Travel Bucket List: Top 5 Cities I Want To Visit

Now it may seem odd to be writing about travel with half the world currently on lockdown from COVID – 19, but this lockdown just has me thinking about all the places I’ll go when it’s all over. So, with that in mind, Here’s my Travel Bucket List of the top 5 cities I want to visit when this ends.

Prague

This idea came from my Dad who visited Prague a few years back, I believe he spent the Christmas/New Year period there. All I remember hearing about before he left and after he returned was him imploring me to go and repeatedly telling me how much it was something I NEEDED to see, and I knew it HAD to be good if he was suggesting it. His suggestion took on a different level of importance after he passed away. I remember him discussing the Old Town and Charles Bridge and how, even if I might struggle with the cobblestones in my wheelchair, it was an absolute must see! From all that, seeing sunset or sunrise at the Charles Bridge has become this moment of magic in my head and an absolute bucket list must do.

Dublin

Next up is Dublin. It definitely seems like a very vibrant place with plenty to visit and see, which is certainly my kind of “exploring” holiday vibe. Plus, given that Aoife herself is Irish, I may end up travelling with a “local guide” of sorts, which could lead to finding and exploring some hidden gems not found in travel guides. The only thing that could make any trip better would be being able to pair it with seeing an MMA show if I could coincide the two? OH what’s that I hear? UFC Dublin in August if COVID 19 eases by then?! I guess we have a potential date for a Dublin trip then.

Copenhagen

Now Copenhagen’s one of the places I should have already been. I was supposed to visit a friend who was studying there at the time a couple of years ago, but that trip was cancelled when my dad fell ill. So I kind of feel like I have unfinished business with Copenhagen even though my friend is no longer studying there, like I HAVE to go there to do the trip I had planned.

Madrid

Again, Madrid is one of those places I was supposed to have been already. I was booked to go with my dad, but we were supposed to fly right around the time he got ill so obviously that trip was cancelled. When he passed away, I promised him I’d do our trip someday, the visit to the Santiago Bernabéu (dad was a Real Madrid fan), eating so much tapas (including from the famous San Miguel market) and seeing what the place had to offer. So again it’s a sense of unfinished business with Madrid, completing a trip that was already planned and honouring my promise to my dad.

Paris

I know I know, what a cliché bucket list trip, but this is yet another instance of “I said I’d do it so now I’m going to”. All throughout my time living in London I talked to friends about how I’d love to be spontaneous, jump on an early morning Eurostar to Paris with a mate for a girly day, explore the French capital, and be home in time for supper. So that’s what I intend to do when this is all over.

I hope this gives a little insight into where I plan to go when this is all over!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Lockdown, COVID – 19 and Me: How this pandemic has the InvincibleWomanOnWheels feeling a little less invincible

It was sort of inevitable that I’d be writing about COVID – 19 and the lockdown, let’s face it it’s all anyone can think about right now. So here’s my take on COVID – 19, lockdown and how it’s affected my life.

So let’s start with the practical bits: The events I’d planned to attend have now been cancelled or postponed (fingers crossed this thing eases by October so the rescheduled Cage Warrior 114 card can go ahead and we can celebrate mine and my mum’s birthdays at the same time). My university is now closed with all lectures and exams online AND I’ve left Birmingham and moved back to the family home for the foreseeable future. While this might be a bit of an annoyance as I’m used to my own space and schedule having lived on my own for most of the last 5 years now, but I know it was the right decision. I’m 90% an introvert so staying inside is something I can do pretty easily by choice; I mean I spend most Saturday nights watching MMA by myself rather than clubbing or at a bar. But of course there is no choice in this situation and THAT’S the bit that’s going to be a struggle. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know I spend what feels like half my life on a train, but that isn’t possible right now, so the wanderlust is building up a fair bit right row. So I guess it’s just time to stockpile wanderlust in this lockdown and use it all up when I can.

Now on to the more specific bits: What does COVID – 19 mean for me in terms of my disability? Well I have cerebral palsy which according to the list below would make me somewhat high risk for the virus (but not shielding level high risk) and vulnerable which meant I should stay inside as much as possible. It didn’t specify if it was a specific type of cerebral palsy that would make people vulnerable but I chose not to take the risk and begin isolating/quarantining/whatever the appropriate word is. I have to admit that that scared me a fair bit. I’d never seen my disability as something that made me vulnerable or significantly affected my life before, it was just sort of this thing that existed as part of my life and meant I got a cool set of wheels. But seeing my condition on that list and knowing what that said about the effect this virus could have on me was a reminder that I wasn’t entirely invincible.

COVID 19

The really REALLY scary part about this is not the way it is impacting me, but the way it’s impacting my family. My mum’s autoimmune disorder means she’s at the highest risk if she gets COVID – 19 and has to shield for 12 weeks. I’d known it was coming after hearing that those with autoimmune conditions were high risk and knowing the condition she has, but hearing that she’d actually got the text about shielding still came as some weird kind of shock even though I knew it was coming. We don’t always get on 100%, we’re too similar for our own good and we both drive each other up the wall more often than not, but god do I love that woman. The thought of her getting this virus and potentially losing her, and losing both my parents in the space of 2 years, terrifies the entire life out of me. The reminder that the woman who made me invincible may not actually be as invincible herself as I always thought she was is an eye opening wake up call that I wasn’t expecting to affect me in quite the way it has.

PLEASE stay inside and observe social distancing so I can be close to my mum again and her and other high risk people (and everyone else) can safely leave their house at some point this year.

Stay Safe, Stay Inside, Wash Your Hands and Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Invincible Woman on Wheels FAQ and Q and A from Readers

Realised I’d never actually done a Get to Know Me post on the blog , so I combined that with a few questions from my social media followers and blog readers to create this combined Frequently Asked Questions / Q & A for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions/ Get to Know Me

Name: Emma, Em, Ems, The Invincible Woman On Wheels

Age: 24

Condition: Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia

Location: Birmingham

What’s the reason/ message behind the blog: To give a realistic view of life with a disability. Disability isn’t all pity and sadness but let’s be real it’s not all sunshine and rainbows either.

 Q & A

What is the story behind the blog name and social media handles?
The idea essentially began on the Sicily trip which is the first post on here. My travelling companions and I managed to work around and overcome many challenges that we faced on this trip (both accessibility based and otherwise). This led to us calling ourselves the Invincible Women throughout the trip and beyond. Whilst on that trip those friends encouraged me to start thi blog. So when it came to thinking of a blog name, it only felt write to take inspiration from the name we’d given our trio on that trip, a sort of homage to where it all started. And so Invincible Woman On Wheels now exists as you know it.

Any advice for other disabled bloggers?
I think my biggest slice of advice would be to write about what you know from the viewpoint of your condition. By that I mean write about your experiences and don’t try and write about a topic, if you don’t think you have the right knowledge, just because you think you SHOULD be writing about it or it’s the “trendy” topic. I’d rather see “I don’t know about X” in a blog post than someone who’s trying to pull information from a website or such without any first-hand experience. My other advice would be honesty, particularly if you’re writing access reviews like I do. Venues may not like it too much if a review paints them in a negative light, but if you’re trying to give good access information to fellow disabled people, an honest, accurate review is better than a nicey nicey one.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked?
Someone I’d barely spoken to once asked me “So how do you have sex?” and I. I. I. JUST DON’T ASK THAT. There are 3 questions/comments here: a) Would you ask an able bodied person that?! b) Why does that question even enter your head as the first one to ask me?! c) That’s literally not anyone’s business unless we’re dating.

I hope these answers give a quick insight into me, the woman behind Invincible Woman On Wheels, and if anyone has any more questions, let me know!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

London Underground Accessibility Interview: Transcript and Further Thoughts

A little while back, I did an interview with Colette Little from Colfessions about the accessibility of the TFL underground system in London! In today’s post I thought I’d run you through what we discussed, what I said then, and anything else I’d add, with what I know now.

In what ways do you think London transport needs to become more accessible?

What I said then:

The major problem is step free-ness, particularly with the tube, because 23%, around a quarter is step free, and that’s just not good enough. They advertise that as well – like that’s not something to advertise. If you think that’s good enough, that’s not. I think the other major issue is communication, because a lot of the times where I have issues with the tube, is that someone has put me on the train, and then not told whoever they’re supposed to tell, and there’s no one to get me off the train at the other end. Or the train terminates, and they don’t know I’m on it. Basically, they’re supposed to tell the line controller, who’s supposed to know, and they’re supposed to tell the station that I’m getting off. And either the station that I’m getting off at doesn’t get told so if I need a ramp to get off the train at the other end I don’t get it, or if the train terminates, and they haven’t told the line controller, if they know I’m on the train they’re supposed to stop it so I can get off and they can terminate it properly, and a few times they’ve stopped it at a station that isn’t accessible so I can’t get off, so I’ve been sat there at the door screaming or someone to get me off. Obviously in my manual chair, which is the other chair I use, I can’t get off the train myself I can’t wheel myself or anything, and in this, trying to get off a gap that’s say 4/5 inches, this would break (My electric chair that I’m currently sat in.) So, I would be sat at the door screaming and screaming and screaming for someone to get me off the train and it would take a good 10/15 minutes for them to figure it out, figure out that I’m on the train, and sort it out. Obviously in terms of my mental-ness it’s terrifying – the fact I go on the tube every single time and think will I be able to get off the train, will I be able to use the lift, will the lift work, will I have to go some weird way around to get to a lift that works. You always constantly think about that and you can’t just get on a train and think ‘its fine’. Unless I’m going to Kings Cross which is a station which I regularly use so I can roll on and off, and mentally, it’s draining frankly.

What’s changed:

I don’t think that much has changed since that interview, in regard to this question. I know there’s been a raft of new lifts put in and stations redesigned, so that quarter of stations wheelchair accessible figure is likely to be much higher, but the TFL website still says a quarter so I can’t be sure on the new figure. Those constant questions I mentioned about whether I’d be able to use lifts (or if they’d work) still exist, but I have to answer them less frequently now as I no longer live in London so only have to tackle the tube infrequently when I visit from Birmingham now.

Do you have any positive or negative specific instances, like stories, that you can tell me about?

What I said then:

The longest and most detailed story I can give you is we were coming home from a trip to Birmingham on the train. Got home to Euston, we were like ‘yeah we’ll get on at Euston Square and then Euston Square goes straight back to Uxbridge. Metropolitan line, the easiest trip you could make.’ No. We got the Euston Square and the lift was out, and my friend was with me, and I had to get my friend to go down the stairs to find someone to get them to call me a taxi because the policy that they put out is that if the lift is broken, or it’s not accessible somehow, TfL policy is that they’ll whether call you a taxi to take you home, or to the nearest accessible station – whichever is closest really. So, I was told they were calling me a taxi to Kings Cross, and I know it’s like a 10-minute walk, but we’ve walked all the way from Euston Square and if they owe me a taxi, they owe me a taxi. And the guy was like “that’s not the policy” so I had to screenshot the policy from the website and show it to him, and he was like “I’m going to get my manager because you’re lying.” And I was like “I’m showing you the website but okay.” So, his manager came up and was like “why have you dragged me here, she obviously is right, you know the rules, phone her a taxi.” We sat there and waited like half an hour for this taxi, and at that moment I was waiting on principle. Got in the taxi, we were told it has been paid for by TfL, so they prepaid it so we could just get out and wander off. Got to Kings Cross, got out the taxi, went to wander off, and he was like “no you need to pay me.” I was like “No, TfL have paid you, we’ve been told TfL have paid you” and he literally held us to ransom basically and wouldn’t let us leave until we had paid for the taxi and I was like “fine, just have your money.” Got to Kings Cross, and the Piccadilly line was broken from Kings Cross to we couldn’t use it and they’d already closed the Metropolitan line because it was a Wednesday and they close it at a certain time from Wembley onwards. So, then they had to put me on a Piccadilly line that went somewhere else. Stuck me on the Piccadilly line, so my friend had to change her plans and go to a different station to where she was going to go to because obviously a different lines, and then I was like “it’s fine, I’m getting a friend to pick me up from Uxbridge station anyway, so you can get off where you need to get off and I’ll just sit on the train that goes to Uxbridge and I can sit on a train by myself fine.” And this is when they terminated it at a station which I couldn’t get off at. So, I was by myself in my manual chair and there was no one else in the carriage and everyone just got off and I was there screaming for them to get off the train. And I had to keep texting and calling the friend who was picking me up and just say “this is how it is, this is how it is”, to the point where the guy at Uxbridge station was calling the line operator yelling at him about this whole situation, and ended up letting my friend through when I got to Uxbridge, letting her go on the platform without a pass or a ticket or anything because they knew I’d be in bits about this whole situation. It took, I think, four hours to get back from Euston with all that faff. It’s mad. There were very many different things, if one thing had happened it would be fine but there were about ten different things that went wrong. It was an interesting evening.

What’s changed:

Not much has changed here either, this is probably still the worst access experience I’ve had on TFL. However, what has changed is that I’ve FINALLY written that Euston/Euston Square ordeal up as its own blog post!

By 2024, TfL aim for 38% of underground stations to be step free. Do you think this is enough stations, and is it soon enough?

What I said then:

I think it’s sooner than I expected it to be. It’s still not enough stations, we’re always aiming for 100%, but it’s movement and that’s good. I’m trying to be as positive as I can here. I think there’s movement in the right direction, and it’s at a speed quicker than I thought it would be, and there’s definitely stations in the past four years or so that I can access that I couldn’t when I moved to London. There is movement, and it’s at a decent pace, but it’s not quick enough. I’m still glad that there is movement and they are working towards something, but they could just be like “no that’s it, 27% is enough.” It’s fast, it will never be fast enough frankly until it’s 100% step free, but there is movement and I’m appreciative of that.

What’s changed:

I think I was way more delicate with this answer than what I was probably actually thinking. While I’m appreciative of the fact that accessibility and redesigning stations isn’t instant. There’s no way the redesign is happening fast enough or at enough stations. NO. WAY. AT. ALL. I’d also be interested to see if that 8% figure and timeline is still going to be hit. Given that the website still says a quarter and we’re in 2020, I’m not holding out hope for the timeline to still happen.

How do you find out that a station has newly become step free, or there’s been a new lift installed?

What I said then:

Basically, I follow al the TFL lines on twitter because that’s the easiest way to find out if the lifts are broken. They tend to announce on there “the new plan is this” and they’ll announce a whole press release of this station by this year, this station by this year, or it just happens that I check the TfL journey planner and it gives me a new route which gives me a new station that I wouldn’t normally use. And I’m like “oh – they have step free access.” Also, the TfL access for all group I follow them quite a lot, so they seem to announce new places first because they have connections with TfL so it’s mostly social media.

What’s changed:

I see and know less about the new lifts and step free access at tube stations because I don’t live there anymore so I’m way less likely to just randomly wander into a newly step free station these days, my routes tend to focus on places I’ve already previously been. One way I find out about new station access that I forget to mention was Geoff Marshall’s YouTube channel, that was specifically how I found about the Bond Street lifts and new entrance, back when those were new.

Finally, with the definition of accessibility encompassing blind people, deaf people, people with autism, people with dementia etc., do you think a 100% accessible London is foreseeable in the future?

What I said then:

No, I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be 100% accessible in terms of step free, I think that’s a possibility, but I think in terms of accessible in terms of all disability I don’t think that’s going to happen, just because I think that for people with autism and stuff like that it’s a lot about crowds, and obviously with it being London, in particular the central stations, it’s always going to be busy. So that’s going to have to be the way that it works. I’m not saying they have to put up with that, but I think that’s a fact that you can’t really get away from, the fact that particularly central London – I’ve been through Westminster in rush hour, and it’s too busy. I don’t think you can ever get away from that and I’m not sure how they would work to make that accessible. I think step free accessibility, 100%, it’s a possibility. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen because you know – TfL. But I don’t think full accessibility for everyone it going to happen. I would like to see it happen, but I don’t know.

What’s changed:

I think this is the answer I wanted to change most since the interview. I feel like maybe it could be read like I was creating a pedestal for step free access and saying, “step free access has to happen and well nothing else is possible” and if that IS how it comes across, I want to make it clear that’s totally NOT what I meant. I just meant more in the fact of access for all is obviously the goal but, having watched TFL make an absolute farce of improving step free access, I’m not holding my breath on them being able to achieve access for all without making a mess of it.

I hope this is an insight into my views of accessibility on the London underground as a wheelchair user, thanks to Colette for interviewing me. If you want to read more of her blog you can check out the link I put right at the start of this post.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

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)

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

Photo Credit: Nikki Barker

Another train travel blog, this time Birmingham New Street to Darlington and back with Cross Country Trains for a visit with my friend and editor extraordinaire Nikki!

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

I bought my tickets on SplitYourTicket.com which as the name suggests is a train ticket splitting website where you can split a long train journey into multiple shorter journey tickets. This meant that while I only took 2 trains (one each way) I had 8 tickets in total. However, it was way cheaper than a single direct ticket, so definitely worth a look if you want to save money on travel. I then booked my assistance via the Cross Country travel assistance phone line. On the day, I arrived at the Birmingham New Street assistance lounge 20 minutes before departure and was taken from there to the train by a staff member.

On Train

I had the usual issues that I have on Cross Country trains: A steep ramp onto the train, a tight corridor to navigate and a small wheelchair space even for my standard electric wheelchair. It must be said though, the accessible toilet had many more transfer bars (i.e. bars I could use to help me transfer between my chair and the toilet) than West Midlands Railway, so that’s a slightly odd sounding plus point.

Disembarking & Leaving at Darlington

On arrival at Darlington, the assistance and ramp to get me off the train was already there when we arrived (we’ll forget that I mentioned needing a ramp and assistance off at Darlington to every single staff member that would listen several times throughout the 3 hour trip). A quick little praise point for the accessible toilet at Darlington station; it’s a radar key toilet which is self-opening (put the key in and wave your hand in front of a sensor and it’ll open without having to touch a handle). The inside was huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge, I’d dare say there was more than enough space in there for equipment to make a Changing Places toilet and still have a separate accessible toilet. I’m very aware I’ve spent half this blog post talking about toilets but hopefully that shows how important these kinds of things are to accessibility!

Return

Getting On at Darlington

When it came time to leave Darlington, Nikki was allowed  through the barrier to wait with me while I waited to get on my train. We  were directed to a waiting room directly next to  the platform my train would arrive on. About 5 or so minutes before the train arrived I was collected from that waiting room by a staff member and put on the train using a much larger, wider, more suitable ramp than the one I was used to at Birmingham New Street.

On Train

The problems on the train were the Cross Country usual. Although the ramp wasn’t so steep this time, I still had to navigate a tight corridor and small wheelchair space. There was also luggage in the wheelchair space which was thankfully cleared by staff before I got on. It was also quite a packed train so I thought it may be difficult to get out of the carriage and off at my stop.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

Thankfully, my fears about problems getting off the train were unfounded and I was able to disembark the train at Birmingham New Street and leave the station with no issues.

I hope this gives insight into what it’s like to travel between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user

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)

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

ANOTHER train travel blog! This time Birmingham New Street to Southampton Central and back with Cross Country Trains for an interview.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

Tickets were booked through Trainline as usual and the assistance was booked over the phone with Cross Country Trains assistance team. I then arrived at the New Street mobility assistance desk 20 minutes before train departure to be taken to the platform by a staff member.

On Train

There were the usual onboard issues on the Cross Country train: small, tight doors and corridor, a steep ramp onto the train and a small wheelchair space even for my standard sized chair.

Disembarking & Leaving at Southampton Central

On arrival at Southampton, assistance was prompt and it was a case of a lift off the platform, a walkway and then a lift back down to ground level to get to the exit/entrance.

Return

Getting On at Southampton Central

The return journey is where it gets Interesting, there was initially a delay with the train arriving into the station. There was then also a delay in assisting me to the train as all staff members were dealing with some kind of passenger incident.

On Train

There were the same issues as usual on the Cross Country train with small tight doors and a small corridor and wheelchair space, along with a particularly steep ramp. Flooding the whole way home also severely delayed the train. That severe delay did allow me to start discussing MMA with a fellow passenger (because apparently MMA gets into every part of my life now!) so I guess every cloud has a silver lining. The severe delay did mean I was worried about whether the assistance would turn up on arrival at New Street.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

Sure enough, my worries were at least partially correct as there was a delay with assistance on arrival at New Street. Once I’d made my way through the crowd of people surrounding the train (who obviously all wanted to get on a train ASAP given the severe delays) I was able to leave the statin and make my way back to university accommodation.

I hope this post provides an insight into travel between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Travelling from Birmingham New Street to Chippenham (via Swindon) as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It

Another train travel blog, this time Birmingham New Street to Chippenham and back (via Swindon) with Cross Country and Great Western Railway for a day trip home.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

Tickets were booked on Trainline as per usual. All assistance was booked assistance over the phone with Cross Country and I arrived at the New Street assistance reception 20 minutes before the train and was taken to the platform by a staff member.

On Train

As usual on Cross Country trains, the train doors and corridor were tight even for my standard sized chair. The ramp was overly steep and the wheelchair space was really small.

Getting On at Swindon

That train took me to Swindon, on these journeys I’d expect to switch trains at Bristol Temple Meads but rail works led to the train being rerouted via Swindon instead. I can’t fault the accessibility and service at Swindon, particularly as those trains don’t pass through Swindon often. I then switched trains for a Great Western Railway train to Chippenham.

On Train

The next leg of the journey was on Great Western Railway, which meant automatic first class train travel and THAT meant free coffee and plenty of space in the wheelchair space. I’ll call that a win win!

Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham

On arrival at Chippenham, train staff (as opposed to station staff) disembarked me and I was able to wheel out of the station and home.

Return

Getting On at Chippenham

For the return journey I made myself known at Chippenham station 20 mins before train departure. I then made my own way over to platform using the lift and was put the train on with the ramp.

On Train

As this train was Great Western Railway , that again meant first class travel and lots of space on the wheelchair space. However, I didn’t have coffee this time as it was late.

Getting On at Swindon

When I got off my Great Western Railway train I was told that the train I’d booked assistance on to Birmingham was cancelled. This meant deciding whether to get the next train, which could get me to Birmingham but would involve an extra change at Didcot Parkway, or wait for the next direct train. In the end I decided I’d wait for the next direct train as I didn’t want to add the stress of an extra change in a new station into the mix. It was just my luck that the next direct train was also delayed by 20 minutes! I also learned that there’s no ramp at Swindon station for that particular train type, so I had to wait until a member of train staff was found to get the ramp from inside the train to get me on the train

On Train

Onboard there were the same issue as usual , tight doors and corridors, a steep ramp and a small wheelchair space. There was also luggage in the wheelchair space when I boarded but this was soon cleared when I asked who the luggage belonged to and declared that it would need moving, As I was not on my booked train I was also wary about assistance issues with regard to getting off the train.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

My wariness about assistance issues was well founded as there was a bit of a delay in assistance arriving to get me off the train. Once I’d disembarked I was able to leave the station and wheel back to university accommodation.

I hope that this post shows what a train trip home from university in a day looks like for me as a wheelchair user.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham Symphony Hall Wheelchair Accessibility 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)