. I've also looked at travel, holidays, days out and general examples of good and poor access.

We have just entered a new year... in fact, a new decade. It is 2020. I feel the need to be positive right now. It is too easy to find what is wrong with the world, to criticise and complain. Seeing the good and promoting the right behaviours is more difficult. It has to be a conscious choice. So that's what I'm going to try and do in my next few posts. I don't know whether that will last a day... a week... a month... a year... or even a decade. It matters not! I'm just going to either highlight specific examples of how people have got it right, or offer positive advice on what makes for a better world.

Beginning a new job

My Facebook memories inform me that exactly a year ago, I visited my new workplace for the morning. The aim was to assess the offices and decide what reasonable adjustments were needed. It's the 4th January. I was due to start work on 28th January. They planned ahead. They were proactive. They didn't wait to find out what might go wrong. They took action to ensure that as much as possible would go right. They ordered the right chair, checked doors, toilets, bins, etc. When I started on 28th January, everything was already in place.

Positive action

Plan ahead. Don't wait until an adjustment needs to be made. It could be too late by then. Look at what changes could be made right now. Do it now.