Remember this?Wheelchair stories: public transport

Quite sime time ago already, I wrote my very first blogpost. Since it is still relevant today, I’d like to share it again. Together we can improve the public transport facilities. I think it is important to speak up about issues you encounter, so we can tackle them. When people don’t know about it or don’t realize it, they can’t or won’t change it.

In my first blogpost, I would like to discuss my experience with public transport, focusing on my physical disabilities, requiring me to use a wheelchair.

First of all, I think a lot of people try to avoid public transport. It’s expensive and not very convenient. You probably have to travel to the station first, then you can use the public transport and you probably have to continue traveling after you ‘arrived at your destination’, because your destination is usually somewehere else. For people with disabilities it’s usually even worse.
Within Europe there are a lot of differences in how well the public transport is adapted to wheelchair users. Usually in the more western part of Europe it’s quite adapted, or so the governemnts like to think. Just last week I was in a discussion with a civil servant about the ‘great posibilities for disabled users to use the public transport’. It’s such a hustle!
If you have to use public transport while you’re in a wheelchair, I can only urge you to travel with someone. Often other passengers won’t help you (I’ll talk about the behaviour of passengers another time). And there’s the first problem really, because you’re so dependant. What if you can’t find anyone who can come with you?

Train

I can actually skip talking about the train, since I’ve never seen a train, I was able to go in with my wheelchair. I’ve been in quite some European countries and I’ve personally never come across a train with a suitable entrance. They always have stairs or ‘steps’, which is how the staff prefers to call them. “Of course our train is suitable for wheelchair users. You can’t walk stairs? No problem, you just have to take these 5 steps, that’s not a staircase “. Luckily, I can walk very short distances and occassionally it goes well enough that I can take a few steps, if I really have to. ‘Cause it still hurts a lot. The person who came with me has to take the stairs while lifting my wheelchair, so I always try to stumble inside the train by myself, because it’s heavy enough to lift the wheelchair without me in it (as you can probably imagine).
When you’ve overcome that obstacle, you’ll get a couple more. Another one I specifically encounter in trains: it’s too narrow (the doors and hallways). You can’t move at all, but you can’t sit in the doorway either. Usually in underground and bus there’s no space for you either. Sometimes they have a special spot for users with disabilities, but often these are taken (most of the time by people who don’t need it, but it’s just too crowded).

Mind the gap

This will probably ring a bell, even when you have no experience with wheelchairs at all. Especially London is famous for it’s kind, heart-warming message in the underground, a.k.a. subway (and  I think you can also here in the (railway) train?), which you won’t find annoying at all when you have to use the underground hours a day. It’s something we should be grateful about, I suppose. They warn you, in case you’ve never travelled to that station (or with the underground at all) or in case you’re really tired after your busy day at work or shopping. But I still wonder why they haven’t actually done anything about those gaps. I think solving the problem would be still better than warning for it. The excuse that the subway was build many years ago, is a popular one. Since every building and public place is supposed to be accessible for everyone, they sometimes try to fix it.

Often the bus can get lower and the driver can call out an electric ramp. If he sees or hears you in the first place. I often experience that they’re already gone, when I can finally call for help and try to get in. And I’ve also encountered quite some bus drivers who just weren’t in the mood to do that and told me to get in the normal way, or just take another bus.

At the  underground, some stations have a little ramp (or hill), where you can supposedly access the underground easily. Again, my experience is that the underground train doesn’t stop at that spot, so I’ll have to ‘run’ to get to the front of the station and then try to get in. When they do stop there however, often there’s still a huge gap. And of course most stations don’t have this yet (it was old, remember?). When you ask staff for help in that situation, they’ll often tell you to use the bus instead.

Elevator

Last but not least, the elevator. It’s surprising how many underground stations or railway stations, don’t have elevators at all or not suitable ones for wheelchair users (too narrow..). Then I’m not talking about the manners of other passengers yet, because that’s often a problem with elevators too. Sometimes the staff tells me there surely is an elevator, when I ask them where it is, because I can’t find it. In Budapest for example, they got angry with me because I was standing right in front of it. Yeah, a giant escalator.. that’s not an elevator.

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[Photo of four very long, shallow escalators with some people on it. And the sign exit Kijárat go up.]

When you’re walking on crunches you can sort of still use the escalator (although that’s not so easy either). But with the wheelchair, it’s just so dangerous! I’ve heard of wheelchair users who can use an escalator by themselves, by letting their wheelchairs stand in a certain way and a lot of arm strengh to hold this position. I’ve no idea how to do this and I don’t think I’ll ever dare try or learn this. So in my case, I need (usually at least 2 people) who can lift the wheelchair. The person at the front of the wheelchair has to stand backwards (facing me). I wasn’t going to talk about the manners of other passengers yet, but for thise one I’ll make an acception. Of course mostly the other passengers often don’t understand why we’re moving so slow (we’re not walking, so it’s the escalator’s speed) and often quite some will start pushing and yelling, apparently to make things easier.

Well, this was a ‘summary’ of my experiences with public transport. I’m happy with every little thing they adapted, but there’s still room for improvement, since it’s still (a lot) harder for people with disabilities (in this case wheelchair users) to travel this way than for ‘normal’ people. I hope you won’t have to experience this, or when you do, it will go well. Please go prepared, because that can help a lot. Do you have any experiences with using public transport? Maybe some advice?

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Wheelchair stories: the nutcracker on ice

I’ve been to the Nutcracker on ice, an amazing show from the imperial ice stars. I love figure skating, but I’ve never seen it live. And it isn’t a big thing around here. I wish I could have done figure skating in the past, although I can’t recommend professional figure skating seeing what injuries the olympic figure skaters end up with for the rest of their lives. I was already excited for months to see this show and ordered a wheelchair ticket with an companion ticket. Eventually I found someone to come with me, who was like ‘meh, might be cool to see’ instead of ‘boring..’ As you probably already figured out from my first sentence, I don’t agree with it. And I think it is a great show for everyone, the entire family. There are elements for everyone in it, such as a magician for the children and amazing figure skating skills for which you don’t have to know whether is it a double axel or triple flip or triple lutz. I have never seen a ballet or dance show and am not really into interpreting art such as dance, but I enjoyed seeing things I could connect and I think it was great for the ballet lovers and iterpreters and for those who go in blank. The only thing I did as preparation was reading the story of the nutcracker on wikipedia, so I would know what it was about in big lines. I also don’t know much about classical music, but I liked the music. I think the ice dances matched well with the music, but I’m just a layman 😉


[Photo from a scene of the show with the prince and the girl]

They also had nice costumes (during the famous Waltz of the flowers they were of course dressed as flowers) and played with lights. There was even an aerial acrobatics act and with fire. There was so much happening on the ice floor/stage, that you couldn’t see everything. It was simply magical and when it ended, I thought I would never be in a fairytale like that again. It was stunning and beautiful. I’m kind of a sensitive person so it can really suck me in the moment. So when I was home again, I really wanted to go again some time. But because I can’t move myself in the wheelchair I always need a companion and there was nobody who wanted to come. Usually it ends with that, but this time I got some courage and had an idea, which people thought wasn’t really going to work, because it was unusual (but I’m stubborn so hey). So one day when they performed again, I called the theatre (all by myself and I hate calling. I was so nervous but I had this adrenaline rush of excitement to see the show again) and said I wanted to go to the show and order a wheelchair ticket, but that I needed some help because I didn’t have a companion to help me. So if they could pick me up at the entrance and push me to the seat (I actually stay in my wheelchair, but they can remove a theatre chair so you can sit/stand there). And when the show was over push me back to the exit and bring me to the toilet during the intermission and help me to order a drink (you get a complimentary drink with every show). The first person I had on the line was unsure and connected me with another person who liked my enthusiasm and thought it was nice to try out.

Nutcracker On Ice
[Photo from a scene of the show which includes lights on the costumes]

It was great, even though I was both really excited and very nervous (the adrenaline rush helped me). I can never go somewhere on my own and this time I could! Now I can go to the theatre even if I can’t find anyone else to come with me and I love it. I think there are things you can enjoy doing/seeing on your own and I definitely can with these things (although it’s also fun to go with someone!). I don’t feel uncomfortable because I can call or text with my fellow Hippo while waiting, although it’s funny to see that I’m usually the only person alone and other guests can find that very strange. Maybe it’s an idea for you too, if you’d like to go to a show and you don’t have someone to go with you (although I do still need someone to drive me to the theatre and pick me up, but I know someone who is fine doing that and really excited for me, but doesn’t want to go inside the theatre). I don’t think it is a strange thing to ask the staff and they are happy to help. Although they might be confused first when you only order a wheelchair ticket or when they think they only have to show you the way, because they think you can roll yourself (and keep you waiting for 45mins – yay for whatsapp and a smartphone. If I can stay in touch with my fellow Hippo, I won’t panick as much and don’t feel alone). Going to shows are one of the things I can do, because they are usually not that long (approx. 2 hours including intermission usually) and it is quite close to where I live, so I can rest the days after and before. Only issue is that I still have to pay the higher first rank fee for a wheelchair place (the places are usually not that good, pretty high up in the back, usually it’s the last first rank row) and I wish I could choose my rank (just like other people) to make it more affordable. But I look for discounts everywhere, lol.

<I>Nutcracker on Ice</I>.<br />© Imperial Ice Stars. (Click image for larger version)
[Photo of an aerial acrobatic act during the show]

I found out that usually you just have to ask. People can forget about you, even when you arranged something, but they’ve almost all responded well when I remind/ask them about it (except for the grumpy lady at the ticket booth who didn’t want to call anyone, but to be fair I think she didn’t really understand that I was a. alone and b. can’t roll myself, although I did tell her multiple times). Asking is difficult for me, but I’ve really grown (when I compare myself to myself 😉 ) and this time it brought me something great. I’ve got something I can do sometimes 🙂 And you feel way more miserable when you’re just standing somewhere all alone and people are just walking by you. So preparation is key for me. Maybe it’s something you can try out too or maybe you already have. Please tell me about it, I love to hear your experiences or wishes, also when you’re a more able bodied person! Oh and I think it’s  a positive thing for the theatre too, because they can sell an extra ticket when I’m coming 🙂 Can’t wait for my next theatre “adventure”, it makes life more fun for me (going out of the house and do something fun now and then).

 

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Pushing a wheelchair 102

Welcome back, class! If you’ve lost your notes from lecture 101, you can find it here.

By now, maybe you’ve walked around with a wheelchair and encountered some other issues. This time I’d like to share some of my stories and tips about the behaviour of other people, when encountering a wheelchair.

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[Picture of a woman in a wheelchair and a man kneeled besides her, smiling at each other.]

  1. People aren’t used to it. They won’t see you and they’ll walk against the wheelchair. It’s possible you hit someone’s heels, but usually it’s actually their fault. Because they aren’t looking and they are walking just everywhere. With a wheelchair it’s more difficult to have an immediate stop. People suddenly change direction and you can’t act that fast. They will usually blame the wheelchair user (not the pusher), but soon you learn not to feel sorry when it’s their fault.
  2. Don’t be too polite. This might sound odd, but I encounter so many people who will stand in front of the wheelchair user, so you won’t see a thing. Or jump the queue, block the road and don’t want to move even though it’s a lot easier for them and they always cut you off. Don’t accept it if 40 people are cutting you off and decided to take the small hallway/street first, even though you were already taking it and unblocked it first. This happens way too often and it’s really irritating if you have to keep waiting every time, even though it’s not fair. Also, you easily lose a group, if you’re having a tour for example. Because you are usually slower than people who don’t have to push a wheelchair as well.
  3. They might not hear the wheelchair user. I understand if you want to give an user some independency. And want to let him/her do some things by him/herself. However, they often won’t hear you (or everyone pretends, I don’t know yet), so then it would be nice if you could get the other person’s attention. Of course after that, the wheelchair user can probably do the talking again 😉 Keep in mind that they might be surprised, they often think a wheelchair user is very dumb and can’t speak.
  4. Wheelchair users often can’t reach things. It seems very obvious, right? Yet, people often forget and might even become angry, because I’m just ‘standing’ there. I can’t reach ‘high’ things or things that are ‘deep/far away’, while a standing person could. A bit like you have a 2-year-old with you (only on that part!)
  5. Always go straight up bumbs and ramps etc. Ok, this has nothing to do with other people and I’ve already mentioned this in lecture 101, but it’s very important. You really need to walk straight. Too often, I encounter people who want to … I don’t know, cut off a bit? Well, they will push me up from a weird angle and then the wheelchair will collapse. So just straight lines please 😉 Also keep in mind that you can’t just let go and let the wheelchair user ride themselves up a hill/ramp etc. It’s a lot harder to ride yourself than to push someone in a wheelchair.
  6. Other people won’t really understand if something is wheelchair accessible or not. You have to keep using your own eyes. People will block the way for you with themselves or with objects, thinking you can easily squeeze yourself till you are 1/4 of the width. Or they will keep standing on the pavement, because you can ‘so easily’ get on and off the damn thing (NOT). Or they will say their entrance is wheelchair accessible, since it’s only twenty stairs and extremely narrow.

Well, that’s enough information for now. I hope you’ll find navigating with a wheelchair even easier and that it’ll become more fun. See you next time 😉

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Wheelchair stories: great weekend

I had a great weekend or what I’d like to call a weekend. Secretly I already knew it was going to be a great weekend, but that doesn’tkill my fun.  I’d like to share my happiness with you guys, hoping you feel happy too. Since it also involved my wheelchair I thought why not put it in my wheelchair stories category: it technically is a wheelchair story ;).

So Thursday evening my fellow Hippo (my partner) and I arrived at my parent’s house. Usually my partner stays at our house, but this time he came along for our special dinner on Friday. I enjoy everything more when he’s around. Not just because I feel a lot safer and know I’m in good hands when I have a panic attack or something. I love him a lot and just enjoy spending every minute with him.
I was in time to go with my mom to the zumba class, which is always a lot of fun. I’ll talk about that some other time 🙂
Sadly, I couldn’t go to hot yoga on Friday, because my body was in a too bad shape, but my fellow Hippo and I did something fun instead. We went to our favourite thrift shop! Yay, I wanted to go there again for a while now, especially with my partner. Even though we couldn’t find everything we needed, I’m still happy with the things we did buy. I bought a lovely t-shirt which looks new and is nice and soft. It was even in sale! That’s one of the things that makes this thrift shop so great, but I’ll write more about the thrift shop some other time too. Since it’s one of my favourite pleasure-trips to do and you can do it for like an hour, so our bodies won’t be too sick from it. My brother was kind enough to drive us, so we could go. It’s also easier with carrying the stuff and pushing me in the wheelchair, although I’m quite an experienced shopping cart by now. We also found an old videogame which I couldn’t find for years. It’ll bring back those good old memories and it’s nice to have something easy to do when you’re tired, but not exhausted.

thrift-shop
[Photo of the words Thrift shop on a wall].

Friday evening we went to our favourite restaurant to celebrate that my fellow Hippo, my brother and I graduated for the exams we took. My partner and brother will be going to university now and I’ll take some more exams next year and then probably go too. It was nice to have the family together (my parents, brother, my partner and me). This time I noticed that when we are there, I start to fall even more in love with my partner. I can’t really describe it. I just have even more trouble to stop looking at him and my father already said last time that I looked so amourous at him. Without making the other uncomfortable. It’s not like I don’t feel my love for my partner, I feel it every day every minute. I give it a thought daily to make sure I feel it even more. But we always go there for a special occasion and apparently that makes my butterflies go even more crazy. I’m still in my craze, lol. I just hope he doesn’t see my glances too much, because that might make him feel awkward.
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[Drawing of a woman and a man looking crazy at her, with his mouth wide open while holding flowers and next to him are some hearts]. Maybe it looks like this (if we switch the genders), but I hope I can look a bit more attractive.

Saturday afternoon I planned to go on a ride with the horses. We had already arranged everything with the organisation, so the horse and two helpers were ready and my father came along too. Then it started to rain, hail and thunderstorm all at the same time. Even my undies were soaked, despite my four layers of clothing including rainwear. But when we were back at the stables, because the hail was hurting too much, it stopped and the sun started to shine. We could continue our trip and it was great to breath in the air in the forest and to connect with the horse. At first the horse didn’t want to go (this one always does that as usually people give up and she doesn’t have to work), but we got her to go and she seemed to enjoy the ride.
Saturday evening my father drove my fellow Hippo and I back to our house and the weather was still great. Despite the 5 rain/hail/thunderstorms we had during the day. So I decided to treat myself to a little handbike trip as well. It was great and I absolutely loved the past few days. Today I could spend a lot of time outside (I think 2 hours in total) which I can’t do that often and I just love nature! I haven’t been able to handbike for a while now, but I really enjoy it because it gives me a bit of freedom, once I’ve been set up. But I’ll also tell you more about my handbike some other time 🙂handbike-elektro-ibox
Photo of a handbike attached to a wheelchair (this isn’t the exact same one I have, but it gives you a good idea).

I enjoy and appreciate feeling happy even more, because I was unable to feel this for many years. Even now I have to keep paying attention to doing things I truly enjoy or eventually I won’t do it anymore because of the PTSD and because I think it never gave me that happiness (because I haven’t felt it for a while since I didn’t do the activity). I still regularly I fall back into a depressed state for a short wile, but that’s ok so long it’s only for a short while. My partner supports me with it, although it’s still hard to experience a setback. However, this weekend was just filled with wonderful things and I wanted to share the happiness. It didn’t mean my body and that of my partner was suddenly “normal-able” or we didn’t have mental illnesses anymore. Nope, it’s still us including our diseases. But that doesn’t mean this weekend wasn’t wonderful and I enjoyed it a lot. I hope that my partner can eventually get rid of his recurring depression too and feel the same deep happiness I can feel. He really deserves it. Of course I hope you can all feel this too and also have great days, despite the problems you encounter/have/experience 🙂


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Pushing a wheelchair 101

Pushing a wheelchair can be pretty hard. Not if you’re used to it, but then there are all these different wheelchairs. And it’s not made easier by the environment, or the people in it.

I often joke that lessons or flyers should be given to those who are wheelchair users themselves and the pushers. Or maybe a wheelchair driver’s license? There are so many things I’d like to tell you, which might help you with pushing a wheelchair. You don’t have to discover the wheel again, right? I’ve decided to split this up in multiple lessons.

So, welcome class, to pushing a wheelchair 101!

Important to know is that you shouldn’t be afraid. Usually, we wheelchair users are quite tolerant to wheelchair pushers. It can be fun to hang out with a wheelchair user. Listening to the user’s tips can be quite useful and I always recommend that. Even more, because it’s awful to be so dependant and when people will suddenly move you around and you have no idea what’s happening.
wheelchair_sideview-rigid-footrest

[Image of a drawn wheelchair with arrows to all the different parts, stating the names]

So my first tips:

1. There’s no shame in asking. Be honest if you’re unsure how the wheelchair works (there are soooo many different types!). Ask how to equip/(un)fold it etc. Ask what the other person prefers for speed (you could get dizzy or nauseous fast) and how to take bumps etc.
2. Pretend that you are 3 metres wide and 3 metres long. You are a lot bigger. If you’re unsure if it will fit, then don’t do it. Ask the user what he/she thinks, because he/she’s already more used to the sizes. Remember that wheelchairs also have these footrests, and those are really pointy and long. If you’re in a zoo for example, watch the fence, usually someone will flat my feet against it. And listen to the user’s ques. If you stop when you are in a beautiful spot to see the animal, there’s a big chance the user won’t be able to see it.
3. Look in front of you, in particular pay attention to the ground. There could be glass, or a tile which is lying loose, or dog poo (a wheelchair user might need to use his/her hands close to the wheels and touch them. And you might use a wheelchair inside buildings too).
4. There are bumps everywhere and every bump is too big. In the beginning always take them backwards. So you go first and pull the wheelchair. That’s a lot safer. If you go forwards and lift wrong, the user might fall out. Play it safe and take them backwards. Oh and very important: straight lines. Go towards a sidewalk, bump or ramp straight. Don’t take it from a different angle, because then you can’t get up well and it will stagger or the wheelchair will collapse.
5. Never let go of the wheelchair. Especially with hills. There are always these clowns who think it’s fun to run up and then let you go down. Never do this, even when you think it’s not so steep, or it’s quiet on the road. A wheelchair always has a deviation to the left or right. It won’t go straight, but will pump into a side and the user might fall out. It’s also almost impossible as an user to stop the wheelchair when it’s going fast. So someone has to grap you, or it might go really wrong. Just don’t do it, never. It’s really dangerous and not funny.

Last but not least, try to have fun. Especially in the city, it can be extremely irritating with all the people walking into you and cutting you off. But I’m always very happy and grateful when someone wants to take me. You can have a lot of fun with a wheelchair and mistakes are ok; you can always joke about it.

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A forest, a horse and a wheelchair – a perfect match

I wonder what you thought of when you read my title. What could be the link between this forest, the horse and the wheelchair? ‘Forest’ and ‘horse’ could mean horseriding in the forest, but you can’t put a wheelchair on top of a horse, can you?
I’m very eager to tell you about my hobby and I hope many more people will be able to do this. I hope everyone will understand what I’m saying, since I don’t know the correct terms in English and not many people know about this sport (and it’s language) either. If you have any questions, please ask. I’d be happy to answer them 🙂

When I was younger I did horseriding. But my body became more disabled and ill over time and eventually I had to quit. I tried changing things before, so I could still do it. After a year I started again. I just couldn’t miss it, the connection with the horses and nature that is (I’m not particularly fond of the snobby people that often happen to own a horse). But I had to quit again. It was too bad for my body. I couldn’t walk for at least a week after I rode a horse for like 30 minutes and didn’t do any hard things (even though canter was my favourite gait, I couldn’t do that anymore amongst many other things). I knew I tried everything. There sometimes were ‘special lessons’ for disabled people, but they didn’t fit for me. It was still too much for my back, my pelvis, my hands etc. And at the same time I couldn’t learn anymore, because it was mainly for people with an intellectual disability and always absolute beginner’s level. You have to imagine that I would have to walk the distance, from the entrance of the riding hall to my horse, with crutches and had to get up while holding them, it really was a sight so see.

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[Image of a person on a horse, while standing on the beach in the sunset.]
Photo of someone horse riding.

I came in contact with a wonderful foundation, who taught me a new sport with horses: Driving horses. I already wanted to learn this, but I was too ‘disabled’ to do it the ‘normal way’ and I couldn’t afford it. Thanks to their expertise and supplies, I could still learn it and I even have my “horse driver’s license”. The exam had to be adapted for me (to keep the level standards the same, they actually made mine more difficult. Shows again how ignorant people can be about disabilities and adaptations). The exam organisation didn’t want to let disabled people be ‘real horse drivers’ actually. But eventually we could persuade them. I’m very grateful for one person in particular, since he actually made it all happen (including persuading the exam organisation to give me a fair chance). He arranges volunteers who want to drive the horses of the foundation with me. I always need 2 people with me who also have their license. They need to make the horse ready and put my wheelchair on the carriage. We have a special carriage for that. I also have special reigns, so I won’t have to hold them with my hands.

hrh_lowther_2005_horse_driving
[Image of three people with helmets in a four-wheel-carriage with four black horses in front of it. The horses are galloping through water.]
Someone horse driving with four horses (he’s doing a marathon actually). I’ve only driven with up to two horses so far.

It makes me very happy that I can still visit the forest like this. Since I can’t just walk through a forest and with a normal wheelchair it’s too hard for the person who has to push. And I can still be in touch with horses. It really helps me relax. Another nice touch is that I apparently also help the horses relax. How wonderful that I can help them, while they’re helping me 🙂 I used to train horses so the could be used for lessons and especially had a thing for zappy ones or horses with a bad past, so I’m glad I can still do that a bit. I don’t have the strength another person has, but can still work with them as a team. It’s wonderful and some instructors even pointed me out as an example for others. Which I preferred he wouldn’t have done, because I was really embarrassed! People often hold the reigns too tight, afraid to lose control. I work from an entire different angle. I want to give the horse the least ‘signals/commands’ as possible. The lightest ones, which usually involves a sweet voice. If necessary you can always give more. I adapt my style to the horse’s needs and personality. But I think this is all normal and standard and nothing special actually.

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[Image of two people in a two-wheel-carriage with a black-and-white horse in front of it. The horse is walking on the street.]
Another photo of people driving a horse.

I’m sorry for all my jibber-jabber, I just really love working with animals. Thanks to 10 layers of clothing and the person I mentioned before, I can even drive in the winter (if it isn’t too dangerous). It’s lovely to see the forest during all seasons. Sometimes I might even see wild animals (deer, pigs, birds of prey, rabbits).

I really hope more people will create possibilities like this. I’ve looked everywhere but driving horses for disabled people is very rare, which is very sad. You might find some rides, but then the disabled person is only sitting in the carriage and not actually the driver. This sport gives more possibilities, because people who can’t ride them, might be able to still drive them!

Do you have an ‘uncommon’ hobby or sport that you enjoy?

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Wheelchair stories: my quest for ice cream

I had to buy some yoghurt ice cream in the supermarket. Had to? Yes sort of, I was in the supermarket with someone and that person told me to get the ice cream and she would go get some other things. I wanted to try this yoghurt ice cream, hoping I would be able to eat it, because it’s less fatty.

Well, doing groceries is always an adventure in a wheelchair, or when you’re walking with crutches or probably with any disability actually. I always have to take someone with me, otherwise I can’t even get to the store. But also when you’re inside, you really need some assistance. Mainly, because you can’t reach things (too high, or you can’t use your hands because you’re walking on crutches for example) and sometimes hallways are too narrow (or people or objects are standing in the way). I see more and more adapted supermarkets and that makes me happy. With adapted, they usually have a special wheelchair cash desk, so you can get trough the gates to pay as well. Of course, they have to staff that desk too and my local big supermarket keeps forgetting that. I do get weird looks from the staff when I stand ‘in line’ for the wheelchair cash desk, since it obviously is closed. Which makes me think that it’s obvious that I’m in a wheelchair and need to get the wheelchair cash desk opened. They never did that ,and luckily my wheelchair is small (for a wheelchair), so I figured out I could squish myself through the hallway of the normal cash desk anyway. I still find it a bit stupid though and couldn’t resist writing about it. What do you think about this?

Back to the quest for ice cream. First I need to get it, before I get the quest for paying, which I described above. So, imagine that I’m already at the location where the ice cream is. We skipped all the other obstacles and manouvres and I’m already across the supermarket (I wish it would always go this easy 😉 ). I’m in my manual wheelchair and I have a basked on top of me with stuff (a lot of it, usually). This ice cream was in these vertical standing coolers, which you often see for drinks. All I had to do was open the cooler, grab the right ice cream, close the cooler and done. Easy, right? Uhm.. For ‘normal’ people maybe, lol. My first problem was opening this cooler. To reach the handle, I had to put my wheelchair against the glass, but this also meant that my wheelchair would be in the way if I could get it open. Then the next issue was the weight of the door. I don’t know if you ever realized this, but those doors are really heavy. Because of the rheumatism I always have trouble with them. I could only get it open for a tiny bit and then I quickly had to stick my wheelchair in between, so I could push it further open. There I encountered another issue. These doors close immediately, if you don’t hold them well enough. And I didn’t have the power or could stand at the right spot, so the door would keep pushing me away and close. I’m pretty sure it looked kinda funny and stupid. A lot of people were watching, some of them even got annoyed because I was taking so long and was standing in the way etc. They could have helped me but didn’t and because of all the grim faces and pointy fingers, I didn’t dare to ask for help. I would just wait till my partner in crime got back.

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[Photo of six silver trophies with fake, plastic ice creams in it, making it look like the trophy is the cone].

Side note: If I could keep the door open, the next problem was that the ice cream was unreachable for me. It was on the floor (which I can’t reach because of the wheelchair and the basket, which I can’t lift from my lap) and it was all the way to the back. Never realized how deep those coolers actually are! Oh and the last problem is that I can’t touch cold stuff, because that really hurts. So no freezers or frozen stuff for my hands 😉

Luckily, I got my shopping partner in crime and eventually she could easily get it. When walking to the cash desk she wondered why nobody helped. Well, because that usually happens, I guess? Even if I do ask. However, I’m not sharing this story to grouch about other people’s manners. I thought this would give some insight in how something simple as getting ice cream in the supermarket, can acutally be very difficult. When you’re disabled, you need to keep planning and thinking about every little aspect. Tiring, but it helps when you’ve tried something once. Then you can prepare well the next times (such as taking someone with you to help and don’t let that person leave you 🙂 ).

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