O2 Academy2 Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review 

Emma and Lizzie's view from the access platform of Birmingham O2 Academy 2. Picture This are on stage mid set. There are blue, pink and purple lights illuminating the stage
Photo Credit: Lizzie Iles. Image Description: Emma and Lizzie's view from the access platform of Birmingham O2 Academy 2. Picture This are on stage mid set. There are blue, pink and purple lights illuminating the stage

Back again with another wheelchair accessibility review. This time for Picture This at the O2 Academy 2 in Birmingham. I do a review out for the O2 Academy in Birmingham but, whilst these 2 venues are in the same building, I see it that a different room equals a different venue which deserves its own separate accessibility review. 

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!) 

Ticket Buying 

First up in the ticket buying process was to email the disabled bookings email for the venue to clarify exactly WHAT the accessible ticketing process was and also how we would go about buying 2 accessible seats at once (something I hadn’t done before) since my friend Lizzie who is also a wheelchair user would be joining me. They told us to just buy 2 standard tickets through Ticketmaster and then email them back with the order number and the tickets would be converted to accessible ones. Once that was done, we realised we had 2 accessible tickets and a carer ticket each (I hadn’t requested the carer tickets). We gave one of those tickets to a new friend from the Solo Armada (an online group for gig goers which I have mentioned before). Why did we give a ticket away to a stranger? Well because we had a spare and making gig friends is always cool. 

Travel 

Well, there was no real travel involved since neither Lizzie nor I live particularly far from the venue. So, it was simply a case of getting ready, then heading round to Lizzie’s for pre gig food and beers before heading to the train station to collect our new found gig friend and head to the gig. 

Experience & Seating 

When we arrived at the venue, it was very busy with a VERY long queue outside. I soon realised that was because there were 2 gigs that night in the same building since, like I mentioned in the intro, Academy and Academy 2 are in the same building. We were able to find a staff member who directed us to the queue for our gig. Once we got to the front of that queue were then pulled into the other queue for the Academy in order to use the lift to get up to venue level. We couldn’t all fit in the lift at once so Lizzie went up first and then our new mate and I followed afterwards. When we got up there, we realised that Lizzie was already situated so we all grabbed drinks from the bar and then settled into our seats (or what we thought were our seats). When we settled in, I remarked that the view looked familiar when I didn’t expect it to (I hadn’t visited Academy 2 before but I HAD visited Academy). I also noticed that the crowd below didn’t look how I expected a Picture This crowd to look (I’d seen the boys live before so, I kinda knew what crowds they drew). But I figured I was just thinking too much into it and carried on. Lizzie and our new mate then headed off to get merch as I’d told them what I wanted. They came back and said that there no Picture This merch at the merch stand and that was because… WE’D BEEN PUT IN THE WRONG GIG. Where we were sat felt so familiar to the Academy show I’d been to because we WERE SAT in Academy and Academy 2 was actually next door. With that figured out we were moved into Academy 2 where our gig actually was. This just meant going through one door out the side of Academy, then through the door straight onto the small access platform in Academy 2. When I say small, I mean there was space for about 8 people and it was quite cramped. I think there was space behind us too but I think that was reversing space for wheelchair users rather than more seating. 

I must say I really enjoyed the gig (although I knew it would be good as I’ve seen the boys live before ). I also really enjoyed getting to stand at the “barrier” for the whole gig (even if it was only the barrier to the access platform and I was only able to do it with Lizzie’s help) as standing at barrier isn’t something I’ve ever been able to experience, what with being a wheelchair user and often having to be on a separate platform.  

A couple of things I didn’t enjoy. Firstly, as wheelchair users we had no access to the merch stall which was on the main floor. This meant that my only way to get merch was to loudly yell our entire order down to the merch staff and then have them bring the order up to us and take payment with a mobile card machine. Which, like, they did, but it was a massive faff and made me feel very self-conscious yelling down in front of a full venue. I also couldn’t see a disabled toilet in the Academy 2 section which meant that, If I’d have needed to, I’d have had to leave the gig and go across into Academy to use that disabled toilet, and obviously I’d like to not have to leave the gig. But at the same time, I couldn’t see anywhere in the Academy 2 side of the building that would be able to house a disabled toilet. 

Once the gig was over, we went back through into Academy and then down in the lift and out. Whilst our friend headed home, Lizzie and I decided to try our luck at stage door. Once we’d asked around and figured out which was the correct stage door to be at., we pulled up and waited. We were lucky to get some photos with the boys and Ryan (the lead singer) was kind enough to sign the copy of his poetry book that Lizzie had bought me at the gig as an early birthday present. 

After making a quick detour into a hotel on the way home for a toilet break (we were waiting longer than I expected at stage door) we headed back to mine for tea and a post gig debrief. 

Stay Invincible! 

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

The Castle and Falcon Birmingham Accessibility Review

The bar in the concert room at Castle and Falcon. Above the bar is a sign (black text on a white background) which reads " LIVE AT THE CASTLE AND FALCON BEANS ON TOAST"
Photo Credit: Alexandra Quinn. Image Description: The bar in the concert room at Castle and Falcon. Above the bar is a sign (black text on a white background) which reads " LIVE AT THE CASTLE AND FALCON BEANS ON TOAST"

Back with ANOTHER venue access review. This time I headed to Castle and Falcon in Birmingham for a dance with Beans On Toast.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Ticket Buying

This was one of the easiest ticket buying processes I’ve ever had. I just bought a general admission ticket and then sent the venue a courtesy email to let them know I was a wheelchair user and would require an accessible entrance.

Travel

The travel was also easy as I just caught a bus from the end of my street and then took a 10–15-minute walk to the venue once the bus dropped me off. On the return, I took a bus back to the city centre, dropped my mate off at the train station and headed home.

Experience & Seating

When it came to the venue, I was a little sceptical as the website just said “100% wheelchair accessible, including accessible toilet”. Every disabled person can tell you of a time they’ve read that phrase on a website and then found the venue to not be as accessible as claimed. Thankfully, the statement was (as far as I could see) entirely true and the venue WAS entirely accessible. Whilst the main entrance has steps, there is a side entrance which is step free.

Once I had made my way in and found my new friends from Solo Armada, we hung out in the bar before heading into the gig room and to the front. I rarely get chance to be at the front because access platforms are usually towards the back of the room. But there was no specific access platform or access seating at this show, so I saw my chance to get a front row spot and took it! I also noticed that there was an accessible bathroom (with radar key access) which was well kept and very usable. You might not spot it immediately because I believe that side of the room (where the accessible toilet is) has a curtain across it during the actual gig, but the bathroom is still accessible if necessary.

With absolutely ZERO accessibility worries or issues, I could just chill out and dance, get a beer in between acts, and then head back to the dance floor. Once the gig was over, we just had to ask someone to reopen the accessible side entrance.

This has been a short review, but that’s just the way I like them. Because short and sweet means it was accessible. And Castle and Falcon was, without a doubt, the easiest and most accessible I’ve ever attended.

Before I leave you, I need to say something about the actual gig. It was just the most chilled vibe and felt like I could entirely be myself and enjoy the gig without worrying what people were thinking (something I often wonder about on the occasions that I’m with the general crowd at gigs and not on a separate platform). I was hoping to make another Beans on Toast gig (the upcoming show in Bilston) which shows the impact that the show made on me. However, metro works and general travel issues means no Bilston gig for me, curse you metro!

Castle and Falcon, thank you for an easy and accessible gig experience as a wheelchair user, just how it should be. I WILL be back!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Camden Electric Ballroom Wheelchair Accessibility Review

A view from the front wheelchair access platform at Camden Electric Ballroom, London. The stage (illuminated by blue lights) is visible with a drum kit and amplifiers on it. The words "Holding Absence" are just about visible on a backdrop behind the drum kit.
Image Description: A view from the front wheelchair access platform at Camden Electric Ballroom, London. The stage (illuminated by blue lights) is visible with a drum kit and amplifiers on it. The words "Holding Absence" are just about visible on a backdrop behind the drum kit.

Finally back with another venue access review. This time Holding Absence at Camden Electric Ballroom back in November. You’ll remember that my last blog post was a review of O2 Institute 2 in Birmingham (also for Holding Absence), and in that post I said that wasn’t my last show. Well here (extremely belatedly) the access review for my Holding Absence tour round 2!

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Ticket Buying

The ticket buying process for this one was a little different than usual. Some lovely soul on Solo Armada (an online group for solo gig goers that I’m part of) posted that they were giving away a general admission ticket to the show. I enquired as to whether there would be any way to convert it to an accessible ticket so I could go. This ANGEL refunded their original ticket and purchased an access one instead just so I could go! So, with ticket sorted, I had just 2 days to book travel and a hotel.

Travel

Travel was also pretty simple. I traveled with West Midlands Trains on the way there and Avanti on the return and both trains were a direct trip from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. I booked tickets through Trainline and then the assistance through the relatively new Passenger Assistance app. I turned up to New Street around 20 minutes before my train as suggested and was then escorted to the train by staff. Once I arrived in London it was about a 15 minute walk to my hotel.

Experience & Seating

I SAY hotel, it was technically a hostel. Specifically Generator London hostel near Euston. I try not to use hostels but with the last minute nature of the trip I was low on accessible option. So I rang around a few places and Generator said I could just book a room the standard way and then send them a message to get the booking moved to an accessible dorm, so that’s what I did. When I arrived I noticed that I’d have to go down a cobbled street to get to the entrance, which is always fun for the wheelchair user spine. I then had to wheel all the way around the car park section to the entrance as there was no drop kerb to allow me to cut across to the entrance side of the pavement. Once I made it to the entrance section, I was greeted by a large staircase, LUCKILY I saw a sign for an accessible entrance which I followed around and then pressed the intercom to be buzzed in.

Once inside, I was greeted by a stairlift to take me down a few steps, the old and slow kind of stairlift that I see in my nightmares. The nightmares were accurate, because I was told the stairlift was being dodgy, only to board it and find it out was faulty and wouldn’t actually work!

Faulty stairlift escaped, staff took me on a short walk around to the “alternative” accessible entrance. This was behind a gate which meant I’d have to be buzzed in every time I entered, I then wheeled through another car park/delivery point and then through some double doors into the laundry storage room, before going along a corridor and up in the lift to check in. This made me wonder why the “alternative” accessible entrance wasn’t just the outright accessible entrance. I know some people feel a bit odd about entering via car parks and everything, but this entrance was way more accessible than the dodgy stairlift one.

All checked in, I was shown down to my room (a standard dorm room with me in a low bunk but in the basement level below the check in level which meant no lift to contend with). The accessible bathroom was also pointed out to me and was just a few doors down from my room.

However, when i’d dropped my bags in the room and went to use the bathroom, i discovered that the toilet wasn’t in the accessible bathroom/shower room that had been pointed out to me (the pipe work was there, the toilet just…wasn’t) It took 3 staff members to figure out that the toilet had been moved to a separate, poorly signposted segment. And to add to the issue, I got into the toilet to find there was no soap dispenser in the holder (great news in the current COVID situation). Luckily, thanks to being ambulatory and using bed frames as a mobility aid, I was able to access the sink in the dorm room, something staff didn’t think would be accessible to me. So, bags dropped off, I headed for the venue.

It was about a 30 minute walk from hostel to venue (I did attempt to catch a bus but the driver just ignored me because…London, and I wasn’t about to hang about in the rain and wait on that happening again, so 30 minute roll it was). I probably sound a bit blasé about being ignored by the bus driver, because obviously it’s a shit thing have happen. But frankly, as a wheelchair user, being ignored by bus drivers happens so often in London that my reaction just becomes: “oh this again? Right, onto plan B”. Plan B being a 30 minute wheel in the rain.

When I arrived at the venue, I pulled up to the side of the main entrance doors and made myself known to staff. After a little while, they came to check our COVID passes and tickets and then a staff member led us on a fairly significant walk to the accessible back entrance. Once there it was through a large gate, across a little car park, up a ramp and into the venue. Since I’d entered the venue straight onto a platform with stairs down to the main standing area, I assumed we were just dropping off some other attendees who were heading down to the standing area and then we’d out again to somewhere else for my seat.

Nope, turns out this platform with stairs down and the only exit being out of the venue WAS my seat. No independent access to merch or bar but I DID get a personal dance floor, silver linings to everything eh? Seriously though, this lack of independent access to anything felt really quite isolating (obviously security could get me water or whatever)

The isolating platform situation meant I was even more grateful when fellow attendees from Solo Armada decided to pop up between bands and say hello, but even that was somewhat soured. I must preface this by explaining that there was a member of security basically stood with me on the platform all night, which didn’t feel entirely necessary (I’m pretty physically incapable of causing trouble at a gig and a tiny human, and also sassy and gobby enough to talk anyone who’s giving ME trouble into shutting up and leaving me alone, but maybe there is some security rule I don’t understand). Anyway, my friends came up to say hello and security almost immediately said “you’re not supposed to be up here”. This itself felt a little unnecessary as we weren’t doing anything other than chatting and my friends would have headed back to the main floor before the next band anyway. Needless to say (and sadly) this interaction with security meant my friends immediately headed back to the main floor to avoid getting themselves in any trouble. Once the gig was finished, I had to wait for the security (who by this point, annoyingly enough, had left my personal platform) to help me with the exit doors because trying to open both doors of a double fire door and drive a wheelchair requires about 6 hands, and I am a human, not an octopus. Venue exited. I made my way back through the big gate and out onto the street to begin the 30 minute walk back to the hostel.

Before I leave you, just a quick word on the actual show, and on Holding Absence in particular. There are few bands/artists where I would consider doing multiple dates on a tour. Even fewer that I’d organise a trip to London on 2 days notice to see. But the energy at their gigs is something else. This was only my second time seeing them live (the first being the other access review I mentioned) but I could live off the energy of gigs like that forever. Gigs like that fuel my soul. Go see them live I beg you, you’ll probably see me there. Should I just do the whole tour next time? I think I’ll do the whole tour next time.

I hope this access review of Generator London and Camden Electric Ballroom was insightful.

Stay Invincible!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham O2 Institute2 Accessibility Review 

Photo of Holding Absence performing at the Scala in London, taken from the crowd. Frontman Lucas Woodland, a young man with blonde hair in a black t shirt and tattoos on his arms looks out over the audience with his left arms raised in a fist. The crowd is lit with warm green lights. Several fans are on shoulders, elevated above the audience singing along to the band’s song ‘Wilt’.
Photo Credit: Dev Place Photos, Image Description: Photo of Holding Absence performing at the Scala in London, taken from the crowd. Frontman Lucas Woodland, a young man with blonde hair in a black t shirt and tattoos on his arms looks out over the audience with his left arms raised in a fist. The crowd is lit with warm green lights. Several fans are on shoulders, elevated above the audience singing along to the band’s song ‘Wilt’.

Back with another venue accessibility review! This time, O2 Institute2 in Birmingham. 

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!) 

Ticket Buying 

Once again, I was not the one that actually bought these tickets because once again it was part of birthday plans from my best mate Dev (she bought us tickets to Bring Me The Horizon in Birmingham for my 2020 birthday present and this was part of the 2021 celebrations). What can I say? I have the best pals. It was a case of buying one general admission ticket and then emailing the venue with the order number to request a space on the accessible platform and a carer ticket. I was pretty sure they’d probably have my disability “proof” on file since I’m often at venues in the city and I believe the O2 venues are all linked in some way (although I could be wrong) but I had the proof ready to send if necessary. 

Travel 

Travel wise, there wasn’t actually much travelling to do once Dev was in Birmingham. Since I live fairly close to the venue, it was just a 30 minute or so walk into Digbeth, through some of the works going on in the area. 

Experience & Seating 

On arrival at the venue, it was clear there was already a pretty decent queue, probably since (as far as I’m aware) there were shows in all 3 of the Institute rooms that night, so the queue wasn’t just our gig. There was also fencing cutting off half the width of the pavement (those works I mentioned earlier). Once we were in the queue our tickets and COVID passes were checked. We were then directed past the main entrance to the accessible entrance which had a ramp. I did get a little stuck on this ramp and have to be helped in, but I’m not sure if it was an issue with my approach or the actual ramp/entrance. Once in the building, we walked along a short hallway and turned into the main foyer where everyone else was entering. The Institute2 is on the entrance level, so we headed through a door and into the venue. 

When we entered the venue, I noticed that both merch and bar were on the main floor, down a set of stairs from the access platform, so Dev headed down to grab merch and water. I also noticed that there was a metal barrier in front of us and closer than the actual permanent platform. Given that I wanted to be as close as possible, we decided to shift the metal barrier out of the way and keep drinks on the shelf at the back of the platform to prevent any possible spills on important electrical equipment. 

After a little while, a member of security came and pulled us back from the main barrier and told us we’d have to stay where we were told to be (about mid platform) or the metal barrier would go back in. They said it was something to do with not spilling drinks on the electrical equipment below us. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention but like, we already HAD a plan to have the metal barrier out of the way, be at the platform barrier AND keep the equipment unharmed? Needless to say, we moved back to the platform barrier later on and no one else said anything, so I think us moving the metal barrier was actually a non-issue. 

In terms of the actual show: As Everything Unfolds, Yours Truly and Holding Absence were all AMAZING. I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard any of these bands when Dev suggested the gig (I took the “it’s my birthday, it’s in Brum, fuck it why not?” approach) but I thoroughly enjoyed the show. So much so that, when Dev asked my thoughts on the show, my response was “fancy a road trip to Sheffield tomorrow [for the next show of tour]? 

We didn’t make it to Sheffield because they didn’t have any space left on the access platform, but (SPOILER) I did make it to another show on this tour and there WILL be another access review from this tour. 

Overall, FANTASTIC show and a fairly accessible venue (other than getting stuck on the way through the door and the minor barrier issue with security) .

Stay Invincible! 

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels) 

Travelling from Birmingham New Street to Northallerton as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It 

Photo on the left of Emma raising her arms in triumph having completed her mammoth trip. Blue text on the right reads "Travelling from Birmingham New Street to Northallerton as a Wheelchair User? Here's How I Did It "
Image Description: Photo on the left of Emma raising her arms in triumph having completed her mammoth trip. Blue text on the right reads "Travelling from Birmingham New Street to Northallerton as a Wheelchair User? Here's How I Did It "

Back in October, I headed up to Northallerton to visit editor extraordinaire Nikki. This meant 4 trains and 3 different train companies (CrossCountry, TransPennine Express and London Northeastern Railway). Here’s how the trip went for me as an electric wheelchair user. 

Outbound 

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street 

Ticket wise, I purchased my tickets through Trainline as per usual. When it came to the assistance booking, I initially tried to book via the Passenger Assistance app, but the trains it was finding weren’t the trains I had booked (it kept trying to give me my connecting train at the wrong station) so I had to book assistance over the phone anyway. I ended up booking the assistance specifically through TransPennine Express as they were the only ones with phone lines open after I finished work. I must say they were very nice and helpful and were quickly able to get my assistance booked for the correct trains. When it came to travel day, I finished up at work and then headed straight to New Street. Once there, I made myself known to assistance staff and then waited in the assistance lounge. When it came time to head to my train, we discovered that the first lift we tried down to the platform wasn’t working. This meant we had to head all the way across the station to the other lift which leads to those platforms. This did leave me a little nervous that I’d be cutting it fine for my train (despite arriving 20 minutes beforehand as I was told to. 

On Train 

It was a bit of a mission to get into my seat as CrossCountry trains (which I was on) are quite small and skinny and thus quite difficult to manoeuvre in. Once I was seated, I fully realised that I’d actually been placed in the first-class wheelchair space (The assistance staff did make me aware when I was being walked to the train but I didn’t fully believe them because I only had a standard ticket).  But I wasn’t going to complain because first class meant a free sandwich and free coffee, and anyone who knows me knows that the way to my heart is caffeine. A trespasser on the line just ahead of our train at Sheffield meant that my already tight 13-minute change was reduced to 3 minutes, so I was obviously VERY concerned about missing my connection. 

Disembarking at York and Changing Trains 

Thankfully, due to some excellent communication between my train staff and the staff at York, and the fact the other train was only across the platform, I was able to make my tight connection. Once we finally pulled into York, I negotiated the very steep ramp (with the help of 2 staff members), dashed across the platform to where the ramp was already set up on the other train and then made it onto my train. 

On Train 

As I said I only just made the train, I also realised that I was alone in the carriage, which was nice after the stress of the connection. Other than that, it was only a 20-minute train so there was nothing much to report. 

Disembarking & Leaving at Northallerton 

When we arrived at Northallerton it was the train staff who disembarked me off of the train with the ramp and Nikki collected me from the platform. She then helped me negotiate the very steep ramp out of the station (driving backwards to help with my spatial awareness, so I didn’t feel like I was going to tip out of my chair). 

Return 

Getting On at Northallerton 

When it was sadly time for me to head home, Nikki and I arrived at the station more than 20 minutes before my train, as I had been told. The station staff member was then very helpful in explaining the works that were going on to install lifts to both platforms (currently serviced by steep ramps). I believe one lift was supposed be installed in December and one will be installed for Easter.* The station staff member also called ahead to staff on the train to find out where in the train they were stationed. I thought this was somewhat weird, why would he need to contact train staff? I then realised later that it was because the train staff would have to put me on the train as the station staff member wasn’t yet trained to use this ramp (don’t ask me how you can be considered fully trained enough to do the job and yet not be trained to help all disabled passengers onto all trains, I was as baffled as you are). This change of who was boarding me onto the train also meant I had to be boarded onto a different carriage than my assistance was booked on, in order for the train staff to be there to assist me. 

On Train 

There was nothing to report on the actual train journey as it was only 20 minutes. 

Disembarking at York and Changing Trains 

On arrival at York, it became apparent that the station staff hadn’t been informed about me being moved carriages and so were waiting at the wrong carriage. As train staff weren’t allowed to disembark me using the onboard ramp (again, don’t ask me why) I couldn’t immediately disembark at York. Thankfully station staff figured out the miscommunication just in time before train staff ‘broke the rules’ and disembarked me using the onboard ramp’. In terms of switching trains at York, I was able to grab dinner and a coffee and take a bathroom break (in the radar key disabled toilet at the station) before meeting station staff back on the same platform to board the Birmingham bound train. 

On Train 

The Birmingham train was a London Northeastern Railway (LNER) train and I was in the standard class wheelchair space. Other than that, there was nothing really to report as it was a fairly standard journey. 

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street 

On arrival at New Street, station staff were already waiting on the platform to disembark me. I did have to request several times for the staff member to provide me some assistance navigating the very steep ramp, but I put that down to speaking through masks in a very busy train/station. Once I was disembarked, I made my way along the platform and up in the lift to the concourse. I then called Nikki to ‘walk me home’ (it was dark and I’m a disabled woman travelling alone, safety first) and left the station. 

I hope this insight into travelling between Birmingham New Street and Northallerton, via York, as an electric wheelchair user was helpful. 

*I have found out that, since I took this trip, both lifts at Northallerton station have now been installed (with one currently in working order and the other due to be working in just a few weeks). This also means that the super steep ramp from my arrival at Northallerton is gone, with a much more manageable ramp out to the car park (albeit a ramp that makes the journey out of the station about 5 minutes longer).

Stay Invincible! 

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels) 

The Be Unapologetically You Tag 

The words "be unapologetically you" are written in green across a lilac background. The "be" and "you" look like they have been typed whereas "unapologetically" looks as though it has been written with a paintbrush
Image Description: The words "be unapologetically you" are written in green across a lilac background. The "be" and "you" look like they have been typed whereas "unapologetically" looks as though it has been written with a paintbrush

Another blog tag! I was nominated for this one by Ellie from Ellie’s Little World (her post is here). Since InvincibleWomanOnWheels is based on honesty, reality and “what you see is what you get”, it only felt right to participate in a tag about being unapologetically yourself. Now, onto the rules! 

The Be Unapologetically You Tag rules: 

Use the Be Unapologetically You banner in your post. It can be your featured image or not. It’s totally up to you.  

Include the link to this blogging tag in your post.  

Answer the 7 questions in this tag.  

Nominate between 5-10 bloggers, link their blogs, and tag them on social media to notify them.  

Most of all, have fun! 

And now onto the questions! 

Question 1 – Introduce yourself and your blog while sharing one trivia about you that not that many people know.  

My name is Emma, I’m 25 and a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy. I run the InvincibleWomanOnWheels blog you are reading this post on, as well as doing my full-time job. In terms of trivia, I’ll tell you one thing that may not be entirely clear from the blog, I’m actually a West Yorkshire gal. Yep, it may not be clear from my accent (those who follow my Instagram and see my stories will know how I sound) or the areas I blog about (mostly London and Birmingham), but Yorkshire blood runs through these veins. 

Question 2 – What topics do you love geeking out about that you would say are topics that give you bliss?  

The main topic is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). I watch any promotion I can every time it’s on the tv and attended live events around once a month pre pandemic My other major love is music, I’m an avid CD collector (I probably own over 200) and attended live gigs once a month or once every couple of months pre pandemic. 

Question 3 – Do you blog about them? Why or why not? If not, would you like to blog about them one time?  

Yes, I blog about my passions. Venue wheelchair accessibility reviews for live events/gigs form a big part of the blog. I even have an MMA travels section and a Cage Warriors (my favourite MMA promotion) section where I discuss my experiences attending live MMA shows as a wheelchair user. 

Question 4 – Would you say that you are living life by being unapologetically you? Why or why not? If not, what would your life look like if you were unafraid to share more about the things that make you happy?  

Mostly yes, I love what I love, I am who I am and I say what I say and make no apologies for it. If you ask me a question, you need to be sure you want the honest answer because that’s what you’ll get. I sometimes still have a habit of apologising for things that aren’t my fault. Those things are mostly access related issues where I feel like a burden for requesting equal access, but I’m getting better at not apologising for requesting what I am entitled to. 

Question 5 – Permission to geek out & be unapologetically you: share with us one thing you fangirl or fanboy over and how you became a fan of it. It can be anything. Your love for soy candles, your favourite food, a boy band or an underrated film. 

Those who know me personally likely have an idea what I’m going to discuss here *laugh*. It’s time to talk MMA! I cannot fully explain how in love with this sport I am. I’ve backed out of social events just to watch the fights alone, I’ve taken devices to a friend’s birthday party just so I could watch the fights (with her permission), I’ve spent hours on tiny coaches travelling the country to get to shows. I just love the fights, ok? Whenever you want to ask me about the fights, be prepared for a long chat. Because I will tell you 1000 different details about 1000 different fighters, the details of the fight schedule for the next quarter of the year AND like 4 different funny stories from attending live events. As for how I got into the sport, I believe my brother used to watch it a little when I was younger, but I couldn’t watch because time differences meant it was on too late. Then, when I got university I COULD watch because of my flexible student schedule, so I decided to see what it was all about. But the love for the sport really kicked into hyperdrive when I attended my first Cage Warriors event and with what was going on for me personally when Cage Warriors came into my life. 

Question 6 – What do you love the most about being a fan?  

The thing I love most is that I can be a fan without having to think about accessibility first. I mean OBVIOUSLY accessibility comes into it, I wouldn’t be writing my access reviews if it didn’t, but MMA is one of those things where I “buy tickets first, worry about access later” because I genuinely believe there WILL be a solution. MMA is also one of the few topics where I’m genuinely excited to not know or understand everything and am still ok with just shrugging my shoulders and enjoying it for what it is. Any other topic and not understanding something would frustrate me to the ends of the earth. 

Question 7 – Share a fun or unforgettable fan experience. 

I mean basically every time I go to Cage Warriors is an unforgettable experience. However, I think my favourite would be being put in a chokehold by Molly McCann (a UFC fighter) at a Cage Warriors meet and greet (she had my permission, don’t worry, pretty sure there’s video of it somewhere but I can’t add it into this post). It’s at moments like that that I realised Cage Warriors and MMA meant something more to me, it had to, being put into a chokehold is not your standard meet and greet experience) But the reason I love MMA so much is because it gives me stories like that, stories where you need all of the context to be able to explain what happened without someone looking at you like you’ve got 3 heads. To me, those are the best stories. 

Now onto who I tag to complete this post next: 

I tag the following people: 

Alex @ The VI Critic 

Michelle @ Boomer Eco Crusader 

Artie @ Artie Carden 

Helen @ Crispy Confessions 

Cassie @ Cassie The Hag 

I hope you enjoyed a slice of me being unapologetically me and I look forward to everyone else’s answers.

Stay Invincible! 

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels) 

Utilita Arena Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Emma, a young woman with brunette hair and glasses, is sat in her wheelchair at the Utilita Arena Birmingham smiling broadly and throwing the "metal horns" hand signal at the camera. She is wearing a red leather jacket, black jeans, black Bring Me The Horizon band t shirt and a red face covering around her neck.
Image Description: Emma, a young woman with brunette hair and glasses, is sat in her wheelchair at the Utilita Arena Birmingham smiling broadly and throwing the "metal horns" hand signal at the camera. She is wearing a red leather jacket, black jeans, black Bring Me The Horizon band t shirt and a red face covering around her neck.

Back in September, I went to my first gig since live music started up again after the lockdowns. I saw Bring Me The Horizon at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham with my best mate Dev. This was a new venue to me. And you know that means just one thing: A NEW ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW! With that said, let’s get started.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Ticket Buying
I wasn’t the one buying these particular tickets as Dev actually bought them as my birthday present and left a note in my card to say we were going. Once I knew we were going, Dev had to ask me for my “Access Card” number or other form of disability “proof”. I suppose this was to prove I ACTUALLY needed the wheelchair access seating she had booked for us. Having to prove these things will always feel odd to me but here we are. Then, a couple of weeks before the gig, Dev realised she still hadn’t received our e tickets. THEN she realised never actually received the email confirmation of booking and had just been given a reference number over the phone. After yet more hours spent on the phone to TicketFactory (who I believe handle all access seating for the venue) we FINALLY had our tickets and could actually head
to the gig.

Travel
In terms of travel, once Dev was in Birmingham there wasn’t really much travelling to do as the venue is only a short walk from my house. We did stop by a canal side pub (and a couple of other bars) because, you know, pre gig beverages and all.

Experience & Seating
Soon enough we made our way to the gig, and this is where most of the issues occurred. I must stress none of this was to do with the actual gig itself (Nova Twins, You Me At Six and Bring Me The Horizon were all brilliant and my perfect reintroduction to live music) and everything to do with the venue. First off, it was very difficult to cross the bridge in order to get to the venue as there were so many people. It was these same people we were walking against in order to follow the signage to the “accessible” entrance. I used quotation marks for a reason, because the accessible entrance wasn’t really that accessible. We had to walk all the way down a steep path with a questionable drop kerb at the end, before walking THROUGH a cark park, cutting a left turn THROUGH the queue and then standing outside a door in a dark unlit section of said carpark. Sounds dodgy right? Once we were inside, we underwent the security/bag check and then were sent up to the main level in a lift. There was only one person to direct people from the lift round to their accessible seating block (hold onto that piece of information, it will be become important again later). One good thing I did spot is that the arena has a Changing Places toilet (this is a bigger accessible toilet with additional equipment such as a hoist for those who need it). We did walk past merch on the way to our seats but took one look at the queue and Dev decided she’d come back for us during one of the support acts instead. We were then led to our seats. I would say pretty good seats overall, on an accessible section of the arena with a seated height barrier, so I could actually see without having to fuss too much. The accessible seating was actually positioned in between two sets of standard tiered seating (with some tiered seating below us and some above) so I really felt in with the crowd rather than as though I was on some separate platform away from crowd atmosphere. It seemed like the accessible seating went all the way around that level of the venue as well which I was pleasantly surprised by as it actually looked like a decent amount of accessible seating.

*Little update on this from Royal Blood’s show at Utilita end of March 2022: It turns out there is an alternative accessible to the one I described above. THAT entrance was entrance G (turning right outside the Costa as you head over to the bridge towards the arena). There is also an entrance C which I used for the Royal Blood gig. You turn left as you come over the bridge and should see a giant Lego giraffe around the entrance. This is a flat accessible entrance with no car park to drive through. Once you’re through security you just take a lift up to arena level. The only thing I would say here is the door that leads from arena level to the lift is different than the general exit door for this entrance, and you can easily go through the wrong door if you’re following the crowd on the way out and then have to fight back through the crowd to get to the lift exit door. Take a tip from the girl who learned this the hard way.

View of the stage at Utilita Arena Birmingham from wheelchair seating block 4
Image Description: View of the stage at Utilita Arena Birmingham from wheelchair seating block 4

When it came time for Dev to pop out and get merch, she realised there was STILL a massive line at both sides of the merch stand (we figured that it would be quieter once the gig had actually started). When she FINALLY made it to the front, my contactless wouldn’t work. So, she had to have the merch staff put the shirt I wanted aside whilst she came to get me so I could use my pin. Merch purchased, we headed back into the gig.

The gig, I must say, was excellent. Nova Twins, You Me At Six and Bring Me The Horizon all absolutely brilliant. They say you don’t know how much you miss something and how much you need it until it’s gone. Well, this gig certainly showed me how much I missed and needed live music. When I had finished cathartically screaming every lyric to every song and the gig was over, it was time to make our exit. This is where things get “interesting”. We figured that there couldn’t POSSIBLY be just that one accessible entrance we had entered through. Having drawn that conclusion, we decided to make a quick dive out of the nearest exit opposite our seating block.

Reader, our earlier conclusion was wrong. Once we made our exit, we soon realised that the only way down from the arena to street level the WHOLE WAY AROUND was stairs. Realising our mistake, Dev went to speak to some security on the door to ask that we be let back in or directed around to another exit so that I, obviously a wheelchair user, could accessibly exit the building. The security guard heard what Dev was asking and pointed down the stairs (don’t ask me how he thought the stairs and wheelchair was going to go, I must be missing the levitation button on my wheelchair). After about 10 minutes of arguing that the stairs weren’t an option, I decided to just head back inside to see if the staff inside would be more helpful, since re-entering the building seemed our only option for an accessible exit. Once back inside I managed to speak to a staff member who told me we would have to fight against the crowd to head back to the same lift and entrance we’d entered through. Once we made it back to the lift, I realised that the same person was stationed there as when we entered, which meant it made sense why we’d struggled to exit as there was no one to tell us this was the ONE accessible entrance/ exit. This also meant we had to go down the same lift, through the same dodgy car park and up the same dodgy drop kerb to exit. Then it was over many bridges (which had weird speedbumps in the middle for some reason) and THROUGH a pub (due to lack of drop kerb) to get back onto the canal path to head home.

Overall, thoroughly excellent gig with good accessible seating and the first time I’ve ever seen a Changing Places toilet a gig. However, there is still much improvement to be made to the ticket buying process and accessible entry/exit system (in that having one accessible entry/exit point in a venue that size really ISN’T a system.)

Stay Invincible!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels

O2 Academy Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Emma, a young woman with glasses and brown hair, is sat on her sofa smiling broadly. She is showing a bright yellow book (Her copy of Daniel Sloss 'Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die') to the camera.
Image Description: Emma, a young woman with glasses and brown hair, is sat on her sofa smiling broadly. She is showing a bright yellow book (Her copy of Daniel Sloss 'Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die') to the camera.

I finally went to a LIVE. EVENT. again,  IN. PERSON. And it was a venue that was new to me. So that only means one thing: A BRAND NEW VENUE ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW (I was genuinely questioning whether I’d ever type those words again). This one is for the O2 Academy in Birmingham.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as a manual wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!) 

Ticket Buying

Back in June, my best mate Dev came up to visit me. When we were deciding what to do with our Saturday evening, we remembered that the comedian Daniel Sloss was doing shows in Birmingham that day and it turned out the venue was only a 15 minute walk from my house, so we figured we’d try and grab some last minute tickets. It was one of those “if it happens cool, if not we tried” situations but hey, other people can buy last minute on the day tickets to events if they’re available so why can’t disabled people?  With the mission outlined, we set about contacting the venue through all avenues: all social media, phone calls (which were the first form of contact but we weren’t getting through) and email. It became a matter of principle that we needed a response because like I said before, others can get last minute tickets, disabled attendees should have that option too. After a while, the venue replied to Dev’s email and said that access tickets for the show were sold out. That is what I thought the outcome would be so it was a case of “ok mission unsuccessful” and carry on with the day. THEN the venue replied to my tweet and asked for my contact details. Once I’d handed those details over, I received a call from the venue box office and we were able to book tickets over the phone for the evening performance.

Travel

Since the venue is only 15 minutes from my house, we decided to just walk. We also decided to make a canal side stop for a pre-show drink, because you know, celebrations, and that.

Experience & Seating

Once we arrived at the venue,  we were able to collect our tickets from the box office. I was also recognised by one of the social media team from my Twitter picture (since I was wearing the beloved red leather jacket that’s in that image). We were then taken in one of the entrances and up in the lift to our seats. The lift was one of those where you have to press and HOLD the button to make it move. We also couldn’t have anything touching the sides of the lift otherwise it wouldn’t move. I must say that it was quite difficult to keep holding the buttons down in the lift. Also, whilst I fitted in the lift okay in my  manual wheelchair, I was wondering whether that lift would be able to fit my electric wheelchair. Our seats were balcony seats with an ok view once we had removed one of the chairs and angled my wheelchair towards the stage. However, I wasn’t too bothered about the view since in my mind comedy isn’t as visual as a concert or something else like that. But I do wonder what the view would be like with those seats at a concert as everything on the stage looked pretty small because we were on the highest level.

*A couple of additional notes having attended a concert at this same venue since writing this review: Good additional points: My electric wheelchair DOES fit in that lift, which is something I was a little worried about since it’s a bit tight, AND the view of the stage from the wheelchair space is pretty good, which IS something I was concerned about as I mentioned above. Now for the less positive update: At the concert, my bestie/companion/holder of “carer” ticket, Dev headed down to the main standing area on a couple occasions. This is something we’ve both agreed is absolutely fine and something that happens at near enough every show we’re at together. I know she’ll return at some point, and frankly I quite enjoy knowing what the show was like from the moshpit/standing area as it’s something I’ll never see myself really. However, at the recent concert, we ran into a bit of an issue because security in the standing area wouldn’t allow Dev back up to the wheelchair seating with me even AFTER she showed proof of her carer ticket. I have also heard from other wheelchair using friends that security at the venue won’t even allow wheelchair users to leave the access seating level to buy MERCH. This issue with security (mixed with the lack of signal/Wi-Fi in the venue) meant that Dev and I weren’t reunited until the end of the gig and actually had a pretty difficult time finding each other which put a bit of a dampener on the the evening for me.

In terms of the disabled toilet, it was on the radar key scheme and the emergency pull cord went all the way to the floor; both of which were welcome sights, however, the space in the toilet was a little tight. There were also some COVID related changes (other than masks) such as being socially distanced. This meant there was a gap for one carer and wheelchair user between us and the other people in the accessible seating. There was also mobile ordering and delivery for drinks from the bar, as well as staggered exiting so that everyone wasn’t exiting at the same time.

All in all I must say Daniel Sloss is HILARIOUS and I was saying to Dev that we need NEED to go and see him again when he does a new show. A much needed night of laughs after the last 18 months or so. As for the venue accessibility, bar the struggles acquiring tickets, I thought it was pretty accessible and was fairly happy, although I’d probably have to retest the accessibility in my electric wheelchair just to be certain.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Five Misconceptions About Disabled People

The photo on the left hand side of the image is Emma, a young white woman with brown hair and tinted glasses, smiling into the camera whilst sat in her wheelchair. She is wearing a red check shirt, red leather jacket and a purple face covering around her neck. The blue text on the right hand side reads "Five Misconceptions About Disabled People"
Image Description: The photo on the left hand side of the image is Emma, a young white woman with brown hair and tinted glasses, smiling into the camera whilst sat in her wheelchair. She is wearing a red check shirt, red leather jacket and a purple face covering around her neck. The blue text on the right hand side reads "Five Misconceptions About Disabled People"

I often wonder how I’d answer the question “what’s the hardest part of being disabled?” If I was ever asked. I think my true answer is, actually being disabled isn’t the hard bit. It’s the perceptions and responses of non-disabled people to my disability that I find the toughest. I have seen  five general perceptions (these are the five I’ve heard or heard of the most but there are probably more). Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll hear all five of these perceptions in one day!

  • Disabled People Are Not Disabled “Enough”

The first perception is seeing disabled people as not disabled ENOUGH to actually be considered disabled or worthy of help and accommodations. This is linked to the idea that disabled people are fakers and scroungers who are only PRETENDING to be disabled for the benefits (both the actual disability benefit and any other perceived benefits such as queue skipping. This can show up in phrases like “oh you can do X, well then you’re not really disabled” or when you comment on a disabled person changing which mobility aid they use on a day to day basis as though variable health conditions don’t exist. This is perhaps the most dangerous misconception as it leaves disabled people constantly proving their disability in order to access the most basic help. It also can lead to internalised ableism on the part of the disabled person. This is something I can personally attest to as I often feel like if I am physically able to do something myself or have the time to then I should do it. Otherwise I feel like I am not doing enough and don’t qualify as “disabled enough” to allow myself rest or assistance.

  • Disabled People Are Incompetent or Incapable

This misconception is probably the one that annoys me the most. It’s this idea that, just because we are disabled, we are incompetent or incapable of living independently and need help with everything. This misconception rears its head in the oddest moments. I can simply be rolling down the street minding my own business or pulled to the side and waiting for a friend and someone will approach me and say, “Are you ok?, do you need help?”. And quite frankly my honest answer is “with what?”. If I’m not DOING anything and I’m just here, existing, alone, what can I possibly need help with? I think it’s the alone part that throws people. There’s this idea that disabled people have carers and are constantly attached to them, so if we’re out in the world alone, something must be wrong.

The second part of this incompetence and incapability misconception is when I’m doing something, say grabbing something off a shelf, and a non-disabled person asks if I need help. I’ll usually say no (mostly because I have my own independent methods and I know they work). However, people often ignore my answer and go about ‘helping’ me anyway. This is particularly frustrating and potentially dangerous as well because the methods disabled people develop for completing tasks are something they’ve figured out to live as independently as possible without hurting or overexerting themselves. Therefore, your unrequested ‘help’ as a non-disabled person can actually be more of hindrance, with us exerting more energy as we work around you, and potentially injuring ourselves.

  • Disabled People are Inspirational (In the Concept of Inspiration Porn)

This one’s a bit more difficult to explain. Of course sometimes disabled people ARE inspirational. There are plenty of disabled people who inspire me. My issue comes when disabled people are seen as inspirational for doing the smaller, regular things. I’ll be shopping for food, or out at the bar with friends and I’ll be called inspirational. What am I supposed to do, sit at home, and starve? stay inside and not have fun with my friends? And I think that’s the point, most of society doesn’t see our disabled lives as ones worth LIVING, just existing. It’s almost like we’re just expected to sit at home within four walls and cry about being disabled and doing anything outside of that narrative is considered inspirational.

The other part of Inspiration Porn that bothers me is the posts you see on social media of a disabled person (usually in the gym) doing something and a caption along the lines of “if they can do it, what’s your excuse not to?” It infuriates me every time. Disabled people don’t exist as motivational objects or for you to use to put others down and make them feel bad for not being able to do something or choosing not to do it.

  • Disabled People Are Angry Or Whiny

I don’t know if you’d fully call this a misconception, but I think that’s the closest term to what it is. There’s this idea that raises its head whenever disabled people bring up an issue, whether that be something as simple and regularly occurring as wheelchair accessibility issues or a bigger more complex issues like the lack of marriage equality for disabled people. Whenever issues like this are raised, it’s always said that disabled people are just angry or  whiny and complaining about everything. This is a misconception because it makes it sound like we LIKE complaining, but we don’t. We just want equality and the rights and access to do the same things as everyone else. Acting like we are whining, complaining, or asking for the moon when we ask for equality makes it sound as those equality is not something you expect or will allow us to have.

  • Disabled People Are Broken or Need To Be Fixed  

Remember when I said that the incompetence and incapability misconception annoyed me the most? Yeah I changed my mind, that accolade goes to this misconception. It often comes from people I call ‘healers’ or more widely those who have some form of religious faith. It is those kinds of people who will approach me, randomly in the street may I add, and ask to pray over me and tell me that their religious figure will fix or heal me. Firstly, saying disabled people will be fixed implies we are broken, which we are NOT.  Secondly, I feel that this whole misconception stems from the idea that being disabled is a bad thing, a terrible existence and that if we are disabled there is no way we can be happy. The idea that the only way we can be happy if we become non-disabled.  I can speak only for myself here but I can say I AM disabled AND happy. And frankly, since I’ve been disabled from birth, if I suddenly became able bodied, I wouldn’t have a clue how to handle it. My life is a disabled one. And it’s a happy one. And that’s fine by me.

So what’s the message of this blog post?  Please think about the perceptions you have of disabled people, and why you have those perceptions, because they may well be misconceptions. And if you’re disabled, what do you think of the misconceptions I’ve discussed here? Are there any I’ve missed?

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

The Cost of Disability

A selection of photos and text on a white background. The image on the left hand side is Emma, a white woman with brown hair and glasses, smiling into the camera. The image on the right is a jar, tipped on its side with coins spilling out, on a white background. There is also a section of blue text above the images and one below. The top centre text reads "The Cost" and the bottom centre text reads "Of Disability"
Image Description: A selection of photos and text on a white background. The image on the left hand side is Emma, a white woman with brown hair and glasses, smiling into the camera. The image on the right is a jar, tipped on its side with coins spilling out, on a white background. There is also a section of blue text above the images and one below. The top centre text reads "The Cost" and the bottom centre text reads "Of Disability"

A little diversion from my usual content here, but I need to discuss a perception about disabled people that’s a perpetual annoyance to me.

There’s this idea that disabled people are just “in it for the benefits”. That we’re a bunch of scroungers and fakers who get a butler, a mansion and a car all paid for by the government. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Disability is actually very expensive. Research from the disability charity Scope found that disabled people in the UK incur costs of an extra £583 a month. Where do these extra costs come from you ask? Well…

The first aspect to consider is medical bills. In the UK this can include paying for prescriptions  for the medications we need to keep us going, or for private therapy if the NHS will not provide them. I know these payments must be even higher in the US where every medical treatment and hospital stay incurs a cost.

Then there is the cost of equipment and all the other basics we need to exist and live. For example, this can include mobility equipment such as cars, wheelchairs, canes, or other mobility aids. Whilst I know that in the UK we have some schemes, such as the Motability Scheme. However, for those who cannot access such schemes or whose mobility aid cannot be funded by such schemes, they usually have to use some form of crowdfunding to fund their mobility equipment. Add to this the cost of any specific assistive equipment such as a shower seat or grab rail and the cost increases even further. Any disabled person will tell you that simply adding the word “assistance” or “adaptive” to the name of any items will significantly inflate the price. Even if we leave aside the costs of baying for pieces of equipment, there is also the cost of paying for assistance in the form of carers for those with disabled people who require them, these carers costs may not be covered by benefit, which means yet more additional costs for the disabled person.

Then we have to considered the cost of housing. For example, in my  university accommodation, the difference in rent between an accessible flat and a non-accessible flat was not covered, so I essentially paying more to live in a specific type of flat, not through choice but because it was the only place I could feasibly independently live. Even if we move beyond student accommodation, accessible housing on the general property market is a lot rarer than I think people are led to believe. This means that, through the guise of  supply and demand, such accessible houses are likely to be more expensive. So you think, ok you have your house, that’s the end of the additional housing costs right? Wrong. Then we have to account for utilities. For example disabled people may have higher energy and heating costs due to charging wheelchairs or running other equipment or even just through having their heating on more to help with muscular or temperature regulation issues. So even within the idea of “housing costs” there are so many additional costs

So we’ve covered equipment and housing, that must be it? Nope, even simple things like clothing can have additional costs. Like I mentioned earlier with assistive equipment, adding the term “adaptive” or “adapted” to a piece of clothing, or even just insinuating that a piece of clothing will be useful for disabled people, often means it will be priced higher. One recent  example is the Nike Go Flyease shoe. This a something that I saw many of my disabled peers saying would be the perfect shoe for them in terms of accessibility, but these shoes are $120, likely well out of budget for most disabled people. Even for those who do not require specific adaptive clothing, there are still additional costs, such as the need to shop with certain brands because of the accessibility of their clothing. For example, as a wheelchair user, I need to wear certain clothes that fit well when sat down constantly as I often am. Such brands and items are often more expensive than if I did not have those accessibility considerations. There is also the impact of additional delivery costs if there is a shop we want to buy our clothes from which isn’t accessible (in my case, the shop may not have step free wheelchair access). This additional cost should be something that everyone is more aware of given the impact of the recent lockdown and the fact that delivery was the only way we could buy anything, not just clothes.

I bet you’re thinking, “what can there be left to add?” Well, contrary to popular belief, disabled people like to go out and socialise and attend events too, and even our leisure activities can incur extra costs. For example, if I want to go to a pub or restaurant, it is likely that the more accessible places will be more expensive, but if I want to go out I have no CHOICE but to pay those prices as those are the only accessible locations. And if I choose to attend an event, I have to think about the difference in pricing of accessible seating. For example, when I got tickets to a UFC event in Liverpool a few years ago, I was initially quoted £200 for an accessible seating ticket and managed to get them to give me one of the £80 accessible seats instead. I will never understand why accessible seating is not just set at the lowest ticket price, particularly given that disabled attendees often can’t choose our seats and just have to sit wherever the accessible seating is placed.

So there must be some benefits and forms of help for disabled people to offset all these extra costs? Well yes and no. Whilst there are some schemes like the Motability scheme I mentioned earlier, not every disabled person is eligible for all schemes and all help. For example, in England, disabled people can get a reduction on their council tax. However, this only applies if your home is adapted for your disability (and only certain things count as adaptations). This means that I (very much a disabled person) do not qualify for a disability related council tax reduction because my house is not suitably adapted. And even if we ARE eligible for these help schemes, we often end up having to PAY first to gain access to them. This is the case in the UK for a disabled railcard, a Blue Badge disabled parking placard, and even paying for doctors notes to PROVE we are disabled in order to access a specific scheme. So, even where there are helpful schemes, we often have to pay for those too, incurring another additional cost on top of everything else. This is the price of accessibility and disability.

What I’m saying is, if you think disabled people get everything paid for and are living on easy street because we get government benefits, try balancing that against all the additional costs we have to pay to exist and live. I think you’ll find that we are paying out even more than everyone else. An average of an extra £583 a month to be exact

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)