Overblog Follow this blog
Administration Create my blog
August 8 2013 5 08 /08 /August /2013 22:13

on a bus in GenevaA couple of weeks ago, I went to Geneva to be part of the UK CEDAW NGO delegation. As usual with any trip as a disabled person there were all the preliminary research to do - far more than a non disabled traveler.


I decided against flying ( fear of damage to my wheelchair en flight) in favour of taking the Eurostar and then the train to Geneva which necessited a bus trip (bus 65) across Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon.We missed our connection because signage is terrible, we couldnt figure out the station and they wouldnt let us get on the train because although there were still 10 minutes before the train was due to set off, we were not there half an hour before as required (oh yes, we did prebook assistance). We had to wait 3 hours for the next train.


But I had also got to find an accessible hotel room for the 5 days we were to be there. My fellow NGO colleagues were staying in a non accessible hostel so that was ruled out. A search on the internet did not result in any useful leads. A trawl through the NGO website for accessible rooms gave me a few to call with no positive answers but a suggestion from the

International Network of Women with Disabilities connected me to my first break - Hotel Silva, wonderful place, simple but accessible and central. I should add that many NGOs seem to use this hotel and my fellow disabled CEDAW sisters (from Cape Verde and Serbia) were also staying here and I met the wonderful Shivani Gupta from India there too - a fabulous bit of serendipity.


http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7448/9321341406_44e0e3fe49_q.jpg   http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3734/9321339774_d50031371a_q.jpg  http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2836/9318550485_651bac8c9c_q.jpg  


http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5499/9318553589_92d672a219_q.jpg  http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5493/9318554991_31d06f7521_q.jpg  http://www.hotel-silva.ch/images/stories/slide/DSC00796.jpg


There are a few niggles - the entrance is at the back, the beds are so close to the wardrobe you can't really use it and the lift is tiddley small. But there is a fridge and a microwave in each room ( we brought our own kettle).  Something that I did not realise is that Swiss plugs are not the same as standardised European plugs - so we were very lucky that we had one socket which we could use with our adaptor and I had the presence of mind to bring an extension lead - for all the charging we needed for our electrical appliances - wheelchair, laptops, ipad, mobile phones etc. I forgot to tell them that their shower chair was wobbley and the locking system did not work properly. Other wise we were very happy with the room. Eleanor who shared the room with me was pleased by the balcony (for smoking). There is an Ibis nearby on Rue de Grand Pre but it was more expensive - I didnt manage to check out the accessible rooms but they told me they had roll in showers. We also had dinner out round the corner at a Vietnamese Restaurant La Maison d'Asie which was pleasant - there were quite a few accessible restaurants at rue de la Servette (also tram stop Poterie to the train station).


We didnt really go sight seeing but walking on the lakeside was quite pleasant, we did eat out with the whole group. And being me, my first photo was not of the scenic lake but an accessible portaloo! Geneva had some really steep ramps too - surely they cannot be for wheelchair users?


http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5512/9324258629_9036e8bd49_q.jpg  http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5465/9377508125_d4925e74c3_q.jpg  http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3778/9318567021_49c24e0a3f_q.jpg


I was also glad I brought my new trabasack max with me with all the documents etc I had to carry around. I could also use it as a mini desk at times. The transport system seems to be fairly accessible - both buses and trams. The bus drivers were the most polite and helpful I have encountered ever in my life. AND you can fit 2 wheelchairs in the same bus!


I wish I could say the same for the trains - the staff were also polite but they were adamant that we could not go except on our designated booked time ( to be sure our assistance would be there). Also that there were two parts to the train station - one for France/Europe and the other for within Switzerland.It was s little confusing.


Our journey back was considerably more stressful than I had anticipated - the bus number 65 was diverted to Place Republic and did not go to Gare de Lyon anymore. I didnt know this but using guesswork - we got to Bastille and walking along some of the way managed to catch up with the bus 65 and caught our Eurostar connection back to London in time. Parisian taxis are not usually accessible.

Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
August 5 2012 1 05 /08 /August /2012 22:29

Sarah Rennie recently went to Oslo and she has videoed some of the journey. It s useful to get an idea of how she gets around in her trip abroad.


Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
August 5 2012 1 05 /08 /August /2012 18:16

I've been really busy with working on Connect Culture Assess 4 Access Project, we've just delivered the guides and the last of the awards to the restaurants who couldn't quite make it to the launch.


While I have been doing that I have also been researching and stocking up on items which are of use to the car traveller. This is the holiday season and many peple are setting off on their trips! I know when I last went away - I did not take my power chair with me but took my self propelled chair with me. The reason is that there were very few accessible vehicles where I was going and I did not want to be stranded.


swivel.jpgIn preparation, I took a swivel seat so that I could manoevre myself easier in and out of the cars we would be using. This really help me get my legs to swivel out to transfer to my manual chair. I also took the handy bar with me but it was not that useful for me.


As a disabled person with mobility issues, one of the considerations is whether we can get to an accessible toilet when you re travelling. I took a uriwelluriwell with me - it is discreet in a backpag, it is always easier for a man! But This portable urinal is very flexible, bending so that it can be used from any position – standing, lying or sitting. Users can stay in their car, chair or bed in emergencies. I've known a friend (male) to do this under a blanket on a plane.


sure-grab.jpgI also would take a couple of the Buckingham Suregrab Grab Handle- is a must for anyone who needs that extra bit of steadying  particularly when bathing.

Most people's houses do not come adapted with grab rails and its just wise to bring your own aids along especially when bathrooms can be such treacherous places for accidents. Many customers have bought these for this purpose. I do say there are not replacements for properly fitted grab rails. However they can be a guide to where you want the permanent adaptations to be.


I would also take a shower seat with me ( it fits quite well into a suitcase when unpacked). That way I will not have to rely on getting a roll in shower when travelling - whether hotel room of friend's house.This fits well over the bath tub.



Contact me at eleanor.ila@gmail.com if you would like any of these products or tweet me @eleanor_ila

Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
March 26 2012 2 26 /03 /March /2012 02:18

This past week I've been travelling quite a bit for work - meetings and a conference.


I don't drive I use public transport - buses and trains. Sometimes I have a personal assistant (PA) with me but just as often I travel on my own. It depends on their availability to travel with me. And also whether their travelling expenses would also be covered.


Travelling with a wheelchair is fantastic - it allows me to go places where I wouldnt have been able to when I was younger but it has its own challenges. One of my bugbears is luggage - how do you deal with that.


I think I ve got it to a fine art. Firstly, get a good bag. You can use a backpack or a wheelchair bag. You need a charger if you have a power wheelchair and if you are staying more than one night. I have a small dual voltage charger I take with me. Do not forget to have some adaptors with you for Europe. Its amazing how many hotels do not have adaptors. For good measure, take an extension lead. This is from previous experience when the sockets are a distance away from the bed. How are you going to charge up your chair if the electricity supply is in the other side of the room and you need your chair next to you in bed?


I have not even started on clothes yet but take a change of everything. I tend to travel light you can always buy what you need of you get stuck.


http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6209/6123129741_c4d4fa1b61_m.jpgwhat are the essentials? an umbrella if you can hold brollies, or a hat to keep the rain off your head. A raincoat or a poncho. A bottle of water.And a bag for your laptop/ipad and papers and pens - like a  trabasack.The trabasack is especially useful if there is no table with your seat space because it provides a surface for you to put things on.


And your handy RADAR key - you never know when you might be caught short. Very often I wait for trains and you get a take out coffee or tea like everybody else but the trouble is that it is not easy to balance a hot cup of coffee and to drive the wheelchair. I can have a cup holder on my Quickie S525 which was great for that. Otherwise you can ask the rail staff on the train to fetch you one - most times they are obliging.



Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
February 3 2012 6 03 /02 /February /2012 23:20

transfer-copy-1.gifThere are some aids that help independent living in everyday life. I thought I 'd list a few of those which help me. To start with, I have a electric bed which can be be moved up which helps when I want to sit up and where I can get my legs to move up as well. I have a bed grab rail which I use to get me into position to get out of bed into my wheelchair. I also have a transfer board to move from the bed into the chair. 


My personal assistant comes in most mornings to help me get ready. My bathroom is a wet room, I have a shower chair . She helps me wash my hair and shower, dress and get a cup of tea and breakfast if I have time before going to the market stall.


Its lucky I am self employed because it takes more time to get ready than other people. I can't exactly jump in the shower;-)



Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
February 1 2012 4 01 /02 /February /2012 00:34

Today I came across 2 stories through Twitter - a man invented a contraption, My4Hands,  to help him continue cooking when he became a wheelchair user, and a 7/7 bombings survivor created a smartphone app to help disabled people travel around London more easily.


Firstly lets look at the My4Hands invention. When you re a wheelchair user, its often that you find you cannot hold equipment in your hand and move - because you need your hands to help you move. So on the face of it, this would be a useful piece of kitchen equipment to have an aid to help balance on your lap while on the move.


Dale Lehn says:


The polyethylene core, in conjunction with the hold fast surface offers an insulation capability to prevent the transfer of heat through the board. Because of this My4Hands is ideal to hold a laptop computer without fear of burning your skin. As many people in wheelchairs do not have sensation on their legs, this is particularly important. You can also set a hot pot of water or skillet on My4Hands in order to be able to stir the contents and transport it easily to a sink or table. I always put a towel down between the hot item and the surface of My4Hands to keep from leaving a mark on the surface.


My head immediately buzzed with all kinds of questions - did he test it on different people or just himself? All my fire and safety instincts came to the forefront. I would never hold anything like a skillet or a hot pot of water as is seen from his video on my lap and move. I wouldnt do it period. The consequences of accidently tipping hot contents on my lap or dropping a hot heavy pan on my feet is too much to contemplate. I am ultra careful even when removing hot food out of a microwave. And I prefer not to if I dont need to.


Okay I might be butter fingers but for him it was necessity, he wanted to continue being able to cook and for him it does the trick. But its not something I could recommend or sell as a product.


Balancing a laptop and a drink on a trabasack is the most I would carry on my lap - with the safety belt on to stop it from slipping off my lap!


The second, Daniel Biddle's Ldn Access app details step-free access, ramps and usable toilet facilities at thousands of venues. Mr Biddle says he created it after finding that his wheelchair had made many venues become inaccessible.


"What happened on 7/7 robbed me of the ability to just go anywhere," he said.

"I can think of numerous instances where I've stopped somewhere to use the toilet or gone to a restaurant only to find it is impossible. There is such a lack of useful information for people in a wheelchair, those with learning difficulties or people with a visual or hearing impairment."


It works by using location-based technology to pinpoint where a user is, providing intuitive icons and simple terminology to make their choices from, breaking down bigger categories such as restaurants into smaller specific ones such as Chinese or Indian.


This sounds great. Technology is wonderful - however like any access information I would like to know who did the input into the data. Having access to the technology and the information is only as good as the accuracy of the data. A step up from calling a restaurant to ask them if they are accessible or looking up their website. How often do they prove to be erroneus? Information is still only as good as the reliability of its content.


Usability = Accessibility and Acessibility = Usability. I remember discussing Don Norman's The Design of EveryDay Things at university and I think this has had an influence on me equally now with independent living products - I want to give them the user test. For me, the one product that I can say to have tested and can recommend wholeheartedly is the grabber. Something I use everyday.




I would'nt know what I would do without them. I have one in every room and one at work. I use them to pick things up from the floor and off shelves above my head. I even use them to switch lights off when I cannot reach the switches. This particular one with the suckers is sturdy enough to pick up jars and flexible enough to pick coins and letters/mail off the floor.

Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
November 10 2011 5 10 /11 /November /2011 01:24

Today new stock has started arriving - some backscratchers and electric sock warmers. The back scratchers were for a customer who were asking for her husband and the sock warmers because I thought they would be a good idea. I showed them to Ron from the Fishing Tackle stall because they were originally made for fishermen in the Nordic Sea.


But most of all I look forward to the new travel shower chair arriving tomorrow.


showerchairshowerchair folded



With Carry Bag



Even better here's a video of Guy showing it off






I am confident that I will take my shower chair with me next time I travel but I actually think that the bath seats, which fit on a bath and makes tubs accessible are also fantastic.  This would solve the problem of the lack of roll in roll out showers especially in hotels which only have baths.




The Travel Bath Seat easily breaks down into four parts - and no small fiddly screws to lose - making it perfect for storage and travel. The blue padded backrest provides comfort and support and the non-skid padded seat has a U-shaped cut out to facilitate personal hygiene. Foam padded armrests offer further support and flip up to ensure manoeuvring onto seat is easier. The arms are secured in the down position by a push-release catch for greater security.

The bath supports are adjustable on both sides to adjust to the widths of different baths. And they have non-slip rubber sleeves, which combined with the curved design prevent the seat from moving whilst in use. The frame is made from aluminium making the chair both lightweight and corrosion resistant.

The seat divides into 4 parts: the main seat, the back and the 2 bath supports. This allows is to be packed down into a suitcase or it's own carry bag.

Altogether, this is an excellent bath seat for disabled people. If you have a bath tub with a handheld shower, it is as comfortable and practical at home as it is convenient to pack up and taken away with you.


Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment
October 23 2011 1 23 /10 /October /2011 00:34

Guy and Duncan at NaidexIts been a hectic week. But the highlights were that I went to Naidex South to meet up with Duncan Edwards of Trabasacks and Guy Harris of Disabled Gear. I also met Steve Dent of Spokz. It was a very busy stall as Guy was doing a roaring business with his jeans. I got a pair as well to try because these are specifically for wheelchair users. Fun too to meet the guys - what a hoot!


Duncan and Guy have been supplying me with their products and offering me encouragement as a disabled entrepreneur. I now hope to stock some products from Mike too.But we have to chat about it yet.


At the same time Disability Capital Conference 2011 was also happening at the same venue with the Mayor Boris Johnson and Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller making their speeches. Many of my disabled mates were there as a result of that conference and I was able to tell them about my new business. I am not a Londoner but I gather disabled people were none too happy at the conference.


I also bumped into Brian Seaman from Tourism For All - Brian and I had a few discussions before on accessible hotels, including those in Coventry. As an access adviser we have many things in common. I am thinking of setting up a small corner for accessible holidays at the stall - just to try it out! I have been working a service for inclusive travel with Connect Culture, now a loose community group based in Coventry.


signposts to StratfordPart of what I did with Connect Culture was to help disabled people plan their trips to 3 cities London, Paris and Strasbourg. So I am always happy to go to London, and things do not remain the same. This time I tried out a new route which was to travel to the Excel Centre in East London. Now previously I would have said to take the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station and then transfer to DLR. It is qute tedious as a wheelchair user because I cannot take the tube - so it would be a bus ride from Euston, an underground from Waterloo and the DLR to Custom House, Excel. BUT this time I took St Pancras International to Stratford International and then changed to DLR (towards Beckton) stop at Custom House.


It was a much shorter journey but if it is to help visitors and tourists-a lot more guidance and information should be made available because I felt really lost and as someone without an Oyster card I had no idea which ticket to buy - I had to decide what zone it was for. Not even the woman at the Information booth could tell me or any of the people working at Stratford International. Interesting thought for our Olympics visitors!


My friends and I had a great time ending up in Westfield Stratford Food Court for dinner before my track back to Coventry!


And to top the week, I was asked to go on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire to talk about the impact of the proposed changes to the Disability Living Allowance DLA  which is being changed to the Personal Independence Payment PiP. There is a new report on the hardships which would be felt by disabled people by the disability charity Scope. Well I know what the impact is, trouble is at that time in the morning my brain barely started ticking and I couldnt think of what to say. I did perk up later though. However, they got both my name and the stall name wrong!



Repost 0
Published by eleanor_ila - in aids for getting about
write a comment


  • : Eleanor's independent living aids
  • Eleanor's independent living aids
  • : Eleanor on being a disabled woman, starting a market stall selling independent living aids in Coventry market. Website coming soon. twitter: eleanor_ila
  • Contact


  • eleanor_ila
  • eleanor.ila@gmail.com
Independent living campaigner, blogger, tweeter.
  • eleanor.ila@gmail.com Independent living campaigner, blogger, tweeter.