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April 17, 2014
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It’s Not Just Cricket, It’s Cricket For Less Able Bodied People

The sun is out, spring has arrived and we find ourselves on the cusp of summer. All this means that the rough and ready, loutish football season is nearly over and, although the World Cup will soon follow, we can embrace the return of the gentleman’s game, the thinking man’s football – Cricket… Blind Cricket and Disability Cricket that is.

Yes, it’s time for the beginning of the Cricket season and whether you’re  a bowler, a batsman or just a spectator, like our blind friend Andy Gemmell, this most civilised of games is accessible to everyone. We’re going to take a look at each of these adaptations of our national sport and find out the easiest ways to get involved. We’ve found that, although there aren’t loads of different places to play, there are a fair amount of chances to give Cricket a go. Let’s start with Blind Cricket…

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Blind Cricket was originally adapted from the standard version of the game in Australia in 1922, but it was really during the Second World War that the game caught on in Britain when it was used as a form of recreation for injured servicemen. It quickly became a huge success, thanks to its inclusivity and the camaraderie it encouraged. In fact, the founding members of British Blind Sport - the organisation that now governs all blind and partially sighted sports (and shares initials with us at Blue Badge Style) – were blind cricketers. Nowadays, the other BBS helps to run the game on a national level and hosts the sport’s main cup competition.

For many people the able bodied version of  Cricket has proved to be impenetrably complicated, so it might not be that helpful when we say that most of the rules are the same in Blind Cricket. However, we are going to have to make a bit of a generalisation and assume that most people looking to get into Blind Cricket will be largely familiar with the rules of Cricket. In case you’re not, an over-simplified explanation is that one person throws a ball at somebody else, who then has to bat it away (a much more thorough version is available here – Cricket is somehow both remarkably simple and extraordinarily complex).

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The British version of Blind Cricket has contrived to break away from the rest of the world, using a different set of rules to other countries, but in the UK the main difference between Blind Cricket and standard Cricket is that the balls and wickets used by Blind Cricketers are both slightly larger. They use a size three football because it’s easier for partially sighted people to see and the ball is filled with a number of ball bearings, so that the totally blind players can hear it move. Additionally, there are teams of eleven, four of whom must be totally blind. Pitches towards totally blind batsmen have to bounce twice, rather than once, before reaching the wicket, but cannot be rolling and totally blind batsmen cannot be stumped out. The bowler has to ask the batsman if he’s ready before bowling and then shout “play” as he  releases the ball. Finally, a totally blind fielder is allowed one bounce to catch someone out.

If you, a friend or a family member are looking to try out Blind Cricket the most obvious place to start is the Blind Cricket England & Wales (BCEW) website or the British Blind Sport contact page. There doesn’t seem to be a particularly large number of clubs playing Blind Cricket and there are even fewer for women. You may have noticed that the rules of Blind Cricket are written with male players in mind but there is an all women’s team at the Cricket For Change centre in London and there doesn’t seem to be any reason that ladies can’t play at other clubs, there just don’t seem to be many examples of it happening.

There doesn’t appear to be one convenient online tool for locating local Blind Cricket clubs, so it’s best to personally get in touch with the governing bodies. One would hope that this is due to the fact that it’s just easier for visually impaired people to use the phone to find out about Blind Cricket, rather than a lack of organisation. It seems like a very enjoyable sport and a good way of socialising too!

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Time to move from Blind Cricket onto Disability Cricket. Mixed Disability Cricket was pioneered in Oswestry in May 1989 to give people with mixed disabilities the chance to play. They made three categories of disability – Zephyr (now known as CC3) for those with a low level of disability, Zenith (now CC2) for a medium level of disability and Zodiac (now CC1) for high level of disability – to ensure that those players with a higher level of disability would have equal opportunities to develop

Again, the game is played with very similar rules to Standard Cricket, with a few differences thrown in. Disability Cricket matches use lighter balls, such as Incrediballs, Windballs or occasionally tennis balls (although CC3 category games may use a standard cricket ball) and lighter or plastic Kwik Cricket bats.  The high level disability category, Zodiac (CC1), play on a shorter pitch which is 16 metres long, rather than the standard 22 metres. There’s extra marking to reduce the length of distance run by players in wheelchairs/on sticks which bowlers with very weak arms may also use and any player disadvantaged in a team due to disability may request a runner. So, just a few minor adaptations to the famous old game.

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Finding somewhere to play Disability Cricket may be even trickier than with Blind Cricket. The Cricket Federation For People With Disabilities might be a good place to start and has a page of links to regional clubs where you can play. However, this is not an exhaustive list, at least we hope it isn’t as it’s quite a small collection of clubs. As with Blind Cricket it may be easiest to contact the CFPD, The British Association For Cricketers With Disabilities or the ECB to find out about how you can get involved (if anyone reading knows of a better resource, please let us know in the comments below).

Cricket is a great way to improve your stamina and balance, while enhancing your social and team working skills. It’s non-contact and it’s not too taxing physically, so it’s can be a really good sport to take up casually in the summer. Although it can be quite serious, it can also be the ideal leisurely, gentlemen’s (and lady’s) game and is accessible to everyone.

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April 17, 2014
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Weekly Wrap – Holborn Dining, Easter Egg Shortages & Where to Buy Last Minute Chocolate

Last week Lieutenant No1 told me of good new restaurant in Holborn, The Holborn Dining Room at the luxury Rosewood Hotel, in Holborn of course. So I had to give it a review, however when I arrived I realised I’d been there before, it’s past life was Pearl restaurant run by Jun Tanaka. I had eaten there and his food was wonderful, he’s apparently opening a new restaurant later this year. I was therefore curious to see how the place had changed, access was really easy as it’s via the hotel courtyard which has some cobbles but taxis/cars can drop off right next to the restaurant and once in there’s plenty of room.

The Dramatic Courtyard of the Rosewood Hotel Which Gives Easy Access to the Holborn Dining Room

The Dramatic Courtyard of the Rosewood Hotel Which Gives Easy Access to the Holborn Dining Room

The only disadvantage is the disabled toilet is down one floor via a lift. The food is very much up-market brasserie style, we started with the charcuterie board to share and I followed with half a lobster with chips. All good but it’s the atmosphere of the place that’s a winner, it’s large , not too noisy and the staff are accommodating and intent on you having a good experience. It’s a glamourous venue in an understated way. The Telegraph said it provides

“Comfortable, but impressively cool dining at its best….” producing “Classic dishes that showcase the best of British produce”.

Comfortable & Glamourous in The Holborn Dining Room

Comfortable & Glamourous in The Holborn Dining Room

I agree and I should mention that the experience is flexible as you can have drinks, drinks & nibbles or a full meal. They get a well deserved 2.5 BBS Ticks. (N.B. The hotel say they have fully accessible rooms but I had too much to drink to review them this time. I’ll be back……..) 

I also thought I’d treat my family to some Easter Eggs and I didn’t want to buy them on-line so I went in search of a chocolate shop. Apparently this year there’s a shortage and many shops have sold out! The supermarkets have had a an ‘Egg Price War’ leading to many of them running out of certain lines – no doubt adding to the obesity crisis! I therefore took to looking for independent egg stores. I found a hidden gem in Richmond, Danieli, which sells homemade chocolate all year, but even they were running low so I quickly grabbed the last few. To help the rest of the UK in the hunt for Easter Eggs I thought we should look at other independent retailers.

Something Different From Danieli Chocolates in Richmond

Something Different From Danieli Chocolates in Richmond

In London there are quite a few but a favourite has to be the Italian chocolate shop, SAID, in Soho (see our review)….and luckily Channel 4 and Red magazine have done the research for me so here are their lists, just in case there’s a shortage in your area:

SAID in Soho for a Trendier Chocolate Treat

SAID in Soho for a Trendier Chocolate Treat

Channel4 includes CoCo Chocolate in Edinburgh, L’Artisan du Chocolat in Birmingham, Choccywoccydoodah in Brighton …. see full list here

Choccywoccydoodah in Brighton is Just Tad Extreme

Choccywoccydoodah in Brighton is Just a Tad Extreme

Red Magazine includes Chococo in Swanage, Chocolate House in Ponytpridd, White Rabbit Chocolate, Beverley E. Yorks……. see full list here.

White Rabbit Chocolate in Beverley, Keeping E. Yorks Chocked up

White Rabbit Chocolate in Beverley, Keeping E. Yorks Chocked up

Hope this helps and Happy Egg Hunting !! See you next week.

Happy Egg Hunting - Forget the Obesity Crisis for the Weekend

Happy Egg Hunting – Forget the Obesity Crisis for the Weekend

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April 15, 2014
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BBC’s Great British Menu, A Banquet For D-Day Vets Where A Fingerprint In A Marshmallow Is “Unforgivable” – Just Like Inaccessibility At A Restaurant.

Great British Menu is back on BBC2 and this time top chefs from around the country compete to cook at a banquet marking the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. A wonderful idea and we love the programme as it highlights just how good and imaginative British cooking can be. It also alerts BBS to new eateries to visit i.e. the restaurants of the competing chefs.

This year, for fun, we thought it would be good to look at the accessibility (or not) of the restaurants run by the chefs. Especially as the banquet is for a generation of people who may well be disabled or just a little ‘less able’.

Last week to kick off, the chefs came from Northern Ireland

N. Ireland Chefs on GBM - Chris McGowan, Will brown & Ray McArdle - Cooking up a D-Day Storm But is There a Victory for Accessibility ??

N. Ireland Chefs on GBM – Chris McGowan, Will brown & Ray McArdle – Cooking up a D-Day Storm But is There a Victory for Accessibility ??

They were judged by Tom Kerridge who owns the Hand &Flowers in Marlow. Not a good start as his restaurant had great food but terrible access and no disabled facilities (see our previous review in 2012), even though it’s Michelin Starred….We’ve asked if they’ve changed anything but no response as yet.

Hand and Flowers - Michelin Starred But No Ramp or Disabled toilet

Hand and Flowers – Michelin Starred But No Ramp or Disabled toilet

So we called the other chefs’ establishments and thank goodness all passed our accessibility tests. Here are the findings:

Raymond McArdle’s Restaurant 23 in The Balmoral Hotel, Warrenpoint, has a lift to its first floor location and there’s a permanent ramp into the hotel. The disabled toilet is on the first floor near the restaurant. He won last year with his starter of ‘Black Truffle & Bacon Soup’. This year he came second in the heat but at least he won in terms of accessibility and Restaurant 23 is rated one of the best in Northern Ireland. We did like his starter called ‘Pigeon Post’ – a confit of pigeon leg with blackberry sauce, carrying a message in its claw……I’d eat that, as I’m sure any hungry soldier would.

Restaurant 23 One of the Best in N. Ireland For Food & Accessibility.

Restaurant 23 One of the Best in N. Ireland For Food & Accessibility.

The Winning Starter Last year, Black Truffle & Bacon Soup - One Reason to Visit N. Ireland

The Winning Starter Last year, Black Truffle & Bacon Soup – One Reason to Visit N. Ireland

Next was Will Brown and The Old Schoolhouse Inn. He’s a newcomer to GBM as you can see from the clip, but again a winner in the accessibility stakes as the Old Schoolhouse Inn has flat access and a disabled toilet… they sounded bemused that I should even ask such a question! He came last in the heat but he’s got a good pedigree having worked for Marco Pierre White and at The 2 Michelin Star restaurant, The Square (see BBS review here).

The Old Schoolhouse Inn, Belfast Has Full Access and in The Good Food Guide 2013

The Old Schoolhouse Inn, Belfast Has Full Access and in The Good Food Guide 2013

Finally the winner for Northern Ireland was Chris McGowan, protege of one of my favourite chefs, Richard Corrigan. He is also Head Chef at Corrigan’s in Mayfair (accessible via a portable ramp with a v. roomy & lovely disabled toilet, located just off the restaurant). See our review as it’s one of our favourites! The judges loved his fish course, “We Are Captains of Our Soles” – a play on a Winston Churchill speech. It consisted of Dover sole, long neck clams and horseradish, you can see his full menu here.

"Captains of Our Soles" by Heat winner Chris McGowan. As Head Chef at Corrrigan's he's also Victorious in Accessibility.

“Captains of Our Soles” by Heat winner Chris McGowan. As Head Chef at Corrrigan’s he’s also Victorious in Accessibility.

So shame on Tom Kerridge as the only one who doesn’t cater for disability……As he said, with regard to one of the desserts, fingerprints in a marshmallow are ‘unforgivable’!!!

The Hand & Flowers by Tom Kerridge Needs to Recognise That accessibility Shouldn't Resemble a D-Day Landing

The Hand & Flowers by Tom Kerridge Needs to Recognise That Accessibility Shouldn’t Resemble a D-Day Landing

 

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April 14, 2014
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Access The Animals Of ZSL Zoos: Special Children’s Day 2014 at London Zoo & Whipsnade Zoo

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ZSL Special Children’s Day is brilliant special event, welcoming children with special needs and their families and friends to London and Whipsnade Zoos. The annual special needs day has been running for years at London Zoo and was voted Best Education Project: Public and General Visitor at BIAZA Annual Awards in 2012. It’s a real inclusive treat and for the first time this year, there will also be a Special Children’s Day at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Special Children’s Day is an outstanding chance to see two of the best collections of animals in the country, with extra specialist facilities and more staff on hand than usual and it’s also packed with special interactive activities to take part in. These include Singing Hands (a musical duo performing  Makaton themed signs, songs, rhymes, stories and games), a sensory Discovery Zone, Animals feeds and displays, arts & craft, sensory storytelling, Meet the Keepers (along with some of the animals that they keep), Wildlife Gardening Event,  sensory and themed games and activities, onsite BSL, increased facilities and staff and much more!! Simply put: there’s just loads and loads to do.

London Zoo's Tiger Territory opened last year

London Zoo’s Tiger Territory opened last year

The first of the two events is the London Zoo Special Children’s Day, which actually runs over two days, on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of May. The Whipsnade event then takes place on the 7th of June. We know that these dates aren’t for over a month but we think this is real date for the diary stuff and tickets are limited and will run out, so we wanted to let people know well in advance.

Tickets for all children aged 3-18 are £8.50 and under threes can enter for free. In addition, each family can take one carer for free with tickets for additional adults costing £12.75 which is a really good discount. There’s more information on disabled access on the ZSL website

It’s wonderful to see such an inclusive and welcoming event for special needs children. We can’t be sure, but we don’t think that there is anywhere else where they’re putting on these sort of unique days; certainly not on this scale anyway. Special Children’s Day is an excellent initiative and a great way to enjoy two of the country’s best zoos in all their glory. Well done ZSL!

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April 11, 2014
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Power Up Your Power Chair – Stylish Gadgets, Gizmos and Accessories For Electric Wheelchairs

We’ve never really covered electric wheelchairs or power chairs in any great amount of detail on BBS for a number of reasons. Partly it’s because, with the importance of individual requirements, the prices involved and the provision of power chairs, we’re just not that sure how much influence a style guide would have. But what we thought we could do instead was to put together something on cool accessories to go with and enhance power chairs.

That idea occurred to us a long time ago… since then we’ve been searching high and low for good designs and now we think we’ve finally put together enough stylish products to make a guide – some that are specifically designed for wheelchair use and some that will just work well with one. These are our selections of items to help jazz up and make the most of whatever power chair you may already have.

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The product that inspired this article, ErgoJoysticks were invented by an American wheelchair user named Joe Olson who, much like us at Blue Badge Style, felt disappointed by the lack of style and choice of assistive products. He set about designing improved products for himself before eventually deciding it was time to bring them to other people who needed them.

ErgoJoysticks are innovative ergonomic wheelchair joystick handles which look great and are designed to be easier to use, for people with reduced dexterity. They’re more comfortable and effective to use, for people with arthritis, weak or impaired hand function, or individuals who fatigue easily. They also stand out in an aesthetically pleasing way, with interesting shapes and cool metallic colours.

ErgoJoysticks are available online and we’ve been told that it is possible to have them sent to the UK, for any British readers. There are three different styles to choose from – Original, Stingray and Aero – all of which are intuitively designed to fit to the shape of your hand. As well as being ergonomic, like the Original model, the Stingray and Aero are both also designed with holes in them to help the hand breathe. These are really creative designs and we love the approach behind them.

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Aero and Stingray ErgoJoysticks

iPortal products allow you to link your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad up with your wheelchair. Using Bluetooth technology you can turn your gadget’s screen into a dashboard, displaying key information about your wheelchair, such as the speed at which you’re going and how much battery your chair has left. You can also use the iPortal joystick to make your iPhone more accessible – making phone calls or surfing the internet using a joystick and control pad attached to your wheelchair’s armrest.

iPortal Joystick control

iPortal Joystick control

The Care-E On is a really clever little wheeled platform which lets other people step onto the back of a wheelchair and ride along with it. It can hook onto the chair and carry along a partner, friend or child and it’s lightweight enough not to be a drain on the wheelchair’s motor or battery. When you don’t need it, it can be folded up and hidden away at the back of the wheelchair, so you don’t have to worry about getting any unwanted hop ons! It was designed by an American lady and is certainly available in her home state of California. However, beyond that there may be problems as you need an expert to attach it to your chair. It seemed worth including regardless since it’s a very clever idea.

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Flexzi 3 is an extra-strong, triple-stranded tool for holding things up to read and use, complete with detachable iPad case. It’s a colourful, funky way to use media devices without having to hold them up, that comes either with a stand or a clamp to attach to your wheelchair. If you don’t have any need of an iPad case (i.e. if you don’t have an iPad) you can still use a Flexzi for other gadgets, but it’s part of the surprising number of wheelchair accessories which are aimed specifically at iPad owners – it’s not like every single wheelchair user has an iPad. It retails at £72.

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Tecla Mobile Mounts, from Canada, are a very similar product to the Flexzi. The main differences are that they’re for smartphones rather than tablets and that they look a bit like something evil from a sci-fi film – you can kind of imagine one bursting out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien, for instance. It’s a flexible tool, with a quick release mounting system for your handset that stays where you need it. It can attach to flat surfaces or tubing so it really can fit wherever you want on your wheelchair.

The phone mounting plate comes with an industrial-grade dual-lock fastener, so you do need to buy a hard case or shell instead to prevent damaging your phone. Mobile Mounts can be bought online for $99 Canadian dollars and shipped to UK or USA if necessary. If you need more information, they have a chat service on their website which is very helpful, in a typically Canadian way.

Tecla Phone Mount

Trabasacks are a multi-purpose range of backpacks, designed to also operate as transportable desks for wheelchair users (and for non-wheelchair users too). They have a firm flat tray surface on one side and a removable bean bag cushion on the other, with a reasonably sized bag in between the two for storage. It’s a really clever and convenient idea to use as a tray when necessary and to discretely store on the back or the side of your chair when you don’t need it. They’re streamlined and lightweight, which makes them both functional and stylish. Prices vary within the range of bags.

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Trabasack also sell a Media Mount to hold iPads (or other generic tablets) and Kindles (or other generic e-books) upright. It’s made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself! Just use the grab handles to manipulate it into shape. It can also be used to tie objects down onto a surface, making it a nifty little gadget at £19.95.

Media Mount and ipad v2

We’re aware that wheelchairs aren’t just massive docks for using touch screen technology but we have one more accessory for media devices before we finish.  The iLoop is essentially a smaller version of the Media Mount – a small circle which can hold a phone upright. It’s marketed as being and uber stylish product and it does look like a nice simple piece of kit, if not quite as glamorous as the designers let on. They come from Slovenia but can be bought online (the iLoops that is; not the designers!) and posted around the world for about £15.

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We think that these are useful and trendy accessories for electric wheelchairs, but we want to know what do you think. What accessories, gadgets and gizmos do you use to power up your power chair? If you have or know of any, please get in touch in the comments section below!

If you would be interested in a BBS guide to electric wheelchairs let us know about that too.