About Me

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I have been working to support disabled people to live as independently as possible and realising their individual potentials for over 20 years. I am qualified in Health and Social Care Management and Ethics and Social Welfare. All blog entries are my responses to issues I see affecting those I support and indeed myself as I joined the disabled community after surviving a stroke.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Disabled Sassanach in Scotland Pt 2

Following on from my last blog, on our second day in Glasgow after I met Rosie from Enable Scotland and returned to Milngavie to prepare for Oban, I realised I had dropped an almighty clanger. I had prepared 2 weeks worth of medication in dosette boxes but had only travelled with 1 weeks worth, so at this point I would like to thank the wonderful people of the Kersland House Surgery in Milngavie for getting me out of that particular mess by issuing me with an emergency prescription with absolutely no fuss whatsoever.

Next day we travelled by train to Oban for a friends wedding. My wife had booked the tickets online and the route the website had given us seemed somewhat contrived. It was Milngavie to Westerton, Westerton to Dalmuir, Dalmuir to Oban. This is where the local knowledge of my in-laws came in useful. Westerton station had no lift that we were aware and a footbridge. No good for me. So with a bit of planning my mother in law offered to drive us to Dalmuir station and would pick us up from there on our return, thus taking Westerton out of the route completely. Brilliant (thanks Penny).

So we arrived at Dalmuir station, which also had a footbridge but had working lifts and looked pretty accessible for all disabilities that I could tell, although I was there to catch a train not do an audit. Anyway we were early for our train so I decided to have a look at the public amenities and make use of them if possible, a place is only as good as its accessible toilets. To my horror the station didn't have an accessible toilet, but it wasn't the equality issue I thought it was as they didn't have any public toilets at all!! I doff my cap to the people of Dalmuir that the station didn't smell the way I would expect a train station with no toilets to smell. I crossed my legs and prayed to the bladder Gods that I would be able to hold on until our train came.

We passed the time by checking our itinerary. We noted with interest beside the notes of the train we were about to catch 'no reservation necessary'. When the train pulled in we boarded with the luggage and our little un in the buggy to see an extremely busy train... many seats with reservation tickets on them. I was not happy. I hate having to rely on the goodwill of strangers, however we were not short of offers of assistance from the good people of Scotland (thank you good people of Scotland), and we were seated. Then I gave thanks to the bladder Gods when I found a vacant toilet.

Although the journey had started badly as we felt we had been mislead, I have to say the journey continued with about 3 hours of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever come across. The further north we went the more beautiful it seemed to become. If we weren't so crowded on the train I would have taken a picture but I couldn't reach my camera. Sadly my 23 month old wasn't interested in the scenery and instead concentrated on angling herself in the cramped conditions so she could colour in Peppa Pig in her book.

On arrival in Oban, the taxi we had pre-arranged was waiting there for us, which was a blessing. Once we were settled in we were treated to another 30 minutes of breathtaking scenery. Although I did notice that there was a lack of amenities.

We arrived at The Loch Melfort Hotel (home for the next 3 days and the venue of our friends wedding). I noticed 2 steps up into the front entrance. We weren't impressed as we had told them when we made the booking that we were both disabled and had a toddler with us and no mention was made of this. We struggled in and went to the reception desk. This is where we were told our room was upstairs and there was no lift .... erm 2 disabled guests with a toddler!!!

A young member of staff helped us upstairs with our luggage and the buggy, but I wasn't impressed, you can have all the stunning scenery you like but when we tell you we're disabled you should take this into consideration. Its all very well helping us upstairs, but how the hell do we get out once we're here??

Once in the room, which was quite pleasant without being outstanding, we were treated to a smashing view of the coast and the grounds. We began to read the hotel information in the binder they had put in the room.

The hotel is very proud of it's restaurant which has 2 AA rosettes and my wife asked me if they were like Michelin stars. I was in a bit of a mood so said I didn't care, her little Peugeot had 4 Michelin tyres but it didn't make it a Ferrari. She read out the dinner dress code ...'no blue jeans'. I looked at what had been packed clothes wise and wondered if they would mind me wearing my blue jeans if they knew the alternative was eating in my boxers. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind places trying to maintain standards but if they told you about this before you arrived you can prepare. Anyway by luck, as well as my suit trousers (for the wedding), I had a pair of black jeans: they would have to do.

I was still in a mood so my wife took our daughter out to find her something to eat, it was almost her bedtime (my daughter not my wife). I lay on the bed to see what was on TV, all 4 channels of it....oh dear...no Channel 5 which meant no Milkshake! which meant no Peppa Pig, nor did we have Cbeebies, which meant no In The Night Garden and no Timmy Time. My mood didn't improve.

I must have fallen asleep as I was awoken by wife and daughter coming back into the room. The staff at the bistro had made my daughter a sandwich, even though they weren't officially open. My mood improved at that news, maybe this wasn't going to be so bad. I went into the bathroom and noticed we had a bidet, then realised what I thought was a bidet was actually our bath. Well that brought me down again, I was never going to get in there, no shower either... oh well it would have to 'gentlemens washes', just like it was in the days immediately after my stroke. We continued to make the best of it, although I was still holding a grudge, however everything was made worse when my wife hurt her back climbing the stairs with our daughter. This is what happens when hotels don't properly take into account the needs of disabled guests, and of course there was no nearby chemist to get painkillers.

We had a chat about things and decided this was costing us a fortune so we decided to make the best of it, and besides, it was for our friends wedding.

When we went down for our evening meal (trying not to damage the expensive looking portraits on the staircase as I hobbled down), we were caught out by the procedure they had, which was go into the lounge half an hour before eating and choose your menu then you will be led through to the dining room. This might be normal in such establishments, I don't usually move in these circles but the formality of it all was enough to put me off my foi grois.

Anyway I'll not bore you any more, needless to say things didn't improve, but they didn't get worse. And quite rightly we had reservations on our return journey from Oban so the journey was infinitely more pleasant.

Next I shall tell you of the journey from Glasgow to Bristol in the final part of this story.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Disabled Sassanach in Scotland

Recently I had the pleasure of returning to my favourite city in the world, Glasgow in Scotland. I had the good fortune and judgement to marry a fine upstanding Glaswegian lassie so she was just as happy to return to her home city for a few days and take our daughter to see her grandparents.

Although I have been to Glasgow numerous times, this time was different for two reasons in particular: firstly we would be travelling to Oban for the bank holiday weekend to attend a friends wedding, and secondly because this was my first trip of this magnitude as a disabled traveller.

The first leg (other than my friend driving us to the airport) was from Bristol to Glasgow, using the much maligned Easyjet. Before I go on I know that some people have issues with domestic flights but with two disabled parents and a child under two years old travelling I really couldn't think of a more practical way.

Anyway I digress. the check in clerk asked if I would like the Ambi-lift to board the plane, it was very nice not to have to ask, and they explained clearly what I had to do and my wife and daughter could travel on the ambi-lift with me which cut out an awful lot of stress for us all.

Next was the good old security checks. Now I have never been through the bleeping doorway without being frisked, I must just have one of those faces. Now I had to put my walking crutch through the scanning machine which left me delicately and slowly walking through the doorway unaided, wasn't too happy about that. Then I was asked to remove my shoes without being offered a chair, nor had my walking crutch been offered back to me when it had gone through the scanner. I wasn't happy about that either. I know these guys have an important job to do but it shouldn't be forgotten that most travellers are just regular people trying to go about their everyday business, and I am happy to comply with their requests when my disability is taken into some kind of recognition.

Anyway we finally got through that after a struggle, it was then down to trying to keep my daughter away from all the Peppa Pig merchandise the shops insist on putting at toddler eye level. Sadly for my wallet she was walking on my left side (my weak side) so was unable to prevent her from picking up a Peppa Pig colouring book and In The Night Garden jigsaw. Oh well!!

Next after my darling daughter had finished throwing a jigsaw piece of Iggle Piggle at her Daddy, our flight was called so we went to the Special Assistance Desk and they knew who we were so all started well. Unfortunately we were called to Gate 7 but the ambi-lift was at Gate 1 because it wouldn't fit under the awning of the building, so I ended up having to hobble as quickly as I could past 5 gates to keep up with a sprinting assistant pushing an older gentleman in a wheelchair. I wish they had thought this through properly. However with our little one's buggy, once we were at the ambi-lift it did make boarding much much easier and the first row of seats had been reserved for us with walking difficulties.

The flight was thankfully pretty eventless, this was the first time I had flown since my stroke so was a bit nervous, and when I say it was eventless we were travelling with a bored toddler so I am speaking relatively.

When we arrived in Glasgow the ambi-lift had a wheelchair in it for me, and after my experience at Bristol I was going to take advantage of it's availability. The guy pushing my chair was very chatty and friendly and I almost made out every word through his broad Glaswegian accent, but again he was flying along with his pace and my Mrs: pushing the little one in a buggy really struggled to keep up with us.

Once that was all done, it was off to my in laws in the lovely suburb of Milngavie where unfortunately they live at the top of a very steep hill and the public transport options started and ended at the bottom of said steep hill....oh well. My in laws had made me up a bedroom downstairs which was very nice, they even put cable TV in there for me (not 24hr Vince Cable channel I hasten to add).

The following day I ventured down the hill (hither to known as The Precipice) to the train station. My decent was rather speedier than I was comfortable with and not very controlled but I did manage to keep my feet just about. I travelled into the centre of Glasgow to meet a delightful young lady called Rosie from Enable Scotland. We shared a very nice lunch in a city centre public house where no alcohol was consumed, the nearest we had was ginger beer. I learned a lot from Rosie about the local disability issues, and I have to say the train journey from Milngavie to Glasgow was pretty accessible for me, not sure how it would have worked had I been using a wheelchair though.

In the next few days I shall tell you of our trip to Oban and our return to Bristol as I don't want to bore you all, but in the meantime, please feel free to comment with your own experiences of travelling as, or with a disabled person.