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December 17, 2014
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Blue Badge Style Three Tick Christmas Wish List

The 3 BBS Ticks are the gold standard for style and accessibility. Today we’re giving out 3 Christmassy Ticks for the following 3 things…

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What to buy / be bought!…

Give someone a way to keep their Blue Badge in Style this Christmas by giving them a trendy holder from the Blue Badge Company. They have a range of sophisticated and stylish wallets in which to store and display your blue badge. Beautifully designed and beautifully packaged, these are such a marked improvement on other (often awful) wallets and highlight style rather than disability, whereas too many other options highlight the disability without an ounce of style.

'Cordovan Creek' wallet from the Blue Badge Company

‘Cordovan Creek’ wallet from the Blue Badge Company

We’ve made several gift idea lists for less able girls, guys and kids this Christmas (all emphasising that you must buy for the person not the disability) but we’re going to highlight these again because, as Christmas is getting closer, shopping online may lead to a nail-biting, finger-crossing delivery process. Unlike many or most of the other gift ideas we suggested, these are also available offline, with Boots and some Post Offices having them on sale. So if you’ve left it too late to buy online you can still treat someone to one of these trendy wallets. A great way to bring a little style to someone’s blue badge.

10847895_765417220193313_5026010286886287421_nWhere to go…

City Social – Jason Atherton’s latest ‘Social’ Restaurant – is a great London restaurant experience. The views are spectacular from the 24th floor of Tower 42. The food and service is also excellent as expected from a Michelin starred restaurant. Even though it’s City based, it doesn’t feel swamped by suits.

This is highly recommended for a restaurant or a bar visit over Christmas or any other time of year. Access is from street level with a private lift. All the facilities are on one level floor. The disabled toilet in the ladies is well equipped and there is one in the gents as well. And like all the toilets there is a view of the city while you’re in there!!

City Social, Great View From Bar & Toilets - Good Access/Facilities Too

City Social, Great View From Bar & Toilets – Good Access/Facilities Too

Quite possibly the most scenic disabled toilet in London! They get their own 3 BBS Ticks rating for excellent access and style.

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What to know…

Hanging Christmas decorations from the ceiling can be a serious hazard, as we found out at our Christmas party. The decorations looked lovely when we hung them up but they weren’t quite so attractive when they were raining down on the heads of the our guests! I don’t want to sound over the top, but people were literally scattering in fear, ducking for cover and howling in agony as the soft purple ribbon came floating down onto/near them. One poor person (almost) fell over, another spilt some of their drink (although it was about their twelfth, so that may not have entirely been down to the mishap with the decorations).

But seriously, I’d advise against hanging decorations in this way as it’s easy for them to all be knocked down at once. A lot of planning went into the Cabaret themed night and by and large it was a big success but the deluge of collapsing decorations was… a low point.

Oh well, I learnt to make sure everything’s more securely attached in the future. Take a look at the ‘devastation’ below…

Before…

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Winter wonderland

After…

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The horror, the horror

hm82 - Hitch Mylius

December 16, 2014
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Designing An Accessible Home – Following The Footsteps Of Frank Lloyd Wright

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Legendary architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright – officially the greatest American architect – designed more than 1,000 different structures during his iconic career. He’s probably best known for the stunning Fallingwater – “the greatest work of American architecture” and The Guggenheim, amongst others. Less well known is a small house in Rockford, Illinois that he built for Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent. It was the only fully accessible home he ever designed and something of a forerunner to modern inclusive design.

The Rockford residence was made for paraplegic navy veteran Kenneth Laurent and his wife Phyllis, between 1949 and 1952. Wright called the house “my little gem” and developed an uncharacteristic friendship with the Laurents, maintaining close contact with them after the house was built. He would visit them personally at the house and invited them to “drop in any time” at Taliesin, Wright’s Wisconsin home. When he came to look back at his career, he placed the little house in Rockford amongst his top 35 most significant designs.

Kenneth and Phyllis both passed away in 2012, having spent almost sixty years in the house (they’d moved into a care home shortly before), leaving it to be turned into a museum for others to enjoy as much as they did. The first, and in fact only, home Frank Lloyd Wright made for a wheelchair-bound person was opened earlier this year as a museum dedicated to the architect.

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The house features an accessible design that was all but unique for the time. The curving shape means manoeuvring from room to room is seamless and involves no navigating around difficult corners. Wide corridors mean that wheelchair users never have to reverse their chair but can always turn around instead. Built-in, wheelchair-height bookshelves and low, panoramic windows put everything at the right height for a wheelchair user. Wright also designed all of the furniture in the house to be easy to use and stylish to look at. It seems almost needless to say, that the entire house is step free. It’s a remarkable building that was way ahead of its time.

But we aren’t all lucky enough to have iconic, world renowned architects to design accessible buildings for us. For that matter, few can afford to have their house built for them from scratch by any architect at all. So, with that in mind, what can we do to make an accessible living space on a tighter budget?

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For wheelchair users the key is to maximise floor space and create more room to move around. Thank heavens for modern perks like wall mounted TVs and clever storage facilities which save space. The floor also needs to be smooth and flat – wooden or laminate flooring are ideal both for getting around and from a style point of view, so that’s a win win.

Picking the right furniture is important but can be a real challenge to do whilst remaining stylish. Recliners are comfortable and can help with blood flow and improve circulation. They also make it easier to to sit down and perhaps more importantly to get back up again independently. Similarly, high back chairs are good for the many people for whom low chairs are a struggle and provide excellent back support. But where are the stylish options for either type of chair? Attractive furniture choices are few and far between if you look on specialist websites and stores. Partly this is because you can buy this kind of furniture in most furniture shops anyway but we’ve seen some truly hideous recliners on mobility sites (sorry, but it’s true).

However, one trendy option designed specifically for healthcare use can be found at Hitch Mylius. Addressing the particular requirements of care homes and the needs of the elderly, hm82 by Kenneth Grange comprises ergonomically designed high-backed and low-backed chairs with or without arms. They’re ergonomic, comfortable, supportive and cool. Through these designs, also known collectively as Edith chairs, Hitch Mylius show they are providing “an exciting departure from the traditional and dated furniture currently available for this growing and increasingly sophisticated market.”

hm82 - Hitch Mylius

hm82 – Hitch Mylius

Another thing to consider in the living room area is whether or not to ditch the coffee table in favour of smaller side tables. This does help to save space, making it easier to get around and also means there’s plenty of table space throughout the room. Having a few small tables rather than one big one can make plenty of sense if you’re not particularly mobile. We’d recommend this Eileen Grey table based on personal experience. Its stand out feature is that it’s adjustable so you can raise or lower it to whatever height you need – this has been ideal for a wheelchair user. And it looks great too.

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Storage space is key on two fronts. It creates more space to move in and keeps unsightly equipment out of sight. If this can be combined with any other furniture in the room all the better (e.g. under tables or using the seat of a chair), but keeping things out the way is of major importance. It’s tricky to do and dependent on the space your working with but the key is that if you can maximise space, you maximise the accessibility of the living room.

Not everybody has a Frank Lloyd Wright to make their home accessible but with a little extra effort you can get something close to the brilliant house that the Laurents enjoyed!

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December 12, 2014
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5 Ideas for Shops, Bars & Restaurants to Welcome Disabled People this Christmas

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’tis the season to be jolly but DisabledGO’s recent report on accessibility made for rather depressing reading –  less than a third of departments have accessible changing rooms, two thirds of retail staff have no training in how to help disabled customers and 40% of restaurants have no accessible toilet. In response to all the gloom and doom, we’re here to add a little sparkle, with 5 top tips for shops, bars and restaurants to improve the experience for disabled people at Christmas. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune:

1.  Be welcoming. Disabled people want to be treated like customers, not an inconvenience. If you don’t know what to do; ask us!

2.  Put images of the facilities you do have and any potential obstacles on your website. People with disabilities want to know what to expect and make an informed decision. A ramp may be helpful to a person in a wheelchair, but difficult for a person who uses a stick.

3.  If you’ve got a large toilet, put some grab rails and an emergency pull cord in – avoid making your disabled toilet what we call a ‘Quasi Khazi’. If you don’t know where to put them, ask someone! It’s highly likely that one of your team knows someone with a disability.

4.  Get a portable ramp and share it with other local shops.  Put up some handrails. Let people know you have one and train staff in how to use it.

5.  Be patient and willing. It costs nothing, but makes a lot of difference to people with a disability.

Addressing the needs of disabled people could be the difference between you or a competitor getting their business and these tips show that it’s really not that difficult to do. We can all work together to make sure disabled people can also enjoy the festivities to the full and businesses can benefit. It’s freedom shared!

It’s so simple and makes such a big difference for the customer and the business. The Equality Act of 2010 obliges organisations to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, we think these adjustments could be made quickly and easily. If you agree, then decide that 2015 will be the year you become properly accessible to a demographic with a potential £200bn to spend. Or better yet. act now and make 2014 the most accessible Christmas ever.

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'Cordovan Creek' wallet from the Blue Badge Company

December 11, 2014
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Christmas Present Ideas – Ideas On What To Get For Less Able Ladies

Welcome to our final guide on Christmas presents for 2014. This time we’re looking at ideas for less physically able bodied ladies.

We start, as always, by saying that we understand disability doesn’t mean you want completely different presents and that 9 times out of 10 the best presents work whether able bodied or otherwise. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t something that needs to be considered in the buying process. We also need to mention that although this is officially the ‘ladies’ guide, there is a lot of crossover between this and our previous guides. The gender division of the present ideas has, in some cases, been completely arbitrary and just as there are suggestions here that are not just for women there are plenty of ideas in our gents gift guide that we think women will love too. OK, let’s crack on.

WheelieChix-Chic create clothing for female wheelchair users that is not just ‘functional’ but can be aesthetic, sexy, contemporary and stylish. Being in a seated position all day throws up its own challenges to remaining fashionable as most clothes aren’t designed to accommodate this. However, WheelieChix-Chic are one of a handful of companies which tackle this problem and part of an even smaller group who do so with style. Their online store features ”a designer collection specifically tailored for the independent, sexy and confident wheelchair woman”. The clothes incorporate key functional details to keep comfortable, such as wider neck lines, bigger arm holes for easy wheeling, flexibility and comfort in fabrics, without compromising on style.

WheelieChix-Chic

WheelieChix-Chic

It’s no surprise that at Blue Badge Style we like the thought of having somewhere to carry your blue badge in style. Blue Badge Company wallets are an excellent way to do this. They’ve produced a range of high quality, leather or patterned wallets to store and display your blue badge in a modern and attractive way. We ‘test parked’ one of their new Italian leather holders, embossed with their logo, recently and were really pleased with the product. From the packaging (a beautifully presented, patterned box) onwards, the Blue Badge Company holders have a sophisticated and stylish image with a high standard that doesn’t drop. They have a diverse range, so whoever you’re shopping for there will be a design to suit their image and personality.

The Blue Badge Company now also sell a range of other products including key rings, toasty warmers and travel card holders, all of which show a similar devotion to looking fun. Prices vary, as you can buy individual products or collections, but all are reasonably priced. You can either buy them online, in Boots or at selected post office. They say they want to say “something about style rather than disability” and have vastly improved the old boring ways of holding blue badges. Frankly, if that’s not a message you can get on board with, you’re on the wrong website!

'Cordovan Creek' wallet from the Blue Badge Company

‘Cordovan Creek’ wallet from the Blue Badge Company

If you have any green fingered friends or family who enjoy gardening but find it uncomfortable then you perhaps something from designed2enable’s range of ergonomic gardening products could be a good gift. Radius gardening tools (£34.95 for a set), OneLeg stools (£39.95), Pro-Lite garden forks (£27.95) and Garden Gator grabbers (£28.50) aren’t all exclusively sold there, but it’s a bit of a ‘one stop shop’ online option. All these designs help in their own way to make gardening more comfortable and less physically demanding than usual by reducing bending, stretching and other physical exertion.

Gardening tools

Gardening tools

An easy idea for a big present, that can make life easier for people with a variety of impairments, is to get someone a Kindle. They’re so practical for people with reduced mobility and/or visual impairments. Because they’re much lighter and easier to hold and turn pages, they’re handy for people who might normally find old fashioned books more of a hassle than most. They also have some great inbuilt accessibility functions including the key features of being able to change the font size, accessibility gesture shortcuts and a text to speech function (although this is still possibly more awkward that listening to an audiobook version, where a real human does the task). Small buttons and the shape of the Kindle could still prove problematic for some, but generally Kindles are an improvement for less able readers as well as having all the usual benefits of an e-reader versus books.

Kindle

Kindle

If you’re getting someone a Kindle, we’d recommend pre-loading it with What the **** Is Normal? by Francesca Martinez. If you’re not, we’d recommend getting it in hard copy anyway. It’s a hilarious and at times very moving autobiography from the talented comedian and actor turned disability activist. She writes about the ways in which having Cerebral Palsy has affected her life and more importantly the way that people’s reactions to her CP have affected her life and lead to her asking “what the **** is normal?” It’s a celebration of the fact that everybody’s different and that (shock, horror) that might not be such a bad thing after all. A brilliant book and a new mantra for all.

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A Bracelet Buddy is handy gadget which acts as a third hand to held put on watches and bracelets. It solves the age old problem by holding one half of the bracelet’s clasp still so you can clasp it together using your free hand. It’s a simple idea but one that nobody managed to efficiently design until now. People with reduced dexterity will find them extra useful but really these make a handy stocking filler for anybody who ever wears bracelets. They’re £7 at Really Useful Stuff.

Bracelet Buddy

Bracelet Buddy

A stylish new stick, crutch or stick could be something nice to unwrap this Christmas. There are so many modern options these days (still not enough, but far more than many people realise) which can make for very cool presents.  We know all about them and would say that the tip top option is the Sabi walking cane. But if you want to weigh up your options, then a good place to start is our ultimate stylish stick guide. Depending on what needs and taste of the recipient, there should be a trendy option for everyone in there.

Sabi

Sabi

Finally, for a fun gift with a light-hearted take on disability we’d recommend a little something from Stickman Communications. They make t-shirts, books, stickers and more with amusing cartoons that let people know that sometimes it’s OK to joke about disability. Their website says:

“Let’s face it, life with disability is full of humour, where conventionality is a myth, political correctness is an accident, difference is normal and life is eternally absurd: so Hannah Ensor’s stickmen products are here to help tell the reality of a differently normal life without a trace of pity or patronisation.”

The reality is that people with disabilities joke about them and friends and family know this better than anyone. Take a look at their website and have a look around. You may find something communicating the same thing you joke about at home!

A cartoon look at life on wheels

A cartoon look at life on wheels

We hope you find something here that can at least give you some inspiration when it comes to your Christmas shopping. If you have any more (or any better!) ideas, please let us know below – it’s all about sharing ideas.

My (newly) automatic door

December 10, 2014
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My New Automatic Door – An Early Xmas Present To Myself

It really is true that seemingly simple adjustments can actually be life changing. The other day I had a new door installed and it’s completely changed my ability to independently get in and out of my flat. Previously I had a standard door and a step inside, now have a perfect automatic door and a nice new ramp to aid me. I’m already finding that getting home has never been easier!!!
The auto door and wooden ramp were supplied from LB Hounslow under my strict ‘aesthetic’ instructions. I asked that the ramp be the same as my existing floor and that the door was not to change significantly. They did a good job of meeting my specifications, although the mechanism is very bulky above my door. I’m hoping to be able to hide it in some way. Seamless accessibility being very much the ideal.
It’s very secure with two deadlocks and can be opened manually if necessary. The door is operated remotely with a fob and the delay is 10 seconds which is enough time for me to get in or out of the flat, but this too can be altered as required. Here it is in action.
It will change my life as I no longer need taxi drivers to escort me to my flat in order to open my door and get me up a step – something which neither they nor I really wanted to have to happen and meant I relied on a few trusted cab drivers. The new door also means I can, theoretically, get to the local shops or gardens un-aided. Alas, only theoretically as the state of the local pavements prevent a smooth & safe journey!
The door was supplied by ADS in Southend and the fitters from DG Servicing were very tidy and made hardly any mess even though the job took all day. There are other suppliers such as Tormax, Axis and others. Probably the best way to find out your best local options is to check the Automatic Door Supplier Association website.
I thought it would be nice to share a video of the new system in action. It’s only a new door but it really has opened up a good many more for me. I’d really recommend doing something like this if you can, I just can’t believe it took me so long to get round to it! Well, I kind of can – there’s always so much other things to do… Anyway, it was a nice early Christmas present to myself!
My (newly) automatic door

My (newly) automatic door