Thursday, 28 July 2011

My other life...

I originally started this blog to promote my little fledgling business, (proper website coming soon) but I seem to have failed spectacularly at that, because what I've been told you want to hear is the other side of my life, as a full time Care Worker.

Well, that's not all of me. I also work on a local Music Project as a Youth Worker. It's my favourite three hours of the week, because it feels like the bit where I truly help other people acheive - with visible results when, as last weekend, we put on a two day festival in the local park! We had a total of 14 hours of live music; bands already semi-pro at the age of 16; live DJ's and MC's (which I was particularly impressed with - the lads that performed are really shy, disengaged with education and "authority", blah blah, yet pulled in the biggest crowd of supporters for their two sets) right up to people who had never performed in public before yet leapt at the opportunity to sing a song accompanied by one of us staffie folk!

Anyway, I digress. At midnight tomorrow, I will be accompanying six of my Young People on a trip to Krakow for a week. I'm really looking forward to it, and will let you all know what it's like when I get back! I'll try and take some pics that don't involve other people - confidentiality, y'know ;)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Buggy vs Wheelchair

Have you ever noticed how many different ways there are to transport a small child? 4 wheels, 3 wheels, pivoting wheels, adjustable handles, plenty of space around the child in case of knocks and bumps, extra carrying space for your shopping...

Somebody somewhere (or, more likely lots of somebodies in lots of somewheres) has put in an awful lot of time, energy and money deciding how tiny children can be safely transported with the minimum of effort on the part of the carer.

Now look at a wheel chair:

2 bike tyres with no way to pump them up. No way to change them.

Shopping trolley front wheels.

More often than not, due to lack of mobillity, the person sitting in the chair is bigger than the chair itself.

Now, I'd like you to ponder something. How much time does a small child spend in a buggy? If the parents don't drive, possibly 2-3 hours a day, maybe less. How long does a wheelchair user spend in their chair? Dude I work with finds transferring difficult, so (apart from using the shower, going to the loo and sleeping) he's in it all day. Around 12 hours. Opinions on a postcard, please!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Disabled" toilets

Often when I'm out and about, I muse on the qualifications (and in particularly tight corners the parentage) of architects. I've met a couple of architects along the way, and they've been very pleasant people to chat to. However, when it comes to real life, I do wonder whether they live in it.

There are all sorts of legal requirements relating to disabled access in buildings. And, I'm sure, lots of architects and bureaucrats earning far more than me who are experts on designing said access. However, I'd love to meet one. Without exception, disabled toilets are not easily accessible to disabled people.

The first thing I would tell my new architect buddy is that a wheel chair user does not necessarily mean someone who has lost the use of their legs. They may have lost the use of one leg, or one side of their body, or simply not be strong enough to walk everywhere. This means that one bar on one side of the toilet is not enough. If a person can only use the right side of their body, then they need support on the right. The next person to use the facilities may only have the use of the left side. This means you need to put a fixed bar on both sides of the bathroom.

Next, do not waste your money on clever devices that move up and down and take a loo roll too. A person who is unsteady on their feet does not want to lean on something that feels like it's going to give way at any moment. Put a proper fixed hand rail in, they're cheaper so you can have more of them.

Then, my clever architect pal, remember that two, yes TWO people will be in this bathroom at any one time. One to use the toilet and one to push the wheelchair in and out, and to provide the physical support that your design lacks. That means I need space too, and as I have a fat arse I don't want to be setting the hand dryer off every time I move. It's very distracting!

While we're on the subject of moving around, please remember that there has been infinitely more funding and research done on your average £30 push chair than there has on your basic NHS wheelchair, which is all most people get. They do not maneouvre round corners on a sixpence. They do not have clever swivelly wheels in all four corners - only the front two, which have a tendency to jam in the wrong position. Also, unlike a buggy, the person is bigger than the chair. There is no pretty-coloured padded cushiony stuff in between the person I'm pushing and that cleverly designed concrete corner. People who don't move much don't heal well, so bashing them around when they urgently need a wee is not good.

Ha! Urgency, another bug bear. A person in a wheelchair doesn't necessarily have the best muscle control. That goes for everywhere, depending on their needs, but also affects bladder muscles. Putting the disabled loo at the back of the shop around a few neat concrete pillars and pot plants can and does make the difference between dignity and embarrassment. Especially when you've made the corridor barely wide enough to fit down - yes, I know the door is the right width...

So, the next time you see an exhausted person in an unflattering polo shirt hurtling towards you backwards, you know it'll be me trying to get someone out of the toilet and onto something more interesting!