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Champion Wheelchair Fencer now training for Rio Olympics

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Ranked as world number one in wheelchair fencing, Piers Gilliver from Gloucestershire has now set his sights on scoring gold in the Paralympic games to be held in Rio de Janeiro this year.

Piers, aged 21, can be regularly found training for his sport through the Cotswold’s Fencing Club in Churchdown and at the Innsworth Community Hall. After taking up fencing as a hobby in 2010, his love of the sport was truly sparked off as a result of watching the fencing at the 2012 London Olympics, and he had since dreamed of going up against the top-ranked fencers he saw at the games.

In the four years since the London Olympics, Piers trained long and hard to learn the sport inside out, and strived to reach his goal of becoming the best. He has certainly come along way from simply fantacising about taking part in the Olympics to actually go ahead to target a gold medal at the next Olympic games.

In an interview with local press, Piers said, “It is just bizarre to think that I am now world number one.”

However, his dreams of attending the games in Rio all hang on his place being confirmed. The Olympic qualification period ends in May, but as Piers is ranked as world number one in the sport, it is thought to be more than likely he will win his place and be attending.

Piers, from Drybrook, has been focused on his training at the Innsworth Community Hall for the next Olympics for the last five months. He told the press: “Gloucester has been brilliant for me; it has really helped my development as a fencer. I think it really important to keep these local connections.”

Despite being wheelchair bound since the age of 11 due to a neuromuscular disorder, Piers has managed to overcome all challenges thrown at him, and has progressed from a novice fencer to world number one in just six short years.

Talking about how he first got started in the sport, he said: “I had always been interested in it as a sport but I started just by chance in Churchdown.” Piers was trained by Kevin Nelson at the Churchdown club, who himself had to take a training course to learn how to train wheelchair fencing. Piers went on to take part in his first ever international event in July 2012.

To achieve world number one ranking is an amazing achievement, and his mother couldn’t be more proud of her son. Jo Gilliver, mother of Piers, told the press: “It is fantastic for me to see my son doing so well. For him to be the world number one is a just the result of a lot of hard work that he has put in, I am so proud.”

We shall all have to keep an eye out for Piers when he goes for gold in Rio this summer! We would like to wish him all the luck in the world. You can follow Piers on twitter https://twitter.com/piersgilliver

Driverless Vehicles will Redefine Mobility Needs

We have already seen the remarkable stride forward in driver-less vehicles with the invention of the iconic Google driver-less car, so we can all pretty much expect to see our roads transformed over the next 50 years where driver-less technology will probably take over city taxi services. We already have driver-less trains in some part of the world, and plans are going ahead to have these on the underground in London very soon, so it will only be a matter of time before it will be commonplace on our roads too.

With the growth in popularity of electric cars and the improvements in battery storage, we can predict that automating some driving tasks, such as short journeys around a set route within a city, then re-charging back at a central base, could become a possibility sooner than we think. So what does this mean to the many thousands of disabled and elderly mobility scooter users of the future? Will they no longer need to steer their own mobility scooters, or will there be no need for scooters at all if we become a nation of passengers in driver-less cars?

The freedom that a driver-less car would give to any individual is fantastic. Not having to drive a vehicle yourself, or having the need to rely on a human driver to get you from A to B will very freeing for a lot of people. This could mean an end to parking problems for drivers needing to leave their cars while they work, shop or visit places. If roads were networked with driver-less vehicles, it could be as simple as hopping into a vacant car sitting at a taxi-rank, or we may even have the capability to hail an empty car down on the street as we do now with human drivers.

We may well be able to use an app on our phones to summon a car to come directly to our home to pick us up at a time that is convenient to us. This would be an ideal solution for disabled people who still want the freedom to come and go as they please without having to rely on anyone else, or for the elderly who find it a struggle to drive by themselves any more.

Upon arrival at your chosen destination, you could simply leave the vehicle allowing it to return to base, or to be sent to pick up another customer. One would assume that driver-less vehicle manufacturers would have a range of specially adapted cars suitable for use by disabled passengers, or those with limited mobility. It would certainly be a convenient way of travelling around a city, and may even be more cost-effective to passengers because they wouldn’t need to have paid for their own cars only to have them sitting idle at home or work for hours a day. It may even make city streets less congested because there could be less cars on the road as a result.

The introduction of driver-less technology may also mean that our streets become safer. Automating journeys will take away human error, so the risk of accidents caused by drunk drivers, those under the influence of drugs, and over-tired drivers will be totally eliminated. Speed limits will be adhered to because there will be no option to speed, and the ‘boy-racer’ mentality could become a thing of the past.

The costs per journey would be purely based on distance travelled, and as everyone would presumably pay the same going rate, there shouldn’t be a need for different levels of fares like we see on the trains of today for example. There may well still be the option to drive, and there will always be people who prefer to drive simply for the pleasure of it. Plus of course it would be impractical for motorbikes to be driver-less. However, if car insurance premiums were to rise to high levels because driving would be seen as the more risky option, then this could encourage even more people to give up driving in favour of the driver-less option.

The next 50 years is going to be an interesting time for motorist, and while we can see urban cities and large towns benefiting from driver-less technology years before smaller towns and villages in the countryside, one would imagine that eventually all UK roads would become adaptable for use by driver-less cars.

Lego Promotes Equality By Producing Their First Every Mini-figure In A Wheelchair

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The Nuremberg toy fair will be a memorable one this year because the LEGO company revealed a wheelchair-using Lego figurine, complete with helper dog, for the first time in their history, following the #ToyLikeMe equality campaign.

The LEGO figurine was also spotted at the London Toy Fair, and features a beanie-hatted character sitting in a wheelchair, alongside a helper dog. This was one of a new range of mini-figures to be released by the company this year, which also includes an ice-cream vendor, cyclist, picnickers and other characters, in a new park scene developed using bricks from the company’s City range.

This step forward is quite a significant move on their part as it comes after sharp criticism that was levelled at the company for their lack of diversity within their range, as well as their mini-figures. With the launch last year of the equality campaign, #ToyLikeMe, which gained over 20,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, LEGO and other major toy and game producers have started to introduce a wide range of more diverse characters to their offerings.

After an article published in the Guardian newspaper last year by Rebecca Atkinson asked the question, “Why do you never see a Lego mini-figure with a disability?” LEGO stepped up their efforts to produce the wheelchair bound character.

The Guardian article pointed out that LEGO was continuing to exclude around 150 million disabled children worldwide by not including characters with disabilities, and that they should use their power of influence to change cultural perceptions, and that the issue goes beyond their sales figures or disability access.

After the initial call for a change to their range, LEGO at first appeared to resist the appeal, and instead spoke about the ability that children had to use their pieces how they chose, and were able to build their own stories. However, they later seemed to do an about-turn on the subject, and as a result went on to produce the new wheelchair bound character, along with their assistance dog.

On hearing the news about the new mini-figure, the organisers of the #ToyLikeMe campaign were overjoyed, and wrote on their campaign page: “We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now … Lego have just rocked our brick-built world!” They went on to say on Twitter that this was a momentous occasion, and that the message behind it was far bigger than simply a tiny one-inch-tall plastic figure.

The introduction of the wheelchair mini-figure by LEGO comes as welcome news that has many disability groups and advocates cheering. The new figure made it’s debut at both the Nuremberg and London toy fairs this month, and is set for general release to the public this summer.

As Thursday 4th February is International Lego Day, it could be seen as a well-timed addition to the LEGO family, but fans will still have to wait a bit longer to actually get their hands on the new mini-figure.

This news comes at a time where long-time favourite toy doll ‘Barbie’ saw a makeover. The new range of dolls to hit the shops show a wide range of different body shapes, hair types and eye-colour in an effort to help children identify better with the doll. Maybe their could be more to come in the future that include dolls featuring disabilities? We shall have to wait and see.

Mobility Scooters Set To Get More Disabled People Enjoying The Malvern Hills

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A new set of plans are being put in motion for a mobility scooter project that aims to help disabled people to get roving around the Malvern Hills. The plan is to provide mobility scooters to allow disabled people easier access to the area, where they may have been denied access before.

The organisers of the project have carried out a routine assessment by taking to the hills riding two mobility scooters on the Worcestershire Beacon, which is the highest point of the hills.

The plan came about when Dr Adrian Burden, founder of the Wyche Innovation Centre, thought it would be good for local residents and visitors who had restricted mobility to have better access the the Worcestershire Beacon.

As the Innovation Centre is close to some of the most popular visitor spots on the hills, and contains the Malvern Hills GeoCentre, and Cafe H2O, it wasn’t difficult for Dr Burden to motivate the centre staff , now named ‘Team Jamboree’, to start raising funds to buy a mobility scooter.

When speaking to local press, Dr Burden said: “The intended route would enable residents and visitors of the Malvern Hills with restricted mobility or a disability to travel up to the Worcestershire Beacon whilst accompanied by a friend or family member. This initiative will help more people access the Malvern Hills and enjoy the fresh air and fantastic views on offer.”

He also commented that there has been enthusiastic support from the Malvern Hills Conservators, the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Disabled Ramblers.

Dr Burden’s team are now working closely with Countryside Mobility, a project of Living Options Devon, who have experience in providing mobility scooters to various attractions in the UK.

The recent route assessment conducted using two mobility scooters to test the terrain was a very important part of an access audit and risk assessment to measure what routes would be suitable for access, and whether anything major needs addressing before allowing the scooter service to be offered.

Following the route assessment, Dr Burden stated that the following weeks would see the project reviewing the risk assessment findings, and looking at recommendations. The team hope their plans are feasible, and will do everything they can to make it happen. More details of the project will be released once the feasibility studies have been completed.

The Malvern Hills has been hitting the local headlines because of the controversial proposal to build a cable car system that would run down the side of the Worcestershire Beacon. The mobility scooter project idea was sparked off in part because of a debate arising from this issue regarding disabled access to the Malvern Hills.

The hills are largely accessible for disabled visitors given the appropriate mobility aids, and the Disabled Ramblers charity have been successfully organising rambles over almost the whole length of the Malvern Hills for years. It has been the aim of the Conservators to keep the hills open to all, so this mobility scooter project will be another very welcome way to give access to the breathtaking scenery and countryside for those less mobile.

Mobility Scooter Transformation Benefits Charity

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A 73 year old Grandad turned his mobility scooter into the famous Coca-Cola Christmas truck to help raise funds for a cancer charity.

Pensioner, Barrie Hall, has managed to raise thousands of pounds in aid of the Cancer Research charity by painstakingly transforming his mobility scooter to look just like the iconic Coca-Cola truck as seen in television adverts at Christmas time.

It took Barrie a total of eight months to convert his second-hand scooter, at a cost of around £400. The 7mph top speed disability scooter was transformed using parts bought off the internet shopping site eBay, and comes complete with a festive picture of Father Christmas holding a bottle fizzy pop. Barrie even festooned the sides of the scooter-come-truck with red-and-white flashing lights to look like the ones used on the real truck.

Once Barrie had completed his ten-wheeled miniature version of the truck, he took to the streets of his home town and county around Lincolnshire raising funds for Cancer Research. So far his fund raising efforts have collected over £3,500 and he hasn’t stopped yet!

Barrie retired from taxi driving a year ago, and has fought his own battle with Leukaemia over the past five years. His late wife Susan also died from mouth cancer back in 2010 at the age of 68, so he has been no stranger to the horrible disease.

Driven by his desire to raise money for Cancer Research, Barrie converted his late wife’s mobility scooter into the iconic Coca-Cola truck as a novel way to raise funds.

Last Christmas Barrie decorated the scooter to look like Santa’s Sleigh, but this year he was determined to do something much bigger. The miniature replica truck design has been a big hit with local children, and lots of people have been talking about it which helped spread the word around. Barrie even had local police officers having photographs taken with him and his scooter conversion. He commented to the local press that the response has been overwhelming, and it has made him feel like a celebrity despite only wanting to do something good for charity.

The idea for the mobility scooter conversion was initially so grand that Barrie didn’t think he could ever get it off the ground, but after approaching Coca-Cola with his novel idea, he was given the go-ahead by them and the project was set in motion. Barrie also approached businesses for their help, and all his efforts are helping to raise awareness of Leukaemia as well as raising money for essential research.

Wheelchair users ‘ignored by bus drivers’

A charity has spoken out about many disabled wheelchair users struggling to board buses and being left behind at bus stops.

The Leonard Cheshire Disability charity conducted a survey amongst 179 wheelchair users and found that most had said they had been either turned away when buses are busy, or had been refused a space on a bus.

It was found that two-thirds of the people surveyed had been denied access due to ramps not working, or were missing. It was also revealed that 61% were often faced with pushchairs occupying the wider spaces made for wheelchairs on a bus.

As well as experiencing accessibility problems, those surveyed also reported that they had suffered from intimidation and and rudeness from a driver, while nearly half had experienced the same from bus passengers. At least one in ten had difficulties every time they attempted to board a bus, while just over 40% said they experienced problems every other time they travelled by bus.

Wheelchair users are particularly prone to difficulties when trying to use bus services, especially as there is no law to say that bus companies must give wheelchair users the wide spaces on buses, or even insist that buggies and prams be moved to accommodate them.

As well as conducting the survey, Leonard Cheshire Disability also looked at the main bus companies in operation across the UK to assess their level of knowledge and provision in regard to disability issues. They looked at areas such as disability awareness training for drivers, the use of low-floor buses, checking conditions of carriage for mention of wheelchair users, and priority of use for wheelchair space.

Out of the bus companies studied, the results showed that Go Ahead and Stagecoach came out on top with each reaching a score of 17 out of a maximum 20 points. Arriva and First Bus came in at 14 points, and National Express scored just 10 out of 20.

In an interview, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire, Clare Pelham commented: “It’s great that we have regulations coming in the next year for single decker buses and 2017 for double decker buses to make them all properly accessible for wheelchair users.”

She also added: “For so many wheelchair users, the bus is their only way to get to work, to get to the doctor or simply get to the shops. It’s time that drivers get the training they need to do the right thing.”

One wheelchair user in London will welcome in the new regulations, as she reported her negative experiences to The Richmond and Twickenham Times in an attempt to highlight the difficulties experienced by disabled bus travellers every day across London.

21-year-old Clare Watson, who has a neurological condition that left her wheelchair-bound four years ago, stated that she felt humiliated on a daily basis by being denied access to buses by drivers who refuse to lower their ramps to allow her on board.

In her interview she commented: “It’s a horrible feeling when that happens – you feel worthless and everybody stares. It’s humiliating.”

Clare also stated that many drivers gave excuses for not letting her on such as buggies taking up the wheelchair space, or the ramps not working properly, despite there being a policy in place to check ramps before the buses leave the depot.

Let’s hope that the new regulations will make bus travel more accessible for wheelchair users, and that the necessary changes are actioned on sooner rather than later.

Golfer Banned Off Course On Mobility Scooter

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77 year old Brian Yates from Lockington has been a member at his golf course in Beverley for over 10 years, but he has now been told mobility scooters are no longer allowed on the course. Brian refers to his scooter as his buggy and because of his age and a heart problem he cannot get out and around the course without it. When the club told him the new he could not believe it, and he has had to leave his club of ten years and all of his friends there and find someone different.

The golf club issued a letter to all its course members informing them of the ban, which has been introduced by the Beverley Pasture Masters, who run the golf course at The Beverley Westwood Golf Club

Stewart Fraser is the director of golf at the club, which rents the land from the Masters.

He said they had now lost three members who use mobility scooters and were disappointed by the new rule.

“We were, of course, very disappointed as it means three of our members will no longer to be able to play on the course, which is regrettable,” he said.

“We tried to fight against the decision but it is out of our hands. We are simply tenants of the land so we have to comply with our landlords and enforce
their orders.”

The Beverley Pasture Masters will talk more on the matter at their next committee meeting on Thursday, October 22.

Clubs old traditions

Centuries-old and being a member of this exclusive group who look after Beverley’s pastures is no easy feat.

To gain membership you must be a Freeman of Beverley, meaning you are the son or daughter of a Freeman.

Twelve Pasture Masters are then voted in every March by other Freeman.

The rules used to be that only sons could become Freeman, but in 2010, the bylaws were changed to allow women to join.

Mobility Scooters To Be Better Catered For On Some Public Transport

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Despite the difficulties experienced by some mobility scooter users while trying to use the nations network train services, other public transport sectors are looking to improve their service for passengers with disabilities.

For the first time ever, mobility scooter users are going to be able to travel aboard buses and trams as part of a new trial being introduced by transport bosses.

Disability organisations and charities have long been campaigning for a change to allow disabled people to have equal rights regarding the use of public transport. Fortunately, Transport for Edinburgh listened to the concerns being voiced, and are introducing a trial on not only on their bus services, but also on their trams too.

Scooters not allowed

Up until now, mobility scooters have not been allowed on board due to the obvious challenges of manoeuvring them on and off vehicles. The potential risk of accidents and injury to fellow travellers was too great to be allowed, especially during peak times with crowded vehicles.

Disability campaigners were outraged to learn that scooters were not to be allowed on the city’s new tram system when they first started running last year. They called the decision ‘outright discrimination’, and was deemed as humiliating for the city’s many scooter users.

However, the concerns of disabled passengers were raised at the Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams board meeting, held in July this year. It was agreed that the company will facilitate a trial to include both the bus and tram service, a paper is now being drawn up, and the implementation of the trial will be delegated by the respective transport boards.

Issues to overcome

Obviously, the health and safety concerns of all passengers must be considered, and Edinburgh Trams are currently discussing the technical issues with vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure engineers, in partnership with the city council.

Lothian Buses are also paying close attention to the Confederation of Passenger Transport guidelines regarding the carriage of mobility scooters aboard buses, and are taking into consideration any difficulties that scooter users face while using public transport services in general.

Campaigners may be glad that transport bosses are taking their issues seriously, but if the trial proves successful, it could mean a ground-breaking move has been taken for the rights of disabled passengers in other parts of the country too.

In an ideal world, no disabled person should be discriminated against while assessing public transport services. If this trial proves successful, it could mean the adoption of new industry standard guidelines for catering for disabled mobility scooter users.

Logistically, it is anticipated that allowing mobility scooters aboard trams will prove easier that for buses. There is more space available aboard trams that can allow for greater manoeuvrability.

Further details of the trial will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for October. Transport bosses are keen to improve their transport provision across all of their services, but they are aware that buses and trams are very different in structure, so careful consideration will be given to the practicalities of each form of transport when drawing up a final plan.

Other considerations

Other issues that will need to be considered is for mobility scooter access during peak commuting times where buses and trams may already be full to capacity. Mobility scooters come in a wide range of sizes, so it will be difficult to cater for every type of scooter on buses that are already packed with passengers.

Space allocation for mobility scooters aboard both trams and buses is also another tricky area. We have to remember that a mobility scooter user wanting to travel into the city to go shopping will undoubtedly need to return home carrying any number of shopping bags, which can add to the difficulty of accessibility, and for passengers to easily move past scooters that are positioned near the door.

There may also be additional issues with mobility scooter users with limited ability to manoeuvre safely on and off public transport using a confined allocated space.

Possible objections

There may also be concerns voiced by non disabled passengers who may be worried that allowing extra time for mobility scooters to use the services will result in the service slowing down. This could impact negatively on traffic congestion, as well as potentially causing passengers to be late for work, and possibly miss other timed appointments.

There could also be difficulties with deciding who gets priority for an allocated space when there is both a wheelchair user and a mobility scooter user vying for the same spot.

Most buses already in operation across the city have provision for wheelchair users. However the access ramps used by wheelchair users will probably not be sufficient for use by anyone driving a mobility scooter on board. There is a weight restriction on access ramps, and it is thought that an average mobility scooter would already be close to, if not over the maximum weight allowance without the added weight of the scooter user.

Wheelchair allocated spaces on public transport would also be considered as too small to accommodate the much large size of mobility scooters aboard buses and trams, so this will also need to be addressed before the trial begins.

Questions Raised Over Mobility Scooter Accessibility On Railways

© Oscar1319 Dreamstime Photos© Oscar1319 Dreamstime Photos

Mobility scooters were making news headlines recently in Scotland, when a disabled lady was turned away from a train because of her mobility scooter.

The train line concerned, Northern rail, told the lady that they did not accept mobility scooters onto the line, despite the fact that the woman concerned had travelled the line before on six or seven different occasions.

The refusal from the train guard resulted in the lady being stranded at the station with no way to get safely home to Maryport from the Carlisle station. Railway staff eventually provided a disability taxi to take her home.

This was despite their being adequate space on the train available, and protestation from fellow passengers and the Journey Care representative present.

Mobility Scooter guidelines

Northern Rail have accessibility guidelines in place to offer assistance to disabled travellers. According to their website, people using manual and powered wheelchairs can use train services, but may find some platforms and stations inaccessible.

Their guidelines about mobility scooters goes much further. Unless a scooter can be folded down and carried onboard as hand-luggage, the rail line cannot allow mobility scooters on their trains. A spokeswoman stated that many scooters are not easy to manoeuvre, and unless they can be folded and carried as luggage, they wouldn’t be able to accommodate them safely onboard.

This incident has helped to highlight a possible health and safety issue across the network, and Northern Rail have taken steps to reiterate their policy on mobility scooters to all staff, so that all stations now follow the same guidelines.

Train access is an important consideration for anyone who is thinking about purchasing a new scooter, and plans to travel regularly by train. There are a wide range of scooter designs of offer that are easy to fold and lightweight to make carrying easier.

Travel Assistance

The best way to ensure there will be no disruption to your travel arrangements would be to check with the trail line concerned, and book assistance with your journey through the rail lines Travel Care or Journey Care service.

Many rail lines such as Virgin and Scot Rail have good provision for disabled accessibility, but they do urge passengers who may require assistance to contact them in advance to enable them to access their services efficiently.

Travel assistance is offered across all rail networks, and can help disabled passengers with their travel needs. This may be in the form of having a person to help you on and off the train at each end of your journey, or reserving specific seats close the the exits for those with limited mobility.

Cross Country trains, for example, offer a Journey Care service where a specialist team will help to plan your journey, book your tickets, and provide physical assistance whenever you need it on the day of your journey. Help can also be arranged if you need to change trains at any point during your journey.

Booking Travel Assistance

Travel assistance can usually be pre-booked through the rail networks website, and arrangements can also be arranged over the phone, or via textphone.

Many trains carry dedicated spaces for wheelchair users across Standard and First Class carriages, but it is always best to check with the rail line first to ensure there is adequate availability.

If you book your rail tickets online, the website will usually give you an option to choose travel assistance, and the scale of help you need through a drop down menu of care. Usually though you will need to give at least 48 hours notice of needing travel assistance for your requirements to be accommodated.

When booking assistance by telephone or textphone, with some train lines you may only need to give 24 hours notice, but it is wise to give as much notice as you possibly can.

Travelling without prior notice

There may be times when you need to travel urgently, and therefore may not have the time to pre-arrange travel assistance. In these cases, most rail networks advise you to alert station staff on arrival to make them aware of your needs. The staff will do everything possible to help.

Rail travel is a convenient way for disabled individuals to get around, and there are railcards available for passengers with disabilities and their carers or companions to travel at a discounted rate.

The National Rail website at www.nationalrail.co.uk has a very useful route planner called Stations Make Easy that allows you to see photographs of stations, so you can plan your route via the more accessible stations on offer.

Here is something you don’t see every day

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A mobility scooter getting towed away on Aberdeen’s Union Street.

The scooter, which was lifted near Union Street’s junction with Belmont Street, had broken down.

A worker from Cars Recovery was photographed by EveningExpress reader Anis Raps Ahmed, strapping the red scooter to the back of a flat-bed truck at around 6pm on the 8th of July.

A spokesman for Cars Recovery said towing mobility scooters is actually more common than you’d think.

He added: “We get call-outs like this roughly once a month. Most mobility scooters have breakdown cover.”

http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/fp/news/local/mobility-scooter-towed/