wheelchair user

White outlined wheelchair in shopping mall

Online Christmas Shopping During A Pandemic As A Disabled Person

Online Christmas Shopping During A Pandemic As A Disabled Person – On the high street as a full-time wheelchair user, shopping is difficult at the best of times. Throw in Christmas and it is a whole new ball game. Being in a pandemic and lockdown leaves me no other choice but to buy online! Do I prefer this to doing my shopping on the high street? What did I find to be the best and worst parts of shopping online for Christmas gifts?

I hate high street shopping at any time of the year. People, access, stupidity all add stress to what should be a normal part of my life! If you are an able-bodied person reading this, how many times in one shopping trip have you NOT been able to gain access to a shop because of steps? How many times have you NOT been able to browse around a shop due to clothes rails being so tightly packed together they hit your shoulder causing severe pain? Gone to a counter to pay and been ignored because the counter is so high you are NOT seen? Exactly!! I can experience each of these EVERY TIME I go shopping.

Benefits of Shopping Online

There are many benefits to shopping online.

  • It’s stress-free.
  • You can visit many different websites at the touch of a button.
  • Browse 1000’s of products in a short space of time.
  • You are not worrying about the next person bumping into you or clambering over your wheelchair.
  • Queue jumping because “they didn’t see you there”!
  • Best of all, left out in the cold because you can’t get into the shop!!

Online shopping gives you the freedom to search for what you want at a time that is right for you. Websites don’t have “opening times” the same as physical shops do! So, if you want to shop for a pair of socks at 2 am, you can!

If like me and you use a PC, then another benefit is you can have several tabs open comparing the same item across different sites to check for delivery time/charges, price of the item and of course returns policy. Can you imagine doing that on the high street, even if you’re not a wheelchair user? I love the fact I can sit at my desk, a cup of tea beside me and settle down to browse gifts for family/friends in the warmth of my own home.

The Downside of Shopping Online

When shopping online, images of products are of course going to be great looking. After all, the company is trying to sell you their product. You only have to read my review of Tapi Carpets to see the issues you can have.

  • You can’t feel the item – Texture, material
  • Smell the item – Some fake leather products can smell really bad
  • Colour is not always the same when viewing on a monitor
  • Judge sizing when shopping for items such as clothing.
  • Solitary experience.

I have bought things that look great online but once received, the material is of lesser quality, or the item is smaller, or worse, turns up broken or faulty. I have bought a Christmas present that looked a good size and quality online but having received it, I know it’s going to be a big disappointment to the recipient! No doubt it will have to be returned. Sometimes you just want to see an item in the flesh.

I have done 90% of my Christmas shopping online this year. I’ve used brand company websites, eBay and Amazon. Companies I’ve not been familiar with and I have to say, I’ve only had two incidents. One, where an item arrived broken and another replaced by a lesser quality item than what was advertised. Both of which have been sorted fairly easily.

Security Measures in Place

Online Christmas Shopping During A Pandemic As A Disabled Person - Safety - A as a padlock T as a key

Online Christmas Shopping During A Pandemic As A Disabled Person – Making sure you are aware of the pitfalls of shopping online is paramount! There are many ways things can go horribly wrong.

  • Identity theft.
  • Spam emails.
  • Fake websites.
  • Fake products.
  • Cloned bank card – To name a few.

However, research is everything! It is important to gather as much information as possible about the company you are shopping online with. Once you have done these checks a few times, it will become easier to spot a dodgy website/product.

  • Check websites address for HTTPS – If the company’s web address starts with HTTPS (especially on checkout pages), then you know your information is being sent over a secure network. – What is HTTPS?
  • Pay with Paypal where possible – If you pay by Paypal, the company you are purchasing from will NOT have any information regarding your card details. Only your name, address, email address and phone number if supplied. The beauty is, you don’t even need to have a Paypal account to do this.
  • Use a recommended website where possible – It’s always good practice to use website friends and family have used. You will know if they had a good or bad experience.
  • Check delivery and returns policy – Things can go wrong and for this reason, always check the returns policy and make sure you agree with the company’s terms. You don’t want to get caught out when things are too late.
  • Can you find the company address? – The Gov.uk website, says the following: Before an order is placed, you must provide: your business name, contact details and address, so it is helpful if you can find this as a lot of companies show pricing in GBP but originate and send products from another country.

Conclusion

If you do your research and check out the website the best you can, you should have a fairly pleasant experience. Yes, things will invariably go wrong, that’s life but you shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting the issue resolved. I will most definitely be doing my Christmas shopping online next year!

May I take this opportunity to wish you all very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Please look after yourself and others. Here’s hoping next year will bring better things to all.

Santa in his sleigh with raindeers

More Info

If you liked my blog, why not sign up to my Newsletter so you never miss a beat, or leave a comment below. If there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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White circle of petals next to the word Motability on a blue background

Disabled People: Brand New Car Every Three Years!

Disabled people: Brand New Car Every Three Years! The biggest misconception is that disabled people get a brand new car for free. Not true! The Motability Scheme helps disabled people in receipt of the higher rate mobility allowance by exchanging this allowance to lease a new affordable car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle, scooter or powered wheelchair.

Motability

In a nutshell, anyone in receipt of the higher rate mobility allowance (such as the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment or the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance) can use their mobility allowance to lease a car, scooter, powered wheelchair or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle from Motability. The lease is normally for three years and five years for a WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle).

Motability’s standard lease takes care of running costs such as insurance for up to three named drivers (this doesn’t have to be you), servicing, maintenance, breakdown cover and tyre and windscreen repair and replacement. All you need to do is add fuel and go.

Misconception

I’ve had it said to me many many times that it must be so good getting a brand new car every couple of years for free! Yeah, I suppose it would be great but this is just not the case. The look on those people’s faces when I explain that’s not the case and I actually pay for my car on a monthly basis is a cross between shock and disbelief.

Close quotation marks in black
Open quotation marks in black

The look on those people’s faces when I explain that’s not the case and I actually pay for my car on a monthly basis is a cross between shock and disbelief.

I give up the higher rate of my mobility component so I may have a car to allow me my independence, rather than having to depend on other people to get my medication, shopping etc. When my son was school age, I was able to take him and pick him up from school. This was paramount to me as he was being bullied at school and suffered terrible anxiety.

Ford Tourneo WAV - Disabled people:  Brand New Car Every Three Years!
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

I became a full-time wheelchair user many years ago, not being able to put my own electric wheelchair in our car and drive off somewhere, means I can longer go out on my own. Therefore I am now in the process of applying for WAV (I will write about my experience, once I have received my car).

Further Information

For a full breakdown of who is eligible, how to apply and more help, check out Motability’s website.

If you want me to blog about a specific subject, or just to say hi, please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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Group of wheelchair users chatting. Wheelchair service user group text above

Queen Mary’s Wheelchair Service User Group

Wheelchair Service User Group – The Wheelchair Service at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton have meetings quarterly for their users of the service to help shape how the service is provided. If you are a client of the W.S and would like to be a part of this group, all you have to do is contact me on my Contact Page. The Wheelchair Service is based at Queen Mary’s Hospital and is for people registered with GPs in Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston, Spelthorne, Merton and Sutton.

Wheelchair Service User Group poster advertising the group meetings and contact details

If you have a GP in the boroughs mentioned above and would like to become a client of this Wheelchair Service, please visit their website for more information: Wheelchair Service website.

The service provides wheelchairs, buggies, pressure distributing cushions and associated special seating for people of all ages with a permanent disability affecting their ability to walk. It is an ‘open access’ service and registered clients can contact therapists for information and advice as necessary. The Wheelchair Service based at Queen Mary’s Hospital is for people registered with GPs in Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston, Spelthorne, Merton and Sutton.

Drop me a line to find out more. Contact Page

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Train speeding through a station

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!!

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time – I travelled on a train but will I do it again!! – I have been a full-time wheelchair user for over 15 years and I have NEVER travelled on a train…..Why? Fear!! Fear of being crushed, fear of being trapped in the doors, fear of my wheels getting trapped in the gap, my list of fears were endless! That was until 2 days ago when I faced my fears and went riding on the trains with a lovely man called Alan (@AlansTweets).

I met Alan at Twickenham station, where we were to start our journey. I arrived early so I could take a look around inside, to familiarise myself. Not much to see really, just a few ticket machines and a ticket office, which was closed.

We took the lift down to the platform and asked a member of staff if we could have the ramp for the next train heading to Clapham Junction on the SWR (South Western Railways) line. Not a problem, the train arrived and we got on using the ramp without any incident whatsoever. I have to say, I was extremely surprised as to how much room was available for wheelchair users, both Alan and I (both wheelchair users) had more than enough room to park our chairs.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Alan and myself sat in our wheelchairs in the disabled spaces on the train.

During our journey, Alan spoke about his experiences and the pitfalls that can happen. He said, “The key is to stay calm and be polite but firm when dealing with mishaps”. Very good advise indeed! After all, you can’t expect to travel problem free ALL the time, thing are going to go wrong, that’s called life! But, if they do go wrong, just stay calm and deal with it the best you can.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Cazbarr sat on the platform in front of a parked train.

We arrived at Clapham Junction where we jumped onto the Underground. Now I hope I have our journey correct below, it was hard taking in all this wonderful new information at once. I was like a big kid taking in all the new sights/sounds etc around me. But I think our journey went something like this:

Twickenham > Clapham Junction – SWR
Underground – Clapham Junction > Waterloo
Underground – Waterloo > Westminister – We popped out to take a look at Big Ben
Underground – Westminister > Victoria
Victoria > Twickenham – SWR

I tried my best to remember everywhere we had been, take in the sights AND remember where & how I would travel in the future and ask for assistance.

I have to say I was not looking forward to travelling on the underground, this was my biggest fear. Crowds, pushing/shoving all the things we all know about the underground. But I have to say, (ok it was approx 2:30 pm) but the underground was pleasantly not as busy as I had expected it to be. Don’t think I would ever attempt to travel in rush hour.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Big Ben clock with scaffolding

We arrived at Westminister as I asked if it would be possible to see Big Ben. We went outside the station and low and behold, what was staring me in the face? Big Ben haha, I never realised it sat right outside the station. So, we didn’t have far to go.

My only memories of train travel/underground, was as a child when my Mum would take me to Great Ormand Street hospital and we would have to use those big, rusty, caged lifts where the doors had to be slammed shut and then the big iron gate door had to be slid across. Scary days really (for a toddler). My one attempt at train travel as a late teenager is not one I am going to go into but be assured it probably was the reason I never attempted it again until now!

We then travelled back to Victoria to get on SWR back to Twickenham. Again, no problems at all……..Until we reached Twickenham and no-one turned up with the ramp! I pressed the red button so someone would be alerted to our dilemma. We spoke with whom I believe was a guard, explained our situation and then this announcement came over the train: Link is to a video Alan made of our journey, this is the announcement: https://twitter.com/i/status/1238576905135296514

Well, you can imagine how upset we both were over this. I think Alan was going to email about this. It was unfortunate that this had to be the one lip in our whole journey. Everything went lovely and smooth without any problems and then that happened!!

Will I do it again? Damn right I will. I can’t thank Alan and wife enough for taking time out of their busy schedule to take me on the train and show me how easy it can actually be…..Thank you to both of you.

Any questions, why not drop me a line using my Contact Page.

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Greggs Logo - Blue background 4 yellow dots, 2 top 2 below, the word greggs in white to the right

Greggs – Hounslow – Disabled toilet – Free for all!

Having lunch with a friend in Greggs Cafe in Hounslow yesterday, I noticed several customers trying to get upstairs to use the toilets. The door leading to the stairs was locked. Only staff were using the door using a code on the door lock.

I asked a member of staff as to why the door was kept locked. I was told it was because the door was broken. (Didn’t look broken to me as the staff seemed quite capable of using it). This member went on to say how it was ok as customers could use the other toilet…….The DISABLED toilet!!! NO, IT’S NOT OK!!!!!

I have IBS, my stomach could turn at a moments notice and I need to rush to the toilet……Oh but I can’t use the toilet as one of your abled customers is using the DISABLED toilet because Greggs have never heard of a fecking DOOR STOP!!!!!!!!!!!

Come on Greggs, pull you god damn socks up!!!!!!!

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Argos self checkout machines too high

Argos say “Good height for wheelchair users”.

26/11/18 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Argos self checkout machines too high

So I emailed Argos regarding their recently installed self-checkout machines.

This is what Argos had to say,”

I know your concern was about the height of the Quick Pay Kiosks. Having investigated further, it seems that the design of the kiosks is historic and none of the current designers know where the guidance was consulted at the time.

We are however aiming to ensure that new designs are more inclusive and I am working closely with the Store Format teams to ensure moving forward this is the case. We are also trialling other technology where you can browse for products and pay on the same terminal and these are more accessible. However, there will always be aspects of Argos stores that are not accessible for every customer, and when it occurs, our colleagues are always happy to assist (which is of course something Argos is required to do under the Equality Act 2010)”.

Hmm, she says the new terminals where you can browse and pay (presumably the ones pictured above) are more accessible.  Not quite sure about that!

I’m in a pretty high seated wheelchair and you can see below, the touchscreens are too high for me to use, it is above my head!  For a disabled person like myself who is unable to raise their arms past chest level and doesn’t have very good dexterity, this becomes an impossible task.  Now, remember, you have to pump in numbers or the name of the item you wish to browse/pay for on this screen.  Gonna take some time I reckon!  Yes indeed, staff may be required to assist under the EA 2010 but try finding one in the Hounslow branch! 

Cazbarr sat next to Argos self checkout machines

Argos said in a further email, replying to my email with a few suggestions:

“I went around one of our stores on Friday in a wheelchair (before your email came through) just to try to get a view of the barriers in store for wheelchair users, albeit it was the Liverpool Belle Vale store that has just been refitted with the Pay at Browse device. While it is a good height for a wheelchair user, the screen while lower than the kiosk that you mentioned, may well present an issue to a user who can’t reach higher than chest level. We will need to give some thought to how we make sure a wheelchair user can get close enough to the screen e.g. get their knees under the desk and still have the screen and the pay point within easy reach”.

Now I’m really not sure what machines she is talking about as it seems she has mentioned several.  As she mentioned the Liverpool branch has just been refitted with the new machines, I can only assume she is indeed talking about the ones pictured above.  Now, this being the case, how on earth can it be concluded these are a good height for wheelchairs??  You would definitely need to reach up past your head.  

The plus side is, Argos haven’t completely disregarded my comments or even my suggestions.  They do say they will give some thought on how to improve things, this is definitely a plus for Argos.

So now the waiting game and in the meantime, I still can’t go shopping independently!!!! 

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

***UPDATE*** 27/11/19 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Lowered counter with new argos self checkout machines

Argos have been true to their word!! They have indeed installed new LOWER machines in their Hounslow store. I was in the store last week and found these lowered machines to be much easier to use. Unfortunately, the machine at the lowered counter meant for wheelchair users wasn’t working. (I did report this).

The only slight issue is the fact if you’re not careful, you could very well hit your knees on the bottom of the machine. Other than that though, I say, good job Argos.

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Cazbarr written in black with a large pink C over the top

Welcome to Cazbarr!

Thank you for taking the time to visit my site.  It took me some time to decide whether or not to create it.  I have to say, there were a few up’s & down’s in the making of my site.

I have more to add in the coming months, so why not bookmark me, or leave a comment and let me know what you think 🙂  Obviously if there is anything you wish to know or discuss, please do drop me a line.

I have had to re-create my website from scratch due to Adobe getting rid of their website builder programme, which I had been using. With this in mind, some of my blogs will have 2 different dates, one when I re-created the blog here on this site and another, from when I created it on my previous website.

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