Reviews

Reviews about equipement I’ve used/currently use, venues I’ve visited, day trips, shows I’ve been to and holidays. I hope you find them interesting and helpful. If you have any questions about any of my reviews or wish to submit a review request please get in touch.

Ruby Wax Show Poster

Ruby Wax, I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was Review

Talking virtually non-stop for over an hour and a half with five props and three audio clips is difficult. Ruby Wax makes it seem effortless despite her serious subject matter, her mental health.

I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was

The show entitled ‘I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was’ came to my hometown of Birmingham on the 23rd of September 2023 at the Alexandra Theatre.

An office chair, a desk and a stool were lit up on stage under harsh white light. Ruby vaulted on stage wearing Pajamas, saying she had “dressed up for Birmingham,” rude, probably true for some areas. This was the first laugh of what turned out to be an entertaining, if thought-provoking, night.

Ruby Wax Stage

A sound like a drill cutting through pavement was repeatedly played throughout the show. The audience soon learned that this was the sound of Ruby’s treatment while she was in a psychiatric unit. She was there for six weeks. It is this stay in a mental institution that her show revolves around. Weaved into the story were anecdotes of what she was doing before she was admitted and what led up to it. She said the transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment “feels like Woody Woodpecker and his cartoon pals are gang-banging in my head”. It’s a funny analogy until your brain catches up with you and thinks about how horrific that must be!

Depression

Ruby describes her depression, “Your thoughts attack like little demons biting chunks of your brain. It’s hard to stay alive and listen.” As a person with anxiety, I think this is a very apt description. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced mental illness to the degree that Ruby has, but I can relate in my own small way. I enjoy how she uses humour to educate and entertain people; this show did not disappoint.

Not only did she describe her illness, but she also talked about her stay at a monastery, where talking wasn’t allowed. A gong was used to signal the start and end of activities, and the show used the sound of a gong very effectively in the storytelling. I love the way she describes people.

Whether you can identify with her or remember her from TV, there is something for everyone in this witty retelling of a difficult time in Ruby’s life. For those wondering, the other two props were her MacBook and iPhone, together with the final audio, a text alert sound. At least she had good phone service in her locked room.

Photo with Ruby Wax
Why am I the only one who looks windswept? We were outside as the part of the theatre where book signings and photos were taking place wasn’t wheelchair accessible.

You can find the rest of her tour dates here. I would love to know what you think of it.

Ruby Wax, I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was Review Read More »

Rosie Jones Triple Threat Review

On the 15th of September, 2023, I attended Rosie Jones’s first UK comedy tour at the Redditch Palace Theatre, which is, funnily enough, located in Redditch. Calling herself a “Triple Threat”, which is also the show’s title, Rosie explains the reason for this description is that she is “A lesbian, disabled and a prick.” This line is delivered with comedy, as is to be expected, but also with a self-satisfied grin that says she knows she has already shocked some people in the audience.

Rosie-Jones-laughing

Ableist slurs!

Throughout the show, she uses ableist slurs to significant comedic effect. This surprised me as I thought it would annoy me rather than amuse me because I disagreed with her use of the now-famous R-word in her latest Channel 4 documentary.

Rosie-Jones-looking-thoughtful

Unlike that instance, which I’m convinced was used to gain attention and generate intelligent and not-so-intelligent debate, these words were funny, thought-provoking and a not-so-subtle metaphorical finger to anyone who has flung these words at her in public. She’s proud of being gay, she makes a living from being disabled, and she’s so proud of being a prick she’s had it printed on her merchandise!

Rosie on the property ladder

Alongside those points, she talked the audience through her first flat purchase, explaining that she’d finally found a use for her dad. The experience also taught her that the age of a boiler is essential to know when you’re a successful comedian taking your first steps on the property ladder. Rosie also talked at great length about her struggles to become a national treasure, her hatred of Putin and how we would all, at some point, not understand a word of what she was saying.

This was the only point where you could see sadness from the otherwise joyful Rosie. As a disabled person and a person with Cerebral Palsy, I related to what she was saying and could identify with her moment of pain. Some people will only see difference, no matter what is achieved in life.

Rosie-Jones-and-I


Lived Experience

Many people identify with Rosie’s comedy, and while you don’t have to be gay or disabled to appreciate her comedy, I wonder whether the non-disabled person without a connection to either group would be entertained. Shared lived experience is what got the biggest laughs out of me. I’m sure, given time, Rosie will achieve the ‘national treasure’ status she’s openly aiming for.

Your thoughts?

Have you seen Rosie’s new show? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rosie Jones Triple Threat Review Read More »

The Disability Expo Review

The Disability Expo 2023 brought together individuals from all walks of life, including those with disabilities, their families, and caregivers, to celebrate their unique experiences and perspectives.

Celebrating diversity and inclusion

One of the expo’s highlights was the sense of community fostered among attendees. People came together to share their stories, connect, and support one another in their journeys. It was a place where people with disabilities could feel seen and heard and where their experiences were celebrated and valued.

Getting to The Disability Expo

I attended the Disability Expo on the 6th of July, 2023. The event was held at The ExCel in London. I can see why The ExCel Centre was chosen as it is a massive space, with good transport links and mostly accessible.

I decided to drive from my home in Birmingham. The journey was a bit long for me to do in a day. Traffic into London was horrendous, and although there seemed to be plenty of information regarding getting to the event, where to park wasn’t clear, so that took up a lot of time. Ideally, I will stay in London for a few days so the travel won’t be so tiring in future.

Travelling-to-ExCel-London

Accessibility of the event

It was apparent the organisers had tried to think of everything, accessibility-wise. The venue was mostly level and had lifts everywhere, ramps were placed where needed, sign language interpreters were on hand to assist those who were deaf or hard of hearing, and audio descriptions were available for those with visual impairments. The signage of The Expo wasn’t great; there needed to be signs around to tell a visitor, simply and concisely, about where to go.

To get from where my car was parked to the hall where the event was held was an educated guess. The hunt for an accessible toilet also took up nearly an hour as the ones I was directed to were locked. This is no fault of the organisers and has more to do with the fact that it is such a big space. I do think that next year, ExCel should open all accessible toilets or update them to the RADAR scheme so that the disabled community can access them when needed.

The-Disability-Expo-Hall-Photo

The event itself was very accessible to me as a wheelchair user. Plenty of space was left between the different exhibits, and the areas for panel talks and demonstrations were spacious with removable folding chairs. This meant that chairs could be removed when required for wheelchair seating. I saw BSL interpreters at every talk. However, I did not see any hearing loop signs or audio descriptions. It’s possible that, as I didn’t need these adjustments, I didn’t see them, but it’s something to include next year.

Centre Stage at The Disability Expo

Exhibitors and panels at The Disability Expo

There are only so many exhibitors to mention without this review becoming a list.

When I visited The Disability Expo in person, I talked to Phab, Bobath, the Accessible House, the Adaptive Clothing Company, Bluesky Card, Mr. Cookfulness, Purple Tuesday, MediMotion, Chronically Styled and Access Your Life. There were others as well. It was great to talk to so many like-minded and friendly people.

MOT Clinic

Access Your Life and Celtic Rehab ran an MOT clinic at the show. I got my PowerChair checked out. My chair had a clean bill of health. I also talked with Access Your Life about needing a replacement standing wheelchair. My twelve-year-old one no longer supports me correctly. Standing Wheelchairs cost £24000 upwards, so I wanted to talk to them about my options as they specialise in helping people access expensive equipment.

The accessible home had no equipment I didn’t know about, but they needed to be there for people just starting their disabled journey. I had an informative discussion with Phab, and I wanted to learn more about clubs for adults in my area as I haven’t been involved with them since I was a young child.

Phab-at-The-Disability-Expo

MediMotion was kind enough to try and let me demo one of their exercise bikes. Still, unfortunately, my chair was too high for the demo bikes they had at the show. That’s all I saw on the day as I arrived so late. However, I’m glad I went as the atmosphere was brilliant, and so were the people.

Attending The Disability Expo Virtually

I wasn’t sure I would have care support to attend The Disability Expo in person, so I signed up to participate in the show via a telepresence robot a few weeks before. The slot I was allocated was 3 p.m. on the 7th of July. This suited me perfectly after all the travelling the day before.

Connecting to the robot

At the allocated time, I clicked the link I’d been sent via email, which was supposed to log me into one of the robots at the Disability Expo. It took a while to connect. I had a map screen in front of me while I waited. I tried to screenshot this, but the process appeared to be taking up a lot of processing power on my MacBook Pro. After about seven minutes, I was greeted by Ben (pictured below,) who was manning the robot at the show.

Robotics for Good were the company that provided the robots. I thought this was such an inclusive way of including everyone who couldn’t attend that even if I had been sure of my attendance, I would’ve still wanted to take a Robot for a spin.

Using the robot

The phone gadget in the photo above was how Ben communicated with me. I had visions of whizzing around the show, seeing all the stalls I’d missed the day before. In reality, the robot lagged and disconnected every few minutes. I later learned from Richard Solly, the Co-founder and Director of Robotics for Good, that this was due to the poor speeds of the WIFI offered by the ExCel Centre. Imagine all the equipment at the event and the demands on the Wi-Fi system!

Regardless of this setback, I did manage to drive the robot. This was done using the arrow keys on my keyboard. I even managed to amaze some exhibitors. Amazon was particularly impressed. At one point, when I got disconnected, Ben picked the robot up so I could see a different hall area.

Coincidently, I managed to find someone I knew. Sheana Yu founded the company Aergo Health. I volunteered to test a new wheelchair cushion the company was developing. It was surreal to talk to her and others in this new medium, although it’s not dissimilar to a video call. Ben took a photo of us, so I found out what I looked like. Don’t I look great with my head on a stick?

The-Disability-Expo-robot-photo-op-

I can’t wait to see what happens with this technology. Look out for my interview with Richard Solly coming soon!

Live-streaming at the Disability Expo

The Disability Expo was also live-streamed on the day I attended. The videos cover almost the entire day and are available here. I saw Eva Abley perform through these videos, and I attended the Mr. Cookfulness Masterclass and the fashion show. I enjoyed all three of these events. Adam Pearson and The Autistic Chef, Vanessa D’Souza, joined Mr Cookfulness in making fruit fools. This was great fun to watch.

Mr.-Cookfulness-Masterclass-Live-Stream

Fashion show

The fashion show showcased some brilliant clothes that weren’t relevant to me. I’m still waiting for underwear that can be undone at the sides. It’s pointless moving trousers out of the way, as underwear still creates a barrier for me. I hope the talented designers from the Adaptive Clothing Company, Bealies and Porto & Bello will design something soon. There were cute and practical clothes for all ages, but the children stole the show.

Event organisation

The event was founded by Jade Godier and Alan Wallace, who have lived experience of disability themselves. This lived experience is, I think, the main reason the event was so inclusive; having experience themselves and contacts in the disability community, they have an awareness that able-bodied don’t, and it is that sense of community that made them want to create The Disability Expo, together with their partners and sponsors. They had a sponsor for each of the different sections of the event.

Amazon was the EmployAble sponsor, JD was the Have-A-Go sponsor, Medequip was the Manage At Home Sponsor, Celtic Therapy and Rehab Services was the Mobility and MOT sponsor, Mark Bates Ltd was the Finance Panel sponsor, Coca-Cola was the Disability sponsor, and Innovate UK was their Innovation Sponsor. They also had more sponsors, which you can read about here. They also had input from disability ambassadors.

Considering this was the first year of this event, it was organised well. However, there were apparent points throughout the talks, particularly during the fashion show, that people weren’t sure what to do. This was overcome quite spectacularly by the sense of community spirit and the willingness of everyone present to support one another.

Overall, the Disability Expo celebrated diversity, inclusion, and the power of community. It is exactly what I like to write about here at inclusivelivingconcepts. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch. If you attended yourself, I’d love to know what you thought.

The Disability Expo successfully brought together people from all walks of life to share their experiences and celebrate their unique perspectives. It reminded us that we can achieve great things when we support one another. I’m excited to see what next year will bring and will be attending.

The Disability Expo Review Read More »

Trabasack-Mini

Mini and Mini Connect Trabasack Review

As promised, here is my review of the Trabasack Mini and the Trabasack Mini Connect products. These two have been sent free for me to review. As a long-time user of Trabasack Products, I will give my honest opinions of these products. I use Trabasack as I have poor dexterity and spasms due to my disability. Trabasack enables me to access food and drink conveniently, without spilling anything.

How are these products different to the Trabasack Curve?

In my Trabasack Curve review, I focused on the differences between the wipe-clean, leather-look version of the Curve and briefly explained why I chose the non-Connect, velcro version. The main difference between the Mini and the Curve products is shape and size. Whether you choose the Connect version of either product or not the Mini is square and slightly smaller than the Curve.

The beanbag inside both Mini Models of the Trabasack is also square and unlike the Curve, it is a tight squeeze to fit more than one beanbag inside a Trabasack Mini. Having said that I haven’t noticed any instability that has made me think of adding an extra beanbag. It is only because I owned the Curve first that the option occurred to me. The smaller size means that the bag fits nicely on my lap and the beanbag covers more space. This makes both Mini products very sturdy and comfortable to use.

Trabasack Mini Beanbag

What’s included?

Both Mini versions come with an instruction booklet, and two straps, one short, and one long. Both have six D-rings each and both come with two ring pull zips. The only difference between them is the tray surface.

Benefits of Mini Connect Velcro

The main benefit of the Mini Connect version is that Velcro sticks to it. This means that objects stay secure on the tray. Having items stay put can be useful for anybody but particularly for disabled people. This is because when we drop things it can be difficult, if not impossible to pick them up. The mini Connect can help ensure that items stay within easy reach which makes them easy to access.

TV Remote held by MediaMount

Trabasack MediaMount

If you are able to view the image above you will see that my TV remote has something wrapped around it. This long accessory, sold by Trabasack is called a MediaMount. The MediaMount is basically a long strip of soft material with velcro all along the underside with two loops at the end to assist people with limited dexterity to grip it. The design means that it sticks to itself and to the Mini connect. This means it can hold items securely and at virtually any angle you want, again, making accessing items easier.

Cup held with MediaMount on a Mini Connect Trabasack

Mini Connect and iPad

In my previous review of the Trabasack Curve, I mentioned how I had damaged an iPad case by putting too much velcro on it when placing my iPad onto my Trabasack. This time I was more careful…

iPad with Velcro
As you can see you don’t need a lot of Velcro 🙂

This small amount of velcro will keep my iPad secure on my lap but enable me to take it off easily when I want to. Trabasack also sell hook tape so if you need some extra velcro they have you covered. You get two strips in a pack and cut them to any size you need.

iPad stuck to Mini Connect Trabasack with Velcro
This photo shows my iPad on the Mini Connect which is attached to my waist.

This position is very comfortable for watching videos or reading emails.

Trabasack Mini

The main selling point of the Mini version vs Mini Connect is that the surface is wipe-clean. Which one you choose will depend on whether you want to use velcro with your Trabasack or not. Having said that the MediaMount does work with the non-Connect version of the Trabasack Mini. The accessory will still hold things in place it just won’t stick items to the tray surface.

The photo on the left shows the MediaMount wrapped around a cup that is resting on the Trabasack Mini. The photo on the right shows the MediaMount curled around itself with a hole in the middle. This is an excellent position for my iPhone and props it upright. This makes it great for video calling. Unfortunately, I couldn’t show this as I needed my phone to take the photos. The pitfalls of having a device that does everything!

Reading

Another thing I use the Trabasack for is reading. I have to say I prefer the Mini version of the product for this over the Curve as its smaller size and square shape is more comfortable for books.

Book resting on Mini Connect

The Mini ensures that I don’t feel the heavy weight of even this big book on my legs! I do slightly prefer the Mini Connect over the Mini in this instance as I can stick the MediaMount onto the Connect Surface to prop the book up at a more comfortable reading angle. I haven’t yet resorted to putting velcro on my books! Thankfully Trabasack products are so stable that I don’t have to!

Conclusion

Both of the Trabasack Mini versions are great. As I use all the products more and more I’m tending to use the Curve as a meal tray and for laptop use and the Mini for everything else. I have got really attached to the Mini Connect with the MediaMount. The main reason I always brought the Trabasack Curve, was because of the bigger lip around the edge. Now with the MediaMount, I have the smaller form factor and a bigger edge all the way around.

Mini Connect on my lap with the MediaMount around the edge

Despite its smaller size, it will still comfortably fit my 13inch Macbook Pro inside it.

Trabasack-Mini-with-Laptop-inside

I think Trabasack says Laptops up to 14 inches for the Curve and Mini Models and up to 17 inches for the Trabasack Max. Whichever model you choose you won’t be disappointed.

I hope you enjoyed this review. It’s a 5 star product that has earned it’s place on inclusivelivingconcepts. Please get in touch if you’d like to ask me any questions regarding these or any other products I use.

Mini and Mini Connect Trabasack Review Read More »

Trabasack Curve with Instructions

Trabasack Curve Review

I have been given a Trabasack Curve to review. Whilst this product was sent to me free I have been using these products for many years and have brought several. This review contains my honest opinions and experiences of the product. This was originally written for Disability Horizons but I have been given permission to post it on inclusivelivingconcepts.

What is a Trabasack?

A Trabasack is a bag and a lap tray all in one. It is a versatile product that has many uses. My main use is as a removable tray but it can also be used as a bag and for storage. My spasms are just one aspect of my disability. Therefore I needed a tray that I could have food on without my spasms chucking the food all over the place.

The Trabasack was invented by Clare as a lap tray for her son Joe who uses a wheelchair. The tray had to be safe and practical to use. There are now three main models of the Trabasack. The Max, Mini and Curve. The Mini and Curve Trabasack models come with or without a ‘connect’ surface. The Connect models are made with soft Velcro material on the tray portion of the Trabasack Curve. This is useful if you want to Velcro items so that they stay put on the tray. For this review, I was given the option to receive a Curve model with or without this feature.

Curve Connect or Curve?

I chose the Curve model without the Connect feature for the purpose of this review. I’ve learnt from experience that the ability to wipe the product clean is important to me, not because I’m particularly messy but everything sticks to Velcro. My main use for this product is to eat and drink and having owned a Curve Connect for seven years prior to receiving this review unit. I know that crumbs in particular stick to this tray like glue! Connect is a lovely feature that is doing what it is designed to do but it is not particularly convenient with food I find.

The Connect versions are great for anything and everything you want to stay in place. Check out my review for more information.

Trabasack Curve with Instructions

Using the Trabasack Curve

The Curve comes with an instruction leaflet and two straps, one short one long. Which strap/s you use depends on how you want to use the product.

As I’m always in my wheelchair I prefer to use one strap around my waist. This keeps the curve as close to me as possible and is the most stable. Due to my disability, I cannot reach around my back so if I’m by myself I connect the two straps together and wrap them around my armrests at the front. This position isn’t as good but at least I can secure it independently. The Trabasack can also be worn like a standard rucksack and slung over one shoulder. It may have been created for disabled people but it makes a really great laptop or tablet bag whether you have a disability or not.

Trabasack Curve on Lap

D-Rings and ring pull zips

The Trabasack has six D-Rings to which the straps attach. These are strong and sturdy as well as being easy and simple to use. Instead of fiddling about opening the hook and then struggling to attach it to the ring, simply press the hook end of a strap against a D-Ring. The hook will be pushed open and snap onto the D-Ring.

Curve strap hook and D-Ring

The zip runs all the way around the product and the zips are fitted with ring pulls so that the zips are easier to use if you find using zips hard due to disability. Instead of having to grip a tiny object, simply place a finger or thumb in the ring and move your hand to the side to open or close the zip. Much easier to access if you have strength or dexterity issues like me. I keep the zips together as I like the way it looks and I have no trouble gripping them but if you want to make it easier to open and close always have one zip at the front of the curve. That way you only have to pull one zip instead of two to open or close the bag.

Trabasack Ring Pull Zips

Trabasack Curve Tray

The tray portion of the product is not only wipe-clean but also non slip. If, like me, you want the wipe-clean Curve the company does sell a non-slip mat, cut to the same shape as the Curve. This can be very useful and can be kept inside the Curve when it is not needed. I have used one before and keep it handy but for day to day, I find the original non-slip surface good enough for my needs.

The tray portion also has quite a high lip/edge on it to stop items from sliding off. I have to say this is why I brought a Trabasack Curve in the first place. I saw a photo of somebody in a wheelchair, using a Trabasack Curve to carry a plate that contained an English breakfast. This may not sound impressive but the plate included baked beans, the person’s lap wasn’t level and the plate and more importantly ALL the food was on the tray!

english-breakfast

Curve Tray Bean Bag

The reason the breakfast didn’t end up on the floor wasn’t just due to the built-in edge around the tray and the straps. The Curve also has a removable bean bag inside it to help keep it level. If you spend a few seconds setting it up on your lap then it really is very stable. My spasms and startle reflex have tested this so this isn’t just empty praise. Before I came across the Trabasack Curve I couldn’t use a tray at all as food simply slid off my lap!

Curve Beanbag

Eating with the Trabasack Curve

Eating outside and using unsuitable tables when out is possible with a Trabasack Curve. Unless I have a lunch box I do prefer to rest the front edge of my Trabasack on a table as then I don’t have to bend to my lap to eat, (my knees make it very low!) Prior to having the Trabasack Curve when eating out, I had to lean forward as my wheelchair wouldn’t fit underneath restaurant tables. In fact, when we went out for a family meal two weeks ago I forgot that my Curve had been taken off the back of my wheelchair. I then had no choice but to lean forward. Doable but a lot less comfortable.

Dinner Plate on Trabasack

Trabasack Curve and iPad

Weather permitting, I like to sit outside and write, watch films etc so I love my iPad. I love my iPad on my Trabasack Curve even more as I’m not restricted to sitting where tables are.

Another big plus is when I have finished using my iPad I can place my iPad inside my Curve. It is nice and safe on my lap. I am now hands-free and don’t have to worry about people possibly stealing my property from my wheelchair. With my original Curve Connect, I put velcro on my iPad case and stuck my iPad to the tray, giving me even more peace of mind. I actually ruined an iPad case doing this. Trust me when I tell you a little goes a long way! I put plenty of Velcro on the case and it worked too well! I had to remove the iPad from the case to get it off my Trabasack!

Storing items inside Trabasack Curve

I wish this bag had been around when I was at school. A laptop up to 14” can fit inside the Trabasack. It wouldn’t have replaced my school bag, too many books, but I could’ve kept my personal belongings on my lap. This is what I do now. I find my laptop too heavy on my legs to use with the Curve but many people do. The Trabasack Curve is a fantastic bag for electronics whether you have a disability or not. The padded inside ensures devices are protected.

Price and conclusion

The Trabasack Curve costs £39.95. The Connect version is slightly more, £44.95. I thought this was expensive for a tray and expensive for a bag. I brought my first one telling myself I was ridiculous for spending so much money. This review Curve is my 5th Trabasack. This isn’t because they are not long-lasting. My oldest one has just broken after seven years. The thread holding one of the D-Rings together has broken and years of using it outside mean it’s sun-bleached. It is still perfectly usable. I wanted to have more so I could keep one in the car and one on the back of my wheelchair.

If you have or know a child that needs toys etc within easy reach this will facilitate that. A big plus for me is that it’s also more portable and aesthetically pleasing than the trays that Wheelchair Services provide to their clients.

If you struggle to access food whilst eating at unsuitable tables, perhaps you need a flat surface to lean on to read. Maybe, like me, you want a portable table for your electronics. You won’t be disappointed. Please send all comments and questions to inclusivelivingconcepts.

Trabasack Curve Review Read More »

Naidex: biggest disability products event in the UK goes virtual

Inclusivelivingconcepts wouldn’t be a blog about disability if I didn’t review Naidex. Naidex is the UK’s biggest disability products exhibition. On the 18th and 19th March 2021, the exhibition went virtual. The physical event was cancelled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is normally held every year in Birmingham at the NEC. The venue has great access for disabled people. There is flat access throughout, hearing loops, assistance dogs are allowed and there are accessible toilets, including Changing Places facilities. The complex is huge though so it is very easy to get lost, even though I go every year!

Putting my woeful sense of direction aside, it is a great event. People with disabilities are in the majority instead of the minority. Almost any disability product you can think of, and a few you can’t are displayed! I was very curious how this would be adapted for the virtual world.

NEC-Website

Registering for Naidex

Tickets to Naidex are free. Booking tickets is as simple as going online and filling in the registration form. This year, a username and password were emailed to me. In previous years tickets, accompanied by an event guide, were delivered to my door through the post. A week before the event I received an email. The email contained teasers of disability products I could expect to see. Upcoming speaker seminars were mentioned as well.

Companies selling disability aids of all types were showcasing their products: beds, wheelchairs, and sensory equipment to name but a few. There was also a handy login link included.

Naidex-Registration-page

Accessing the event

Logging in was simple thanks to the link I was sent.

A top tip: copy and paste login credentials to avoid mistakes.

The screenshot below shows the login screen. There is an icon that looks like a person in the top right corner. This icon opens the accessibility features, which I’ll go through in detail later. Next to that are text resize buttons and in the lower right corner is a chat icon.

Login screen

Having logged in there was a menu on the left-hand side where I could click on ‘sessions,’ ‘speakers’ or choose to view the ‘interactive product directory.’ There were thirty-four speakers and one hundred and nineteen companies taking part across the two days. I lost count of the number of sessions as many were duplicated for different access needs. A session was where a company had written or pre-recorded a video about themselves or its products. This could be a bit boggling as everything was in list view with a scroll bar to view more. This made it difficult to know what to look at first as I had to scroll to see what was available.

Accessibility options

To access the many accessibility options available on the Naidex portal involved clicking the icon in the top right-hand corner that looks like a person/stickman. This brought up a menu with more accessibility options than I’ve seen before! An event showcasing disability products should be accessible but it’s still impressive.

The screenshot on the left shows the top of the accessibility adjustments and has options to reset settings, view the access statement or hide the accessibility interface altogether. Below these options are access profiles for differing needs: seizure-safe profile, vision-impaired profile, cognitive disability profile and ADHD-friendly profile. The accessibility options are scrollable so I had to take six screenshots to show all the options. The right screenshot shows the last two access profiles available which are blind users (screen reader) and keyboard navigation. Underneath this are the content adjustments: content scaling, readable font, highlight titles, highlight links and text magnifier.

The above two screenshots show the complete options for content adjustments, which in addition to those mentioned in the paragraph above, are: adjust font sizing, align centre, adjust line-height, align left, adjust letter spacing and align right. In the right screenshot, the first three options for colour adjustments are shown: dark contrast, light contrast, and monochrome.

The last two screenshots above show all of the colour adjustment options on the left and the orientation adjustments on the right.

The colour adjustments are: dark contrast, light contrast, monochrome, high saturation, high contrast, low saturation, adjust text colours, adjust title colours and adjust background colours.

Orientation adjustments

The orientation adjustments are as follows: mute sounds, hide images, read mode, reading guide, stop animations, reading mask, highlight hover, highlight focus, big black cursor and big white cursor. There is also a ‘useful links’ option in the centre of these adjustments to give the user the option to place a useful link in a position on the screen at all times. For example a link to the homepage.

The disability products

Everything from smart home products, car converters, specialist beds, mobility battery specialists, occupational therapists, sensory specialists, wheelchair manufacturers and solicitors were present at Naidex.

Searching for a specific product

This event can therefore be very useful if you are searching for a particular item. A couple of years ago my main purpose for attending Naidex was to research WAVs (wheelchair-accessible vehicles) as I needed to choose a new car. This year I just wanted to see what new disability products and services were available.

Disability products wishlist

I was particularly interested in the smart home gadgets as I’m always on the lookout for a gadget to make my life easier but as I already have smart heating and lighting, most things weren’t of interest. I will be keeping an eye on how smart locks develop though. As I have someone who can open my front door for me it seems overkill to splurge just yet.

Disability product the Smart-Lock

Similarly, if I had money to burn I would buy a turning bed to help me transfer in and out of bed easier. These beds not only move how my existing profiling bed does but the mattress also turns ninety degrees and puts you in a sitting position on the edge of the bed. This would make it easier for my PAs/family members to assist me to transfer and get me dressed and undressed but as I require help anyway and I haven’t got a money tree, this will have to stay a pipe dream.

Disability product, the ChairBed

Interesting disability product ideas to keep an eye on

Another interesting piece of equipment I saw is something called a Showerbuddy. This shower chair comes with its own transferring platform which means that a normal shower cubicle, (those with a step/lip,) can be used. It’s aimed at older people and marketed as an alternative solution to getting a bathroom adapted. The chair is slid into the shower off of its raised base on wheels.

Disability product, the Showerbuddy

Chronus Robotics

Chronus Robotics is a robot wheelchair. It’s compact, slim agile and absolutely no good for me as I have little to no trunk control. I remember being asked years ago if I wanted to try the Segway chairs and having to painstakingly explain that as the chairs were controlled by body movement I’d crash in roughly three seconds! The chair is also able to go up and down so that you can reach things. If you have upper body control I imagine they are great! I wouldn’t want to guess the price though! I’m hopeful that soon one or more of these robotics companies will design a chair that can be controlled more like a conventional power chair.

Seminars

My favourite seminars were:

  • Making a Successful Application for a Disabled Facilities Grant by Paul Smith.
  • Take the chance out of going out with AccessAble’s Detailed Access Guides by AccessAble.
  • How technology can be used to revolutionise the lives of disabled people Shani Dhanda.

There were plenty of others to choose from, on a range of different topics.

Conclusion

Naidex this year has been more accessible than ever! This is due to the fact that the disability products and advice seminars were all available online. I really enjoyed the virtual version. I’m hopeful that the physical show will go ahead in September but I hope that content will still be available online. This would make Naidex more accessible and inclusive than it has been before. I’m definitely getting tickets for September.

Naidex: biggest disability products event in the UK goes virtual Read More »

My Suspected Coronavirus Experience

This took longer to write than I thought it would. I wanted to post it on inclusivelivingconcepts, in addition to it being published to give my readers could have a chance to ask me questions. The idea was proposed to me by Disability Horizons magazine, I hope people find it interesting. It was pointed out to me when I submitted this to the magazine that I never actually received a positive diagnosis of Coronavirus. There was no access to testing as it was not widely available then. I’ll never know for sure.

Contracting Coronavirus

I live with my parents and brother. Back in April, I believe we all caught Covid-19, but our experiences of being ill were different.

Thankfully, none of us had it seriously enough to need hospital attention, but the road to recovery has been slow, particularly for me.

I don’t think my disability makes me no more vulnerable to the virus than an able-bodied person. I’m probably as fit as any other 34-year-old who doesn’t exercise regularly.

Having watched my brother and mother become ill first, I knew it was only a matter of time before I caught it, as my parents are my main caregivers at the moment.

My brother’s and parents’ symptoms

My brother and dad had what can only be described as ‘typical’ symptoms of Coronavirus – a high temperature and cough. How they felt matched closely with what we were being told in the news, so we assumed they had the virus.

At the time, tests weren’t even widely available for NHS staff, so there was little chance of us being able to get tested. I would like to get an anti-body test once they become available to be sure that’s what we had. But I’m pretty convinced as it is.

Coronavirus recovery time

The quickest to recover was my brother, who felt ill for about three weeks. Friends with family members who have had confirmed Coronavirus tests have said they experienced a horrible week, perhaps ten days.

For me, it was two months from catching the virus before I started feeling close to normal again.

Back in April, the information available about how long we might all be ill suggested that we should’ve begun feeling normal towards the end of my second week. As time went on, more details came out, and the recovery seemed to vary. One article I read described someone having what he called prolonged COVID-19. They were ill for three months.

Pain

My first symptom of possible Coronavirus was pain. I assumed it would be sweating because there was so much talk of a high temperature.

It initially made me question whether I actually had the virus. The symptoms of my brother and dad had seemed so like Coronavirus. Surely it couldn’t have been anything else? 

I had what I can only assume was nerve pain. I say this because every muscle and joint in my body ached to the point where I couldn’t cope with sitting up as my hip joints were the worst. It was unbearable.

Painkillers didn’t touch it, but there would be random moments where suddenly all pain and discomfort would disappear, only to reappear again sometime later.

Temperature and cough

I didn’t really have a temperature, as has been talked about so much. I woke up sweating a few times in the night, but my temperature was stable.

A feeling of being generally off-balance and cold was my experience which wasn’t fun. I also didn’t have any breathing difficulties or indeed a cough.

Confusion and rambling

Being confused and disorientated is not something I have experienced before, so this was new territory.

One second I would be convinced I had to do something, but the next I couldn’t remember what it was at all.

I tend to ramble anyway – why use one word when you can use Ten? When I was ill my ramblings made less sense than usual!

I was also aware that I wasn’t thinking as fast or as clearly as I normally do. Thankfully, I now feel like myself again now.

Tiredness

Together with the other symptoms, I didn’t know what was going on half the time, and despite sleeping a lot, I was constantly exhausted.

I have so much sympathy for people who suffer from fatigue after experiencing what I did.

I’d be sitting or lying down, either watching TV or listening to an audiobook, when my body and brain would suddenly want to sleep. Even worse, if I didn’t get my head down straight away, I would go dizzy and experience headaches.

The tiredness lasted the longest, about 15 weeks in total. Even when all the other symptoms had disappeared, I couldn’t actually concentrate on reading or doing anything without needing to go to bed soon after. I couldn’t look at my phone or laptop without getting an instant headache.

Lack of taste and smell

Not being able to taste or smell anything is now a recognised symptom of Coronavirus, but it wasn’t at the time my family was ill, so that threw another curveball.

For me, the virus caused the weirdest sensation. It wasn’t like when you have a cold, and you can’t taste anything or only taste the catarrh in your throat.

Everything tasted like dust. There was no texture to food either. Everything I put in my mouth could have been the same food.

I suppose at least it didn’t taste horrible, but trying to eat with no sensory feedback was hard. The lack of smell was easier to cope with as I’d experienced that before. It was also weird when these senses suddenly came back. I was actually overwhelmed for the first two or three days afterwards as everything was suddenly different.

Nausea

This was the worst symptom. I suffer from nausea anyway, but the virus took it to a new level. Nothing relieved the nausea in any way until I recovered!

As mentioned earlier, I had no breathing difficulties, and I didn’t really have a cough. But I do believe that this virus, assuming it was Coronavirus, attacked my digestive system.

I felt like somebody had turned me inside out. If I didn’t eat, I felt ill, and if I eat more than a few mouthfuls, I was sick. It was a delicate balance that I’d mostly figured out by the beginning of week two.

The rest of my family stopped eating altogether for around two days and then felt better. My nausea lasted about six weeks.

I’ll probably never know if my theory is correct, but it was disconcerting to have an atypical experience when the news and NHS were discussing what to expect every day. My mum’s symptoms also echoed mine more closely, so it wasn’t just me.

I hope reading this has been interesting and useful in some way. I’m so grateful that none of my family had to go to the hospital.

With the lockdown relaxing, I just hope people will be sensible so that everyone can get back to ‘normal’ and leave their homes without worrying about catching this awful virus.

I’ve been very lucky, but I never want to feel like that again. Stay safe, Everyone.

My next post will be about the importance of choice and control and how I’m still having to fight to achieve this! So much in fact that I’ve started a new Twitter hashtag, #DirectPaymentHeadache. If you or someone you know is having issues with the support you receive, DP or not, please get in touch. Together we can effect change for a more inclusive world. 🙂

My Suspected Coronavirus Experience Read More »

Self-Isolation Activities

My inclusivelivingconcepts self-isolation activities post. I’ve seen a few of these self-isolation posts pop up since I said I was going to write one. While I’m not surprised by this, COVID-19 is, after all, the only topic of conversation at the moment. During my COVID-19 illness, audiobooks kept me sane as I didn’t have to focus on anything. I sincerely hope that none of my readers share my experience, but being read to is a great way to pass the time, especially if you’re feeling under the weather or just fancy a lazy day. I hope you enjoy reading how I’m spending my isolation and I’d love to hear how you are filling your days during this crisis.

Colouring

I love colouring books, and even before we officially isolated, I used it as a way of gaining some me time. I’m unfortunately not arty and cannot draw to save my life. The beauty of colouring books is that the hard work is done for you.

Pigment app

I’ve recently discovered an app called Pigment, which I now use on my iPad. It’s available for IOS and Android. You can finger tap, use a stylus to fill in an area, or just set it so you can’t colour over the lines. Great if you have limited hand function due to disability. I find as much as I like pencils and paper, after 20 minutes, my hands are really sore.

The app is free with in-app purchases, which I recommend you leave alone. The app gives extra brushes or colours but is £7.99 per week! There are plenty of free pages without having to spend anything, though. Pigment also lets you import pictures to colour in. There are other free colouring apps. Colorfy is a good example (also available on Android) but this is my favourite. Check out a couple of my pictures below.

Organise Email

If you’re already a superbly organised individual, then feel free to scroll down.

If you are looking for a way to be productive whilst in self-isolation, then this is a good place to start. Having completed this task, I can tell you it’s very satisfying.

Top tip:

It feels even less like work if you have music, the radio or your favourite audiobook on in the background.

The organisation process

My process for organising my account followed this pattern:

1) Open your email client or sign in using your web browser and click on your inbox

2) Have a piece of paper/your phone next to you before scrolling right to the bottom of your inbox.

3) Go through and read each message. Before moving to the next message, decide if the email you are currently reading needs to be kept, filed away or left in your inbox. You have to take action before it can be moved.

If it’s an email from Amazon or similar, trying to persuade you to buy something you don’t want/need. Press the delete key! It can feel like a big accomplishment. If you’re like me, these kinds of emails have built up over the years! If, however, it’s something you want to keep, think about a category folder that you could create for that email and write it down on your piece of paper. A few categories I use are Receipts, Social Services and Volunteering. Move onto the next email in your inbox when you have written a category down, and leave the email in your inbox for the moment.

Screenshot Of Email Folders I've Created

4) Go through all your emails. You should now have deleted all useless ads, etc. Your inbox will now contain emails that you need to take action with and emails that need to be filed. You will now also have a few categories jotted down.

Creating Folders

5) If you use an email client, I use Mail on a Mac, visit your email account via your web browser and create folders for all the categories that you noted down. I use Gmail. Folders are called labels in Gmail. To create a new folder, you need to click on an email, find the label icon and type in a new label/folder name. After that, click ‘create new.’ Do this for each of the categories you have written down.

Screenshot, How To Add Labels/Folders In Gmail

NB: Remember to untick the boxes unless you want to move the current email into your new folder.

6) Now, you can go back to your inbox and go through it again. This time, you move each email into one of the categories you created. I had emails going back as far as 2016. It took me about two hours to do all of that. It did get boring, but made life so much easier.

Organising my photos into folders in a similar way. I put all the photos from all my devices and memory cards onto my computer hard drive. I put my favourite music on in the background and went through them one by one.

Video Calling.

Video calls are a great way to stay in touch and can help keep feelings of isolation at bay. I haven’t done a lot of video calls as I find them exhausting at the moment. I really feel for people who haven’t got access to the internet at this present time. I’m mostly using Zoom, as I can have it running on my Mac, and everyone can access it. Unlike Facetime, where an Apple device is needed.

I’ve just started taking part in two regular quizzes via Zoom, which is entertaining. Fingers crossed, I’ll feel well enough this Friday to take part in my Freewheelin’ dance class again. After over a month’s absence, I’m missing it.

Screenshot zoom Dance

Audiobooks

I use two audiobook services, Audible and RBDigital.

Audible is relatively well-known and is owned by Amazon. I love the choice and control, and accessibility of this service. For £7.99 a month, you get one credit on a recurring monthly subscription unless paused or cancelled. Find a book you like and listen to a sample. This is particularly useful if, like me you find some narrators more enjoyable than others. Purchase the book with either a credit or by paying by credit card. Within twelve months, you can exchange a book for another if you don’t like your choice.

When you first join, you have access to a month’s trial, which means you get your first book free. At the moment, I’m listening to Wicked by Gregory Maguire. The book is very different from the theatre production. 😉

Screenshot Of The Audible App On My Phone

Top Tip

When signing up for the free trial, choose the two book a month option. You will get two free books. If you love the service but £14.99 is too expensive, you can always downgrade to the one book a month subscription before the trial ends. If you cancel before the trial is up, won’t be charged and you’ll get to keep your books. Pausing membership is where you take a break for three months. You are still a member. Membership and billing restart after three months but for the paused period you are not charged and no more credits are added to your account. This is Great for when you have too many books to listen to.

RBDigital is the service Birmingham Libraries uses for its members to access audiobooks/magazines and now, apparently, also newspapers. In my experience, it’s a lot more limited than Audible, but it is a free service. A valid library card is required, and set-up is done through your main library webpage. Your city may not use this service, some use Overdrive. Below is a screenshot of the Birmingham Libraries page explaining the setup and the RBDigital app on my phone.

Screenshot of RBDigital app, displaying A Harry Potter Book

Ebooks

Reading is a solitary activity that takes me to different places and is the only way we can travel at the moment. Ever since I’ve owned E-Readers, I’ve loved ebooks. They are so much easier to access as an E-Reader is lighter to hold than a book. I can read whilst I sit outside, which is great when the weather is nice and sunny.

Libby App

I use a Kindle Oasis and an app called Libby. Libby is the ebook app for my library and can be downloaded onto all Android and IOS tablets. Like the RBDigital app listed above, a valid library card is required, but set-up can be done through the app itself. The app will ask you to select your local library and input your library card number. If you have an E-Reader that uses the Epub format rather than the Kindle/Mobi one, loans from Libby can be sent to your e-reader. The only drawback to my Kindle is library books can’t be added to it.

I use Amazon to get most of my books, which is why I prefer the Kindle above other e-readers. Kindle Unlimited is currently offering a free trial to new customers. Project Gutenberg offers free out-of-copyright books to the public. I’ve also just discovered a website called Manybooks.net, which I’ll be exploring for new books soon.

Kindle

Writing

Last but definitely not least is writing. It helps me relax and get any and all ideas out of my head before I go to sleep at night. At least that’s the theory, it doesn’t quite work that well in practice. While I was ill, I couldn’t write at all, which is why this post has taken so long. I still find looking at my laptop screen tiring. I couldn’t wait to start writing again! I’m pleased to be getting back to some semblance of normality in these strange times.

Top tips for coping with isolation

Not being able to see friends and family is hard, and it is very easy to let the situation affect your mental health. Many disabled people already know what isolation feels like, as illness or circumstances have meant that they can’t go out.

Whether you are isolating because you are ill, shielding or just following lockdown rules, here are my top tips for staying sane.

Pick activities that isolation rules don’t change

With the exception of reading, all of the activities I have listed are activities that are done by me when I’m alone. Ok, if I wasn’t isolating, I may colour in the same room as others or listen to music and books with headphones on, but I don’t actually need and wouldn’t normally have anyone else engaging with me. This reduces the sense of weirdness that self-isolation can bring. I’m doing something by myself, and I’m enjoying it. Focusing on this instead of the fact that I can’t visit friends is a positive frame of mind that will assist your mental well-being.

Reading can take you from isolation to anywhere in the world

Whatever form it takes for you, ebooks, physical books, or audiobooks, can transport your mind away from your isolation to different countries’ fantasy lands or just make you think of something else. Using your imagination in this way is one of the best ways I have found to combat loneliness.

Keep in touch with friends and family

It doesn’t matter how you do it, keep in touch. Phone calls, video calls, emails, letters, postcards. Have contact with people. If you’re looking to meet people, various groups are now online to suit all sorts of interests. Dance, writing, knitting, crafting, and photography are just a few ideas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I’m spending my isolation. Get in touch and let me know what you’ve been doing to keep busy. If anyone has any podcast recommendations, please let me know. I’m interested to know what all the hype is about but unsure where to start as there is so much choice!

Till next time, stay safe and well.

Self-Isolation Activities Read More »

Reviews

In this section of inclusivelivingconcepts, I will post reviews about the disability equipment I’ve used/currently use, venues I’ve visited, day trips, and shows I’ve been to. I hope you find them interesting and helpful. The reviews on this website are my opinion only.

Reviews can help promote independence

Independence is important to me therefore, I always aim to choose products that enhance my quality of life. This usually means that it is not a standard product as things have to be adapted for me to access most things. Reading product reviews and recommendations helps me choose which products to buy and gives me ideas for making life easier. I hope this category does the same for you.

What I look for when choosing products to enhance my life

The main thing I look for in products, whether they are disability products or not is how that product will enhance my life and, where applicable improve my access to the things that are important to me. Portability is also of great importance to me when purchasing items.

The main thing I look for in products, whether they are disability products or not is how that product will enhance my life and, where applicable improve my access to the things that are important to me. Portability is also of great importance to me when purchasing items. This is rare as disability equipment tends to be big and bulky. I often find that non-disability products, repurposed, work best. Read my article for some ideas.

Reviews of places I’ve been to

Reviews of places I’ve seen or stayed at will be largely based on my own access needs, but I will include other information if known. If you have a specific question you would like answered or would like me to review, please contact me.

Reviews Read More »

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