January 29, 2015
January 29, 2015
January 28, 2015
I recently went to Hubbard & Bell – the restaurant at the Hoxton Holborn hotel (sister to original Hoxton hotel, which was one of the most disabled aware venues I have ever visited) which has lived up well to the original version in terms of style and access.
The decision to keep the Hoxton hotel name as they branch out the Hoxton brand into new areas may seem potentially confusing to some, but the image of Hoxton hipster style is now so well known that the name gives you a good sense of what to expect. At the Hoxton Holborn, the trendy Shoreditch vibe has been transported into a more central London location and given the slightest polish to fit in with the new surroundings. While the urban chic style remains, complete with vintage furniture and an embarrassment of coolness, you’re less likely to find as many beards here as you would back in Hoxton.
I only went to Hubbard & Bell restaurant on my visit, rather than staying in the hotel, but it was a great place to eat – not too expensive and really stylish. I recommend the salmon with horseradish and truffle flavour chips in particular. The restaurant has flat access and plenty of room even when it’s very busy (as it was when I visited). There’s also a disabled toilet there.
Access at Hubbard & Bell was excellent and the hotel itself sounds good too, even if the accessible options are a little pricey. Having moved from Hoxton to Holborn, they say that space is at an even greater premium than ever, so many of the hotel’s rooms (described as Cosy, Snug and Shoebox in size) are too small for reasonable wheelchair access. As a result it’s only the top rate rooms that have been made fully wheelchair accessible. These ‘Roomy’ rooms have larger bathrooms, grab handles and emergency buttons and also connect to Snug rooms for a carer or family member. I can see where they’re coming from but it’s a shame that access is only available in the most expensive rooms.
It leaves me with a problem: should I credit or criticise Hoxton Holborn? It’s not the first time that difficulties around accessibility will mean paying more and, based on how inclusive the original Hoxton hotel is, I’m sure that they have the best of intentions here. However, after weighing it up, I think that points do need to be deducted for lack of accessibility and facilities in a good deal of the hotel.
If I was just rating the Hubbard & Bell restaurant I would give a higher score as I had a great meal, but overall the Hoxton Holborn gets 2 BBS Ticks for Hoxton style and at least having some accessible rooms (not always a guarantee!).
January 27, 2015
The James Dyson Awards celebrate, encourage and inspire the next generation of design engineers. The competition brief is simple: design something that solves a problem. After all, it has been said that that is the essence of good design. One area where we still have many problems to solve through design is disability and, as a result, there are lots of exciting new assistive ideas to look at from ‘The Dysons” (presuming that somebody, somewhere has called them that before). Here are the best designs we saw in the 2014 awards:
The Luke Stairwalker is an assistive device to help elderly and disabled people who have trouble climbing stairs. The device is an adapted hand grip that can lock onto customized handrails and provide a more ergonomic support for walking upstairs. The gripping device gives extra support on the stairs and has mechanism that means it won’t slide back in the wrong direction. Additionally, there is a backrest that can be positioned in the rear to rest on when necessary and to act as a safeguard from falling. It could be a cheaper alternative to having to have a full stair-lift installed and the design was awarded with a top 20 place in the competition.
The creatively titled Vehicle For The Disabled is a re-imagining of a wheelchair, specifically designed for transporting paraplegic people in a standing up position. It’s a concept for an electric wheelchair which would be more adjustable and practical than the majority of wheelchairs are at the moment. The idea would be for the vehicle to mainly function with the user in a standing position but with a lifting system in the chair that could raise and lower the user, as and when necessary, and a swivel function to make getting into the chair easier. As you can see below, it’s very much just a concept at this point but it’s a bold one for a real alternative to standard electric wheelchairs.
Great minds were thinking alike at the Dyson Awards, which lead to another design in a very similar vein to the ‘Vehicle for the disabled’ in the form of Qolo - one of the overall winners of the James Dyson Award and the best performing design relating to disability. Qolo is also a wheelchair device for upright locomotion and sit-to-stand transfer but the really remarkable thing is that it allows for hands free movement. The device is controlled by small movements of leaning forwards and twisting left and right to control where you go. This means that the experience closely replicates standard movement behaviour of the ‘not yet disabled’ and restores three locomotion functions used before getting lower limb disability. It really is an innovative new idea.
20:20 is a Universal Timepiece which uses both visual and tactile methods to tell the time. Obviously it’s the tactile function which makes this watch innovative and assists people with visual impairments. The outer minute dial and the inner hour dial rotate about the fixed reference dial, all of which use indentations to indicate their relative positions. This means that you can feel what time it is rather than needing to watch the watch hands go round. It’s a good idea but it is one we’ve seen before in the form of the Bradley Timepiece which is a bit cooler, a little bit clearer and crucially is already available to buy.
Another James Dyson Awards design which reminded us of something we’d seen before is The moveker C1 - which was awarded a top 20 place at the Dysons (still not sure anyone calls them that). It’s a clever wheelchair design, using a lever system to mean you can go further and faster. By generating power through levers, attached to each wheel, the difference in effort required is remarkable and this wheelchair looks quite cool too. Having said that, it also looks quite a lot like the Leveraged Freedom Chair which applies a very similar mechanism and has been around for a while. Of course two people can have the same good idea separately but we have seen this sort of thing before, which rather takes away from the ‘wow factor’ for us.
Two designs for prosthetic limbs featured and we’re going to group them together as they’re vaguely similar although very different at the same time. Limbitless is an affordable, functional, 3D printed arm replacement, for children who are lower arm amputees. It has an inbuilt mechanism allowing the wearer to pick up objects and use their arm as they could before amputation. The other prosthetic design was KLIPPA, a prosthetic leg designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. It’s unique design has a high level of flexibility and articulation compared to standard prosthetics. Both fill their own niche and have new approaches to increasing function and mobility through prosthetic limbs, although most people would probably agree that Limbitless is more ground-breaking.
Finally, there were four different designs for walking aids at the Dysons, which again we’ll group together. Firstly, there was the Sit & Stand - a hands-free walking assistance device which is worn by attaching it to your leg. Somewhere between a crutch and a prosthesis, this is an innovative solution, but more for short term injuries than long term mobility problems.
Then there was the WALKO design for a collapsible assisting walking stick, which uses the aid of hydraulics system to ease and support the user through walking, standing up and climbing up stairs. It’s practical for storage but perhaps the hydraulics system is aiming a little to high for the market at this stage.
Less innovative but more attractive, the Handycane and Kiklo are quite similarly styled walking sticks with looped handles and muted colours. Both are ergonomic and look appealing. Once more we’re seeing that great minds truly do think alike as, not only are these two designs so similar, we’ve also seen other variations on the Handycane/Kiklo theme from other designers prior to the James Dyson Awards. So many designers can’t all be wrong so were sure something like this will be available to buy soon.
There were many interesting assistive designs featured at the James Dyson Awards. It’s wonderful to see a design titan using his profile to highlight innovative new ideas from young designers in the world of assistive tech. The process begins all over again next week when this year’s competition opens and we look forward to seeing the exciting designs that the next generation of designers come up with in 2015!
January 26, 2015
I recently visited an eccentric gastro-pub on Kings Road called The Jam Tree. The bar is pretty trendy but was not the best experience for a wheelchair user such as myself.
The pub was a Time Out Love London award winner in 2014 and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The food good was and not too expensive. It’s a mix of British and Colonial-inspired food (curries, battered squid and the obligatory pulled pork burger) and they also make signature cocktails made with Jam as an ingredient. On top of that, The Jam Tree had great atmosphere, although perhaps there were a few Made in Chelsea wannabes.
Unfortunately the pub’s superb garden – which should be one of its key selling points – has no wheelchair access to it as there are loads of steps down from inside and even more steps around the garden. It’s a shame because you can see how it’s become one of the area’s most popular beer gardens. On a more positive note, the main bar is more accessible and step free. There’s just a small ledge at the front door but otherwise there’s smooth floor. There’s not a lot of space inside but I did manage to sit comfortably apart from there being no disabled toilet. So I was comfortable but couldn’t stay comfortable there for too long!
The Jam Tree is cool but is let down by its accessibility (or lack thereof). It gets 1.5 BBS Ticks – almost purely on the basis of stylishness.
January 23, 2015
The 3 BBS Ticks are the gold standard for style and accessibility. Today we’re giving out 3 Ticks for the following…
What to know…
Bradley Cooper is currently on cinema screens, starring in the Oscar nominated American Sniper, but it’s also recently been announced that he’ll be crossing the Atlantic this summer to star in a West End version of The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Cooper, who was once named the best looking man in the world, is not the first person who would spring to mind to play the title role (AKA John Merrick – AKA Joseph Merrick which was actually the Elephant Man’s real name). Even more surprisingly he doesn’t use any make up to become the Elephant Man but relies on movement alone to play the role. Nonetheless, his performance was well reviewed on Broadway and will make interesting viewing.
It should be a fantastic show and is bound to reignite the debate about able bodied actors playing disabled roles, which has been brought up lately surrounding Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking (which earned him an Oscar nomination up against Cooper). There are only two wheelchair spaces in the theatre which will mean tickets go quickly for this 12 week run.
Book tickets for The Elephant Man via http://elephantmanlondon.com/
What to eat…
Stop! Haggis Time.
Some say that the mixture of sheep’s heart and stomach makes haggis the food they simply can’t touch but it’s an important part of what makes Burns Night so special. This year it seems particularly pertinent to celebrate Burns Night after the Scottish Referendum result kept us all part of the same United Kingdom. And anyway, when did anyone need an excuse to indulge and drink good whisky?
A variety of BBS Rated restaurants are celebrating Burns Night with distinctively Scottish menus and many are also providing pipers and speakers to address the haggis. Some of the options we’ve picked out are Blueprint Cafe (2 BBS Ticks) where they have a special 3 course menu, Boisdale Belgravia (1.5 BBS Ticks) for an unrestrained celebration, J Sheekey (2.5 BBS Ticks) which will even be sending guests away with a small bottle of Chivas whiskey for the road on Burns Night and Quo Vadis (2 BBS Ticks) for something a little more subtle. That’s just a handful of ideas but whatever you’re doing this Sunday don’t forget to raise a glass to Rabbie.
What to buy…
Mahabis slippers are a new brand of adaptable, comfortable and stylish shoes for inside and outdoors. They’re modern, cool and it appears they might be really suitable for people who find finding shoes to get on of easily and wear comfortably difficult. They’re made of 100% soft, sculpted, sheep’s wool which is substantial enough to provide warmth, but light and short enough to prevent overheating. They also have detachable soles that can flick-on and clip-down in seconds. Collapsible heels make the slippers easy to slip-on and more practical for anyone who has difficulty with shoes. Combining style with practicality is what we love to see – they look excellent.
They’re available online for £59 http://mahabis.com/pages/the-slipper