8 Wheelchair Access Issues You May Not Consider

You may remember Gemma from my interview blog post that we did a few weeks ago. We’ve also done an accessibility post exchange – I wrote a post for Gemma’s blog about accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley. Now Gemma has written a post for Unseen Beauty about the things that make life inaccessible for her as a wheelchair user. I guess we all know about steps – they’re the first thing that comes to mind, but some of these other things, although they seem obvious when you think about it, are things that I hadn’t thought about before.

That’s why I believe it’s so important to talk, and to learn about people whose access needs are different from our own.

I also found we have something else in common – I know too well what it’s like to be frustrated at buffets because I can’t see to serve myself. The dilemma of what to do and how to try and make sure you get something you actually want to eat.

So I’ll now let Gemma carry on with her post…

* * * * * * *

Being a wheelchair user, it is often assumed that steps are my biggest obstacle. I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a big deal, they are, but they’re also often an easy to solve issue.

It’s the finer details that can make a day or experience smoother for me and more accessible.

Space

Is so limited in a busy world where businesses try to fit as many things and people in as possible as to make the most profit and serve demand. Isn’t the saying ‘quality over quantity’ true though? It’s about the experience.

Take for example public transport. Those allocated spaces for wheelchair users can be incredibly small.

I’m not sure if anyone has actually measured your average wheelchair, or they just expect everyone to have the compact, sporty, self propelling kind. I haven’t.

There’s cluttered shops and cafes too. Where I feel I have to pass some kind of obstacle course before I even get to my destination.

Awkward tables

A big part of socialising, for me anyway, is eating and drinking.

Steps, narrow doorways, and cluttered cafes are the obvious barriers, but once I’m in the building, it does in no way guarantee a fully accessible experience for me.

There’s the issue of table height. Oh why is it no longer popular to provide a decent, at sitting height, dining table?! Too often cafes, bars and restaurants are full of bar height benches with stools, or informal sofas and coffee tables.

For starters these are always the tables remaining when I go anywhere. Which tells me I’m not the only one that doesn’t find them practical. But for myself, who’s forever sitting at the same average chair height, these are completely inaccessible. I cannot stretch up to reach the bar height, or bend over for the coffee table. My lap becomes littered with crumbs and coffee drips. I have to constantly ask people to pass me stuff or to put my drink down.

The most frustrating of them all though is the table that gets your hopes up. It looks a good height, seems easy to get to, but still you end up eating from your lap.

The chunky farmhouse chic wooden table. They may be pretty, but I sigh inwardly whenever I’m confronted with one.

So yes they are the right height for me, what more could I want? Well getting close enough to eat from them would be a start. The chunky legs are often too close together, particularly if I’m on an end or it’s a small table for two, for my wheelchair to fit between. There’s always a large wooden rim underneath that my knees can’t quite get under. Socially, this works better than the bar benches, but not practically.

I so often end up sitting at an awkward angle or eating from my lap when dining out. It’s one of my biggest annoyances.

My table of choice would be circular. Not only is it much more sociable for speaking with a group of people, but also easier to drive up to due to minimal legs. The curve is also a bonus when armrests and joystick controls get in the way.

Buffet restaurants

Sticking with the dining and socialising theme. A slight dread washes over me when someone suggests the buffet style restaurant. Buffets are one of my most uncomfortable and inaccessible dining experiences. Don’t get me wrong, having a variety of options is a bonus, as is trying things I maybe wouldn’t otherwise. But not only does the thought of hygiene make me twitch, I find the whole affair very confusing.

I never know what to do for the best. I obviously cannot serve myself. I can barely even see the dishes if they are on one of those bar style serving areas.

I hate getting in the way, it’s hard enough getting to my table in the first place in some restaurants, having to push past and interrupt other diners.

Do I cause a scene and go look at food I can’t even properly see, to instruct a friend to dish it up for me? Do I take a quick browse on the way in and make mental notes of a couple of things? Do I ask someone to go up and let me know what’s there? Maybe taking the odd photo to show me? Or do I go roulette and just send someone that hopefully knows me well to bring back a surprise plate of maybe not delights?

It’s all just too much effort. Whatever I choose, I’ll wish I didn’t.

The food height is often level with my shoulders. Could you easily view and serve food at that level?

How do you make the buffet restaurant accessible?

I’m not sure. Maybe a menu of the regulars? Or even a live stream of what foods are on offer and how they look? Maybe an app? I could deal with the sending a friend to dish up bit then. Even though it will never be my first dining choice.

Eye level displays

Being at a lower height than many doesn’t only pose a problem when viewing food, but also causes restrictions on pursuing the shops.

Jewellery counters can be particularly difficult to view when seated. As can clothing that is displayed high up.

In most instances I can point out things I’m interested in and they can be brought closer to me so that I can view the item in detail. At other time’s I’ve got the person I’m with to take photographs on my phone, but this doesn’t always provide scale or detail.

It’s also the case for display cabinets in museums and galleries. Where often the treasure on display is encased in glass on a plinth that’s eye level for those standing. There is no other way to view the object, it cannot be removed or even photographed.

I understand that some things need to be seen from a certain perspective, and with art this can be crucial.

Lower displays, though, can still be viewed by people standing, or even people that aren’t very tall. Images or booklets could assist with visuals, but shouldn’t replace the opportunity to see something in the flesh.

Directions

When you’re seated at the height of most people’s belly button, it’s not always easy to find your way around. Signposts are high, so if I’m too close I have no chance of seeing without snapping my neck. I understand the reasoning of them being high, so that they can be seen at a distance above a crowd of people. But when your viewpoint in a crowd is a mass of bums, you’re never going to see over the heads to search for a sign.

Maps aren’t much better. You know the ones you find at zoos or parks, city centres or shopping malls. They may seem low when you’re standing, and maybe some thought has gone into them being at a universal height (I do get that those standing don’t want to be constantly hunched with bad backs), but when they’re still higher than your eye level and you can’t get close enough to see the tiny writing because your foot plates and knees are in the way. Height isn’t the only problem.

Getting close

Being at a distance from things is one of my biggest accessibility challenges. Sitting means that your knees and feet are always in front of you, getting in the way. There are ways around this, for example overhanging surfaces, sinks and information boards. But they’re rare. I see many wheelchair users struggle with the side on approach. Where you jut your wheels sideways so to be able to reach things. It requires dexterity, a bendy torso, and the neck of an owl. This isn’t an option for me.

Shop counters

Are a big one for the sideways position. Facing head on to the till or customer service desk means that I am not within arms reach of the counter or a friendly speech level distance from the shop assistant.

This is an issue using cash points, paying in shops, being served at bank or post office desks and the like. Anywhere that you need to be face on with something but there is no leg room.

Lift buttons

The same goes for lift buttons. Or any buttons really. Those at crossings, doorbells, intercoms. They all rely on foot butting and stretching, or the side on position. Neither of which are easily accessible for myself or others.

I have noticed recently that some automatic door opening buttons (I know, automatic shouldn’t require a button) are on a type of post at a distance from the door. These are actually much easier to press.

What I dream of is an app that you can use to call lifts, press road crossings, etc. I basically want all buttons to be accessible via my phone. Or even better, mind control.

Until then, some of these small changes could make a big difference to many.

Check out Gemma’s other links

Wheelescapades Blog
Twitter
Facebook
and Instagram.

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Skincare in May – some new discoveries and a couple that were not so good

It’s halfway through June and I’m just getting my act together to talk about the products I tried and used up in May! As always, let me know if you’ve used any of these.

You may have noticed I’m trying out some new brands, and also trying to make my collection more cruelty-free. That doesn’t mean chucking out things that have already been purchased, because creating waste doesn’t help anyone, but I am trying to be more mindful with what I buy, and my Lovelula and Pip Box subscriptions are introducing me to some cool new brands and products.

All of these products were paid for with my own money, apart from the customer loyalty product, which is labelled as such.

Balm Balm

The little miracle cleanser was one of the first products I got when I started the Lovelula boxes again and it helped me to decide that yes, I actually do like oil cleansers. I’m not sure what put me off them before – I think I had a particularly sticky and unpleasant one, but this one isn’t like that. It is a budget-friendly gentle cleanser that removes make-up easily and leaves your skin feeling really soft and smooth afterwards. It also has a pump dispenser, which I like when it comes to getting the right amount of product, and it’s definitely one I’d buy again.

Body Shop

I’ve mentioned Heidi and her Body Shop pamper packages before. I’m a member of Heidi’s Facebook group, where it’s possible to earn loyalty points by either buying products, posting reviews, or interacting in the group. These points all add up and can lead to loyalty point gifts, such as my Spa of the World™ Tahitian Tiaré Hand Wash. This is out of stock as I write this, but it’s so important to keep our hands clean, especially now with increased hand washing because of the virus. This hand wash contains coconut oil to moisturise your hands, and it leaves them smelling of flower blossom – not in your face floral, but more of a subtle scent. Body Shop hand washes are not the cheapest, but they are a nice treat or a practical gift.

Of course Miss Mango has to have a mango product in here – this is my favourite scent from the Body Shop, and I used up another of their Mango shower gels. Not much to say really, other than it’s good quality, good value, and smells amazingly of mango goodness!

There was also an offer on haircare, and I got a set of the banana shampoo and conditioner. The conditioner always runs out first, so I finished up the banana conditioner to deeply nourish hair. I don’t have particularly dry or damaged hair, but it’s long and I have a lot of it, so I like a deep conditioner or hair mask for it. The strawberry and shea ranges are good too, but the banana one with banana puree from Ecuador is still my favourite.

Elizabeth Arden

This Green tea body cream was supposed to be a luxurious treat in the advent calendar that I put together myself last year. I really wanted to like it – it smells good, with the green tea, but it also had crushed up bits of something, which I can only assume is green tea leaves, in it as well. So I came out of the shower all fresh and clean, and ended up feeling dirty again because my body cream had bits in it. I tried, but I didn’t end up using this up. It may have been ok as a shower gel or something, but I can’t deal with a body cream that has bits of anything in it – I’m not a fan of glitter particles either for that same reason. Oh well.

Flawless Beauty

I haven’t been able to find this on a site that I know, so haven’t included a link, but we got a Parma Violet Luxury Body Cream in one of the Pip Box subscriptions. I’m not familiar with the brand, but it was a lotion-type cream, that did smell of parma violet, but not in a real sweet and sickly way. It had some other scent with it, that was a bit like cucumber. The bottle was kind of squishy too, so you didn’t feel as though you were wasting any. I’d try more from this brand, and I’d be interested to see what other ranges they have. That’s the nice thing about the subscription boxes – you don’t use the same things all the time and can find out about new products.

Kathleen

This natural bright mask was in one of our Lovelula boxes. I liked the sound of it, using white willow bark and hibiscus extracts, both of which are natural acids for exfoliating the skin. I always choose chemical exfoliators over physical ones, so thought this would be really good. The mask itself was ok I suppose, but it is sooo messy! It’s a bit like the cheese you get on top of a pizza, which sticks to itself, the fork, the knife, and is just a nightmare to cut. Whether you get some of this product on your finger, brush, spatula, or whatever you’re trying to apply it with, it has a long stringy tail and clings to the rest of the product in the pot. Or it hangs down precariously, threatening your top! Having this consistency doesn’t make it particularly easy to spread evenly either and because of this, although I liked the idea, it’s not something I would get again.

Korres

I’d tried a lot of bath and body products from Korres, so decided to try one of their face creams as well. I went for the almond blossom moisturising cream for very dry skin (I think they do two formulas using the almond blossom, because there is one for oily skin as well). Following some changes to medication, my skin isn’t very dry any more, so this is no longer the best choice for me. As such, I ended up using it more like a mask if I felt my skin needed some care. It’s a good moisturiser though, and I would be interested to try more skincare from the brand.

Natura seberica

The rich Siberian body butter also came in a Lovelula box. We had quite a few body butters, but I use them all the time, so this didn’t bother me! According to the site, ” Siberian cedar and Red Juniper oils improve blood circulation, while Siberian Fir Oil rejuvenates and smooths skin. Altai Oblepikha and Arctic Cloudberry oils protect skin from environmental impacts, making it soft and enhancing natural glow.” It was a fairly thick butter with a faint citrussy scent. Due to its buttery consistency, it is rich and you do need to take the time to massage it in, but if you do, it leaves your skin feeling soft for a long time.

Ooh-Arr

I haven’t found where you can buy these individually, but Latest in Beauty were offering both the strawberry and the orange face masks from this range recently. These are single use masks, but my LiB choices end up being £2 per product, so this is ok for a mask. It’s a thick, creamy mask that smells deliciously fruity. I usually do them in the bath and just wash them off after.

Pai

Another LiB choice is this rosehip cleansing oil. The only thing we seem to get from Pai in calendars or beauty boxes is the throat cream, which is ok, but I’m still not convinced we need a separate one. So I was interested to try something else from the brand. It’s a cleansing oil, and as I’ve reviewed two this month I do prefer the Balm Balm one, but this one did the job and I wouldn’t mind using it again.

Rituals

Another of my own advent calendar treats was finished up in May – my Ritual of Ayurveda Hand Lotion. There’s always something luxurious about rituals products, and this one has Indian rose and almond oil in it. It smells amazing, and is a pretty good hand cream too. This is definitely something that I would get again.

So there we have it – a couple of misses, and I think my favourite products were the first and the last in the list. How about you? Have you tried any of them? Let me know in the comments!

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Let’s not lose the positive things after the lockdown

People’s experience of the lockdown has been very different. I talked about that in my walk a mile in their shoes or stay a day in their self-isolation house post, so I’m not going to cover the same ground again. But whatever your experience of lockdown has been, in a general sense, there have been some good things to come out of it, and I think it would be a real shame if the lessons we learned were lost when things start going “back to normal”, whatever that is.

Also, I’m fully aware that it’s not over for all of us. Many people are going out and meeting up with some of their friends again, and many shops are set to open again next week, whereas others of us are still shielding. I hope we won’t be forgotten about because we can’t join in just yet. I don’t mean that people should not do things just because some of us can’t, but it would be good if our contact didn’t dry up as some people’s need for online contact decreases.

The environment

One of the business Facebook groups that I’m in did an activity where you can link up with local business owners for a one-to-one chat. I really enjoyed it, because I prefer one-to-one conversations anyway, and I got to know some lovely people through it too.

At least two of the people said they had noticed a lot more litter just in the week after people were told they could go out more. Just one week. Previously there had been less of it, but as soon as people started going out again, back came the litter.

They were from different areas too, and I’ve seen similar complaints from people that work in national parks or other beauty spots.

One of the bloggers I follow mentioned how many discarded face masks she’d seen in the supermarket car park.

Can we not do better than that?

Getting happy about the small things

Many people are feeling a bit unsure about the advice that people who’ve been shielding can now go out once a day, especially as it came sooner than we were supposed to be doing that. In our house, we haven’t been out for non-essential journeys for about 3 months. Last weekend we decided to go for a walk, choosing somewhere that we knew would have less people around.

It’s true that I will always get more excited about walks than S, but it felt so good to be out walking in the countryside again. We’re fortunate enough to have a garden and I can get fresh air whenever I want to, but there’s something so good about being out in the nature and going for a walk.

One of my students was telling me about her son’s reaction to seeing all the things he hadn’t seen for a while after a period of quarantine. “Woooow!” Several weeks is a long time for a small child, but I do get where he’s coming from! Let’s not get so busy again that we don’t take the time to say “wow!” or at least still appreciate the little things.

Doing things online

Ok so I’m biased. I have been running an online business since 2012. For me, doing things online isn’t something that we do because of the virus – it’s how I choose to work all of the time. That doesn’t work for all businesses, and some things definitely are more of a challenge online. It’s been fun to see people’s creativity though!

But online anything – not just learning – doesn’t have to be the second-best. Sometimes it can run really well alongside or as an alternative to the face-to-face things.

I’ve been doing online networking in one of my business groups. I’m sure it’s not going to finish, because we have members from different countries there. International networking makes sense to be online! But there are other activities that I’ve done during the last weeks, other people I’ve caught up with, other groups I’ve been involved with online – and it would be a shame if they all just fizzled out because some people can start to meet up again.

As I mentioned before, there are people who are still shielding, and even if you take that out of the equation, online meetings are the easier option for a number of people due to circumstances around a disability, not being able to drive, other caring responsibilities etc. We’ve had a more equal playing field in some ways, and it would be a real shame to lose that.

Catching up

There’s something about this time that has made people look up others from their past, or message people they haven’t been in touch with for a while. Mostly it’s a good thing – sometimes not so much. There is a reason why some people are in your past, not your present. You don’t need to feel the need to contact all your exes before the apocalypse strikes and you never get the opportunity again! Because really, who needs that?

But generally it’s been a good thing to reconnect with people, or to spend a bit more time with people that we’ve kept meaning to contact. Let’s not get so busy again that we stop making time for that.

Finding time for things

I got sooo tired of seeing that “now that we’ve all got more time on our hands” assumption – because some of us were still working, and then trying to fit in all the extra social stuff that kept popping up! But at the weekend I found myself with a bit more time and have done some baking, cooked more home-made meals (because we wanted to try out some new recipes. After the initial shortages, this became possible and I’m sure we’ll keep on doing it.

With other activities outside the home being put on hold, I made more of an effort to separate work time and non-work time, which meant I had more time for other hobbies. Those habits aren’t so bad! It’s so important to have these boundaries, especially when you work for yourself, work from home, or both!

New skills and hobbies

As I said, I haven’t had a lot of extra time, but I do have a break from my part-time university course now, so I decided to take up Turkish again. I’ve started reading and listening to more in Turkish, and have a regular online meeting with a Turkish friend.

For everyone who has taken up new skills and hobbies or brought old ones back to life, it would be nice if we could build them into our schedule and make them part of our new normal.

Final thoughts

My lockdown has been pretty ok. I’m in a house with my partner, and it’s easy for me to catch up with other people whom I care about -even though it’s not face-to-face, I can still talk with them online or in the many other ways we have of contacting each other. I dread to think of my phone bill if this had happened 25 years ago!

I miss physical contact, but I’ve made a point of keeping in touch with people in the ways that I can for now.

I have food. I can still work, if a bit less than usual. My health scare last year is not so far in the past that I don’t remember how I felt, and how lucky I felt to still be here with no lasting damage. That makes me grateful, but it also makes me not want to be reckless.

Some may say I’ve had it easy, but it’s never really that simple is it? It’s true, some people have had more physical hardships to endure. Some have been far away from loved ones, or going through each day knowing that loved ones are in danger. Some have had to close their businesses or are worried about their jobs when all this is over.

But I also think that if you decide straight off that everything’s awful, you hate it, nothing is fair etc – you’re probably going to have a really miserable time.

However you feel about the lockdown, are there things that you have learned from it, things that you want to do differently, or new habits that you want to continue? Why not share them in the comments?

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25 things that I’ve learned on trains

I don’t commute now, but I’ve spent a lot of time travelling on trains because I used to work in London. I commuted in for over 10 years, and for much of the time, it was a 3 hour commute each day – so plenty of time for stories!

I saw someone else doing this and thought it might be a fun idea to share some of the things that I’ve learned on my train journeys – some funny, some important, some actually terrifying! If you have any lessons from trains to add, let me know in the comments!

  1. You never know whom you’ll meet and where those train conversations will lead. I’ve been left holding a baby while his mum and grandma went to deal with a medical emergency, been given phone numbers, none of which I followed up, and got chatting to people who later became friends. Who knew that a conversation beginning with “you look really stressed! I’m going to buy a coffee, do you want anything?” would lead to a friendship?
  2. People don’t look under tables to see if there is a guide dog under there before swinging their bags or legs under.
  3. There is something hilariously satisfying about seeing a wave of red wine flowing across the table in the direction of a colleague who has annoyed you, (I didn’t do it!) and watching them leap out of the way before the red wine wave hits. At the same time, you have to keep a really straight face and not fall about laughing, which is your initial reaction.
  4. Generally, people don’t respond well to a colleague dropping a metal guide dog harness on their heads because they didn’t put it on the overhead rack properly. We had to move to a different carriage!
  5. If you’re late, the train won’t be. If you’re on time, chances are it will be late.
  6. The Wimbledon Loop is a curious thing. If you want to go to Sutton, it’s quickest to take the Wimbledon train and the same applies the other way round.
  7. The scariest things don’t always happen late at night. The guys threatening passengers with knives incident happened at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. The best part was when they saw my sleeping golden retriever and ran for the doors in terror.
  8. Speaking of golden retrievers, asking your guide dog to find the door usually works, apart from when the train driver leaves his door open…
  9. Train departure board announcements and audible announcements are not always updated at the same time. This is annoying if you’re relying on the audible ones as they are sometimes an afterthought.
  10. It is possible to do your make-up on the train, but it’s best to leave mascara to when the train has stopped. I have seen a report where the German reporter was laughing at the English women for doing this, but seriously – the time I had to get up to commute into London, I’d rather have had those extra minutes in bed and done my make-up on the train.
  11. If you are unfortunate enough to slip on a wet floor and go sailing off the platform edge onto the tracks, it’s a long way down. I was glad I had the upper body strength to haul myself up again before the train came in, and I really wouldn’t recommend the experience. Fortunately the only thing that got broken was the end of a make-up brush, which I carried around for ages to remind me how lucky I was to have made it out of there!
  12. If you commute into London, you’re likely to see the same people every day. This can develop into a little community where people have birthday breakfasts, Christmas meals, and a cooking club together – all because you first met on the train!
  13. You might find yourself associating train stations with numbers because you count them off every single time because someone has turned off the audio announcements and it’s the only way you’ll find your stop.
  14. Knowing which side the doors are going to open at each station is really helpful when the train is packed.
  15. There’s something really reassuring about hearing the announcement “lady with a guide dog! Don’t run! The train will wait for you!” when you’re about to miss the last tube home!
  16. It’s also quite funny to hear a train guy say “running isn’t part of passenger assistance training” when you’re trying to encourage someone that it is ok if it means the difference between making your connection or waiting another 30 minutes for the next one.
  17. Sometimes people don’t believe there really is a guide dog and that’s why people can’t move down any further. Some people will even jump up at the windows to try and find out for themselves whether you are lying to them.
  18. Sometimes an alert dog and a worsening allergy means your suspicions are right – there really is a cat in your carriage!
  19. One way to be really late for your course is to get on the tube going the wrong way and then not realise for half an hour.
  20. There are people who will offer you seats, but not follow through with the information that the seat is available. So if you can’t see it, they either think you’re rude or just not very bright.
  21. You can get through a lot of books or podcasts if you have a long commute.
  22. Looking busy is a good way to prevent most people from talking to you when you’re either half-asleep or you’ve run out of social interaction energy for the day.
  23. A busy station is better than a deserted one any time you’re not exactly sure where you have to go.
  24. Train coffee isn’t great, but most of the time it will do if the need for coffee is greater!
  25. In London, you can get to most places by train, which is brilliant if you don’t drive.
  26. How about you?

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    The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.


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Guest interview with Caz from InvisiblyMe

Guest interview with Caz from InvisiblyMe

First we had an interview from Gemma. The next in my series is Caz from the InvisiblyMe blog – you may have already seen her name as she’s a regular commenter on this blog. Thanks to Caz for answering my questions and I definitely recommend that you check out her blog. She’s kind, helpful and I always enjoy our chats. And yes, chocolate tester or golden retriever dog minder are also up there on my list of top jobs!

1. What is the name of your blog and how did you come to decide on that name?

InvisiblyMe – At the time, I wanted to emphasise invisible conditions and I thought the personalisation of ‘me’ was a subtle nod to ME/CFS, a condition I have.

2. Why did you start writing a blog?

Shortly after having my first stoma surgery and starting the next chapter of my life with a bag in tow, I wanted to reach out to the online world. After continuing sick leave, I was then let go from the job I loved because of continuing surgeries and ill health, leaving me with more time and the desire to focus on something positive. I’d hoped to share things I was discovering and learning along the way, to connect and let others know they weren’t alone. I realised that, as my health continued to go downhill, I had a general niche of chronic illness and pain to explore, not just stoma shenanigans. From there I branched out and InvisiblyMe is now a more general blog to cover lifestyle, health, wellbeing, finances and awareness.

3. If you could change one law to improve life for people with disabilities, what would it be?

The law of fair & free access : It would be illegal for any person to not be able to receive adequate medical care, diagnostic tests and treatment and it would be illegal to be charged for such services. You didn’t say the law had to be realistic!

4. A friend is coming over for a relaxing evening. What will you be doing/eating/drinking/watching?

I don’t have friends to hang out with so it would just be me flying solo, but that also means I can commandeer the blanket, can fidget as much as I like, and I would be free to devour all the snacks to myself. There would be tea and an endless supply of chocolate, preferably Maltesers & Lindt for special occasions, or a tub of Breyers ice-cream. With the current coronavirus situation, I’ve not been able to find Maltesers at a reasonable price so all snacks are officially on ration.

5. What’s something that you’ve learned since becoming a blogger?

You don’t have to squeeze yourself into a box and there’s no rulebook for how you run your own blog. There’s etiquette and tips, but your blog is your own space and you should feel free to run with that and not feel confined to a niche, schedule you’re not happy with, or other ‘rules’ that don’t suit.

6. If you could do any job for a day, what would it be and why?

A psychologist sent to interview serial killers, because I watched too many FBI documentaries as a child.
Alternatively, a Lindt chocolate tester or golden retriever dog minder would be perfect.

7. What’s one thing you would like people to know about your disability, or people who have the same access needs as you?

Of the things I deal with, such as the stoma bag, chronic migraines, autoimmune connective tissue disease, fibromyalgia, bronchiectasis etc, there’s no one thing that defines how well I’m doing. Many of those with chronic illness have more than one condition and we all experience things differently. Just because someone with a stoma travels the world, doesn’t mean I’m up for that or capable of it, and you need to consider the other issues a person may or may not have. It’s not a race and there’s no comparison. We all have a unique experience of any given illness / disability, not to mention different levels of support, other things going on in our lives, and so on. Each person’s experience is unique.

8. When was the last time you tried something new, and what was it?

Putting a loaf of bread in the freezer. It’s nothing wildly amazing but it’s rocked my world. Trying to lengthen the time between shops because of the coronavirus means we’re all having to adapt, and tricks like this can be very helpful in making your supplies go further and last longer.

9. What does accessibility mean to you?

Any place or type of activity could throw up an accessibility problem in the online and offline worlds. Being accessible should mean that nobody is excluded from doing, visiting or using something, and they should be able to do so with a similar amount of time and effort as those without a disability.

10. What activities make you lose track of time?

Reading and commenting on other blogs, falling into a really good TV series at night, or turning the pages on a dangerously good book until you realise you’ve spent the last hour desperately needing to pee and now it may be too late..!

11. What’s one blog post (written by you) that you would like people to read?

To use a more recent one, I’d perhaps say my post on the terrors of public toilets with invisible conditions. I wanted to raise a little awareness and provoke thought for the types of issues unseen to others that can cause public loos to be a problem in some way or can warrant the need to use a disabled toilet.

12. Can you think of one or two bloggers that you think my readers should check out in addition to your blog?

There are too many for me to choose between and I’m painfully indecisive. I’ll go for…

Terri at Reclaiming Hope, for her wonderful support, insights and wisdom from a chronic illness perspective

and

Holly at Wholeness Haven, for advice, reflections and beautifully inspiring content

Here’s where you can find Caz

InvisiblyMe blog
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Thanks again Caz and thanks too for the things I’ve learned through your blog about conditions and accessibility challenges that I hadn’t come across before.

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New skincare and bath products in April – tried and tested!

Well, April has come and gone. I tried some interesting new products, and am going to share them with you here. I was particularly interested to see that the Body Shop has some new launches coming in the next couple of months, and I tried out at least one of them in April. Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these.

Australian body care

This is a new brand for me. I saw the tea tree skin wash on Latest in Beauty, and with my subscription only costing £2 per product, this was a good deal for a full size. This, unlike some other tea tree products, was fairly gentle and lathered up well. I think it’s something I’d be more likely to use as a hand wash though as I don’t enjoy the tingly tea tree sensation all over my body. Nice enough, but not something I’m in a hurry to buy again.

Aveda

I’ve already raved about the almond conditioner, but in April I finished up the almond shampoo as well. These are really good products – they leave your hair feeling and smelling amazing, and the naturally derived cherry blossom and sweet almond restore softness and shine. I would definitely buy these again.

Body shop

the satsuma lotion is one of the light-weight body moisturisers that aren’t talked about as much. But I really like them, especially in the summer. This is a fresh, citrusy satsuma scent, and the lotion absorbs quickly and easily. There are lotions in a number of scents, but I prefer the mango one and this one. They make a nice change from heavier products such as the butters, but they are still moisturising enough to make a difference. The pump also keeps them fresher for longer because you’re not opening the whole tub up to the air.

This roots of strength day cream is marketed at the 40+ range, so a bit older than me, but only just! It’s a non-greasy moisturiser, although it is one of the richer ones that the Body Shop does. It’s main selling points are plumping the skin and reducing fine lines. It contains ginger from Madagascar, ginseng from China and ruscus from Europe. I enjoyed using it, but there are other Body Shop moisturisers that I like more.

The chamomile eye make up remover is something that I got in an advent calendar, but I also have a full-size one on the go. I like it because it’s gentle and it gets the job done. I don’t tend to shop around for these because once I’ve found one I like, I don’t like to take the risk that a different one will sting my eyes. So I usually keep one of these in my stash!

This is one of the new arrivals, and sadly it’s out of stock as I write this, but you can ask to be notified when it’s back. The mango bath blend is one of the new range of bath blends that are packed full of fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Other blends in the range include banana, berry and pear. It’s a mid-range bubble bath in terms of the amount of bubbles you get, but the silky smooth skin and the amazing scent make it a treat worth splashing out on. I also have the banana one and I’m looking forward to using that on pamper nights. Seriously these smell like fruity cocktails with real fruit, not the synthetic fruit scents.

Cowshed

I still like this brand as much as I always did in terms of the products, but I don’t like their rebrand and the fact that they lost all the cool names. I had a mini of the indulge body lotion in our Christmas Eve box and I finished it up in April. It contains Madagascan Ylang Ylang, Moroccan Rose, and Indian Palmarosa, but isn’t only floral. I’m not sure what they did to it, because I don’t usually like floral lotions, but it’s a scent and formula that I enjoy.

Crabtree and Evelyn

Previously I’ve only had hand cream from this brand, but I got this Silky rose body lotion in a Christmas gift set. I’m not usually a fan of rose, but this also has some citrus notes such as lemon, so I actually quite liked it. It was good to try something else from this brand and I’m glad it’s not all flowery scents. The lotion absorbed well and I like the pump dispenser.

Kores

This is an old favourite, the Sunflower conditioner. Technically it’s for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I like this conditioner so much, I don’t care! It leaves my hair so soft and silky, and it’s a good detangler as well. Generally this brand is known for its shower products and body lotions, but the haircare is definitely worth looking at as well.

Natura

I got this Herb Infused Sheet Mask in one of my Pip boxes. I don’t usually go for multi-masks unless I’m intentionally targeting different parts of the face with different products – this one is intended to hydrate, brighten, and reduce pore size, but I did actually enjoy using it, and extra points for the recyclable rather than plastic packaging.

Nuxe

The Rev de Miel face balm was one of the Latest in Beauty products of the month – usually a high-end product that is available all month. It’s marketed for dry or sensitive skin, or for normal skin in cold weather. It’s a fairly thick face cream, but I used it in the daytime too, because it sank in quickly and wasn’t greasy, so it was easy to put make-up on over it. It has the kind of smell that is characteristic of Nuxe products, but nothing overpowering. It contains honey, propolis and oils to nourish, soothe, and repair skin.

I’m not going to get another one just yet because I have other face creams, but it’s definitely something I’d use again.

Tigi

This mango protection spray has been knocking around for a while because it’s for sun or heat protection and I was mainly using it for when I went outside in the sunshine. It’s a small bottle that you can easily put in your bag, and of course it gets extra points because it’s mango. I do have another heat protection spray, but I will repurchase this because nothing smells as good as mango and it’s more handy than some of the big bottles you can get to use before you use heat tools on your hair.

Tropic skincare

Actually I have no idea where I got this super greens oil mini. It has a very strong plant-based scent, but it’s not unpleasant. It makes me think of preparing broccoli! Anyway, it’s designed to help boost your skin’s natural defences. I used it in my night-time skincare routine, especially on dryer areas.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

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Life of a mature student – 8 things not to do if you have an exam

I thought exams were a thing of the past, but I’m doing a part-time IT degree at the Open University. Much of the assessment process is around submitting assignments – I wrote about this in my post about getting assignments done and submitted, , but some of it does actually involve timed exams.

At school I didn’t mind exams too much – but as adults it’s easy to get out of practice, and when the time for the exam drew closer, I worried about it far more than I used to at school. Seems I don’t like exams very much! I don’t like that feeling of the time slipping away – time that I will never get back! I’d much rather take my time to do something well, than feel under pressure to get the questions answered. But sometimes you just have to get on with it and do the exam.

So, whatever it is that you’re studying, if you’re preparing for an exam, here are 8 things that you shouldn’t do. Most of these are from my own experience.

1. Don’t keep looking at the clock

Yes, you need to know what the time is so that you can plan out your time and divide it between the questions. There’s no point doing brilliantly in one area if you lose a whole bunch of marks because you didn’t get round to an important section of the question paper. But it’s also not good if you waste time because you keep checking the time, or letting the clock make you anxious or nervous.

It’s good to be aware of the clock, but try not to focus on it so much that it stops you thinking about the questions and how you are going to answer them.

2. Don’t focus on the things that you don’t know

There’s plenty that you do know. There may be something that you’ve forgotten or can’t quite remember. If you let yourself go down the rabbit hole of worrying about that, it’s a sure way to start feeling negative about yourself, getting annoyed that you didn’t revise that particular thing, panicking, and then it’s really hard to think clearly. Sometimes it’s good to focus on the things that you do know. Answer those questions that will be easy for you. Come back to the things that you’re not sure about. Don’t even think about them to start with. You can use the time that you have left to address them, but make sure you first get down all of the things that will help you to get the points.

3. Don’t leave multiple choice answers empty if you won’t be penalised for a wrong answer

I struggle with this one because whether I’m doing an exam or someone is just asking me a question, I don’t like to commit if I don’t think I have a good chance of being right. So, if I’m doing a quiz, I’ll either say I don’t know the answer or I’ll give you the 100% right answer. There’s no middle ground.

This strategy might be ok for pub quizzes or life in general, but it doesn’t help with multiple choice questions. Unless you know you will be penalised for wrong answers, it’s worth putting something in the box. Usually there’s a 25% chance of being right, so really you have nothing to lose.

4. Don’t forget that with multiple choice, sometimes you can eliminate answers

Following on from point three, if you can discard one or two of the other answers, you increase the percentage chance you have of getting the question right. If you get rid of two out of the four, you have a guess with a 50% chance of being right. Even if you don’t know the right answer, can you find any answers that are definitely, or likely to be wrong?

5. Don’t panic and give up too soon

It’s tempting to see a question that you hadn’t expected or that looks complicated and then think “I can’t do this” or “I don’t know anything about this”. This can then set you on a downward spiral where you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. Sometimes it helps to read the question again, breaking the task down into the individual parts that you need to complete. Sometimes it helps to move on and come back to the difficult question. Sometimes it helps to take a few deep breaths and resist the urge to make a run for the door or close the exam window and cry!

6. Don’t keep revising until right before the exam

In my school days, sometimes I didn’t even look at my notes the day of the exam. If you’ve revised thoroughly, trying to learn just before the exam can actually make things worse because you start to panic. What you really need is a clear head. Everyone works differently, but trying to do too much immediately before the exam may make you feel more stressed out, so in the long run it might not be what you need.

7. Don’t get so carried away that you go way over the word count

Essay type answers with word counts can feel quite restrictive if you’re used to writing a lot. Some markers are very strict and they’ll just disregard all of the extra words. This doesn’t help you if you’ve got so involved in the topic that your answer is much longer than it should be. Try and make a plan for the structure of your answer before you start writing it. This way you’re less likely to get carried away and write too much.

8. Make sure you know exactly what the question is asking

There are all kinds of ways in which you can lose marks if you don’t do this. It can be as simple as putting your answer in the wrong unit of measurement, or as complicated as misreading the entire task. It’s not enough to know something about the subject – you’re being assessed on how well you apply the knowledge that you have to the question or task that you’re being asked to do. Sometimes it is worth rereading the question to make sure you know exactly what’s expected of you. Have a look back over your answer and see whether you have addressed all the points in the question. Sometimes the number of marks available can give you a clue as to how this will be calculated. Don’t waste time answering a question that hasn’t been asked – even if what you write is correct, if it’s not relevant, it won’t help you to pick up points.

I hope these tips have been helpful. Are there any more that you would add?

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11 things that make me feel like a non-typical bride

I’ve joined a couple of wedding groups to maybe get some inspiration and chat to other brides. I thought I might find it hard to fit in – because I’m not an ultra-girlie extravert – and I do find some of the conversations a bit hard to relate to, but I’ve picked up some tips as well – the best of which so far was about wedding insurance. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Fortunately I got ours before the whole coronavirus thing as I imagine it may have gone up now.

Anyway, in one of the groups there was a discussion about what people will be doing with their phones on the day. Everyone said they would be turning it off and leaving it in the hotel room/giving it to a bridesmaid/leaving it at home etc.

I get it – you don’t want to be like one of those people who spends the whole evening on their phone whenever you meet up with them – but some of these things just seemed a bit extreme to me.

So I piped up and said I’d have mine with me. I wouldn’t be looking at it all the time, but it would be on, apart from during the ceremony. I’m quite good at ignoring it when I’m busy, but I at least like to have it.

Also, as a blind person, in a big group of people, I can’t just look around and find people – so if I can message them, it’s a massive help. Not in a bridezilla “come here right now!” kind of way, but if I want to speak to someone and don’t know where they are, the phone is my friend! My maid of honour won’t know most of the people there, and I don’t know what they all look like to describe them to her.

I don’t go out of my way to rebel or to be the odd one out. I think in some ways I just say the thing that some other people are thinking, but they don’t want to be the first to say it. Because as soon as I made my comment about having the phone with me, a whole bunch of others said that they would bee keeping theirs with them too. True, mostly for selfie-taking-related reasons, but they were out there – the phone-keepers! It just took one person to put another point of view.

So that got me thinking – I am a bit different in a few other ways. I don’t actually care about that – I’ve always been a bit of a head-strong “I’ll do it my way” kind of girl – but it did make me smile, so I thought I’d list out some of the other ways as well.

I think a wedding is a real chance for a couple to give their own vibe to the day – to make it special and personal. We’ve got lots of ideas about how we’re going to do that and, especially if you are organising it yourselves, you don’t have to feel constrained by things that don’t fit with your idea of how the day should be.

Usually I do like rules and structure. Rules help us to manage expectations and know what’s coming up. But I guess if a rule doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m not obliged to follow it, I usually won’t!

So here are a few more things:

  1. I only follow the traditions that I like. These do not include not allowing the groom to see me on my wedding day. However, I’m happy to start new ones too, like the bride doing a speech.
  2. I’m not making my own confetti, because I don’t see the point of it! It makes such a mess and someone has to clear it up. It gets everywhere and some of it is bad for wildlife. Time and money saved!
  3. I’m organising my own hen do. Maybe I’m a control freak. But also it’s because I like organising, I want it to be fun for everyone, including me, and I know that most of the people there won’t know each other. Also I don’t want to dump all that responsibility on any of my friends, especially when I know I will enjoy sorting it out.
  4. I’m not buying into the whole craziness with gifts – a bunch of gifts when you ask someone to be your bridesmaid, more gifts for all your hens, gifts the night before your wedding, and then gifts on the day. Ok the last one is fine, because I want to show people who have helped us that we appreciate them, but what’s with the whole proposal box for other members of your wedding party thing? Fine if you want to do it, but it all feels a bit commercial and social media driven to me.
  5. I’m not getting wasted on my hen night – because I don’t drink. Yay for no hang-over the next day!
  6. I’m not going to pick my dress based on whether anyone cries, or not buy a dress I really like because I didn’t get emotional. It’s like a pressure to feel the right thing, but really it’s about what you like and feel happy with. I tend to be a bit more practical, but that’s ok.
  7. I don’t get excited about wedding stationery. I guess I’m just not the ideal target audience! But that’s the cool thing about weddings – you can put the time and money into the things that you do really care about.
  8. I don’t ask people I don’t know whether everyone else is doing a thing if I want to do it, or whether anyone else is not doing a thing because I really don’t want to do it. I’m not judging people who do, because it sounds like they just want a bit of reassurance. But what I read between the lines when people do that is “I reeeally want to/don’t want to – is that ok?
  9. I don’t want a beach honeymoon – because we don’t like beach holidays! We’re still going to have fun though!
  10. There will be no salted caramel – anywhere! Not because of my allergies – although there will be no allergens either –we just think salted caramel is a thing that shouldn’t be a thing!
  11. And maybe the most safety-conscious – I won’t be lobbing my bouquet. Because let’s face it, blind bride hurling her bouquet into the crowd is bound to end in tears, or a split lip – but seriously. I’m going to time and trouble deciding on flowers that I like – I want to take better care of them and keep them!

That’s a lot of “I won’t”s! There are a lot of things that we ARE doing to make our big day special and personalised, but I can’t really share those with you yet. I don’t want my blog readers to know more than the people at my wedding. So anyone interested in the details and more wedding content will need to wait till the big day is over next year!

For those of you who are married, are there any traditions that you ignored, or new ones that you made?

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Same storm – different ships

It occurs to me that even when all the norms are thrown out of the window, it doesn’t take long for a sense of pressure to build up about what is “normal” behaviour, or what people should be doing or feeling in these new and different times.

That’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?

In some ways, this is the perfect chance to take a look at our lives, listen to our bodies, and do what works best for us within the boundaries of what’s allowed at the moment.

I first noticed it with socialising. Many people are really struggling with the lack of contact with others. I understand that. But I felt a real sense of social overload in the first couple of weeks – partly because I wanted to be at all the parties, but also because unlike a lot of people right now, I’m fortunate enough to still be able to work – so after a day with lots of online calls, more online calls weren’t what I really needed.

Not that I don’t want to keep up with my friends – I still book some in and have some that I really need to organise, but not every night. Because it was only in my crazy 20s that I went out every night and still made it into work the next day, running on coffee and not much else.

Then there’s the whole – learn-a-new-thing phenomenon, but I’m already doing a part-time degree on top of working full time, so I don’t tick that box either. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are gaining new skills, especially if they have a lot of time at the moment. It’s way better than being bored. But if you don’t have the time or capacity to learn something new – if you’re exhausted at the end of the day after running your business or home-schooling your children – that’s ok too! Don’t feel bad about it.

Then there are the creative projects – I’m not doing those either. I can create things with words, but I’m not making, painting, or restoring anything! I did make some banana muffins last night and we’re still doing our monthly spice boxes where we try new recipes. Maybe that counts?

I did have a bit of a moment in the sales last week –my guilty pleasure – but I can’t join in any of the “I’ve eaten/drunk too much” conversations either. I don’t drink alcohol, and I guess I’m used to being at home where the same food is available all the time because I work from home. I’m not going to lie just so I can take part in the conversation, but I’m not going to be the one who joins in to say it’s not a problem for me either, because that just sets you apart even more. So I stay quiet.

I’m not trying to make myself out to be some kind of saint – I have a nicely-stocked chocolate drawer! What I’m saying is that I’ve noticed new pressures springing up around the new normal. Pressures to say you fit in or mirror the experiences others are having. And some people just don’t – which is ok.

I’ve never cared that much about peer pressure. We were having this conversation the other day about school. I care what people think – especially if I know I’ve been unfair or unreasonable in some way – but I don’t care enough to change who I am or what I want just so that I can fit in with what’s currently popular. Of course there are people whose opinions I really do care about, but it’s more based on reasoning that I can follow, rather than “you have to do x to be cool/part of our club”. Especially if I don’t think that x is very cool or interesting!

I’m not knocking any of the really cool stuff that is going on right now, but I am saying it shouldn’t feel like a competition or extra pressure if you’re already struggling to stay afloat.

This is a very long way of getting to my point, which is I hope people don’t feel even more stress by the new norms that are emerging, if those norms don’t reflect who you are or what you like doing with your time.

It’s ok if you aren’t a domestic goddess.

It’s ok if you don’t need as much social contact as some of your friends.

It’s ok if you can’t whip up a restaurant-style meal or if your chocolate cake flops in the middle!

It’s ok if you can’t join in with friends who are complaining about how absolutely awful the lockdown is because you’re just happy to be healthy and making the best of each day.

Of course, if you’re not ok and you’re not going from one fun activity to the next, it’s ok to say that too.

It’s ok if you just need a rest. Adapting to new things can be tiring. We sometimes give being busy much more prestige than it deserves and it feels as though some people have switched a crazily busy social life for a crazily busy home life with no time to just be still and recharge.

It’s ok if you need someone to talk to.

It’s also ok if your experience of the lockdown is different from many of the people around you.

There’s a post doing the rounds on social media about how this is the same storm, but we all have different ships. The experience is not going to be the same, because we are not on the same ship. We can help each other out and support each other for sure, but nobody ever really knows what it’s like on another person’s ship in this storm.

Oh, and if you don’t start doing all the things you haven’t been able to as soon as you are allowed to – even if everyone else you know is doing them – that’s ok too. Especially if you have health concerns that they don’t have!

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My guest post – accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I published an interview with Gemma from the Wheelescapades blog. This month I’ve also written a post for Gemma, which she published today. It’s about accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley
all those little things that turn an enjoyable experience into a frustrating or disappointing one. I talk about these things because I want to raise awareness of them – to do my bit to make the online world a more accessible place, and to help people see the often small changes that they can make in order for this to happen.

So, if this sounds interesting, hop on over to Gemma’s blog and have a read. Why not check out some of her other articles while you’re there?