How NOT to Travel From Euston to Uxbridge as a Wheelchair User

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while will remember my post about my first train trip up to Birmingham for Cage Warriors 98. Now what I didn’t tell you is what happened AFTER we got off the train, between Euston and Uxbridge. Well here’s that story, strap in and prepare because it’s a whole roller coaster ride!

On Train

It all started while we were still on the train back to Euston. I saw on the Metropolitan line twitter that the Euston Square tube station (the station I intended to use to get home) lift was broken. That was fine, as I’d just roll on to Kings Cross, which wasn’t that much further. I then saw on a different twitter account that the Euston Square lift was fixed so I reverted back to the Euston Square plan as I originally wanted to. On arrival at Euston, after my incredibly sarcastic answer to “do you need a ramp?” (I mentioned that in the other post but it’s the sassiest I’ve ever been so I shall forever mention it), we made our way out of Euston. In hindsight, we should have probably waited for clear concrete confirmation that the Euston Square lift was working before heading off, but they say hindsight’s 20/20.

At Euston Square

On arrival at Euston Square, we found out that the lift was actually still broken. So, with that knowledge, I told the staff I needed a taxi to the next accessible station as is the rule in these situations. I was then told this was not protocol, something that I continued to be told even after I’d shown the staff member a screenshot from the TFL website, and so that staff member disappeared to locate their manager, convinced I still wasn’t telling the truth. Granted, at this point, I probably should have just walked on to Kings Cross about 10 minutes away but I was quite annoyed about being told I was incorrect and essentially lying about being entitled to a taxi to the next accessible station, so I decided to stand my ground. Eventually, the manager returned and said yes I was entitled to a taxi (I knew THAT) and we waited like an hour for said taxi.

In taxi and at Kings Cross

Before I hopped in the taxi, I confirmed that TFL were paying for it, and this was confirmed for me, because the taxi company had a contract with TFL for these kind of trips from an inaccessible station to an accessible one. However, when we got to Kings Cross, the driver requested payment from us, despite already being paid by TFL as far as we knew, and wouldn’t let us move away until we gave him money. So I had to pay £10 I knew I didn’t owe him personally, to be able to go get the train.

At Kings Cross – Metropolitan and Piccadilly line

Once we were actually inside Kings Cross, we first tried to use the Metropolitan line, but that was out of service between Kings Cross and Uxbridge, so we had to use the Piccadilly line for the same route. This meant my friends phone died and she wouldn’t be able to tap out on exit despite having tapped in on her phone.

On Piccadilly line

When we finally get on the Piccadilly line, I was aware my friend and I were exiting at 2 different destinations, However, that was fine, even though I was in my manual wheelchair, because I knew I was going straight to my destination on a single train and had someone to meet me there. EXCEPT, it didn’t happen like that, the train terminated early at an inaccessible station, even though TFL are not supposed to terminate trains early at inaccessible stations when they KNOW they have a wheelchair user onboard! Luckily, I was able to contact my friend Nikki who was waiting for me at Uxbridge so she could let them know and have them coordinate the situation with the station I was at on my behalf (shout out Uxbridge station for always being super helpful with access in my 4 years living there, and particularly in this situation). I was then then taken off the terminated train and put back on a different train going all the way to Uxbridge, and EVENTUALLY made it back to Uxbridge about 4 HOURS after I left Euston

Hopefully, this gives some insight into what is probably the worst inaccessibility debacle of my time in London

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Cage Warriors 111 (Train Travel from Birmingham New Street to London Euston as a Wheelchair User, and Indigo At The O2 Wheelchair Accessibility 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 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 Resorts World Arena SOLO Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Mooooore access reviews. This time Resorts World Arena in Birmingham for Cage Warriors 109. I know I’ve reviewed this venue before 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)

Clayton Hotel Cardiff Wheelchair Accessibility 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)

Thankyou Cage Warriors

Those of you who’ve read the title will know what I’m doing here. Of course, Cage Warriors (CW) aren’t the only people I need to thank, but it felt right to thank them here considering that a good chunk of my posts are about Cage Warriors trips. Just a warning that this post is a little more emotional and a lot more personal than my usual posts. So, what exactly am I thanking Cage Warriors for?

Well, let’s start from the beginning of this rollercoaster ride. Since June 2018, I have had 3 family bereavements, including losing my dad suddenly in that June, add to that trying to do a dissertation and everything else completing the final year of a degree involves and it sort of felt like the universe had thrown everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink at me and gone “DEAL WITH IT!”.

It was during those early months after losing my dad that I found Cage Warriors while searching for something to buy tickets for (to give me something to look forward to). I saw the CW98 Birmingham date was the weekend before my birthday and decided it would be the perfect present to myself.

We then ended up adding CW97 in Cardiff to the list of events to attend as part of my friend’s birthday present because well, why not?

Nothing was an issue at CW97, those of you who’ve read my blog of that trip will know they brought the meet and greet to me when I couldn’t find an accessible route. I immediately felt comfortable and, as silly as it seems, like I’d joined a family. And that’s the first thing I have to say thank you for, for making mew feel comfortable while I was still trying to deal with my world being turned upside down. Even though you had no idea what I’d gone through with losing my dad, that experience at CW97 will always be important to me.

Thank you for giving me something to focus on when things sucked, and I was struggling with grief. Planning trips to CW shows, whether that was figuring out which shows we could go to or booking coaches and hotels, pulled me out of a grief spiral more times than I care to count. The amount of times “it’s ok because I get to go to CW in X days” or “CW is on in x days” became my mantra is slightly ridiculous, but everyone needs their light at the end of the tunnel in dark times and CW was mine.

Thank you for providing an escape from the madness of the final year of my degree AND providing mini deadlines for coursework. The motivation “this essay needs doing because I have to go to CW this weekend” was used a few times and I’m not joking when I tell you that my CW104 tickets were stored in an envelope marked “FINISH DISSERTATION!”

Thank you for providing a sense of normality when sometimes nothing else made sense. Even if normality means: get on the coach, get to the hotel, have a beverage or two, see some brilliant fights, sleep and get on the coach to go home, that sense of normality was still appreciated.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity and excuse to travel like I’d always been saying I would, and like I promised myself I would after I lost my dad. It may have only been UK travel, but it’s started me on the travelling that I’ve forever been talking about.

Thank you for the best “do you remember when…” memories, memories I’m still talking about months later.

Thank you for putting a smile on my face in the worst times.

Thankyou for helping me maintain my sanity and stay invincible, I can never put into words what means (even if I have tried here).

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Travelling from London Euston to Birmingham University as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It

Photo Credit: Keshia Asare

This is a blog I should have gotten around to writing months ago, but anyway, here it is! My experience of travelling from London Euston to Birmingham University via Birmingham New Street with London North Western Railway and West Midlands Railways for Cage Warriors 98 in October.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at London Euston

The tickets for this section from Euston to New Street was booked through the Virgin site on a weekend event deal of theirs and then collected from a station ticket machine. It was a fairly simple process in which I just selected the stations were travelling to/from, selected a specific train and paid and then collected the tickets at Euston station. While that was all done on one site, there was no option to reserve a wheelchair space on the site. Assistance was booked separately over the phone and I booked assistance, a ramp onto the train, for all 4 trains (Euston – New Street, then New Street to University, then the same in reverse for the return) in one call, and that was quite the task let me tell you! Getting to Euston itself was pretty simple, we just took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Euston Square and walked to Euston.

When it came to boarding the train at Euston, I must admit I felt kind of ignored when trying to make myself known at the assistance desk. I understand that it’s a busy station but it’s always a little odd to have staff look at you and then not acknowledge that you’re waiting.

On Train

On the train, the wheelchair space was next to the toilet, which was an issue for a couple of reasons. 1. The door slammed every time it closed which set off my startle reflex (which I’ve discussed more here if anyone wants to understand more about that) 2. Sitting next to a toilet is just kind of gross and not something I wanted to do for over an hour. Luckily I’m able to transfer out of my wheelchair into a seat so that’s what I did on this occasion. The stop before New Street, I transferred back into my wheelchair to prepare to disembark. Not long after this, I felt someone grab the handle of my wheelchair and, being a big advocate of #JustAskDontGrab I was about to politely ask this person to let go when they collapsed onto me. At this point I realised the person had used my chair to prevent themselves from collapsing so I was less annoyed about the grab because frankly I’d do the same thing if I was in that position. However, it was still scary, as you can imagine, having someone collapsed on top of me and being unable to move or leave the train until he had been moved to a seat. Thankfully it was the train’s final stop, so staff were able to help the person and get me off the train without too much issue.

Ticket Buying & Changing Trains at Birmingham New Street

The tickets for the New Street to University train were booked via Trainline but the assistance was still booked separately over the phone. In terms of getting between trains, we were simply walked through the station by the staff member who’d assisted us off the train from London.

On Train, Disembarking & Leaving at University

The journey itself was only short, so I simply parked in an unoccupied wheelchair space. When it came time to disembark, we were instantly met off the train with a ramp, so disembarking was completely uncomplicated which is just the way I like it, but it’s surprising how rarely that actually happens.

Just to explain the jump here, we were supposed to get the train back from University to New Street but ended up skipping that section of the journey as a friend dropped us directly at New Street. Pro Tip: inform the assistance staff if you’re not going to be taking a certain journey! We arrived at New Street to mildly frantic assistance staff wondering what had happened and why we weren’t on the train from University. I can admit that it’d completely slipped my mind to inform them because, frankly I didn’t expect them to be there to assist anyway! Which was obviously an error on my part but pretty neatly sums up how assistance usually works (or more often doesn’t) as a wheelchair user on the railways.

Return

Getting On at Birmingham New Street

In terms of getting to the station, we were dropped in one of the station carparks. We then got to the station level using the oldest, smallest, most rickety lift I’d ever seen in my entire life. I honestly thought we’d end up stuck. From there we made our way to the assistance desks to request the assistance I’d prebooked to get onto the train.

On Train

On the train, I was again seated next to the toilet so, again, I transferred out onto a standard seat to avoid the constantly slamming door.  Later in the trip, we were found by the train staff and informed that my chair would need to be folded and removed from the wheelchair space if someone who was staying in their wheelchair required it. Of course, that was completely fine and what I’d have done even if the staff had not mentioned it, it’s just common courtesy as far as I see. As it happened my chair did not end up having to be folded.

Disembarking & Leaving at London Euston

When it came time to leave the train at Euston, we ended up waiting around 10 minutes for assistance, which is around the standard waiting time for assistance by my experience (it shouldn’t be, but it is). When assistance did turn up I was greeted with “do you need a ramp?!” (bearing in mind I’d already prebooked assistance WITH A RAMP). I must admit it took all of my self-control not to sarcastically reply “nah mate I’ll just levitate off the train”. Silly questions lead to sarcastic answers. We were eventually let off the train and allowed to go on our way.

I hope you enjoyed this long overdue tale of my adventures to Birmingham on the train!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Viola Arena Cardiff Wheelchair Accessibility Seating Review

CW104 view, photo credit: Keshia Asare

Since I attended Cage Warriors 104 in April, I realised I’d attended 3 different Cage Warriors shows at what is now the Viola Arena (CW97, CW100 and CW104) and sat in 3 different disabled seating sections (Cageside, Block 15 and Block 17). With that in mind, I thought I’d expand on my earlier CW97 post  and compare the 3 sections and the pros and cons of each. Disclaimer, this only relates to the seating for Cage Warriors events as I haven’t attended the arena for anything else.

Cageside: We were cageside for CW97 in September, my first experience of a live Cage Warriors show.  This was definitely the closest seat to the action of the three (see the picture below for our view), it was also the best view for submission attempts and ground and pound work, which is particularly great if you’re a big fan of that side of MMA like I am. These seats were on the ground floor, almost in the traditional wheelchair accessible platform set up that I’ve seen at most gig venues, but I didn’t realise how ow close we were seated until we arrived, so these cageside seats were a great surprise and certainly a welcome perk of this whole wheelchair user situation that is my life! I do wonder whether this seating option still exists for disabled patrons though as it seemed like the arena layout had been changed when I tried to book for CW100 and disabled seating wasn’t available in that area anymore, but it may still be worth checking when you book. The one issue with this specific disabled seating area is that it is sort of felt detached from the crowd and the atmosphere which alters the experience a bit as the party atmosphere at a Cage Warriors show is half the fun. Having said that, I would recommend booking this disabled seating area if it’s the type you need and is available.

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CW97 view, photo credit: Keshia Asare

Block 15: We were in Block 15 for CW100 in December. The main change here is that we were up with the crowd (being at the top of the arena with the crowd in the seats below or in seats next to us, which made it feel as though there was more of an atmosphere which improved on the one issue I had with cageside seats. However, the downside of being  up a level (having taken the lift up) is that it was more difficult to see the intricacies of what was going on in the fights. Having said that, there was a screen in front of us which meant were still able to see the submission attempts and such which, as I’ve said before, was good for me with being a particular fan of that side of the sport. All in all, this is probably the seating section I’d most consistently choose (if it was available) given that cageside disabled seating does not seem to be an option anymore.

Block 17: We were in Block 17 for CW104 in April (see the picture at the top of this post for our view). My main point about this seating area is that it’s next to one of the bars, which is cool if that’s your thing but, as someone who doesn’t drink at events, it’s not mine. It also meant there was lots of traffic going past where we were sitting, which meant a night of bumped, barged, accidentally tripping people up with anti-tip wheels on the chair, and at one point being yanked backwards as someone used my chair to stand up. I’m not mentioning all of this for a whinge, it ends up hurting and causing me physical pain after a while and can also be quite claustrophobic feeling like you’re constantly in the way and tripping people up. There was also no screen (unlike Block 15) which made it difficult to  see when submissions were happening (did I mention the submission side of things is my favourite part?) Overall, it was difficult to fully focus and  enjoy the night  when I  constantly had half a mind on being bumped into, and I would not choose this seat again if the choice was offered.

Stay Invincible!

Invincible Woman On Wheels

Campanile Hotel Cardiff Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Photo Credit: Cardiff Campanile Website

A hotel accessibility review this time! This one’s a review of the Campanile Hotel in Cardiff following our stay in December.

(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!)

Booking

The booking process was fairly simple. I was able to book our room online and just put “wheelchair accessible room” in the requests section on the booking form. The hotel then rang later that day confirming that an accessible room had been put aside for us and outlining some of the accessibility issues we may face. These included the fact there was ramp/ gradient slope between the car park and the rest of the hotel grounds and that there was only a bath in the bathroom and not a shower. I was ok with these issues as it was only an overnight stay and I appreciated being warned about access issues prior to arriving.

Travel

In terms of travel, we took the Megabus from London Victoria to Cardiff Kingsway and then, due to the out of town location of the hotel, basically took Ubers everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean we went from town to the hotel, then from the hotel to the event venue (the event being Cage Warriors 100) and then from the venue post event back to the hotel. The following morning, we finally worked out the buses and took the bus from the hotel to town. For those of you wondering, the buses have a fold out ramp at the front (to be folded out by the driver) and a wheelchair space with a fold out seat for the companion to sit with the wheelchair user. 

Experience

The first thing I noticed when arriving at the hotel was that the rooms were separated, as in physically in a different building, from the main reception, this was not what I was expecting having stayed at other Campanile hotels. The next thing to notes was the steepness of that ramp I mentioned earlier. It was REALLY quite steep, I appreciate that I’d already been warned about it, but it was quite difficult for my friend to push me up and down, so if there is any alternative route or any way to improve access I’d be open to helping figure something out. There was also an, albeit small, step into reception which my friend had to lift me over. While I had my friend with me this time, it did make me aware how difficult it would it be if I was by myself (even if it only seems like a small issue). The most annoying issue was that my wheelchair didn’t fit in the bathroom in a way that allowed me to also shut the door. You really can’t call a room fully wheelchair accessible if I have to get out of my chair and crawl to the bathroom!

Overall, while the booking process was simple and there’s some awareness of access issues at the hotel, a better understanding of the true meaning of “wheelchair accessible” would be welcome, and, as always, I’m willing to help the hotel improve their wheelchair access.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Resorts World Arena Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Photo Credit: Keshia Asare

Another new access review, and this one’s not for a concert but an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) event, more specifically for Cage Warriors CW98 at Resorts World Arena Birmingham. As always, ticket buying, travel and on the night seating and experience covered in this 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 a manual wheelchair user (in this instance), I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Ticket Buying

If you want a one-word description of the ticket buying process at this venue it would be SIMPLE! There was a disabled ticket booking line, the number for that line was stated on the venue website. So, I simply called that number and stated what event I wanted tickets for and the fact I’d need a wheelchair space and carer ticket and that was it, no forms, no documents, no dramas, tickets were booked within minutes!

Travel

In terms of getting from London to Birmingham, we took a train (technically trains) from Euston to Birmingham University station. We then took an Uber from the friend’s house where we were staying to the arena itself, which took about 30 minutes. Since I was in my manual wheelchair, it was quite a simple process in that we could just fold the chair and transport it in the boot of a standard (not necessarily wheelchair accessible) vehicle while I transferred into the back seat.

Experience & Seating

In terms of the full experience at the arena, the first, and probably only, issue I noted was a mirror opposite the toilet in the disabled bathroom. It seems like a small point and you’re probably wondering why the hell I’m wittering on about bathroom fixtures, but it’s undignifying if the person helping you out has to stay in the bathroom with you (as is the case for some disabled people) turns around to give you privacy and can STILL see everything, this is particularly an issue if the person helping you out is of the opposite gender (this wasn’t the case for me but can be the case for a lot of disabled people). The next mission was finding our seats, which is easier said than done in a big arena with so many sections. Once we’d found them, our seats were on a raised platform (with seats for those accompanying the disabled person alongside a wheelchair space) and there were cageside seats on the floor level in front of us. Now, I must say I was a little nervous about having the cageside seats right in front of us as I knew people tended to stand during the walkouts and was worried about being able to see over them (I love the walkouts too!). However, I must say that those in the cageside seats were always courteous in asking and making sure I could see everything even WHILE they were stood (so thank you to those people for their courtesy) which meant I could enjoy the RIDICULOUSLY brilliant atmosphere like everyone else. I also had no problem attending the free (for ticketholders) meet & greet, from which there are pictures below) as it was in a fully accessible foyer.

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Overall, a great experience and one of the best atmospheres I’ve been in. Cage Warriors shows will always feel like the one event where I’m just treated like everyone else, not Em the girl in the wheelchair, just Em, that girl that travels the country to see the sport she loves, who just HAPPENS to be in a wheelchair, and for that I’ll always be grateful to the Cage Warriors crew!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Cage Warriors 97 Wheelchair Accessibility Review (Viola Arena & Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre)

All photograph credit: Keshia Asare

Another new access review for an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) event, more specifically for Cage Warriors CW97 at Viola Arena in Cardiff, as well as a review of our stay at Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre.  As always, ticket buying/booking, travel and on the night seating and experience covered in this 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!)

Viola Arena 

Ticket Buying

Ticket buying was as simple as could be, I simply went to the online site and selected disabled seating as the ticket type, so it was the same process as everyone else would go through for their tickets I then double checked that I’d only need one ticket (i.e. that the second “carer” ticket was included, which it was).

Travel

In terms of travel, there were 2 segments to the trip. The first segment from London to Cardiff was completed via good old Megabus.  The journey from our hotel to the arena was an Uber. It was quite simple in that we just had to fold my manual wheelchair and store it in the boot, sometimes we need to remove the footplates and store those separately depending on the size of the boot, but that’s something I approach on a case by case when the Uber turns up.

Experience & Seating

When we arrived at the arena, we realised it was one long queue, which everyone had to stand in, to get in, this was a little unexpected as I’m used to some sort of separate entry or route for disabled patrons. I must also say that security was very stringent, again, this was not problematic just unexpected, and I’d must rather security was stringent, and it took a while to get in.  once we did get in, I couldn’t have felt more like VIP that was on my wristband. It took a while to figure out where our seats were , but once we had, we were led through to practically cageside seats! After some BRILLIANT amateur fight and pro prelims, it was meet & greet time (anyone who knows me knows I’m definitely one for a meet and greet). However, we soon found that the meet & greet room was inaccessible so we brought this up with security to see if there was any way I could still be a part of the meet & greet. Now, let me be clear, this wasn’t me throwing some tantrum and expecting a big fuss and everyone to bend over backwards for me, but the way I’d see it, if you don’t ask if something’s possible, you don’t get it, and I’d really been looking forward to the meet and greet and knew I should be involved like everyone else. We were assured we’d get a meet & greet experience like everyone else, and true to their word, all those in the meet and greet made the time to come say hey and take a picture or 2 (see below). I’ll always thankful to them (and the entire Cage Warriors crew) for making sure I got the same experience as everyone else. Now, this next bit might sound a bit dramatic but it’s true, it’s situations like this that show me MMA shows are where I’m supposed to be, where I’ve found my people, a family of sorts, and one of the few events where I feel like everyone else and not just a disabled patron who has to have a different experience to the norm.

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Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre

Booking

I booked our hotel room over the phone. I prefer to do it this way, so I can talk to an actual person and make it abundantly clear I’m requesting an accessible room to ensure no mix ups with the booking. 

Travel

As I said earlier, the trip to Cardiff was with Megabus. Other than that, we walked to all of our other touristy/exploring things around the city.

Experience

Our room was, for my needs, a fully accessible room. It also had a full wet room, which I oddly see as a bonus. I think that’s because I’m used to the standard “accessible” bathroom which usually has a bath with a showerhead over it, which doesn’t fit my needs. The room also gave me enough space to wheel myself around and I appreciated the independence. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t some super fancy hotel room, but it didn’t need to be, not when it’s just a place to predrink before the event and sleep afterwards. I also appreciated that we were able to add breakfast when we arrived as we weren’t sure what we’d be doing in that regard, and how the trip was going to pan out, until we turned up. It was also helpful that this hotel was within walking distance to all the touristy things as this saved us public transport fares and any messing around with the accessibility of the Cardiff public transport system.

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Thank you to the Cage Warriors crew for making sure I had the same experience as everyone else and just became Em, the girl who loves MMA and just HAPPENS to be in a wheelchair, as opposed to being just Em, the girl in the wheelchair. Thanks, must also go to the Ibis Budget Cardiff Centre team for providing somewhere to rest our heads in the madness of the weekend.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)