Saturday, 28 February 2015

This just impresses me.

It took me too long to figure this out.

At the moment I need to take the wheels off the chair when putting it in the car.  This means a bit of juggling (standing with my weight mostly on one foot, of course) to take the wheels off.  Once I made this discovery, though, it got a lot easier...

The chair will balance on the front footplate, not just with the wheels off, as shown, but with either or both wheels on.

Someone thought about that.

Product review - Silicone Pushrim/Handrim Covers

One thing I figured out quite quickly was that the standard anodised aluminium pushrims/handrims on my chair were hard to grip, especially in the cold of an Edinburgh January.  Gloves helped (and I'll do a separate entry on them) but weren't always practical and I probably won't want to wear them next time I go to Dubai!  One afternoon we were having a discussion about silicone bakeware and I went "ah! I know what I need - silicone pushrim covers".

When I got home Google told me such a thing already exists!  One of the first pages I found was information on Grippoz, which looked great but sadly are not on the market and their Kickstarter failed to reach it's target.

I found some less innovative options already available though - in a range of colours and a fairly large range of prices from various retailers.  In the end I went with plain black ones (because I am boring!) from Mobility Pit Stop.  Like all wheelchair accessories, as I am discovering, they were not cheap at just short of £50 including postage, but they were delivered within a couple of days and, to my relief, were very easy to fit.

They've made a massive difference to my hands, which no longer end up stiff because they have been on the freezing cold, hard metal.  Pushing is much more effective - making it less effort on the flat and making hills and ramps much easier.  So they've been totally work the money.  I don't need my gloves unless it's actually cold!  I've done a couple of 3-4km outings using them and am very impressed - in particular it was lovely not to have to ask someone to "give me a shove" up a ramp.

One small quibble - they do flick off if I catch them on a tight doorway, which is annoying but easily enough fixed. I suspect making them slightly smaller, so they have to be stretched to put on the rims, would fix this, but make them harder to fit.  

I wasn't paid to write this review and I paid for the product myself - if this is ever not the case I will make it clear.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

At the museum

The National Museum of Scotland has an exhibition on computer games at the moment and I've been meaning to take the Small Scottish Boy since it opened.  We didn't have any plans this weekend, so we went in today.

I've used wheelchairs in the museum before - both the Red Cross one and one of their own ones - so I was interested to see how my own chair compared in a familiar environment.  The answer is, it was a massive difference.  It still astounds me just how easy it is to wheel, compared to even the expertly maintained Red Cross chair, let alone the not-maintained museum one.

I didn't get to try it on the challenging entry slope to the new part of the building, as every single disabled parking bay was already in use (and, as ever, not all by people displaying badges).  I ended up parking further down Chambers Street and on the other side, meaning I discovered that unfortunately, there are no dropped kerbs anywhere near the main entrance (in the old building) and the kerb is well over the 10cm I practiced at the Westmarc centre.  I'm pretty sure it's not actually possible to get up it safely, no matter what the skill level.  Many millions have been spent on the museum over the last 20 years - firstly the extension and then the refurbishment of the older part of the building.  You'd think someone would have thought of a dropped kerb somewhere near the main entrance.

That said, I don't think access was exactly to the fore of anyone's mind.  The building also suffers from a dearth of both disabled/family toilets and lifts (elevators).  In particular, the main entrance is served by two small glass lifts and at weekends there are pretty much always queues of families with pushchairs and/or disabled people waiting for them.  It took us 15 minutes to get up to the 3rd floor and another 15 minutes to get out.  Once you're out of the basement entrance, there are a couple of other lifts in odd corners of the old building, whilst the new part is well served by large lifts (but it has that tricky slope to get in!).

On the plus side, I found our visit way more enjoyable, once we were in, even compared to going round in other wheelchair.  So another thumbs up.  The exhibition was fun too -  we'll go again at least once before it closes, especially since I bought a membership.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Time for some car shopping.

My Motability contract is coming to an end soon, so the last couple of months have been spent car shopping. This is my third Motability car and once again I get to shop with a friend whose contract ends around the same time - we ordered our first cars together 6 years ago, accompanied by two small boys, walking in saying "we'll have one of those in red and one of those in grey". They're not so small now.

I started my spreadsheet about 3 months ago, having decided on my essentials: cruise control, automatic (I can't manage a clutch), diesel (more economical for the driving I do), some way of plugging in an iPhone or iPod to play music and finally parking sensors. It can be a bit tight in our (shared) driveway, with 4 cars, a transit van and a motorbike. I had a hire car with "beeps" last year and was won over.

That narrowed it down a bit and I started to compare advance payments, fuel economy and features. The arrival of the wheelchair added a criteria - I needed to be able to fit it in the boot (trunk) without taking the wheels off. Whilst it's OK occasionally, on a weekend day when we're going from place to place, often in the rain, doing it every time gets old, quick! So whilst it does fit in my existing car, with the wheels off, I need something bigger.

A few cars went on and off the list but the final shortlist was the Ford Grand C Max, Citroen C4 Piccaso, the Grand C4 Picasso, the Peugeot 3008 and the 5008. A very late addition was the Ford Kuga (aka Escape), which we discovered would fit my wheelchair wheels on and was cool. As my friend (with two kids and a bigger wheelchair) said "someone needs to have a cool car, not a bus or a van!"

In the end, the fuel economy on it wasn't as good and the advance payment (deposit) was high for one with all the features I wanted. In the end, low advance payments and good features meant Peugeot won out and it was down to two cars - the 3008 or the 5008. There's 17cm different in length and two extra seats on the 5008 (though the wheelchair means I couldn't really ever use both). Time for a comparison.  I also really like the semi-automatic gearbox the Peugeots and Citroens have - my last two cars (Grand C4 Picasso and latterly a 308)  have both been semi-automatics.  I'm also clearly a fan of French cars - having owned 2 Peugeots and 5 Citroens.

5008 - more space to the side, but the extra seats folded into the floor makes it higher, so the chair is above the level of the back seat

3008 - the chair fits in, with the back folded, under the parcel shelf. There's marginally less room beside it - the space is narrower, but it's also taller. We have a winner.

I ordered it on Friday, need to go in to do the paperwork one evening this week and it should be here in a few weeks. I've requested an early changeover, if it arrives early, which Motability have approved on the grounds that I'm having to take the wheels off to get my chair in my current car. It will be Shark Grey - a boring colour but one of the three options with the nearest delivery date. It'll look a bit like this.


Edinburgh's trams caused chaos and no little controversy (which continues) while being built, but finally started running last spring. I've been on them a few times before, but last week took the wheelchair on for the first time. It was great. The Park and Ride at Ingliston has disabled parking right by the tram stop, though it seems to be a well-kept secret and I hesitate to publicise it! The platforms are all engineered so there's level access, without even enough of a gap for my 4" casters (that's the front wheels) to get caught. There's loads of space (4 wheelchair bays in each tram) and they're quick and smooth. They stop longer (and open the centre doors automatically) if you press the stop button with the wheelchair sympbol. I really love the active user logo they have chosen as well.

Despite it's hills, the main streets of Edinburgh's New Town are built along the hill, so there's no more than a gentle slope as you go along Princes Street and, if you alight at St Andrew's Square, the same is true for George Street. There's a slight hill, beyond me just yet, between the two, but the trams do make both of Edinburgh's main shopping streets accessible to me. Which is just as well because the Council have somewhat misguidedly blocked off half of George Street (and thus half it's disabled parking bays) to create outdoor dining spaces (in Edinburgh!). These have proven less than successful, apart from for a few weeks in August. I can even make it to John Lewis without braving the horrors of it's parking building.