July 23, 2014

Amaya – Accessible Indian Restaurant In Knightsbridge Is Still A Stand Out

Amaya is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant (something of a rare honour) in Belgravia, London.

Having opened in 2004, the restaurant received outstanding reviews and won a series of awards in the mid-noughties before ever so slightly fading from attention. That’s not to say that the standard of food ever slipped – they still serve a fantastic range of stylish pan-Indian tapas – just that everyone naturally moved onto the next hot new thing.  More fool them because Amaya is still amongst the finest purveyors of Indian food going.

To this day the chefs at Amaya continue to conjure up exciting and flavoursome dishes, cooked in the open kitchen with a view of chefs working the clay tandoor, charcoal grill and griddle and served in sharing sized portions. The food is non-traditional Indian (or at least non-traditional ‘British Indian’), featuring grilled dishes and kebabs. It’s delicious as ever and, although it is rather pricey, the restaurant remains stylish and comfortable too with “black granite, dark wooden fitting, terracotta statues and a splash of modern art”.

The restaurant is wheelchair accessible with accessible walkways from Lowndes Street and Motcomb Street. The entrance is on street level and although the main toilets are downstairs, they have an easy access toilet near the entrance of the restaurant which is adapted for wheelchair users.

In these days of instant technology and a constant search for the flavour of the moment longevity is often treated as a handicap rather than the asset that it is. So it’s good to see that Amaya is still serving quality Indian flavours and is accessible too. We give them a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks.


July 21, 2014

Yet More Brilliant Wheelchair Designs: Will Some Be Available To Buy?

There are so many new exciting wheelchair designs out there that we’re forever finding more examples of design concepts from the last few years. Not many are available to buy at the moment but it’s always good to keep abreast of the latest updates and to simply sit back and enjoy the style and creativity of the latest innovative models. Here are a few more concepts we’ve come across in the few months since our last update:

This extraordinary automated, self-balancing personal transport chair was entered into the Michelin Design Challenge by Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi in 2011. Rather than running on wheels the Supple ‘ballchair’ has a single self balancing omnidirectional ball. As a recent Dyson vacuum has shown this gives you an increased ability to turn and manoeuvre and looks futuristic if impractical in other ways at the moment.

Supple 'wheelchair'

Supple ‘wheelchair’

The HXC is inspired by the design of a BMX and was tailor made for extreme wheelchair rider (or ‘hardcore sitter’) Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham. It’s not a huge leap from a traditional wheelchair design but the frame is all one piece, giving it extra rigidity, as well as multi-link suspension, with dual coil-over shocks. The designer had a working prototype back in 2010 which he sent to Aaron Fotheringham, and to Colours Wheelchairs, the company that made the athlete’s chair. However, there is now no trace of the HXC on the Colours website and Fotheringham uses a custom made Box Wheelchair these days.

HXC Wheelchair

HXC Wheelchair

The frame and mechanics of this wheelchair are pretty standard but the patchwork covering really stands out. The Sergio Calatroni Art Room in Milan customised the wheelchair for their Italian art director, Fabrizio Sclavi, a few years ago. The textile patchwork seat is really interesting and, although it may be a little loud for some people, in our opinion it’s very cool. It definitely gives the chair a bit of style and panache that it may otherwise lack.


The Muto is a concept for a funky wheelchair which can be folded up to a brilliantly transportable size. The wheelchair frame is made from a lightweight aluminium that not only appears sleek and streamlined when unfolded but has been engineered to safely accommodate loads up to an impressive 130kg. It’s a fantastic concept which we’d love to see go further. The only concern may be about the apparent lack of a footrest.



Speaking of footrests, this concept has a new approach with a Japanese kneeling posture being used rather than the standard sitting position. The model is called the Seiza and was designed by Vera Kunhartova. This new stance and positioning has many benefits including allowing the pressure to be transferred, which can bring a positive result on the user’s health (better blood circulation, activation of different muscles, etc.) and works positively for prevention of additional injuries (pressure ulcers, thrombosis, etc.).

The chair also looks really good too (like many of these chairs, opting for some bright green colouring) and has been going through lots of testing in the last few years. It’s not available to buy yet but hopefully it will be soon. It’s an innovative new design which could be really comfortable. It is something you’d want to test out and it’s a shame that it’s so difficult to try wheelchairs before you buy.


Finally for this update, Parafree is a sleek, minimalist wheelchair that offers a functional, stylish & sporty look. We’ve seen in many of these designs that green is the new black but the Parafree reminds everyone that black is still the original. This is very sleek and stripped back giving a modern and slick appeal. With one front wheel and a device at the back to prevent falling backwards, this design makes for a more well balanced and agile experience whilst looking cool too.



Once again we can see that wheelchair design is going places – designers love to solve problems in creative ways and the less able market is an ideal place to do that! Cross your fingers that at least some of these ideas make it to a more mainstream market soon!


July 18, 2014

Let’s Talk About Steps – New Ways To Adapt A Property With A Staircase.

Let’s talk about steps. That might not be an opening sentence to inspire confidence or to get the mind racing but steps are, for people with reduced mobility, something that are a real nuisance and a routine source of frustration. They’re a pain but for many less able people there’s no way around it, even at home, you need to get upstairs. You need to get a stairlift.

For years stairlifts have been mocked and maligned as ugly, slow and intrusive. There’s no doubt that even the clunkiest stairlifts are essential and life changing mechanisms for people who need them, but why couldn’t they look a bit less sterile and clinical? Can’t we have a little more style on our stairways?

Clearly the answer to that question is yes because we’ve found that, as with all mobility equipment, there is an increasing number people out there who have thought the same thing and have found stylish solutions to steps.

A classic stairlift - helpful but dull and ugly

A classic stairlift – helpful but dull and ugly

Possibly the most ingenious solution comes from Sesame Access who design ‘invisible’ lifts for building entrances. The mechanisms hide underneath retractable flights of stairs until needed. Then when somebody wants to take the lift, the stairs disappear and a platform lift emerges to lift them upstairs. The retractable flights of stairs – normally only up to 1.5 metres in height – are designed to fit in seamlessly with the original architecture of the building so that, if you weren’t looking, you’d never spot them.

Sesame lifts have been used at Kensington Palace, UK Supreme Court, Apple stores and France and Germany, Sotheby’s in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Tate Britain and The Barbican Centre and were recently featured on the BBC programme Building Dream Homes. Most of the lifts have been used at entrances but they also work inside. Take a look at this video, which recently went viral, that shows how these remarkable lifts work.

Another alternative to a traditional stairlift comes in the form of Stiltz Lifts. These are two person lifts which can be installed in your house and powered by a standard household plug. It uses a unique dual rail system or ‘stilts’ which create a completely self-supporting structure. The weight of the structure and lift car is carried in compression through the rails into the floor of the home with no extra weight burden on the house. They only take a day to be installed and because they can be put almost anywhere in the house, despite their considerable size, you can put one somewhere discrete.


Stiltz Lifts

But what of old school stairlifts? Well, it’s not just that we now have alternatives, the stairlift companies have begun to address the issue of how their products look too. Growing demand and the increasing number of stairlift providers has forced them to up their game and improve the way that the chairs and rails look.

For instance, Stannah, one of the more recognisable names in the world of ‘alternative staircase transport’, have brought style and colour to their systems, as seen in the picture below. It’s always tricky with these showcase photos to ascertain how much it’s the product on display that you like or if it’s just the amazing decoration around it that ‘lifts’ it up. But the colourful patterned chair and fairly unobtrusive mechanics really fit in like part of the furniture, which is exactly what it should be. Indeed, that’s exactly what it is!


Stylish Stannah

Something rather similar could be said about this model of curved stairlift. In fact, the idyllic family scene being played out makes it even harder to take the stairlift at face value. Although, having said that, we’ve seen plenty of other chair models which take the approach of putting a stairlift in what would otherwise already be a ‘dream home’ and it still looks clunky and out of place.

With a monorail style track and swivel chair mechanism this Flow2 single rail stairlift can fit on any almost any staircase and can even work on spiral staircases! Another example of how stairlifts can fit in easily to existing environments.

Innovative-Modern-Cool-Facinating-Stair-Lift-1 (1)

Monorail! Monorail! The Flow2 Stairlift

Whether it’s a stairlift or an emerging alternative design, there are some interesting and eye catching new ways of negotiating stairways. Through a combination of innovation and realisation that elderly and less able people value aesthetics the industry is making improvements. There’s still a way to go but it’s good to see that style is now being considered and we hope to find more developments in this area in the future too!


July 17, 2014

Hola – Holiday Happiness is a Lift……Weekly Wrap From Spain

Just back from Spain, Cala de Mijas – located on the coast between Marbella and Malaga. We stayed in a Miami style villa which had nearly everything you’d need for an accessible and stylish holiday. Read on and I’ll tell you a tale of Alice in Wonderland, Cross Dressing & Andalusian experiments with liquid nitrogen……….

A Miami Style Villa In Cala de Mijas. Access All Areas - Well Nearly??

A Miami Style Villa In Cala de Mijas. Access All Areas – Well Nearly??

Cala de Mijas is right on the beach and everything is close by so there was no need for a car/taxi when venturing out, which we did every evening. However, if you do need a wheelchair accessible taxi, they do exist and we got ours through Simply Shuttles for the airport transfers (€70 each way).

This was one of the best villas we’ve stayed at and we will definitely return, especially as it was on the beach where a sea breeze kept us cool. You can see from this link that although it’s expensive (€4950+, 5 double bedrooms and a guest house) it is wheelchair accessible. For once the term is correct, I could access everywhere through the installation of an interior glass lift. That doesn’t mean my companions didn’t try to get me up some stairs one night after too much wine. Very funny to see a young man trapped on a step under my foot plates….but I digress…Back to the villa and its facilities.

Snap of the Beautiful People Soon To Be Immersed In An Innuendo frenzy- BTW Sea Is In The Background

Snap of the Beautiful People Soon To Be Immersed In An Innuendo frenzy- BTW Sea Is In The Background


Happiness was a Central Glass Lift Giving Access To All, just Behind The Totem Pole??

Happiness Was a Central Glass Lift Giving Access To All, Just Behind The Totem Pole??

The disabled room was on the lowest level and the only issue I had was the low toilet but after a while I got used to it. The bathroom was a wet room but there was not a lot of room to manoeuvre, but again it was manageable. The real plus was the automatic adjustable bed and the provision of a mobility scooter and an extra wheelchair, if needed. However, the ramp to the pool was steep and I needed a push to get to the top where the pool was located and there was no automatic chair to get into the pool. I did however manage a ‘dip’ with the help of a rubber ring with handles which everyone got hold of and gently lifted me in and out of the water. I’m not leaving home again without one……..

As I said, Cala de Mijas is small but there are two places of note to visit, a restaurant called El Olivo and Legends both are easy to find in amongst the back streets of the town. El Olivo restaurant is open air and serves modern european food along with better wines than you find in the supermarkets (tel: 952 58 75 00, La Butiplaya, C/ Butiplaya 5, La Cala de Mijas); the portions were big which pleased the young men in our party. Legends is an intimate (tiny) bar/cabaret club where we saw Guapatini a drag artist that relentlessly picked on my nephew and his friend. There was an innuendo frenzy but he/she was hilarious with a great voice. A great time was had by all, even my nephew! Here’s a video of his act but I’ve no idea who he’s with!?

Finally we did venture into Marbella and had a fantastic meal at Restaurante Dani Garcia,  a 2 Michelin Star chef  of “Andalusian tradition, from where he projects,…a playful sensibility and state of the art  techniques”.

Dani Garcia Outside His Restaurant That Had Surprises Galore Including Birdsong In The Most Unusual Place???

Dani Garcia Outside His Restaurant That Had Surprises Galore Including Birdsong In The Most Unusual Place???

Apparently he was the first to develop the culinary use of liquid nitrogen at -196ºC (-303ºF) and for a time he was the only European chef, apart from Blumenthal and Adrià, to use nitrogen in this way. His restaurant had themes from Alice in Wonderland, there were teapots serving after dinner delicacies and the disabled toilet even had birdsong to keep you calm – I guess? Best disabled toilet I’ve ever been to and the food wasn’t bad either, I recommend the “Once Upon a Time… Menu” which are small teaspoons of treats such as ‘Sharpening the Pencil’ which had shavings of truffle with foie gras (I think), delicious. This is definitely a 3 BBS Tick restaurant (even though the access involves a tortuous route of lifts, ramps and a few stairs, but it’s worth it).

Teapots Dispensed After Dinner Treats At The Alice In Wonderland Inspired Restaurant of Dani Garcia

Teapots Dispensed After Dinner Treats At The Alice In Wonderland Inspired Restaurant of Dani Garcia

What an adventure but I’m back in England now just waiting to go to the ‘Social Innovation Tournament’ in Budapest. Will report back when I return as there are varying stories on its accessibility…….Until then enjoy the sun.


July 16, 2014

Holiday Travel Tips For Less Physically Able People

Because we enjoy the summer, we enjoy holidays and we enjoy sharing advice for and from our disabled community we decided that we wanted to put together the definitive guide of travel tips for people with disabilities. We’ve broken down some tips into four key areas for anyone planning a holiday. Take a look and add your own top tips in the comments below!

Finding a Hotel

Don’t simply trust the hotel website stating they have an accessible room – this can often just be a room on the ground floor. Ask for photographs of the disabled facilities so you know what to expect. Some hotels are funny about doing this so call and ask complex/detailed questions – they’ll usually capitulate and send you a photo.

If they won’t provide photos, take as much time as necessary to call the hotel and ask questions that require thorough responses. Don’t ask yes or no questions as they won’t help as much and it’s possible that the person you speak to can just guess the answers.

Listen between the lines, if they don’t seem to know the answers to your questions it suggests that the hotel is not used to having disabled guests. There may be a reason for that.

Accessible hotel rooms with style. There is such a thing!

Accessible hotel rooms with style. There is such a thing!

Tell them about your needs. You don’t have to tell them your entire medical history but a rough idea will help them gauge if their access is appropriate for you.

You probably know best what to ask for but there are a few things to check for that hotel staff may not necessarily consider themselves:

  • Is there step free access and/or lift access to main entrance and automatic doors?
  • Level, ramped or lift access to public areas and above ground floor accessible rooms.
  • Are room doors wide enough (750mm min for wheelchair) and is there space to move around inside?
  • Do they have a walk/wheel in shower with grab rails and seat?
  • Emergency cords, how many and where are they located?
  • Is everything you need to use – the bed, the sink, the toilet, wardrobes, switches, plugs etc. – at wheelchair height?
  • Is there a designated person to give assistance to wheelchair users, sign language, blind guidance, please comment. What training if any have they done?

If possible find a hotel which isn’t on a hill. It will save unnecessary effort or worse…


What To Take

Make sure your phone has all the essential numbers in it. If it’s got our App installed you will have details of cool venues to visit across Europe!

Keep a copy of booking confirmation emails so you can prove you booked assistance, a disabled room, an accessible taxi etc.

Don’t forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers pre-existing conditions, apparently??

My checklist is now money, passport, tickets, and medication. After forgetting some drugs when I went to Cyprus, due to customs implications and in desperation, I went to a local doctor who gave me an equivalent drug which was so strong I kept falling asleep mid-sentence. Although most drugs are the same as those from the NHS and more readily available than you’d think, in the EU at least, it’s far easier to remember the medication. It may be a holiday but you don’t want to drift off at inopportune times.

830488762 Preparing Your Wheelchair

To reduce the chance of something breaking, if your chair has not been serviced recently, send it to a repair shop for a general check over.

If you’re going further afield or expecting rough access it might be worth customising your wheelchair to make it a bit more practical on uneven environments (for instance, you may want to see if you can rent a power pack so you can travel around more in your chair). Take your wheelchair to a shop and see what they recommend.

Take a pump for your tyres – it will also be useful for your pool inflatables! I always take a rubber ring with handles as we’ve found it makes getting into and out of a pool easier if there’s no pool lift.

Have copy of your wheelchair’s assembly manual with you. Also take an allen key kit and some water resistant grease spray to avoid water damage to bearings etc.

Carrying luggage is tricky but one method is to take a backpack that fits on the back of your chair (make sure it’s secure to avoid pickpocket problems) along with a day bag with essentials (drugs, wipes, phone, sunscreen & sunglasses – they make you look glamorous even after a difficult flight) on your lap or underneath your chair. Or get assistance and they can carry it for you.

If you're taking more than a backpack's worth, you may need assistance

If you’re taking more than a backpack’s worth, you may need assistance

Remember to take disability aids. Airlines let you take at least 2 extra pieces of luggage (no weight restrictions). I always take a portable grab rail (only works on glass unfortunately but useful for an unfamiliar shower cubicle), portable bed rails for assistance into and out of bed and a portable toilet frame (see our post on portable travel equipment here) just in case the facilities are not as described.


Airport staff are there to help wherever assistance is necessary (and in some cases where it’s not). Call the airline to buy your ticket and tell them about your requirements. Then notify them of your arrival again 48 hours before your flight.

It’s hard to recommend any particular airline as it comes down to the staff rather than the company policy. However, it’s probably fair to say that budget airlines – where rushing everyone on and off the plane as fast as possible is the modus operandis – will provide a less comfortable experience, although in my experience Easyjet is now much better and is as good as BA.

In the case that your wheelchair is lost or damaged make sure you fill in the Property Irregularity Report at the airport and at EU airports demand a replacement.

Take your wheelchair cushion on the plane to sit on and to make sure it doesn’t get lost.

This is a good site for airport information, along with our previous post on airline travel.

When you’re there

Accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean ramps and lifts in other countries and their approach may be more physical (i.e. lifting you up themselves) so be ready for that.

"If it's the only way to the toilet, it's the only way to the toilet"

“If it’s the only way to the toilet, it’s the only way to the toilet”

Make sure you know how to say disabled, accessible, wheelchair/blind/deaf, etc in the language of the country you’re going to or at least have the words written down

If a museum lacks elevators for visitors, be sure to ask about freight elevators.

Bike shops are excellent for tire repairs if your wheelchair gets a flat.

Please let us know if you have any helpful tips for less able people who are going on holiday. We want to share ideas with as many people as possible!