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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Wheelchair user’s dream: Motorized, foldable and lightweight

As regular readers will know, I am a bit of an advocate when it comes to accessibility and mobility issues and, from time to time, do address these subjects. Those subjects are of particular interest to me as I have to use a wheelchair as my mobility is severely restricted because of multiple sclerosis.

Occasionally, I come across something that simply deserves to be highlighted because it fulfills a need that people with disabilities have. For example, someone who needs a wheelchair to get about has a general choice of a manual or motorized one.

A manual one either has to be self-propelled, if the user is physically able to do so, or be pushed, so the wheelchair user has to relinquish independence and rely on someone else.

The alternative, as I have discovered, is not much better. Motorized wheelchairs are great to use, easy to maneuver and control and give the user the feeling of real independence. However, they have a major downside too – and that is their weight. They are so heavy.

In fact, anyone that uses a motorized chair and wants to take it to different places needs a specially adapted vehicle with either a hoist, ramp or elevator platform to load the chair on board.

BUT, there is an answer to the problem. There are now good quality, lightweight, folding motorized chairs that make the old problems disappear:

  • They give the user the independence provided by all motorized chairs;06 blue
  • They fold-up in seconds to go in the boot (trunk) of even a small car;
  • They are light enough to be lifted easily into and out of a car by one person;
  • Their batteries simply pull out in seconds to be transported separately on aircraft;
  • They are light enough to be carried on and off tenders if the user is going on a cruise holiday.

Talking of cruises, here is a report from Emma. She had just taken delivery of one such folding motorized chair from Better Products for Disabled People. This is her story:

Earlier this month my husband and I set off on our first ever cruise, heading to the Norwegian Fjords. We had been recommended cruising for its excellent accessibility but had no idea what it would be like.

We were taking my new folding motorized wheelchair but were concerned after the warnings from the cruise company about narrow doors and door thresholds. We need not have worried.

For a week I had more freedom than I’ve had at any point since my MS took most of my eyesight; I could navigate the ship just fine, the wheelchair took it all in its stride. Door thresholds were no problem; narrow corridors and doors were only an issue because of my lack of sight and skill and I improved quickly.

The battery handled it brilliantly; I spent at least eight hours a day in the wheelchair zooming around deck, attending shows, going to meals or out on excursions and never had a single problem.

What I did have were lots of admiring glances which turned into questions about where I got my wheelchair from and how I like it. Who would have thought I would be a travelling sales woman? BPDP folding electric wheelchair you are an international lifesaver.

Now, you cannot say better than that. Much to the relief of my wife, Lisa, my BPDP chair is on order. When it arrives, we’ll have the best of both worlds. I’ll get my independence back as I use a motorized chair and it will come out and go back into the car as simply as a manual chair.

 

Better Products for Disabled People <<http://better-products-for-disabled-people.myshopify.com>>

 

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Tomorrow´s wheelchairs and scooters available now

Being diagnosed with a critical illness, disease or disability – in my case multiple sclerosis – is bad news. But when I was diagnosed, in 2002, it was a relief. Relief? Yes, it was a relief because, although not something anyone would wish to hear, I then knew what was wrong.

Over those years, I have become a wheelchair user. Not all the time, just when I need it. At home, I get around without one and can just about walk out to the car, if I sit down halfway. There is a low wall that meets that need.

More recently, I have graduated to an electric wheelchair and that gives me much greater independence to get about without needing to be pushed around. Problem is that these chairs are big and heavy. To transport them, a wheelchair adapted vehicle is required.

So, that got me thinking about the development of tomorrow’s wheelchairs.

I have already written about lightweight folding electric wheelchairs that can fit in the boot or trunk of a small car as well as being light enough to use to go ashore from a cruise ship when it is using tenders to move passengers to and from the port.

But there are other exciting developments too.

Technological advancements are being made all the time, so it should comes as no surprise that we now have tomorrow’s wheelchairs today. Just take a look at these:

Devices that enable paraplegics and people with disabilities to move around in a standing position. This provides better cardiovascular health, the ability to make eye-to-eye contact and the independence to reach high and low heights.

All-terrain wheelchairs (ATW) allow the user to venture out around town or get into the countryside. It can also reach where other chairs don´t dare to go. These include a beach, down muddy tracks, over grass or gravel, or along cobbled streets. The ATW can even push through snow.

A wheelchair user can even get one designed and built to suit their individual lifestyle.

Then there are the electric, powered, add-ons that can be fitted onto an existing manual wheelchair, turning it into a powered chair.

There is a multi-directional chair that allows the driver to move forward and backward, side-to-side, and diagonally as well using a hand-held control system. Extremely responsive the chair can be driven through tighter spaces quite easily.

And let´s not forget disability scooters. These come in various types and sizes including those that break down into a number if pieces to fit in a car. However, there is now a transportable folding scooter that actually unfolds and folds itself.

It´s just my opinion but I find that wheelchairs are more maneuverable than scooters as they require a larger turning circle. What´s more, I need something light, easy to fold and really compact when folded to improve my lifestyle. And that is why I have ordered one of Better Product for Disabled People´s silver chairs. Cannot wait for it to arrive.

 

MSNT strapline copy

 

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All new folding electric wheelchair is light enough to be carried aboard some cruise ships’ tenders

Crew members prepare to assist a wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

Crew members prepare to assist a manual wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

If you are fond of cruise holidays, you are far from alone and if you have any form of disability, you can be assured that all cruise companies will do their very best to help you.

What has always been a problem for users of electric wheelchair, however, are those ports of call where the ship cannot moor alongside but has to drop anchor and ferry all passengers ashore using tenders.

To transfer from ship to tender and from tender to jetty, a wheelchair user has to be capable of a taking a few steps with help but also have a collapsible chair that can be easily lifted onto and off the tender. And, up to now, this has really meant using a manual one.

Now, though, things might change.

Some cruise companies don’t allow their staff to pick up electric chairs but others do as long as they don’t exceed their weight limit. For example, Princess Cruises allows its individual crew members to lift chairs weighing no more than 22kgs (49lbs).1

Well, being a wheelchair user myself, I am excited to have just found one potential answer to this problem. I am sure that there may be others but this is the one I discovered:06 blue

It is a lightweight folding electric wheelchair. It folds and unfolds in seconds and can be lifted easily when collapsed. This particular model has two batteries, together weighing 4kgs (9lbs) that can be slid out easily to be carried separately and, without them, the chair weighs just 21kgs (46.3lbs).

The model in question is the Chinese-made BPDP 06J available from Better Products for Disabled People and you can find all you need to know here. That company also sells another folding model, the 10J, which is heavier and more expensive.2

 

1Please remember to check your cruise company’s wheelchair requirements with respect to tendering.

2If you know of any other folding electric wheelchairs that meet these weight requirements, please let me know and I’ll update the details.

 

Please note: I am a person who likes to travel and enjoys cruising but needs to use a wheelchair. This blog post is for people in a situation similar to myself as well as family members and carers. It is purely for information and is not in any way commercial.

 

 

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Cruise holiday finishes in New York City

Window displays are a big part of Christmas in New York.

Window displays are a big part of Christmas in New York.

Having spent the last three days concentrating on disabilities and the cuts to benefits planned for the UK, I think today it is time to lighten the mood.

A few days ago, having written about Lisa’s and my cruise around Hawaii on NCL’s Pride of America, I wrote a second blog about our enjoying the attractions of Oahu, the most populated island and home of the state capital of Honolulu.

After that, one comment I received said that he had never been there, probably never would and thanked me for sharing our trip with you all.

Well, our holiday did not stop when we flew out of Hawaii on the first stage of our trip back to the UK, where we then lived. Having left the cruise ship after it docked in Honolulu, we transferred to the airport and flew first to Los Angeles, then on to New York.

It was in the ‘city that never sleeps’ that my sweetheart Lisa was born and grew up. She loves the city and was so looking forward to showing me around and was quite determined that me being in a wheelchair, because of mobility problems linked with multiple sclerosis, was not going to stop us. Mind you it was December and, although not snowy, after our seven-day Hawaiian cruise it did feel distinctly chilly and we had to wrap up warm,

So helpful. Wheelchairs not a problem.

So helpful. Wheelchairs not a problem.

We stayed in a hotel across the road from Madison Square Garden and, being in Manhattan, most of the attractions were fairly close by – either by Lisa walking and pushing my wheelchair or in one of the city’s famous yellow taxis. Talking of the taxis, helping fold and store my wheelchair was no problem. Drivers seemed to delight in being helpful.

Lisa and I at the top of the Empire State Building.

Lisa and I at the top of the Empire State Building.

Our hotel room had a great view of the Empire State Building which is where we went after our first night in our hotel. Once again, no issues for a wheelchair user and, having completed the usual security checks, we travelled by high-speed elevators to the viewing platform. Lisa had hoped for a clearer day but I was happy to see so much of NYC.

Other places we went and things we saw during our short stay included the Christmas spectacular in the Radio City Music Hall, the festive tree at the Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty via a water-taxi ride, the 911 memorial plus the new Freedom Tower, built to replace the twin towers, Times Square, Broadway, the stores’ Christmas-themed window displays and a city sightseeing bus tour that included Central Park, Harlem, the UN building and a lot more.

Just a few of the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular.

Just a few of the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular.

Of course, one minor problem or another was bound to occur and, for me, it was during a trip to see Lisa’s sister Gen and her family. Towards the end of our visit there, I fell while in the downstairs ‘half bathroom’ and could not get up. Space was very tight, so nephew Jamie came to my assistance and helped me regain my feet before I could finish putting my trousers (pants) and underwear back in place.

Christmas Day itself started in a New York deli. I just had to try a genuine NY bagel with cream cheese and lox (like smoked salmon); it was great and went down so well after the previous night’s traditional hot dogs (Yes, I had two, but who’s counting).

Finally, on Boxing Day, we returned to the UK – our Hawaiian cruise and American holiday at an end.

 

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Norovirus: Sanitisers not as good as soap and water

hand washhand sanitiser

Some people refuse to go cruising for various reasons but the one fear that seems responsible for the reluctance of many is that of becoming ill in an on-board epidemic of one type or another.

And, without a doubt, the most well-known bug that dominates their thinking is the Norovirus – and that is emphasised every time a cruise ship reports an outbreak.

Of course, when you think of the number of cruises are completed by all the ships of all the cruise lines – the proportion of those that report an outbreak of illnesses is absolutely tiny.

Nevertheless, Norovirus is the cause of real trepidation, so let me explain exactly what it is.

Norovirus, sometimes known as winter vomiting bug, is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans everywhere – not just on ships – and affects people of all ages. The virus is transmitted by fecally-contaminated food or water, by person-to-person contact and via aerial transmission of vomited virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces.

Much of the contamination can be avoided by good hygiene procedures so that the virus is not transmitted by person-to-person or person-to-foods. Many norovirus outbreaks have been traced to food that was handled by one infected person.

While having Norovirus is unpleasant, it is not usually dangerous and most of its victims make a full recovery within two to three days.

The genus name Norovirus is derived from Norwalk virus, the only species of the genus. The species causes approximately 90% of epidemic non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world and may be responsible for 50% of all foodborne outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the United States,

On cruise ships and in hospitals, you will often find hand sanitisers placed at strategic points in an attempt to reduce, or even eliminate, infections. However, it seems they are not as good as washing hands.

Indeed. the UK’s Health Protection Agency claims that sanitising gels may be of benefit when used after a hand wash but adds they should not be regarded as a substitute for soap and water. Sanitisers may fail to remove all contamination from the hands, the agency warns.

The Center for Disease Control in the US also claims clean, running water plus soap should be used where available but that a hand sanitiser, containing an alcohol content of at least 60%, may be used instead where there is no convenient water supply.

However, one study in the US indicated that alcohol-based hand sanitisers may actually increase the risk of Norovirus in healthcare settings. Staff in long-term care facilities where Norovirus has been reported were found to be six times more likely to use hand sanitisers either to the same degree or more frequently than they would use soap and water.

So, wherever you are, keep your hands clean and make sure you wash them thoroughly.

hand wash how to

 

 

 

 

 

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Before our Hawaii cruise, it was time to enjoy Oahu

Tahiti dancers in the Polynesian Cultural Centre's boat pageant.

Tahiti dancers in the Polynesian Cultural Centre’s boat pageant.

When I was a first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my life didn’t change but 14 years later it has – now my mobility is severely affected but my determination to enjoy life hasn’t changed. I see no reason to shut myself away and suffer; my need is to get out and live life as well as I can. Yes, I need a wheelchair to travel more than 10 to 15 yards but so what? In today’s world of improving (though by no means perfect) accessibility, a wheelchair is no reason to be held back.

A cruise in a wheelchair? Absolutely. Hawaii in a wheelchair? Of course.

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Just a few days ago, I brought you memories of a great cruise that Lisa and I enjoyed around the islands of Hawaii on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

Mention was made of our shore visits on Maui, the Big Island – two stops there at different ports, and Kauai but how could Oahu, the most populated of the islands, and the one containing Honolulu the state capital, be ignored?

Well, of course, it cannot; so back to Hawaii we go.

On arrival at Honolulu airport, we were greeted with leis of flowers.

On arrival at Honolulu airport, we were greeted with leis of flowers.

The Pride of America cruise actually starts and finishes in Honolulu so, to make the most of Oahu, Lisa and I arrived by plane three days before embarkation.

We stayed at the tremendous Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel where, on our first morning, we enjoyed breakfast in one of its restaurants with no windows and the Pacific Ocean only a few yards away.

During our stay on the island we packed a lot in. This included visits to the Polynesian Cultural Centre, Pearl Harbor, Paradise Cove Luau, dinner at the Top of Waikiki, and coach tours that included passing the golden statue of King Kamehameha. Fans of the modern version of the TV cop show Hawaii 5-0 will be used to seeing that statue outside the Steve McGarrett team HQ in the series.

Polynesian Cultural Centre: Tonga's host.

Polynesian Cultural Centre: Tonga’s host.

The cultural centre features the traditions of many of the original Pacific islanders, including those from Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, the Marquesas islands and Hawaii itself plus the Maoris from New Zealand. Their skills are fascinating to see and experience and it is certainly not a place to rush through.

USS Arizona likes where she sank in Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona likes where she sank in Pearl Harbor.

The Shrine Room at Pearl Harbor is a memorial to all who died.

The Shrine Room at Pearl Harbor is a memorial to all who died.

Another ‘must’ is a trip to Pearl Harbor, the US Navy base that was notoriously attacked by Japan on December 7 1941 – bringing the then neutral USA into World War II. I am a Brit and even I found our visit there to be emotional.

If you go to Hawaii and don’t go to a luau, you will have missed a treat.  It’s a series of entertainment spectaculars plus a great meal. There are a number of luaus to choose from and we chose the one at Paradise Cove. We were picked up by coach close to our hotel and that’s when the fun started as we were kept fully entertained by our guide. As I was in my wheelchair, when it was time to get our dinner from the servery, he told Lisa and me to stay at our table while he brought our food to us. It was absolutely perfect.

One night we decided to eat in the Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. Having taken an elevator as far as it would go, we found ourselves one floor below the restaurant with the only access being via stairs. Seeing my problem, a senior staff member appeared and took us to another elevator that was actually inside the kitchen. Still, it got us to our table.

At the end of our three days on the island of Oahu, we boarded the Pride of America for our cruise.

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Sunny and warm outdoors on winter cruise

coast

There’s something rather special about choosing a December cruise in the northern hemisphere and wearing shorts, t-shirts and sandals – all without feeling cold.

Yes, in the northern hemisphere. Yes, in winter. But lovely sunny weather and not at all cold. How can that be? Well, Lisa and I were cruising around the Hawaiian Islands.

prideNow plenty of cruises start or finish in Honolulu and go to other places but we chose to take the only cruise around the archipelago, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America (pictured right).

We sailed from Honolulu, the state capital on the island of Oahu, and visited three of the other islands during a week-long cruise. It was picturesque with both beauty and dramatic scenes including Kauai’s Na’pali coast (main picture), sunset at the 10,000 feet high Haleakala – a dormant volcano – on Maui, some smouldering volcanic lava at Kilauea on the Big Island (pictured below) and, spotted from our balcony, whales swimming free as nature intended.

There were a number of shore excursions including one to Kona, home of the famous and delicious coffee of the same name, and another that enabled us to take a voyage on a glass bottomed boat, allowing us to see underwater sights that I could not otherwise have seen.

smoking lavaBecause I need a wheelchair to travel more than a few yards, we booked an accessible cabin. It was huge, with a balcony to match and a superb accessible bathroom. It was everything we needed.

Most days we were docked portside but at one stop, the ship had to anchor and use tenders to take passengers to and from the shore. I was most impressed by the attention NCL paid to disabled passengers. I had to get out of my wheelchair to board and disembark the tender but the crew ensured my safety and comfort before bringing my folded chair on board.

At the other end, the same attention was paid as my chair, now unfolded and ready for use, was waiting for me on the jetty and one crew member ensured I was seated properly before we left the jetty. On our return to the ship, exactly the same service and courtesy was extended.

Last sunset before we returned to Honolulu.

Last sunset before we returned to Honolulu.

NCL specialises in what it calls Freestyle Cruising and that means that passengers choose when and how they wish to eat and be entertained; no need to pre-book, just turn up and enjoy. This may not be everyone’s preference but it is convenient when going on sunrise or sunset shore excursions.

Lisa and I both agree that the Pride of America cruise is the best way to see Hawaii as you get the chance to visit so many of the islands, each with its own contrasting character. Oahu is the gathering place, Maui is the valley isle, Hawai’i is the Big Island and Kauai is the garden isle.

The ship itself has, unsurprisingly, an American theme. It has 18 restaurants plus 11 bars and lounges, with a variety of entertainment, including Broadway shows. If you’re a lover of casinos, however, you’ll be disappointed. Gambling is not permitted in Hawaii or in its territorial waters, so there is no casino on board.

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Love the idea of cruising – or simply hate it?

royal princess

There are those who are hooked on cruising and others willing to give it a try but, at the other end of the scale, there are those who would not dream of setting foot on a cruise ship even if you paid them.

The reasons they give for not giving cruising a chance include fears for their safety at sea, heightened by some problems such as running aground and incidents such as engine failure or fires on board; health worries over norovirus or other infections in a closed space; rough seas in bad weather; and “being at sea for days on end”.

There is no need to dwell on the negatives except to say that, despite media ‘horror stories’, serious incidents with a ship are so rare as to be almost negligible. There is no need to be at sea for days on end, just choose a cruise where the ship is in a different port almost every day.

Yes, rough seas do happen but generally the ship will avoid the worst, even if it means changing the planned itinerary. Infections, also, can happen from time to time through lack of proper hygiene procedures being followed by other passengers. Cruise ship crews do their best to prevent outbreaks but no system is 100% idiot-proof.

club 6On the positive side, to many there is no better way to relax than by enjoying a great holiday where everything you need is provided without the detailed planning or stress of organising it all yourself. The major decisions you really need to make for a cruise are the destinations you’d like to visit, the price you are willing to pay and the timing that suits you best.

Committed cruisers know that cruises offer real value for money, a complete all-in-one package, excellent dining in a number of different restaurants, both family deals and ones restricted to adults-only, a wide variety of entertainments plus luxuries such as hot-tubs, sunbathing, even massages and other ‘pampering’.

There really can be no easier or relaxing way to visit a number of different places with the luxury of just unpacking and repacking your suitcases just once. You don’t need to traipse from hotel to hotel, unpacking at each one; on a cruise, your ‘hotel bedroom’ comes with you in the form of your stateroom.

Of course, the style and quality of what is on offer can vary not only between cruise lines but also between ships of the same line. I suspect that many experienced cruisers have their own favourites but others like to choose their cruises based on factors such as destination ports rather than a particular cruise line or ship. That really is all down to individual choice.

The fact that cruising is becoming an ever more popular holiday is clearly shown by new ship after new ship, often larger than ever before, being brought into service by one cruise line or another. But, don’t despair, if these huge ships seem too big for your taste; there are much smaller ones that carry fewer passengers and which might better suit your own desires and needs.

 

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