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June 26, 2019

In England during 2017/2018, the Department of Transport found that a population of 9.8 million held older and disabled concessionary travel passes. With that in mind, is there enough being done to make the nation’s means of public transport accessible for disabled people and the elderly? With assistance from stairlift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts, we’ve investigated this issue…

Across the UK a lot of the population choose public transport to  get from A to B. The Department for Transport’s Transport Statistics, Great Britain 2018: Moving Britain Ahead, reported that 4.85 billion local bus passengers were completed through the UK during 2017/2018 and National Rail completed 1.71 billion passenger journeys. During the same period, 270 million passengers used light rail and tram systems, which is a record since comparable records were documented. 

Issues being highlighted regarding accessible public transport

UK-based poet and artist, Jamie Hale and voiced his disappointment towards the UK’s transport system and feels that it doesn’t cater enough for disabled passengers in an opinion piece for The Guardian, going as far as to state that London alone “has one of the best public transport systems in the world, yet only about a quarter of underground stations are fully accessible for me”. 

Being also an activist with groups like Disabled People Against Cuts, and Not Dead Yet UK, Mr Hale was keen to point out some positive feedback, regarding London’s public transport system. He accredited buses in the city for having wheelchair-accessibility and the pavements are passable, while a system entitled Turn Up & Go is designed to allow passengers who are disabled to travel spontaneously. 

However, Mr Hale does go on to express strongly that London’s rail network has a reliance on staff-assisted travel for many of disabled passengers. Using a real-life situation, Mr Hale had said that this means he must wait for a staff member to set up a ramp and then assist him with boarding the train – many times of which he ends up travelling within the vestibule of the transportation system. 

He added: “Even when the train has a wheelchair space, I’m rarely put in it. If I want to get off, I have to hope the staff remember me. They often don’t, leaving me either shouting at passengers to find platform staff or relying on friends. Otherwise, I have to eat into my care hours and bring a carer with me who can find staff when I’m inevitably forgotten. Of my last six journeys, I was only met correctly on two — the rest of the time, the ramp didn’t arrive, or it was sent to the wrong part of the train.”

Mr Hale, had continued to point out potential solutions, if were to be implemented would make both London’s and the wider UK’s transport system more accessible by including:

1.    Ensuring all trains have proper spaces for wheelchair users.

2.    Improving how those requiring assistance to alight from public transport can alert staff members on a platform when the necessary help hasn’t arrived.  

3.    Increasing the number of dedicated assistance staff members available for those using public transport.

4.    Introducing automated ramps which extend from trains to platform level.

5.    Making it free for carers and assistants to use public transport.

It’s not just Mr Hale, who feels aggravated by these issues too. Within its Independent. Confident. Connected report, disability equality charity Scope found that 40 per cent of disabled people often experience difficulties or issues when travelling via train across the UK. One in four also stated that negative attitudes from fellow passengers has led to them restricting their use of public transport.

The head of policy and public affairs at Scope, James Taylor stated: “From airports to buses, we’ve heard too many horror stories of disabled people let down by poor infrastructure, bad service, or being treated as an afterthought. This urgently needs to change.”

“A genuinely inclusive transport network would allow disabled people to be part of their community, work, and see family and friends. Progress towards fair and inclusive transport has been slow, and disabled people want to see change happening a lot faster.”

The Legal rights for accessibility on transport

The 2010 Equality act was introduced to cover the legality surrounding provision of accessible transport and completely replacing all prior equality legislation, such as Disability Discrimination Act. The premise of the act is to ensure that transport implements adjustments to provide a service for disabled people which is of the same standard to that of non-disabled people. Assistance measures should be put in place by those effected, to ensure that accessibility is met for disabled customers. 

The regulations mean that providers must do the following: 

1.    Not charge a disabled people extra or refuse to ravel to someone based on their ability 

2.    Refuse a disabled person from travel under genuine safety reasons

3.    Must guarantee accommodation for disabled people where prior notice is given and provide extra assistance if no notice is made. 

4.    Provide basic assistance in the terminal, when loading/unloading luggage or boarding/alighting from the transport

5.    Display information in accessible formats

6.    Provide training for all staff members in disability awareness and handling associated equipment

7.    Provide compensation for lost or damaged equipment

8.    Must allow registered assistance dogs to travel on transport including buses and coaches

Other methods of transport have slightly varying rules, for travel by sea and waterways:

1.    Assistance dogs are permitted but must follow national rules

2.    A temporary requirement should be provided if equipment is lost or damaged

3.    Standards of assistance should be filed by large establishments 

The Equality Act also sets requirements for guidelines regarding public transport vehicles, such as trains, buses, coaches and taxis and there are to be outlined by the government.

The standard allowance for travel is based on a ‘reference wheelchair, which measurements are a length of 1200mm, including extra-long footplates with a total width of 700mm. The sitting height from ground to top of head shouldn’t exceed 1350mm and the height of the footrest will be no more than 150mm. 

To justify all wheelchair sizes, the ‘reference wheelchair’ is the bigger then most models, which guarantees that users will have enough room. Some models are bigger however, and they may be unable to travel. Theoretically, if your wheelchair fits these requirements then you should be allowed to travel with it. If you are concerned about the size guidelines, you should contact your travel operator ahead of time for assurance, as many can provide further assistance.

For those using mobility scooters, they must be folded in order to travel, although smaller models are permitted on some buses and trains.

Further measurements to increase public transport accessibility

The success of a journey can sometimes come down to good planning and there are a variety of organisations who provide free advice. For blind or partially sighted customers, Describe Online is an example as it provides text descriptions of the layout of public spaces. Many transport facilities also rely on announcements to communicate with those who have limited sight, and the React AV system provides information on public spaces in an audio format. 

Some major cities across the UK have tram systems which haven proven to be a popular method of transport for its citizens and they often have concession or discounted fares for disabled and older passengers. All services now have wheelchair accessible platforms and level access is provided in all areas to avoid the use of ramps. Most mobility scooters and wheelchairs are allowed to travel on trams, but some do so on a permit basis which the user must apply for and display to travel. 

London has recognised the needs to increase accessibility on its public transport system. Transport For London are at the forefront of making their services inclusive to all abilities, including those with hidden disabilities. The in introduction of the ‘Travel Support Card’ enables users with any form of disability to seek assistance from staff if necessary, and the user can note down any important details to give staff a better idea of the support which they could provide.

There has been growth of accessibility across local communities across the UK too, with services such as door-to-door where passengers can rely on transport picking them up directly from their home. If you are unable to use public transport with your wheelchair, you could benefit from one of these services, often known as ‘dial a ride’, and your wheelchair can travel with you. These services are usually provided by local councils or authorities, and those who wish to use the service should consult the relevant authorities or the community pages in the phone book.

When comes to the safety and security of customers, regardless of their ability, the transport sector is certainly making advances. It is becoming more than just a matter of getting from a to b, as the inclusive nature of the facilities available becomes an important factor for those who want to use their services. 

Photo: ShutterStockStudio / Shutterstock.com

 

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June 24, 2019

East Anglian DriveAbility's Thetford centre to unveil new driving and scooter assessment facilities for elderly and disabled locals

East Anglian DriveAbility (EAD), one of Driving Mobility’s UK assessment centres for elderly and disabled drivers, will be officially opening its enhanced Thetford centre on 11th July, 10am-4pm.   

Official opening of new facilities at East Anglian Driveability at 2 Napier Place, Thetford, IP24 3RL. All press, healthcare professionals and public welcome. Free access to the TGA test drive course for safe mobility scooter driving awareness.

Driving Mobility accredits twenty independent organisations which offer professional support and driving assessments to people who need to gain, or retain, the ability to drive following a diagnosis involving impairment or disability. EAD is part of this network with centres in Thetford and Colchester. In addition to driving assessments and guidance regarding adapted vehicles, its Occupational Therapists and Driving Advisors provide several additional services focused on suitable mobility scooter, powerchair and wheelchair provision.

Service users at EAD either self-refer or are signposted by the DVLA, Motability, Police and healthcare professionals such as Occupational Therapists (OTs) and GPs. The EAD centres are managed by a team of specialist OTs, Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) and administration staff who are focused on recommended solutions for independent mobility. Now with enhanced facilities at the Thetford centre, EAD has the ability to extend and diversify services further with a view to helping more East of England drivers to remain on the road. The new extension includes an impressive training room for drivers and professionals and a larger reception which is spacious and welcoming. 

EAD invites all healthcare professionals and members of the general public with an interest in adapted driving to attend the event. A vast range of adapted vehicles, WAVs (wheelchair accessible vehicles), specialist steering and driving controls will be on display and attendees will have the opportunity to try the vehicle simulator. Vehicle conversion companies will be supporting along with specialist suppliers such as Autochair car boot hoists and TGA mobility scooters. A scooter test drive course will be available so visitors can experience part of the EAD assessment process and determine which product is suitable for their needs. 

Yvette Bateman, CEO, East Anglian DriveAbility, comments: "The official opening of our new extension promises to deliver a successful day for all. We are proud of our new facilities and the enhancement to services on offer for all elderly and disabled drivers within East Anglia. Sue Rogers from the Department for Transport and Helen Dolphin MBE, our Chair and well known accessible transport campaigner, will be available throughout the day. They will be able to explain the latest developments in legislation and topics such as disabled parking and the extension to the Blue Badge scheme. The team and I invite everyone with an interest in independent mobility to attend."

 

 

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June 21, 2019

On Wednesday 19th June Autism West Midlands in partnership with Fortis Living and Worcestershire County Council celebrated the opening of a new supported living scheme for autistic adults and adults with complex needs. The scheme was developed by Fortis Living - part of Platform Housing Group, with additional funding of more than £400,000 from Worcestershire County Council and Homes England.

The Burrows is the first scheme of its kind in Worcestershire and consists of eight individual flats for adults with complex autism, giving them the opportunity to live in their own home with 24 hour support. All of the residents will have their own tenancies and support is to be provided by specialist provider Autism West Midlands.  

This exciting project for autistic adults was commissioned by Worcestershire County Council, speaking at the ceremony Adrian Hardman – Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said:

“This scheme is truly exciting for us because it really demonstrates our commitment to developing innovative ways to provide support that is person centred and empowers people to achieve their full potential.”

Supported living offers an alternative to residential care, enabling people to rent their home and have more control over the support they receive. A lot of thought and consideration has also been given to the design of the build to make sure it meets the needs of autistic people. Further adaptations have been made to each flat to meet the needs of each individual who will be living at the scheme.

Richard Grounds, Group Commercial Director at Fortis Living who have built and own the new housing said:

“The Burrows is a fantastic example of organisations working together in partnership to produce housing and support of the highest quality. Fortis Living is proud to have played its part in the development of this landmark scheme.”

Autism West Midlands, who are the support provider for the scheme, are offering new and innovative ways of working to provide support that is person centred and focuses on empowering individuals.

As well as being an innovative design, the scheme will offer new and creative ways of receiving support through the use of assistive technology. This technology aims to enable people to receive support in the least restrictive way. Technology may include monitoring and alerting systems to support the management of health conditions such as epilepsy, adaptations to the environment to help reduce anxiety as well as offer opportunity for people to develop their independence skills.

Also speaking at the event Phil Middlewood, Chief Executive of Autism West Midlands said:

“We are delighted to be supporting people to move back to Worcestershire to live in their own homes, with their own front door and keys. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to lead fulfilling, engaging and active lives and we are proud to be part of this new project. Autism West Midlands has been supporting autistic adults for over 30 years and our staff and managers are passionate about making a difference for everyone we support.”

Health and social care professionals alongside families of those who will be supported through the scheme had the opportunity to tour the building and speak to the specialist support team from Autism West Midlands, whilst enjoying some light refreshments.

 

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June 19, 2019

A ground-breaking initiative from the University of Surrey is launching an inspiring innovation and digital enterprise academy, SurreyIDEA, to welcome individuals denied the opportunity of attending university due to social mobility or those looking to deviate away from the traditional academic route. 

The pioneering academy is the first of its kind in Europe, providing a novel and progressive learning  experience that enables students to gain valuable skills in an interactive format free from prohibitive entry requirements based on academic achievement – recruitment will be based on potential. With under and post graduate programmes, the academy will offer development as an entrepreneur and funded scholarships to students who will join as part-owner of the business and intellectual property that they create on the programme. 

With the fundamental objective of making higher education available to all, the faces behind SurreyIDEA are passionate about the fact that they are not an elitist platform closed off to large segments of society and thus further increasing the gap between rich and poor. Whereas the current education system prioritises academic achievement above all else, SurreyIDEA want to acknowledge the cornucopia of varied attributes possessed by so many other individuals which are essential in the workplace and welcome those without the ‘gold standard’ qualifications or CV.

Instead of charging students tuition fees like a conventional university, SurreyIDEA will invest in students’ enterprises and take a percentage of the profits. With no other business school in Europe having built an entrepreneurship programme on such a model, the expert panel of teachers will showcase their own experiences which have led to their involvement with the academy. As well as helping to shape the future of business education, the students can be part of history, too.

Founder and Head of the School, Andy Adcroft, says "We want to create a new generation of digital entrepreneurs that we call the Disrupters, the people that will transform the way we learn and get noticed in a less conventional way. University should be a life changing experience, if you leave the same person you were when you arrived, we have done it wrong.

I know what it is to be met by a preconceived opinion based on my postal code, it’s an unfair judgement and doesn’t reflect the individual’s capabilities and strengths. This must change. Equality of opportunity should be a running theme in all areas of education and business to prevent the distance between the wealthy and poor from increasing further, and SurreyIDEA aims to help encourage this.”

Gavin Whichello, Visiting Professor and Founder of leading training provider Qube Learning, says "I came from a background that didn’t present life changing opportunities. Growing up in south east London, I went to a grammar school but didn't fit in. I went on to spend time working on building sites but it was ambition that drove me finally to gain a degree and pursue a career in the computer science industry. Having trained as a teacher and worked in schools in London for four years, I became frustrated that 'brilliant' pupils from poorer backgrounds were still leaving with no future. 

I’m passionate about supporting young people and giving them the chance to change the world. Our students, the Disrupters, will be active participants, not spectators passively sitting in a lecture theatre taking notes. SurreyIDEA is not here simply to impart knowledge; we aim to change lives. Great entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes. If you aren’t getting it wrong, you won’t know how to improve.”

SurreyIDEA was inspired and developed from Surrey Business School’s highly successful Young Person’s University programme, which has run at the school every July since 2015. The 30-40 Year 12 and 13 students who attend each year are motivated and often incredibly entrepreneurial. Many don’t come from traditional university-going backgrounds so are dropping out of the system after A-levels. However, after a week with Surrey Business School, most go on to apply to university and usually get in.

If you’re ready to get your entrepreneurial career under way and think we can help, SurreyIDEA would love to hear from you. Or, if you’re not sure whether the academy is right for you and you’d like to know more, here’s how to get in touch with us:

Phone: 01483 686323

Email: surreyIDEA@surrey.ac.uk

Twitter: @SurreyIDEA

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June 18, 2019

Business Disability Forum is launching a new survey today seeking the views of people with a disability or long-term condition on public transport and accessible parking.

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Advice, Business Disability Forum, said:

“Transport is how we get to where we need to be – whether that’s getting to work, going to meet friends, going on holiday or accessing healthcare.

“But despite the vital role it plays in all our lives, travelling can be a stressful and difficult experience if you have a disability and that’s why we are launching our new survey, ‘Getting There: How accessible is transport in 2019?’

“We want to hear from people about their experiences of using public transport -  whether good or bad. We also want to hear from Blue Badge holders about views on accessible parking.

“Please take part and help us ensure transport is accessible for everyone.”

Business Disability Forum is seeking views on travel by train, tube, plane, tram, bus, taxi and coach, as well as people’s experiences of using Blue Badge parking.

The not-for-profit membership organisation will use the findings to inform its response the Government’s current consultations on train travel, as well as the recently published Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy.

To complete the ‘Getting There: How accessible is transport in 2019?’ survey online, go to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PQDP9XT. To receive the survey in a different format, please email policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk . The survey will close at 8am on Monday 24th June. Follow the debate on accessible transport at #BDFGettingThere

 

 

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June 21, 2019

Moira Henderson has dedicated herself to making accessible holidays easier to find in Fife, for as many people as possible. And she’s doing such a great job, Prince Charles recently presented her with an MBE. Editor Victoria Galligan asked Moira about her crusade and her cottages The Rings, which can sleep up to 16 people.

Q&A with accessible holidays champion Moira Henderson

When did you first become involved in the hospitality industry?

About 28 years ago we brought a second-hand residential  caravan onto our farm, so I guess that was my start in hospitality. I became increasingly involved when we started to think about accessible tourism, although I didn’t know that was what it was called until a chance meeting with Chris McCoy of Visit Scotland. 

Chris helped me to network with those affected by disability and their feedback helped shape my “wish list”. 

I was then invited by Scottish Enterprise to join the group Planning to Succeed, designed to guide those involved in agriculture to diversify into tourism. This group was very educational and supportive. 

What is your role on the board of Fife’s Tourism Associations?  

I am Chair of the  North Fife Local Tourist Association and I also have recently taken the Chair of The Fife Tourism Partnership. In these roles I try to encourage businesses to network and learn from each other. We keep an eye on changes in legislation – such as the attempt to introduce a Tourism Tax! 

We also put forward the views of those we represent. We look at the needs of businesses, such as staff requirements, and liaise with schools and colleges, encouraging them to consider the long-term needs of local business in their planning. Our aim is to keep the vibrant industry we have in Fife moving in the right direction. Marketing is of course vital and we are constantly reviewing how we are performing. 

Why did you decide to build The Rings – and why was accessibility at the heart of the project?

My first thought was to build a two-bedroom cottage! We were affected by disability in our family and latterly I nursed my Mum who had a severe stroke which required her to be hoisted. How do you go on holiday when you have specialist beds, hoist and shower chair all to transport? And that is assuming the doors are wide enough to get in when you arrive! 

I realised there were very few properties available. My friend suggested we build something a little bigger than the two-bed I was considering. Both her brothers-in-law had muscular dystrophy and both were in wheelchairs, she needed four bedrooms and two of them wheelchair accessible.

God had a big plan for us – but so as not to scare us witless took us slowly, with the right people at the right time to come alongside. This is why the title of my book is called The Journey To The Rings: You Couldn’t Make It Up! 

What makes The Rings so accessible?

The cottages are designed specifically for wheelchair accessibility by architects who have a daughter who is a wheelchair user. Our award-winning building is all on one level, with low entry from the decking, and gravel is in a tray which allows wheelchairs to cross it without becoming stuck. 

Doors and corridors are wide, with plenty of turning circles. All en-suites are wet rooms, three have ceiling tracking and they also have baths, one of which has a seat on which you can transfer into a lovely deep “spa” bath, and feature colour contrasts for the visually impaired. There is clearance for knees under sinks and vanity units. 

Two of the four kitchens are wheelchair accessible, because when we were planning a lady said: “I am a wheelchair user and a single parent, will I be able to cook for my family if I come?” So, yes she can! 

We now have five profile beds and other equipment we hire out when required. I asked the architects for flexibility, I have 23 different configurations including one large cottage for a group of 16 guests. 

What accessible attractions are there nearby to keep families entertained?

• The Scottish Deer centre is 15 minutes away, and there are lots of other farm parks locally.

• All our swimming pools (except St Andrews) are accessible either by beach entry or hoist.

• Beach wheelchairs at St Andrews, and more to come. 

• We have more Changing Places in Fife than any other area of the UK. 

• Lochore Meadows, has accessible sailing, and a boat accessed by a ramp. 

• Accessible bikes and play parks in some parts of Fife 

• We even have gliding which is accessible. 

We have encouraged the many leisure and tourist attraction businesses in our local area to produce Accessible Guides so potential guests can decide if the venue will work for them. We really are spoilt for things to see and do in this area!

Tell us about your MBE…

I was awarded the MBE for Services to Accessible Tourism in Fife. Prince Charles presented it at Buckingham Palace in February. He asked three very relevant questions about The Rings and I hope I answered appropriately! It went by in a flash but was a very moving moment. 

It was a lovely opportunity to speak with other award recipients who also had an interest in accessibility. 

To buy Moira’s book The Journey To The Rings: You Couldn’t Make It Up! (£10 including P&P with proceeds going to charity), or to book accessible holidays ​at The Rings, see therings.co.uk

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June 17, 2019

The Football Association [The FA] has today released an inspiring new film to celebrate disability football ahead of the 2019 FA Disability Cup, which will take place at St. George’s Park on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June. 

The film shines a spotlight on five grassroots disability footballers telling the story of their own individual journey into the game, from those seeking a competitive environment in which to play the game to others simply finding fun, sociable ways of keeping active.

Their stories are being shared to encourage anybody with a disability to give football a try, whether they are an elite sportsperson looking to compete in the structured game or a complete newcomer exploring new ways to be active. It is part of The FA’s continued drive to improve equality, diversity and inclusion across English football at all levels through its In Pursuit of Progress plan.

The film can be watched here and downloaded in various formats here. The featured players – who also appear in associated imagery here – include: 

Bradley Newton, Partially Sighted Footballer

Cameron Osburn, Cerebral Palsy Footballer

Che Gray, Amputee Footballer

Darren Harris, Blind Footballer

Rosie Hodgson, Powerchair Footballer

Each of the five players will be competing at The FA Disability Cup, now in its fourth year. The competition will be held at St. George’s Park this weekend, with five finals scheduled to take place in partnership with a range of impairment-specific organisations:

Amputee Cup Final in partnership with England Amputee Football Association Blind Cup Final in partnership with the National Blind Football League

Cerebral Palsy Cup Final in partnership with CP Sport

Partially Sighted Cup Final in partnership with the National Partially Sighted Football League

Powerchair Cup Final in partnership with the Wheelchair Football Association

Bradley Newton, who became involved in Partially Sighted football after his eye sight was affected as a result of a stroke at the age of 16, explained his excitement, saying: "Playing at St. George’s Park is a special experience and to be able to share that with a brilliant group of team mates is fantastic. Since joining North West Scorpions I’ve not only been able to improve my own game, but I’ve made lifelong friends along the way. We’re now hoping we can take that spirit into the weekend to bring the trophy home."

Paul Elliott, Chair of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board, said: "This film is a great way of celebrating disability football by demonstrating the impact the game is having on the lives of those people who already play. By telling these stories, we hope to raise awareness of the opportunities that exist for all within grassroots disability football."

This year’s event will also showcase the exhibition of a new format of 2v2 blind football which The FA is developing as a beginner friendly-format of the standard 5v5 format currently adopted within blind football.

To find out how to get involved in disability football, visit: www.thefa.com/disability.

Click here for more information on The 2019 FA Disability Cup.

Tickets for The FA Disability Cup are available from https://fa.ticketline.co.uk/ priced £2 for adults and £1 for juniors and concessions.

 

 

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June 11, 2019

Prior Park Landscape Garden introduces new online Visual Guide to welcome people with Autism

Visiting a local heritage attraction can be an exciting experience for many people. However, for autistic people the idea of going somewhere new can be quite a challenge. 

To try and tackle this problem, Heritage Ability has produced an online Visual Guide for Prior Park, a National Trust property in Bath, which could help reduce anxiety for autistic people. The guide can also be beneficial to plan group visits, especially groups that have complex needs.

The online guide provides information on what visitors should expect to see and hear during their visit, and any areas that may be noisy or have flashing lights (which can cause problems for autistic visitors). The guide also includes information on what you can expect to see when visiting Prior Park, including what wildlife they may see on their visit, where the toilets can be found, or any quiet areas where visitors can rest. 

The Visual Guide was developed in partnership with the Heritage Ability project, which is a three-year project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help support over 20 heritage attractions become more accessible across the South West.

Rachel Beaumont, Senior Visitor Experience Officer at Prior Park, stated: “We are so happy that the new Visual Guide for Prior Park is up on our website. It will help visitors to the garden plan their visit more thoroughly and ensure they avoid any areas that could add anxiety or stress.”

Maryann Soper, Manager of Heritage Ability, said: “This is one of many products we’ve developed to make heritage attractions more accessible for disabled and Deaf people (that use British Sign Language). 

“All our products are reviewed by people with lived-experience to ensure the products and tools are actually useful to visitors.

“Information about accessibility at a site is becoming more available online and is always worth researching before your visit.  Heritage Ability has already provided ten online Visual Guides across the South West so far.”

 

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June 17, 2019

People with hidden disabilities will soon be able to access Blue Badge parking permits, thanks to the roll out of new guidance today (Saturday, June 15).

For drivers or passengers with dementia, anxiety disorders or reduced mobility, anticipating difficulty travelling, such as trouble finding a parking space, can result in a build-up of stress on top of the stress of the journey itself.

The new guidance, which represents the biggest change to the scheme since the 1970s, will offer a lifeline to people who often find road travel difficult by providing better access to work and other amenities, while also helping combat loneliness by helping them stay connected to family and friends.

The expanded scheme coincides with the launch of a new task force to toughen up enforcement and help councils tackle fraudulent use of the badges.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“As a society we don’t do enough for people with hidden disabilities.

“I hope this change to Blue Badge guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

At the end of 2018, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of Blue Badges had risen by 45 per cent in 12 months and was up six-fold since 2013.

The review will look at ensuring Blue Badges are used correctly and improving public understanding so that those with hidden disabilities can use the badges with confidence.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

"It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.

“Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.”

To help councils with the expected increase in applications, the department has agreed with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide £1.7 million in the first year of the programme. 

The Department for Transport has been working with specialists to expand the eligibility criteria for the badges, which will now include people who cannot walk as part of a journey without considerable psychological distress or the risk of serious harm.

The Blue Badge scheme already means people with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers, as they are less able to take public transport or walk longer distances.

The extension of these badges to those with less visible conditions was announced last summer following an eight-week consultation on widening the eligibility criteria. It is an important part of the Government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health.

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said:

"The changes will make a huge difference to thousands of autistic people and their families across England – helping them to go out in the way many others take for granted. 

“Just leaving the house is incredibly difficult for many autistic people – and involves detailed preparation. Some autistic people have no concept of the dangers of the road while others are so anxious about plans going wrong, like not being able to find a parking space, that they don’t go out at all. Having a Blue Badge will be life-changing and help many to reduce loneliness and isolation.” 

A task group will be set up with key organisations to gather ideas and evidence on how to improve the consistency of council enforcement to tackle fraud and misuse.

The review will also look at ensuring that there is greater public awareness of which groups are eligible for a badge, when it can and cannot be used, and how to surrender the badge when it is no longer needed, for example if the badge holder dies.

While the new criteria will give clear and consistent guidelines on Blue Badge eligibility for the whole of England, not everyone with non-physical disabilities will qualify for a badge. It will be up to the relevant local authority to decide if an applicant meets the eligibility criteria, as is currently the case.

Last year, the Government set out its plans to improve accessibility across all modes of transport in the Inclusive Transport Strategy which launched on 25 July 2018. The strategy aims to make the UK’s transport network fully inclusive by 2030.

 

 

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June 12, 2019

Calvert Reconnections - the UK’s first intensive Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) rehabilitation centre focused around outdoor activities - has unveiled its panel of expert advisors.

The ground-breaking centre, run by The Lake District Calvert Trust (LDCT), is being advised by nationally regarded brain injury experts Bill Braithwaite QC, Heather Batey, Professor Mike Barnes and Dr Rob Forsyth in the run up to its Autumn opening.  Calvert Reconnections has also launched a new website at http://www.calvertreconnections.org.uk/  

Bill Braithwaite QC is a vastly experienced and well-known personal injury practitioner. He has represented over one thousand catastrophically injured claimants, and regularly recovers more than £50 million a year in compensation.  Bill’s practice is highly specialised. He represents claimants only, in claims involving catastrophic brain injury, however caused, including clinical negligence.  In addition to acting as an expert advisor to Calvert Reconnections, Bill Braithwaite QC has also recently been appointed as a trustee of LDCT.

Heather Batey’s 30-year career has been devoted to the assessment and rehabilitation of patients with Traumatic Brain Injury in both hospital and community settings.  Having trained as an Occupational Therapist, with an interest in neurology, Heather became the Senior OT in the development of the Leeds Head Injury Team.  She jointly set up brain injury rehabilitation company, reach, believing that goal orientated rehabilitation is vital for clients to learn and practice the techniques they will need to improve their independence and quality of life.

Professor Mike Barnes is a highly experienced consultant neurologist and consultant in rehabilitation medicine.   Over the last 30 years, Professor Barnes has been dedicated to the development of neurological rehabilitation throughout the UK and internationally.

Dr Rob Forsyth trained in Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Newcastle and Vancouver Canada, qualifying in 1987. He combines clinical work with research into children’s brain injury and is also a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University. He was National Training Adviser in Paediatric Neurology for six years 2003-09 and has an interest in training the next generations of child neurologists. Rob is a board member of the European Paediatric Neurology Society.

Commenting on Calvert Reconnection’s panel of expert advisors, Centre Director, Sean Day said:

“We have been fortunate that since we began our Calvert Reconnections journey, we’ve had the support, expertise and guidance of a panel of experts. Each are leading light in their particular areas and without their unfailing enthusiasm, insight and inspiration, we would not be where we are now with this exciting project.”

Professor Mike Barnes, expert advisor to Calvert Reconnections said:

"The Calvert Reconnections concept is brilliant. I am sure there will be many people with brain and other neurological injuries who will benefit from this centre. It is unique in the UK and is a much-needed service which I am sure will succeed and be much in demand."

LDCT recently revealed that it has now passed the million-pound mark in its fundraising efforts for Calvert Reconnections.

 

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