Cage Warriors 111 (Birmingham New Street to London Euston and back with West Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains, and an Indigo At The O2 Access Review)

An absolutely mammoth train travel/access review post for you today. Birmingham New Street to London Euston and back with West Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains (which now no longer exists) and an access review of Indigo At The O2 for Cage Warriors 111.

(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!)

Train & Tube Outbound

Tickets

Tickets were booked through Trainline as usual and I booked the train assistance through Cross Country Trains. I did it this way, despite Cross Country not being one of the companies I travelled with, because both West Midlands Trains and Virgin trains insisted on having my wheelchair dimensions before booking the ramp and this was not something I’d ever previously been asked for before on any journey with any train company so it wasn’t information I was willing to suddenly have to give.

Birmingham New Street to Euston to Uxbridge

I arrived at the New Street assistance reception 20 minutes before the train and was taken to the platform and put on the train with a ramp by assistance. There are no wheelchair space reservations allowed on West Midlands Trains (operator for this leg of the journey) but luckily there was a free wheelchair space for me to occupy. The catch was that it was next to the toilet, which is interesting when the toilet door slams every 10 minutes and you have a ridiculous startle reflex like mine. When it came time to get off the train, I had a short wait for assistance before the ramp turned up, then it was time to head for the Tube. Specifically, I headed for Euston Square. I made my way through a gate line and to the platform to find there were no staff anywhere to call ahead to Uxbridge and confirm I could disembark. The only staff member I could see was stood at a gate line which was up some stairs, which meant I had to sit at the bottom of said stairs and shout for assistance (it’s a good job I’ve learned to yell loudly over the years). However, the staff member did inform that the wheelchair access at Euston Square was only in one direction so in order to make the return journey for my train home I’d have to go on to Kings Cross on the Metropolitan line and then come back on myself, oh if only the return journey was that simple!

Indigo At The O2 Access Review

Tickets

Initially, I phoned Indigo At The O2 for a wheelchair space ticket and carer ticket for Cage Warriors 111 and was told there were none left, with no mention of possible single wheelchair space tickets being available. Of course, as is standard in 2020, I headed to Twitter to express my disappointment at not being able to secure a ticket. I was particularly disappointed as there was a specific fighter (shout out Paddy Pimblett) who I was desperate to see fight live (and still am). That tweet kind of exploded and gained reaction in a way I never expected with many people trying to help me out (shout out, Paddy, Molly McCann and MMA Twitter for helping me secure an answer and a ticket from the venue). Through this reaction, I was put in touch with the venue who were able to tell me there was a single wheelchair space (no carer) ticket left for what I believe was the venue’s only access platform. Forget Cinderella shall go to the ball, Em shall go to the fights!

Travel

Travel was pretty similar to all my other trips to the O2 complex. I took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park with no ramp used, although they do have ramps. I could have used Finchley Road but they refused as it would be “easier” to use Wembley Park (easier on them I assume). I then went from Wembley Park to North Greenwich on the Jubilee line and was met off the tube and guided out of North Greenwich station. On the way back into the station post event, I was bumped and barged repeatedly whilst queuing to enter the station and on my way through the station. I then HAD to get on the busiest tube out of North Greenwich to make sure I didn’t miss the last Metropolitan line train out of Wembley Park towards Uxbridge. This meant I had to sit in the middle of the train not in the designated wheelchair space (because people were stood there). THAT meant I had to locked just lock my arm straight to hold onto the central pole and steady my chair in case it slid around. My arm was also repeatedly leant on to the point I thought my joints might dislocate. Thankfully I made the last Metropolitan line from Wembley to Uxbridge and then had a short wait for the ramp at Uxbridge.

Experience & Seating

On arrival at the venue, I went through a ticket check and was then led to my seat on the platform. In terms of view, I had probably one of the best views of fighter walkout that I’ve ever had, with fighter walkout being immediately to my left, I was, however, a little further back than I have been for other shows in terms of view into the cage. There was also only the one small platform which meant it was quite packed and full. I did hear an assistance staff member say the platform was “not meant for so many big wheelchairs” which baffled me completely because wheelchair dimensions had never been mentioned when I bought my ticket an, let’s face it, if access is only accessible for those with certain sizes or types of mobility aids, it’s not REALLY access. The good thing about this platform was it was right next to an accessible toilet which meant toilet trips didn’t involve trekking across the venue.

Tube, Bus & Train Return

For the beginning of my return journey back to Birmingham, there were maintenance works on Metropolitan line between Wembley Park and Aldgate. That meant that my journey back to Euston was as follows: Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park, then the Jubilee line from there to Bond Street, THEN the Central from there to Tottenham Court Road and finally a bus to Euston station. I made myself known at the Euston assistance desk and was then told to make my own way to the platform. I waited there and was then met by assistance staff who used a ramp to put me on the train. As per my usual gripes with Virgin Trains, there was a tight corridor and door to navigate to make it to my seat, but there was more space in the wheelchair space than I expected given how insistent they were about knowing my wheelchair dimensions prior to my attempted assistance booking. Once I arrived back at New Street, I was taken off the train pretty immediately and was able to wheel away out of the station and back to university accommodation.

I hope this shows my adventures as a wheelchair user for a weekend in the capital for the fights. Thanks as always to Cage Warriors for putting on a brilliant show and I can’t wait to be back in March for CW113

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham Symphony Hall Access Review

Interior of Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Image is taken from the back of the Stalls seating area, with balconies on either side. There are many rows of brown seats between the viewer and the stage, with about 30 people already seated. A curtain obscures the stage other than some purple and blue lights that can be seen on the stage floor.
Image Description: Interior of Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Image is taken from the back of the Stalls seating area, with balconies on either side. There are many rows of brown seats between the viewer and the stage, with about 30 people already seated. A curtain obscures the stage other than some purple and blue lights that can be seen on the stage floor. (Credit Lizzie Iles for description)

Another access review! This time Symphony Hall in Birmingham for Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

(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 bought my ticket through an accessible booking line. One issue is that, of course, these ticket lines are only open at certain times, which delayed my ticket buying from when I found I could go until the next morning. It doesn’t sound like that much of an issue since I’m a student but can prove a big problem if you have a job and can’t make calls during certain hours. I was also told when I bought the ticket that I’d have a restricted view if people stood, but bought it anyway. It seems from speaking to a fellow attendee and wheelchair user that the venue informs wheelchair users of possible restricted view regardless of their seat. It may be that the access seating at the side of the venue (basically in a box rather than at the back of stalls) is slightly higher up and as such provides a better view. It’s important to note that this is my experience of buying a single ticket without a carer as, as far as I can gather from the website, there is a form that needs filling in prior to ticket purchase for a free carer/assistant/companion ticket. The wheelchair user that I spoke to did acquire a companion ticket and assures me that form is quite simple to fill in and could possibly even be done over the phone. Once the form is filled in, the companion ticket is automatically added to your booking.

Travel

Travel for this gig was quite simple as it was only a 25-minute walk from my accommodation at Aston University to Symphony Hall.

Experience & Seating

Once I entered the building I headed down the ramp into the main foyer section. The box office was on one side and this is where I headed to collect my ticket as it was a last minute ticket. I then headed across the other side of the foyer for the theatre entrance. I had to go through a security pat down alongside bag check since I cannot go through a metal detector/scanner since, well, wheelchairs are metal. However, depending on when you arrive, this security set up outside the theatre can cause a bit of an issue as a long security queue goes all the way down the ramp, which blocks wheelchair users (like the fellow attendee I spoke to) from joining the back of the queue as instructed. This leads to staff panicking about what to do and as a result fast tracking wheelchair users through the queue and security checks. I was then led through a set of double doors to my seat which was pretty much in the back row of the stalls and looked as though a seat had simple been removed from the standard row of seating to make a wheelchair space, simples! The merch stall was also directly outside that set of doors (which meant Em bought a new band tee because how could I not with such temptation?!). As expected, my view was obstructed when people stood for the last 3 songs, but when Frank begins that song trio with “I won’t sit down” (Photosynthesis I will forever love you) I kind of expected people to stand. Besides which, I knew already that a restricted view was like for at least part of the show and kinda expected it from that song, so I made the best of the situation and my own little dance party while no one could see me!

Overall, accessibility at Symphony Hall is good but I think there are things that could be improved, particularly around the possibility of a restricted view. Thanks to Frank and The Sleeping Souls for a great show as always and a quick extra shout out to the Solo Armada for making sure it didn’t feel like I was going to the show alone even though I only bought one ticket.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

 

Asylum Access Review (for Total Uprawr Rock Night)

Time for another access review. This time of Asylum in Birmingham, specifically for Uprawr Rock Night!

(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!)

Tickets

Ticket buying is an easy enough situation as you just buy a ticket on the door, roll in and collect a stamp.

Travel

Travel there is also fairly simple as it’s a 15 minute walk from my room at Aston University. The only vaguely tricky bit is when you reach the road Asylum is on you have to come off the drop kerb, cross the road to the side of Asylum and then go further up in the road (not on the path) and come back on yourself round inside the barriers, but that’s only tricky as it involves driving in the road.

Experience

The experience inside is also very accessible. There is a ramp from the main entrance and bar to the dance floor which can be tricky to navigate if not approached straight on so I would be careful but it’s definitely a very usable ramp. Once on the dancefloor there was plenty of space and a general nice atmosphere which negated the claustrophobia that I find can sometimes be an issue at club nights (particularly when you’re a wheelchair user constantly at bum height and surrounded by those taller than you). Maybe the atmosphere is just a difference between a rock night and a standard club night? I’m not sure.

While there is an accessible toilet, it is not a radar key toilet as the key is kept behind the bar or with security staff. I’d always recommend making toilets radar key over staff held key as it allows for independence in using the bathroom and then going about your night rather than having to hang around waiting for a key, but I’m also aware that not everyone who uses an accessible toilet will have a radar key. The other point to note is that the accessible toilet is situated with all other toilets so queues for the standard toilets can cover the accessible toilet door. Keep that in mind if you want to avoid hitting people with toilet doors!

I hope this review is useful and helps my fellow wheelchair using rockers enjoy an accessible club night!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Mama Roux’s Access Review (Not Safe For Work Rock Night)

Credit: Shann Wright

Another access review, this time for Mama Roux’s in Birmingham, specifically for Not Safe For Work Rock Night

(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!)

Tickets

Tickets buying was a very simple situation as they were simply available to be bought on the door.

Travel

Getting there was…an experience to say the least. The actual distance isn’t the problem as it’s only about a 20 minute walk. However, Digbeth (the area) is sort of notorious for its lack of drop kerbs and for Uber drivers parking on said drop kerbs so I’d get ready to fight for your drop kerb access if I was you. I know I tapped on the windows of several Ubers that night to get them to move off the drop kerb.

Experience

Once I was in the door, it was a mixed experience, although overall a good one. I had to use my chair riser to raise up to bar level to pay since the card readers did not seem to be detachable. However, I did manage to make my way through the dancefloor to the barrier, which is not something that happen often but is the kind of situation I LOVE, so I’m not ashamed to admit that made my night. The accessible toilet wasn’t actually in Mama Roux’s but in another section/building on Lower Trinity Street. They’re all connected but that toilet also wasn’t radar key so I had to wait and get the key from staff which made the simple process of going to the bathroom a long process and quite the mission. I would suggest making the toilet a radar key toilet as I usually do but I think that may be quite pointless because there’s the factor of distance between Mama Roux’s and the actual accessible toilet, so I’m not sure make the toilet a radar key toilet would streamline the process any more.

I hope this post is useful and helps someone enjoy a great night out at Not Safe For Work.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Cage Warriors 109 at Birmingham Resorts World Arena – SOLO

Mooooore access reviews. This time Resorts World Arena in Birmingham for Cage Warriors 109. I know I’ve reviewed this venue before here when it was Genting Arena, but this time I was SOLO. So, what’s the difference attending an event solo at this venue vs accompanied? Read on to find out.

(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 time around, the first part of the process was to apply for the Access Card specifically for Birmingham venues from the Resorts World Arena website. While I was waiting for that to be confirmed I was able to ring the venue and have tickets held for a specific number of days while waiting for the Access Card confirmation. So, in all honesty, once the Access Card was sorted it was basically the usual process of buying tickets through a phone line.

Travel

Travel wise, I took a train from Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International with Virgin Trains which let me tell you was a MISSION. There was an issue with booking assistance in that they wanted my wheelchair dimensions before agreeing to book the ramp for my assistance. This is not something I have been asked for before and annoyed me. I found, however that if you book via another company’s assistance line (Cross Country in my case), they’ll sort your assistance with no issue, gotta love a loophole! I arrived at Birmingham New Street 20 minutes before departure and was put straight on the train. I was then taken straight off at Birmingham International and followed the sign posts through the station to the arena. On the way back, it was my first time taking a train there and back from a Cage Warriors venue so I didn’t know if I’d make the last train. With that in mind, I decided to leave straight after the main event KO, regardless of how much I wanted to stay for celebrations. I made it back in the station 15 minutes before my train and managed to get on an earlier train than I’d booked even with issues on the line, there was then a minor wait at Birmingham New Street before I was able to disembark the train.

Experience & Seating

Firstly, what an absolutely class show by Cage Warriors as per usual, it honestly felt like going home after 6 months not being at a CW live show, I know that sounds a bit dramatic but if you read this thankyou note I’ve written to Cage Warriors you’ll understand why I say it. As for the venue, there are accessible toilets which can be accessed by radar key which was a welcome sight as someone who likes not having to ask for access. I was basically cage side, or as close as fan can get, same as the previous visit. The only way that going solo is different to going with someone is that there’s no one to bounce that fight night energy off of (aka no one to contain me while I lose myself in fight night) or to discuss fights with.

Cage Warriors, all the love as always, see you in London! I hope this is an insight into my solo fight night adventures!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Rhodes Travel Blog

Photo Credit: Col Lymburn

Another travel blog time! This time: My family holiday to Rhodes in Greece!

Flying

First up, Flights! I need to preface this by saying that I used my manual wheelchair for this trip so any wheelchair mentions are talking about my manual wheelchair. On arrival at Birmingham airport, we made our way to bag check in where we were also able to pick up a luggage tag for my wheelchair which I saw as an unexpected bonus and a way to streamline the process. From there I thought everything was ok and there would be no need to go to the assistance desk (because all I figured they needed to do was tag my chair since assistance was prebooked, how wrong I was) and no one at the airport told us to go to assistance. On arrival at the gate, we learned that no ambulift had arrived to take me to the plane, apparently BECAUSE we hadn’t headed to the assistance desk, so there was a delay in waiting for that to arrive. For the flight home from Rhodes airport, we were one of the last called forward for boarding which meant having to wheel down the ramp onto the tarmac through all those who were already waiting to board. One unexpected bonus though was a fully wheelchair accessible private transfer from the airport to the hotel and back.

Hotel (Amathus Beach Hotel Rhodes)

Next up, the hotel!

Firstly, it must be said that the customer service here absolutely CANNOT be faulted. Particular shout out to the staff in the main restaurant for always making sure to seat us specifically at the most accessible tables every mealtime. Now onto the access. The accessible route to the main pool was through the car park/ drop off section, which is not the kind of trip I would have liked to do on my own. There was however a very doable accessible route from our room to the top level bar (the pool And the bar are the only important parts of a holiday right?!). In terms of the room itself, there was a bath and grab rails in the bathroom, I do prefer a wet room for ease of access but I’m used to baths and grab rails in hotel rooms now. The layout and size of the bathroom also made it easier to leave my chair outside and transfer into the bathroom. One of the bonuses here was adjoining rooms which made it easier to get assistance from my mum when struggling with some things like transferring in and out of the bath using the grab rails. This room was also a two level room with steps down to the balcony area which meant I had to be lifted down to the balcony which was an unexpected accessibility issue. I must also say that there are fully accessible rooms elsewhere in the hotel but I wasn’t in one of those so I can’t comment on what they are like.

Rhodes Town

Now, on to Rhodes town itself. In terms of public transport, the buses do have ramps which are manual so you have to ask the driver to lower the ramp out, which is situated in the middle of bus. We had a mixed experience with this, with no problem sorting it out on the way into town but what I think was a language barrier issue on the way out of town meaning we couldn’t get the driver to put the ramp down and I ended up having to be lifted on.

In terms of the town itself, the old town is so historic and beautiful and entirely worth going to, particularly if you like wandering through quaint little side streets, but it is quite cobbled so beware of that and be prepared. The modern side of the city has much better ground with just standard asphalt paths, I think it does have quite a confusing layout though so if you struggle with directions I’d probably prepare to get lost.

Waterpark

And finally, to the waterpark. We took a taxi to the waterpark from our hotel after seeing how full the free transfer bus from town to the waterpark gets. This was simply a case of folding my chair and transferring into the back of the taxi. Overall, I’d say the physical access at the park was ok with smooth asphalt paths most places although there were a couple of large hills. The actual ride access was less so, I was only allowed on about 2 of the rides (according to a list on display upon entry) due to safety, which made sense when I saw some of the rides available here, and I was glad to be made aware of ride access upon entry rather than trying to get on a ride and being turned away. I did get free entry though which I think balanced out the lack of ride access. The rides I could access were the lazy river and the wave pool, which was perfectly fine by me as those are my favourite rides.

I hope this gives everyone an insight into this accessibility of this trip!

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

Digbeth Dining Club Access Review

ANOTHER access review, this time Digbeth Dining Club on Lower Trinity Street 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!)

Tickets

In terms of tickets, it’s simply a pay on entry (rather than prebooking) and pay for what you buy inside kind of deal. I did have my entry fee returned to me when I tried to pay which makes me wonder if entry is free for disabled people? I’m not sure on that but it may be worth an enquiry if you’re visiting.

Travel

In terms of travel, it’s quite a simple 20 ish minute walk from my room on Aston University Campus. One word of caution is that the Digbeth area is, even in the short time I’ve lived in Birmingham, becoming notorious in my mind for having few/poor drop kerbs, so if drop kerbs are necessary for access for you as they are for me, I’d prepare for a bit of an interesting journey.

Experience & Seating

Once in, we had a walk around the front section to check out the stalls there and then were let through a barrier and a closed section of Lower Trinity Street to see the rest of the stalls. I ended up sending my friend back to one of the front stalls with my card to get the food I wanted as it seemed easier than going through the whole process to get back to the stalls at the front again. Obviously it’s my decision to do it that way but it is concerning when access is so laborious that letting someone else collect your food seems the easier option. When it came to sitting down to eat, I parked my chair at the end of the long picnic bench type table, again I’m used to this but would prefer it if there was an option where I didn’t end up on the end of the table. I also had to use my chair riser to raise up to the bar to pay as there was no cable extension for the card reader, again, I’m lucky that my chair has a riser so I can rise up in situations like that but I’m aware that’s not a possibility for even every wheelchair user.

Overall, while the food and beers at Digbeth Dining Club were fabulous and the atmosphere very cool, I think there are still steps that could be taken to improve the access and make it a more independent experience for disabled patrons.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Kaiser Chiefs at Kingston Pryzm

Another access review (of sorts), for this, I’m reviewing my entire experience as a solo, disabled, travelling gig goer for Kaiser Chiefs album release show at Kingston Pryzm. This means I’m putting a train/tube travel review, a hotel review and a venue access review all in one, so it’ll be a little different to my usual access reviews, but hopefully give a fuller picture of my experience.

(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!)

Train/Tube

Travelling on the hottest day on record (or the hottest July day on record? Either way it was bloody warm) , I expected to have travel issues using the train from Chippenham to London Paddington and back and then tubes and a bus across London, but to my surprise there were no issues. My tickets were booked through Trainline as usual. Then I ended up getting on an earlier train than my booked assistance, on both the outbound and return journey to try and negate any potential travel issues, and getting an earlier train proved to be no issue. Once I arrived at Paddington it was a case of taking 2 tubes and a bus to Kingston. Specifically, I took the Circle line from Paddington to Hammersmith, the District line from Hammersmith to Richmond and then a bus to Kingston and a short walk from there to the hotel.

Hotel

As discussed more in this blog post. I had some issues with my stay at Travelodge Kingston Upon Thames Central. Simply that I was not provided with the accessible room I had booked due to a system issue, but I made the situation work. On the whole, the room was functional, it was basic but good for a one night gig stay over sort of situation like I was doing. The one thing I couldn’t fault was the location as it was just a short walk from both the bus stop and the venue. It’s also worth saying that since this experience I’ve had a 50% refund on this stay and have had another stay in this hotel where I stayed in an accessible room with a full accessible wet room.

Venue

I hadn’t been to a Banquet Records show since the venue switch from the Hippodrome to Pryzm had been made. However, buying tickets was the same process of buying through the Banquet Records site and leaving a note re access needs in the booking notes. On the night, once I’d been through the ID check I made myself known to Banquet staff who took me around the metal detector and through the bag check. I was then taken up in a lift where the button had to be held the entire duration of the ride up. I think this is a better access format than it was at the Hippodrome as those who’ve read my Hippodrome review will know that access to the accessible viewing platform there was via a slightly questionable ramp I was then taken to the specific disabled access boxes at Pryzm which I believe are higher up than the access platform at the Hippodrome and therefore provide a better view, they also involve not having to go down any sort of ramp like the one I mentioned earlier from the Hippodrome!

I hope this guide to my entire experience of this gig is helpful!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheel

Clayton Hotel Cardiff Review

A hotel accessibility review of my stay in Clayton Hotel Cardiff for Cage Warriors 104 back in April!

(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 hotel as a manual wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Booking

This booking process began with me ringing the hotel as I couldn’t find how to book an accessible room online and wondered if I was missing something. I was then told that all the accessible rooms were booked for the period of my stay, so I booked a standard room, knowing that was feasible with my manual wheelchair, and was told my booking would be moved to an accessible room if one became available.

Travel

The travel part was relatively simple as the hotel was a 15 minute or so walk from Cardiff Kingsway coach drop-off point once we’d arrived in Cardiff on Megabus from London.

Experience

The experience started before we’d even arrived at the hotel as they (the hotel) rang while I was on the coach to Cardiff to say that there was an accessible room available and that my booking had been moved to that room. When we checked in, the hotel completed a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) which, as the name suggests, is a document detailing how I’ll be evacuated in case of an emergency such as a fire. This was the first time I’d had a PEEP done whilst staying at hotel that I know of and it was certainly reassuring to know it had been done. The room itself was on the 3rd floor which, as far as I remember was the first floor which actually had guest rooms. There was large wet room bathroom which was a welcome change as not many accessible hotel rooms, from my experience, actually have wet room bathrooms, There was also an automatic door button to get into and out of the room which, unfortunately, didn’t work. That was disappointing but not a major problem for me as I had someone with me to help me in and out of the room, but I’m aware it could be a problem for someone else.

Overall, this is one of the most accessible hotels I’ve stayed in and I would definitely stay here again if I visited Cardiff again.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

 

Brunel University Experience as a Disabled Student – The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Surprising

Photo Credit: Holly Ashby

Those of you who’ve been following my journey, either personally or just through the blog, recently will know that I just graduated with a BSc in Psychology and Sociology with Professional Development from Brunel University London. Here, I’ll be talking about my experiences as a disabled student at Brunel, the good, the bad, the ugly and the surprising. This is something I’ve already sort of discussed in this Guardian article, but I thought I’d discuss it a little more, particularly with the new year starting and freshers about to make the move to university.

The Good

So, let’s start with the good. Firstly, the BIGGEST shout out has to go to Brunel’s Disability and Dyslexia Service (DDS). The amount of help they gave me from the minute I rolled into Brunel to the minute I left was unreal. From setting up my support profile to contacting lecturers for me about access issues when I couldn’t get to lectures, to giving me the details for who to contact about access complaints, to generally being a sounding board when I was frustrated with access and university and life in general. It’s amazing how comforting it can be to have someone say “yeah that’s definitely a problem” when you bring up access issues, otherwise you just begin to think you’re overreacting. I will always be grateful for the support DDS provided.

Another good side of Brunel was of course the degree I earned there, and what I learned in an academic sense. It’s broadened my academic knowledge more than I ever thought possible, opened doors to new areas of psychology that I didn’t even know existed and allowed me to achieve my dream of getting a degree (a dream I’ve had since I was 14). It’s also led me onto further things academically, specifically a Masters degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at Aston University, which I’ll be starting in September.

It’s also led me onto other things outside of academia, specifically in this blog, there are entire posts on various parts of my Brunel experience on here, and there have been blog opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been at Brunel.

As cliché as it sounds, my experiences at Brunel have shaped who I am, for good or for bad. I know I wouldn’t be this willing to fight for change and better access for disabled people if I hadn’t constantly had to fight for it for myself. Brunel turned me from a self-advocate into an activist because it showed me that issues I encountered weren’t just issues for me but for others as well.

The Bad

Now here comes the bad, despite Brunel’s status as a fairly flat single campus university, there were still issues. In the end it began to feel like a pretty constant battle alongside trying to get a degree. If it wasn’t broken library lifts or lecture centre lifts, it was fire safety issues (being left in a fire refuge area with no information as to whether there’s actually a fire or not is REALLY great, not). If it wasn’t either of those it was campus “updates” altering accessible routes around campus and in some cases making them LESS accessible, or other minor access issues like automatic doors being turned off. All of these sound like minor issues on their own but it all builds up and having to deal with issues like these constantly is draining.

The Ugly

AAAAAANNNNNND onto the ugly side of things, the reason I say ugly is that these issues are the ones that impacted me the most, because they directly impacted my ability to involve myself in the degree I went to Brunel to achieve. What were those issues I hear you ask? Being timetabled in lecture rooms upstairs without a lift in the building (meaning the room was inaccessible to me) and simply being told to go home (I didn’t pay £9k a year to GO HOME). Oh, and there was that time the only lift in a building broke the night before one of my final year EXAMS with no backup plan, meaning I couldn’t get to my exam room and had to take the exam in a ground floor office. I hope you can understand now what I mean when I say this is the ugly side of Brunel’s (in)accessibility. My access needs should not stop me from attending my degree but there were occasions at Brunel when they did.

The Surprising

Now for the surprising side. One surprise for me (a good surprise) was that my lecturers were as angry as I was about the broken lifts or inaccessible lecture rooms which stopped me getting to lectures. The reason this was a surprise was, and this might sound a little upsetting but it’s true, when you get used to the kind of blasé “that’s just the way it is” attitude to accessibility that I seemed to be getting from Brunel, you begin to think that attitude extends to everyone in the institution, but my lecturers reactions to these access issues showed me that it does not.

The other surprise was how easily and instantly procedure changes were mentioned or I was brought to meetings to discuss access issues once I started raising complaints every time an issue arose. The surprising thing here was why did it have to get to this point? Why did I have to make myself heard constantly to get someone to listen?. I don’t want to be the girl that yells about access all the time, but I’ll yell until I’m listened to. This could have been so much simpler if access issues were recognised WITHOUT me having to yell about them.

So, now everything’s said and done, Brunel: You were an experience to say the least, and while I made some of the best friends and learned a lot in an academic sense, you certainly could have made my experience easier from an accessibility standpoint. Having said that, these experiences have shaped me and shown me how much of a self-advocate I can be. So, for that reason, I’ll always be oddly thankful for these 4 years of experience. Next Stop: Birmingham for this Masters degree, to the next adventure I go!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)