Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't Let The Measurements Of Your Chair Measure You

Not a single day goes by where I don't realise that I am in a wheelchair. This is stating the bleedin' obvious. Hopping out of bed every morning and into the chair. Hoping my dog isn't sitting underneath the wheel when I move. Loading the chair into the passenger seat before I drive my car. These are the everyday things that I do with my chair that are a reminder but not an examination.

I am in the process of being measured and fitted for a new wheelchair and it is a draining experience. What tyres would you like? What brakes would you like? What angle do you want your spine tilted at? What colour do you want? Do you want mud guards? Do you want arm rests? How high do you want your knees raised? How long do you want the seat to be?

I am being measured in centimetres and inches. I am thoroughly being examined.

Every other day, I can brush off the fact that I am in a wheelchair but when you have to describe to the millimetre what you need, you're being asked to look at things that you normally try to brush past and forget. Or, if you don't know what you want, you are being told what other people have and it's suggested that you go with it.

I made the grave error in asking for an arm rest that's strong enough for me to sit on at concerts. Being at crotch level means that I need an extra bump to see the stage so this request makes sense to me. "You're not meant to be sitting on arm rests. They're not strong enough." Oh, Lord! If they saw me swinging out of the arm rests during Kelis' set at Electric Picnic this year or even sitting on them so I can reach the wine glasses on the top shelf in my kitchen, then they would know that they're doing the job.

The initial design of a wheelchair is never my actual intention. I have said so many times that there is no blueprint for disability. I am in no way delicate. I fling myself about. I climb, I roll and I tumble and I need a chair that can do all of that with me.

Getting fitted for a wheelchair is like being fitted for a permanent office chair. It's in a fixed position so what you order is what you will be sitting in for the majority of the day. In work. In the pub. Walking down the street. Going to your friend's house. Stumbling home at 6am. Your permanent office chair is there and you want it to be perfect. You don't want to feel restricted by your chair and in my case, when the chair is lying flat on its back on a beach and me roaring laughing, you don't want your chair to prevent whatever unplanned rolls and tumbles that lie in your future.

Imagine being presented to a plastic surgeon and being told the options of what you could change about your body. Initially, you don't think that you have any body issues but when the list goes on and on...well, you definitely don't feel like a Kardashian by the end of it.

Unfortunately, so many people look in the mirror and do not like what they see. Sadly, today is one of those days where I have to stare at my reflection and examine every square inch of me and the chair. It's the grand admittance of having a chair. It's not just me anymore. I come with spokes, wheels and - rules be damned - soon I'll come with arm rests strong enough to sit me and whoever is sitting on my knee.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

(Online) Dating With A Disability

Just under an hour ago, I was on Spin 103.8's Spin Talk to discuss this email with presenters Lauren Kelly and Gordon Hayden:

A couple of weeks ago I started chatting to a gorgeous guy on Tinder, conversation flowed really easily and turns out we’ve got lots in common.
Eventually I plucked up courage  to ask him out on a date, but before we were  to meet he told me he had something important to tell me and wasn’t sure how I’d take it. I immediately thought he might be married or had kids..but when he told me that he was in a wheelchair,  I was really shocked and if I’m honest my heart sank.
I don’t know anyone who’s disabled and just kinda freaked out about it, but decided to give it a go. We met for a coffee and I was deliberately late because all I could think of was how he’d get in the door, what if the tables were too high?  I was so self conscious the entire time but he was so cool and easy to talk to.
He’s asked about meeting again but as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think I can deal with it. I always thought I was a very open minded person but maybe I’m not I hate myself for being so shallow.  Maybe I’ll get over it. Should I give this guy another chance?  Thanks.

They had given me a couple of hours to think over what I was going to say and, boy, did I.

I'm in the middle of writing a piece about Tinder and dating* that has nothing to do with wheelchairs or disability so I am full of ideas and, it turns out, rage.

On air, I said something along the lines of this:

You’re asking if you should give him another chance. Yes, you should but should he? Absolutely not.  
As you said, he is gorgeous, easy to talk to and cool but all you could focus on was the wheelchair. You are so quick to deny yourself this great guy all because of the chair.
Tinder dates are weird and everybody has some anxiety going on one but you went through with it - so well done. You worried about the right things - will he fit in the door and are the tables too high. You thought about things that you’ve never thought about before and that’s brilliant. If you need other accessible dating venues, well, read my blog Legless in Dublin. 
Tinder is a massive platform for shallow and superficial behaviour. We all do it. Sure I swipe left in anyone comes up in an Abercrombie t-shirt. We are putting our appearances and basic level of interests up for judgement. However, if you met this guy at a party or through a friend, you may have overlooked his wheelchair or I might even overlook an Abercrombie t-shirt if he ended up being really, really sound. Tinder removes the benefit-of-the-doubt and we go for surface judgements too quickly.  
People that don’t go out dates with people because of a wheelchair or a disability or missing out on many things. They’re missing out on meeting really nice people or really horrible people. This guy could be the greatest or he could be an absolute womanizer but you will never know. 

I'm often asked about dating with a disability and I feel as if I have to provide a spreadsheet of all the men I have hooked up with and why it went wrong. I am single and I know it's not because I'm in a wheelchair. I'm single mostly because I'm a bit of a dickhead and I have a low tolerance for idiots. That's the bottom line on that matter.

The tone that is normally given in these interview situations is that the non-disabled person is exploring new territory. No, you're not. People with disabilities can be sluts too! We're just like you!

I have to give credit where credit it due and the presenters didn't pander to any stereotypes or condescending opinions towards people with disabilities. They spoke honestly and respectfully. Thank you. Not many people in the media can do this.

I was surprised by the positive reaction from the texters too. A lot of people thought this girl should cop on and they mirrored my thoughts that this guy could probably do better. One texter did say this though:

"It takes a very special person to do that [date someone in a wheelchair] and I couldn't do that". 


When it comes to dating,  no one should ever have to prove to someone that you are worthy of their time.  But for people with physical disabilities, these attitudes are great ways to cut the assholes loose at a rapid pace.

If you come across someone on Tinder or in real life that you sort of fancy but they have a disability, just go for it. There is nothing difficult about it other than choosing an accessible date venue and, luckily, you have my blog to help you out with that.

*Editors, this piece is a hoot. You should commission me for it. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 108

The 108
108 Rathgar Road, Dublin 6

The 108 recently changed owners and it is now in the very capable hands of Galway Bay Brewery who also look after The Black Sheep and Against The Grain. They're serving up the regular blend of craft beers and hearty pub grub but with so many pubs and restaurants in one corner and Blackbird in Rathmines, it has a bit of competition. Luckily, they have the lovely Rathgar locals to lure into their lair and with their lunchtime menu, they should have a steady crowd in through the doors.

What has it got?

Seating:  They have a mix of high stools, low stools, high tables and low tables. The low tables are perfect for a wheelchair but you may have to bagsy a spot early. None of the stools have arms but there is an armed bench, ready for attack.

Doors: Their front doors are double doors. They're a little bit heavy but they fit a wheelchair.

Ground:  Wooden floors.

Stairs: 'tis all flat, like the gorgeous plains of Kildare.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom! Rejoice! It's pretty big and has all of the correct bars and handles.

Spaciousness: It is a little bit tight to move through all of the tables so it will be a heave when the crowds are in.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff seem sound

Parking: There is plenty on onstreet parking in the area and Colman's across the road has a car park. There is a wheelchair parking spot beside Christ Church Rathgar.

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? It didn't! In terms of access, you should have an easy night in The 108. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Story of Legless: Let Me Introduce You To Priscilla, My Fake Leg

Louise Bruton poses for Ruthless Imagery Photography wearing a designer prosthetic leg by Sophie de Oliveira Barata’s Alternative Limb Project. Louise also wears creations by young Irish designer, Sophie Wallace with make up by Lorcan Devaney of Lorcansface. ** Styling by Sophie Wallace // https://sophie-wallace.squarespace.com/ ** Make Up by Lorcan Devaney // http://lorcansface.tumblr.com/ ** with special thanks to MART Rathmines //

The story of my prosthetic leg was recently published in the Irish Times. The wonderful Sophie de Oliveira Barata from the Alternative Limb Project designed my leg.

You can read the piece here. 

So far, Priscilla has been to Electric Picnic, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin and New York. She loves a good time so she does. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Being A Tourist In America With A Wheelchair: Bumper Edition

Somewhere near Las Vegas

For the month of September, I spent my daytime roadtripping around America with two of my very good friends, Alan and Violet. It's something we had been planning for a long time and when the departure date finally arrived, it was pretty damn hard to believe that we actually committed to the plan. Over the four weeks, we'd often ask "does it feel real yet?" and it never really did.

When we were booking what we could, accessibility was obviously a big issue. We were driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then onto Las Vegas, across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and then on to New Orleans. We flew up to Boston and got a Greyhound bus to New York. Our main thing was to be as flexible as possible just in case we preferred one place more than the other (turns out LA, Austin and New Orleans were our big loves). Luckily, everything fell into place perfectly - sometimes at the last minute - and we had a brilliant time.

Overall, America is a mixed bag access-wise. Some cities, like San Francisco, LA and New Orleans, are amazing for access and you don't have to think twice about where you go to eat. Access wasn't a massive issue until we got to New York - our final destination - which is just a pain in the arse for wheelchair users.

If you're in a wheelchair or you're travelling with a buddy in a wheelchair, or simply want some good US of A tips, here's what I learnt about crossing the States.

San Francisco
Despite all of the hills - SO. MANY. HILLS - the majority of the places we visited in San Fran were accessible. All of the bars and restaurants had wheelchair bathrooms and any tourist attractions we visited were up to scratch. Their buses are 100% accessible so it's easy to get around the city. However, their trams aren't but one out of two ain't bad.

Los Angeles
LA is the PC capital of the world. Practically everywhere was 100% accessible excluding the big, glaring issue that LA is not for pedestrians. For the love of god, hire a car if you're here. One day, we decided to walk three blocks. On our path was the rotting corpse of a kitten, I kid you not. Please, drive. Their buses are accessible here too but for the sake of sanity and humidity, try hire a car with air con.

Las Vegas
All of the hotels here will have the best access facilities but the layout of the strip is a bit strange. To cross the road, at many junctions you will need to use an escalator or a lift to go over the road. Unfortunately, the weekend we were there, none of the lifts worked so it would take us about 15 minutes to walk from one proper pedestrian crossing to another simply to cross the road. It's a weird place.

Fort Davis, Texas
We booked Fort Davis simply because it was en route between the Grand Canyon and Austin. It's a very small town with a population of approximately 1,000 people. The access wasn't great here but it was so lovely, I can't say anything bad about it. We made do.

Austin was probably my favourite place we visited. The food! The music! The ridiculous amounts of times the locals said y'all! The majority of bars and restaurants we visited here were accessible. The centre of Austin is relatively pedestrian friendly but, again, if you have a car, it makes life easier. That being said, the buses are all wheelchair friendly.

We only stayed overnight in Houston but the one restaurant that we ate in was 100% accessible. One thing to be said about Houston, the surfaces of their paths and roads are so rough and jagged. If I were to try and wheel from one place to another, I'd encounter a lot of obstacles.

New Orleans
Ah, New Orleans! One of the most magical places on earth. Because of Hurricane Katrina, so much of the city was rebuilt which means that a lot of the buildings are now wheelchair accessible. Their buses are wheelchair accessible but they're not totally reliable. They have streetcars which are incredible but not all of the lines are accessible. However, if you have a muscly man available, you can get a lift up no problem. Like Houston, the streets and pavements are very uneven in the suburbs but once you hit the city centre, it's easy to get around.

Boston is a very pedestrian friendly city. It's smaller than a lot of the cities we visited so the novelty of being able to walk around was pretty exciting. It has a few hills - nothing compared to San Fran - and the buses, ferries and trains are wheelchair accessible.

Salem is definitely worth a visit if you go to Boston. One quick ferry or train ride away and you can spend the day doing witch walks and ghost tours. It's very touristy and the majority of places we visited were properly wheelchair accessible.

New York
My patience with New York grew thin quite quickly. Not many of the subway stations are wheelchair accessible so if you want to get to one area, most of the time we had to get the subway about three stops away and walk. It took us a lot of time to get anywhere and so many of the buildings are not accessible, including high street shops. Anything built after 1992 is totally accessible but if you want to get into buildings, you either have to take back alley entrances or get lifted up a couple of steps. New York is great but it's exhausting to "do" in a wheelchair.

Getting There
We flew directly from Dublin Airport to San Francisco International Airport with Aer Lingus and flew home from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. If you are flying with a wheelchair, you have to say what type of assistance you need. The options are: assistance from check-in to the gate or assistance from check-in to your seat.
Because I cannot walk at all, I chose the second option. When you get to the plane, you get out of your own wheelchair and are strapped into a smaller chair that fits in the plane's aisles. What I have come to gather is that no airplane seat is totally suitable for someone that cannot walk. Either you're on the aisle and people have to climb over you or you're in the middle or by the window and have to get by others if you need to get to the bathroom. If you need to use the toilet when you're up in the air, long distance flights have an onboard wheelchair. You will need assistance from the staff and it's a bit of a rigmarole but the facilities are there.

We stayed in a huge range of places during our trip. We stayed in hostels, houses, Air BnBs, hotels and motels just to keep us on our toes. When you're booking accommodation in America, if they have an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) room available, then that's what you should book. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that they are perfect. Here's a run through of the accommodation we stayed in.


San Francisco Downtown Hostel
4 person dorm
$43 per person per night
The rooms were very spacious and the location was excellent but for an ADA room, the bathroom facilities weren't great. I had to climb into a bath and use a very wonky stool and try not to die as I maintained a basic level of hygiene. This was fine for the three nights we stayed there but it wouldn't be suitable for a lot of people in wheelchairs. The lift also took about three years to get to any floor.

Hostelling International Austin
8 person dorm
$24 per person per night
Now, on their website, they said that the hostel was wheelchair accessible. It was all one one floor and the dorm rooms were big but the bathrooms did not fit wheelchairs. When I pointed that out to them, the staff said that they were wondering how I would get on with that. They let me use a bigger bathroom for one of the private rooms which was a regular bathroom and when I showered, I still had to climb into a bath. Not the best scenario and they need to be clearer on their website about their facilities.

40 Berkeley, Boston
Twin Private
$50 per person per night
This place was grim and it was the only accommodation available for the two nights we were in Boston. They had no ADA rooms available so we booked a regular twin private which just about had enough room for two people. I was given a key to a locked accessible bathroom. It was large but the extent of access facilities were a few bars here and there. Below is a picture of the bath/shower. It looks like a torture chamber.

Bathroom/torture chamber in the Boston hostel


Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas
Double Queen room for 3 people
Approx. $150 per night
Of all the accommodation we paid for, Las Vegas was the best. The rooms were large and the bathroom had all of the proper access features. Pity Vegas itself is a total hellhole. Only go if you can get very, very, very drunk.

Comfort Inn Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Double Queen room for 3 people
$79 per night
We merely stayed in Truth or Consequences for the name, which has an interesting backstory. This was just an overnight pitstop so we booked a regular room as all of the ADA rooms were booked up. The room was large and it was on the ground level. The bathroom required a bit of stealthy parallel parking because it was so narrow but for the 9 hours we stayed there, it was grand. Plus, it had a free breakfast.


Kayenta Monument Valley Inn, Arizona
Double Queen room for 3 people
Approx. $140 per night
We stayed here between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley which is an amazing double whammy if you're into rocks. We booked this at the very last minute and a regular double room. The room was large and so was the bathroom. As a last minute booking, this turned out to be fine even if it was above our budget.

Fort Davis Inn and RV Park, Texas
Double Queen room for 3 people
$96 per night
This was another one of our pitstops along the way but we were very surprised to find that we fell head over heels in love with our first Texan location. Cowboy hats and southern charm overtake this town and it's just delightful. Our room was an ADA room which meant that it was relatively spacious and the bathroom was just about big enough for a wheelchair. We also got a free breakfast here which we took complete advantage of.

Air BnB
Air BnB can be quite tricky to navigate as you want the best location and best price and these two things don't always go together. However, we really lucked out with our two bookings. We used Air BnB in New Orleans and New York. In New Orleans, our apartment was really affordable (something like $40 a night) and in a great location. It was advertised as wheelchair accessible so, with that, there was a lift up to the apartment and it was flat inside. Unfortunately, my wheelchair didn't fit through the doorframe of the bathroom which is, unusually, a common feature for bathrooms in foreign countries.  So, to overcome this, we moved a chair into the bathroom and I would hop from my chair to that chair, fold up my wheelchair and pull it in and then unfold it. Ta-dah! Obstacle overcome.
In New York, the prices for Air BnB are extortionate, especially if you need wheelchair access. Because so many of the accessible buildings were new or in expensive areas, it meant that it was very expensive to get anywhere suitable. I contacted the lovely people at Air BnB explaining our problem about NY and they gave us a voucher so we could find somewhere that properly suited. So thanks guys!
The NY Air BnB was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and the building had a lift and it was all on one level inside.  Its bathroom was also big enough. Hurrah! For one room for three nights, the total damage was $390. Thanks to our voucher, we didn't have to spend that much but in normal circumstances, that would have been way too much. So, yeah. Book NY carefully if you're in a chair.

Hiring A Car
If you are going to "do" America, please hire a car. We booked two cars from two separate companies requesting hand controls so that I could share in the driving. We initially booked through Alamo and they placed the hand controls in the wrong place which meant that I could not use the car. However, when we booked through Hertz, they walked through exactly what I needed and where I needed them placed. Most car rental companies offer hand controls so if you're booking an adapted car, make sure you specifically say what you need.

Greyhound Buses
Greyhound Buses are cheap, regular, have WiFi and GO EVERYWHERE. When you are booking, you have to phone up Greyhound to request a space for a wheelchair user. You have to be clear about what you actually need. Most of the buses have a lift so you and your chair can get on the bus. If you don't want your chair on the bus, it can be stored underneath the bus but you must be clear that you need to use the lift if you cannot walk at all.

Swamp Tour in New Orleans

Accessible and Worthwhile Tourist Attractions
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco - It's free to visit and they have an access path going up to it. Beware of the fog. It will get you.

Disneyland Resort, California - Obviously, Disney is at the top of its game and almost all of the rides are accessible. Make sure you visit Disney's City Hall at the start of your day to pick up the access guide.

Grand Canyon - To get into the Grand Canyon Park, you need to pay $25 if you are in a car and this will give you access for a week. If you are in a wheelchair, there is a car park very close to the canyon and they also have a map that points out accessible paths in and around the park.

Monument Valley - You get to drive through all of Monument Valley (for free!) It's really worth doing. Just red rock and deep blue sky for miles and miles.

Barton Springs Pool, Austin, Texas - This outdoor natural spring pool is such a perfect way to spend a sunny day in Austin. For non-US residents, it's $8 in and you can swim in fresh water. They have a wheelchair changing rooms, bathrooms and ramps. They also have an electrical chair that you can use to get into the water.

Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour, New Orleans - This was such a great thing to do in New Orleans. In a boat, you go through the swamps and see alligators, wild pigs, racoons and swamp houses that can be accessed only by boat. It takes about an hour and it's a really interesting tour.

The Salem Witch Walk - This was surprisingly a lot of fun. It started off with a magic ritual and then we walked Salem as our guide Sam told us the history of the village. It's all on foot and it only gets a little bit uneven when you go into a graveyard.

Staten Island Ferry - It's free and you get to see the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and, if you want, you can get out and see Staten Island. We didn't do that. We just went along for the free ride.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Legless in America: The San Francisco Downtown Hostel

The San Francisco Downtown Hostel
312 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

The big thing you need to mention about San Francisco is that it is hilly. Once you get over that fact, you'll realise that most of the buildings are pretty accessible. If you can get there.

The San Francisco Downtown Hostel is very San Fran. The staff will invite you on walking ukelele tours and they are very much about hostel involvement. Just smile, ignore them and indulge in the free bagels. It's a lovely hostel in a very handy location in the middle of the city so it's easy to plan your day from there.

What has it got?

Rooms: They have a couple of American Disability Act certified rooms which are spacious. The beds are bunk beds and you are given the bottom bunk.

Bathrooms: The bathroom was massive. However, they had no handrails and the shower was actually a bath. They provided a stool to put in when you are showering but it was a little dodgy. Keep your wits about you here.

Doors:  The doors are quite heavy and I needed a hand with them a couple of times.

Stairs: The entrance is flat and they have a lift that goes to all floors. Give yourself some time with this lift as it is quite temperamental and you can only press the button for one floor at a time. We lost half a day in here.

Helpfulness of Staff: I didn't require much help from them but it is San Fran and they will probably sell their liver in order to help you.

Parking: There is street parking available.

Rating: 8/10
Why did it lose points? It is a very nice hostel and we got what we needed from it; a bed and a free breakfast. The fact that the wheelchair room didn't come with any actual handrails or a specific wheelchair shower was a bit of an issue and would be a bigger problem for other people in wheelchairs. The lift was an almighty pain in the hole but they have posters everywhere apologising for that. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Legless At Electric Picnic 2014

Electric Picnic is the mother of Irish music festivals. It gets the biggest names and the biggest crowds but why does it feel like they gave access very little thought?

I had a brilliant weekend at Electric Picnic. Portishead, Kelis, Outkast and Pet Shop Boys blew my little mind away but if there is one way to describe their access service, the words pain and ass aren't too far from each other.

For the first time ever, I camped in the accessible campsite at Electric Picnic. The advantages to this are that you can park your car right beside your tent, tents are spread out so you can get in and out of your own easily and they have large wheelchair accessible portaloos. In the other campsites, there are no wheelchair portaloos available so if you're wheeling, you're not peeing (easily).

We arrived late on Friday night so our usual coveted spot in the Oscar Wilde site was gone. For the last three years, we camped on the edge of that campsite because it was a stone's throw away from the main arena. Unfortunately, the accessible campsite was one of the furthest sites away from all of the action; approximately 2-3km. Tucked right in where all of the campervans played house for the weekend, those who need the easiest path in were given the furthest route to take.

On the Electric Picnic website, you can contact access@festivalrepublic.com to book a spot in the access site. I had emailed them before the festival to ask if the access site would be as far away as previous years. They said the reason it was the furthest away was because it was the closest spot for drivers to go in. While parking beside your tent is incredibly handy when you are arriving and leaving, it's the time in between (i.e. the festival that you bought your ticket for) that you need to be close to the action.

The access officers at the campsite were incredibly helpful and couldn't believe that that was the best Electric Picnic could do in terms of access. One officer mentioned how they had tried for three hours to get a golf buggy to help one camper who had MS to get around but there was no service available.

At Body and Soul earlier this summer, their access officer had a huge presence and gave out her mobile number to everyone just in case. The accessible campsite was also right beside the main arena and they had a shuttle service to bring people back and forth if they needed it.

For the entire weekend at EP, I had to rely on my friends to help me get around.  Luckily, my friends are a great bunch but it meant that I couldn't get to my tent on my own. At festivals, you need to nip back to the tent to get layers or for the very important disco naps so I felt like a nag to my friends when I needed their help. The paths leading from all the campsites are rough with stones and when it was wet, mud was a big issue. The fact that the access campsite was so far away meant that we had more tough ground to cover than the rest of the campers.

Inside the main arena, they had plenty of wheelchair portaloos and viewing platforms if you needed them. The access guards did everything within their means to help but the facilities that they were given just weren't enough.

This year was my eighth Picnic and as the Big One they need to up their access game if I will make next year's my ninth. The music and the fun inside will always be a huge draw but it's the stress and the struggle to get in that aren't worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Legless On The Ray D'Arcy Show (But With The Lovely Alison Curtis)

Last week, I was on The Ray D'Arcy Show along with the wonderful Declan Groeger discussing wheelchairs, access and life.

It was a very easy-going and lighthearted morning spent mulling over serious and sometimes emotional topics. I've often found that when I am brought on to be a 'talking head' for disability, a very negative angle or tone is used by the interviewer so, for once, it was an absolute delight to have a normal discussion about life in a wheelchair.

Thanks to everyone at Today FM that made it such a pleasant experience!

You can listen to the podcast Here or just down below.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Fifty Square

A very happy Two Fifty Square customer

UPDATED: 10 November 2014

Two Fifty Square
Williams Park, Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6

Two Fifty Square is the latest addition to Dublin 6. Neighbouring my gym (the very accessible Swan Leisure Centre) and favourite bar, Blackbird, this coffee shop couldn't have picked a handier location for me anyway. They roast their own coffee beans out back and one of the lads sat down with us as we pored over their coffee menu to explain the very specfic Aeropress and V60 serving options. While my pal went for the more adventurous Aeropress option, I went for the very safe yet very tasty flat white.
Other than coffees, they have a selection of Wall and Keogh teas, hot chocolate and an incredible new brunch menu. With a new chef in the kitchen, their menu includes a baked potato with chilli con carne, baked eggs with chorizo and chicken and two pea sandwich with basil aioli amongst many other mouth-watering things. I plan to elope with the potato and chilli. Sorry men of the world. I am taken.

What has it got?

Seating:  All of the tables have moveable chairs but not all of them have arm rests.

Doors:  The doors are wide and easy to open.

Ground:  It appears to be a non-slip lino surface so even if it's wet outside, you'll be grand inside.

Stairs: It's all flat inside. There is a slight raise at the front door - about an inch and a half - but I got in and out independently.

Bathrooms: They have a big wheelchair bathroom which should fit all types of chairs and they have all the correct bars in place. There is no mirror in the wheelchair bathroom but take it from me, you look lovely today.

Spaciousness: There is room to move between all of the tables even if it's busy.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very sound and will give you an education on the coffee bean as well as a helping hand.

Parking: There is plenty of on street parking around Williams Park but there are two wheelchair parking spots outside.

Rating: 10/10
Why did it lose points? It didn't! Hurrah! Two Fifty Square is brand spanking new and because they totally renovated the place, it ticks off all the boxes for accessibility. It's very spacious and bright and it has a very laid back atmosphere. When I told them that they did well RE: access, they were delighted as it is something that they kept very much in mind as they were doing up the place. They have a great pride in Two Fifty and rightly so. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man
39-40 Fenian Street, Dublin 2

I popped in here one Sunday evening for some dinner and it ticked many boxes. The food was fairly solid pub grub - highly recommend the fish and chips - and it wasn't massively expensive. As soon as we sat down, a bus full of American tourists came in so it was very busy but I'm sure they enjoyed its twee old country pub thing and eavesdropping on our conversation.

What has it got?

Seating:  They have high stools and low stools for tables of all heights and sizes. A few of the tables have benches with arm rests and some are tucked away in snugs.

Doors:  The doors are wide and easy to open.

Ground:  The floors are wooden which could make them a bit slippy when it's wet.

Stairs: There is an upstairs but everything you need is on the ground level.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom - rejoice! It's very spacious and in an easy-to-get-to location. The mirror is up way too high but everything else is in check.

Spaciousness: If a bus full of American tourists pulls up, it is definitely tight for space but the tables aren't piled on top of each other.

Helpfulness of Staff: Incredibly sound bunch. Chatty, friendly and helpful but not in your face.

Parking: There is plenty of on street parking around here. I couldn't suss out a particular wheelchair parking spot right beside it but there are spaces available on Merrion Square which is just down the road.

Rating: 10/10
Why did it lose points? It didn't. I didn't expect this pub to have the proper facilities but it did.  I'm glad I finally got to visit one of Dublin's famous pubs that actually has proper wheelchair access. Fair play. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Is What Poor Access Means To Me

Normally, this blog takes a very optimistic view on access. I try to portray a "by hook or by crook, I WILL get in there" attitude but unfortunately, that's not always the case. On a regular night out, if stairs are a problem, my friends and I take the Cleopatra option, which involves 2 or 3 lads lifting me up, or we simply go on to another venue.

Over the weekend, it was a mate of mine's 30th. He had the upstairs of Solas on Wexford Street booked and it was packed with mates and had the promise to be a bit of a wild one. Two of the guys were ready to lift me up when the bouncers intervened and said they strictly had a no wheelchair policy upstairs. We explained that we've done this many times before and it would be fine. No. We bartered. One friend offered the option of just carrying me up and leaving the chair downstairs. No. If there was an "incident" that night, I would be at risk. The incident perhaps being a fire. Another friend said if there was to be a fire, all the drunk people upstairs wouldn't be too great at getting themselves down either. No.

This went on for a while but the bottom line was a big, fat no. My friends couldn't leave so I just went home. This is what poor access means to me. I miss out on important nights.

I missed out on a friend's 30th because a bouncer wouldn't let me go upstairs. My wheelchair was a hazard. The drunk people weren't a hazard. The stoned people weren't a hazard. The girls in heels too high weren't a hazard and neither was the guy whose shoelaces were undone. I was the hazard.

Initially, I was fine with the outcome. This happens all the time, I reassured my mates, and it's grand. It's just something that happens. The next day, as I mulled it over, I came to the conclusion that I am going to be missing out on so many more 30ths, engagements, surprise parties, EP launches, friends playing obscure DJ sets, weddings, going away parties, retirement parties and parties just for the sake of a party parties.

My mind then went to darker places thinking of all the events maybe I haven't been invited to for that very same reason. Along with that comes the stunning paranoia where I then start to think 'maybe it's me and not the chair'. Ah, paranoia. One of the biggest downsides to having a disability. You can't shake that feeling for all of the 10/10 Legless ratings in the world.

My friends are steely when it comes to getting me in places where I shouldn't be but we can't always argue with the bottom line. Sure, some people will probably suggest that if they're real friends, they would book an accessible venue. Well, you can't ask that of anyone. Firstly, you try book an accessible venue that suits the many weird and wonderful interests all of my friends have that is also within our budget. But secondly, not every single person that is in your life is a "real" friend. I cannot expect friends of friends or people that I just sort of know to always think of access. Some friends are just casual friends or people I talk shite to at festivals and I cannot throw that expectation on them to cater for my own needs. In this wonderful non-committal age of ours, I may not even show up to an event that I say I would and then it will all be for nothing.

My bottom line here is that because of a building's poor access or their bouncers policies, I am either missing out an important celebration of someone's life  or I am testing the loyalty of people to a point where it shouldn't be tested.

This isn't a piece about forcing all building to be accessible and it isn't a piece telling the people I know to always think about access. This is a piece that simply highlights the daily inconvenience being in a wheelchair brings. It's crap. No one should have to face this sort of thing but it happens.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blackbird Rathmines

Rathmines Road Lower, Dublin 6

I am pushing hard for Blackbird to become my local. I have never taken claim over a pub before but today, I put my first one forward. Run by the same folk that look after P Mac's and Cassidy's, there's a serious selection of craft beers here and even though I end up guzzling more Brooklyn Lager than I should, I will explore their full collection eventually. The style is kitsch and when they have a bed as a table, you have to ask if it's one kitsch too far. I will forgive them for that though. Their pizzas are pretty decent and the music goes from brilliant to "Did I fall into a 2007 indie vortex?" but maybe the best thing here is the staff. Straight up pack of sounders.

What has it got?

Seating:  The seats are all different here but at least they are moveable. They are all different heights, weights and sizes so, like Goldilocks, you should find one that's just right.

Doors:  They have double doors that are generally kept open but they are light to push open.

Ground:  They have ridged wooden panels throughout the bar and the bathrooms are tiled.

Stairs: There is one small step at the main door but it is easy to tip the chair up to it.  The ladies bathroom is up a few steps and the gents is down a few but the wheelchair bathroom is on ground level.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom! Huzzah! And it is big! However, the mirror is up way too high so if you're in a wheelchair, you'll just have to assume that you look great. Which you always do, you ride.

Spaciousness: When the place is packed, it is difficult to meander your way through but there are a couple of tables that are in direct vicinity of the bar and bathroom so if you land those tables, you will have no problems.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are ridiculously sound. Before I had even found a table, one of the barmen came over to me to say that I could get access to the beer garden through their kitchen. It is near impossible to find an accessible beer garden so this is great news. We had a little bit of trouble finding an easy-to-get-to table that had view of a telly for the World Cup so without a flicker hesitation, they set up a table for us that fulfilled all our needs.

Parking: There is plenty of on street parking across the road on Military Road.

Rating: 9/10
Why did it lose points? It lost one point because of the step at the front door. I will need help with it every time so it means that I have to have someone with me to get in or phone a mate to come out and help. Other than that, it really is a great spot and adds a lot to the Rathmines area. Fair play. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Legless Goes To Body And Soul (2014)

Some tired bodies and emotional souls

Body and Soul
Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath

This was my first proper time giving Body and Soul a go. I was there two years ago - when I first started using a wheelchair - and had to trundle home, defeated, thanks to the rain, the mud and the exhaustion. With the glorious weather being the ultimate guest of honour, I decided to try Body and Soul properly. In doing so, I used them for all the access treats they had on offer. They had an Access Officer, Maggie McKeever, who made sure everything went to plan and, lo and behold, it did.

Body and Soul is one of the smaller festivals and for every ten metres you walk, you will run into a familiar face. The music was obviously a big draw (highlights including Gary Numan, Tom Vek, Darkside and John Grant) but it's such a fun and magical festival. We got lost in the forest so many times but we were never in a rush to get anywhere because every corner had something going for it.

What has it got?

Seating:  All throughout the Body and Soul site, there are many places to rest your weary legs and, as the photo above shows, heads. Be it benches, chairs carved out of trees, thrones, picnic tables or just regular chairs, you will definitely find a place for a quiet moment.

Viewing platform:  At every stage, there was a viewing platform. However, the spirit of the festival is to be involved so placing yourself on a wooden slab away from all the action isn't ideal. I've often wondered what the thinking of keeping people with disabilities as far away from all the fun at festivals/concerts is. If there was a way to rethink the location of viewing platforms so that whoever sits there doesn't feel totally isolated, I am all ears.

Ground:  The rough ground was a bit of a struggle. There wasn't a drop of rain all weekend or the week leading up to the festival so we had no mud. That was a major coup. However, the paths had quite rough stones on them which meant that we had to tip my wheelchair back like a wheelbarrow to get around so I couldn't really go anywhere on my own. Luckily, I always keep a team of men at my beck and call for this.

Campsite: This was my first time ever using the Access Campsite at any festival. Using this facility was a big thing for me as it meant admitting that my needs are actually different from others.
This year, the Access Campsite was beside the castle and just beyond the walled garden. We had plenty of space to set up our tent without the cursed strings and poles becoming obstacles.
The biggest advantage of the Access campsite is that you can park your car right beside your tent. This meant that we didn't have to lug our belongings for miles. I had to apply online for this campsite and the Access Officer was there to meet me and gave me and my mates (as many as I wanted) separate wristbands so we could all stay there for the weekend.
I'll definitely be doing access camping from here on out because it just made life so easy.

Bathrooms: For every gaggle of portaloos, there was a larger and accessible wheelchair portaloo. Glamorous they were not but they did the job and weren't difficult to find. It's important to remember that people in wheelchairs do not have the same...eh, hovering abilities as others so the toilets could have been cleaner.

Spaciousness: The only time that space was an issue was when we tried to get into the Midnight Circus tent for Jon Hopkins. Not for love nor money could we squeeze in.

Helpfulness of Staff: Very helpful. The security were cheery and informative and if you ever asked to take a shortcut to make your trek easier, they gave you all the industry secrets.

Rating: 8/10

Why did it lose points? The weather was the best thing to happen to Body and Soul, in terms of access. If the weather was bad, this rating would have dropped to below sea level.  It was dry and the ground was solid - you couldn't ask for anything more. However, nature being nature, the forest area was tough to manoeuvre and I felt that they could have done more with the entrance/exit points to the main arena to make the journey less bumpy. 
The use of the Access Officer was a brilliant idea. Body and Soul is so small so she could help people out easily and it truly was a great asset. 
Overall, my weekend was incredible, even if I did build up my muscle making my way across the land 

Other festivals reviewed here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bell and Pot Café Kitchen

Bell and Pot Café Kitchen
3 Mercer Lane, Dublin 2

I was really excited about visiting Bell and Pot. It had sandwiches GALORE, had a twee theme to it and wasn't too far from my bus stop. It had it all. Sadly, my expectations were not met in terms of access. I shall reveal ALL below.

What has it got?

Seating:  The tables all have moveable chairs but not many of the chairs have arms to help you get up. Some of the seats are quite low but they all vary in height and size.

Doors:  The front door was quite heavy to open - had to ask someone to come and push it open for me.

Ground:  Wooden floors.

Stairs: The restaurant space is flat but the ladies and gents are downstairs.

Bathrooms: The wheelchair bathroom is in the Travelodge Hotel, which is attached. You have to go through two rooms and it is there. Sadly, I could not fit my wheelchair in. And believe me, I tried every which way. My wheelchair is not big but if you're without a wheelchair, they have bars and railings a-plenty.

Spaciousness: Other than not fitting into the wheelchair bathroom, there was plenty of space in the seating areas.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff were helpful with picking out food and with the door.

Parking: There are two wheelchair parking spots outside the Royal College of Surgeons and two more in front of Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, which are just around the block. There is plenty of other on street parking available.

Rating: 5/10

Why did it lose points? Sadly, the Bell and Pot lost points because of the wheelchair bathroom and the difficult door to open. The fact that it was a specifically designed and planned wheelchair bathroom and yet totally failed to serve its - eh - purpose was quite disappointing. The food is fine and I probably won't be returning here myself but if you wanna try it out and see if you can slither into the bathroom, by all means, be my guest. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Diep Le Shaker

Diep Le Shaker
55 Pembroke Lane, Dublin 2

Diep is known as one of the finest places in  Ireland to get Thai food with a separate noodle bar and a great takeaway service too. Diep Le Shaker is their swanky restaurant and I was lucky enough to be given a voucher for their 6 course tasting menu so instead of eating like a pig, I ate like pig royalty for an evening. The food and cocktails were incredible and I just salivate thinking about the grilled pork dumplings.

What has it got?

Seating:  The tables have moveable chairs as well as fixed couches to the wall. There are no arms on the chairs.

Doors:  The entrance has double doors that are light to open and the rest of the doors are wide and easy to push open.

Ground:  The floors are wooden panels, which could be a bit of a hazard when wet.

Stairs: The entrance is flat. There are tables upstairs but everything you will need is on the ground floor.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom that is big enough for an average sized wheelchair with bars and handrails too.

Spaciousness: It might be a bit tight making your way through the restaurant if all of the tables are full.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very attentive here. Not only will they help you with your order if you're bad at making decisions, if you need assistance, they will clear the way for you and also open doors. Very helpful. 10 points for the staff.

Parking: There is a lot of parking available around Fitzwilliam Square with a number of wheelchair parking spots. However, the path is a little bit uneven to and from.

Rating: 9.5/10

Why did it lose points? It lost half a point simply because some of the tables are quite close together so you will have to ask people to move chairs if you are going through the restaurant. Other than that, fantastic staff with even better food. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Preserved Buildings, Tourism and Access

"I'm sorry. This building is preserved so there is no lift."

That is an excuse I got twice in one day as I attempted to be a tourist in Dublin. I spent one Tuesday afternoon in the Natural History Museum and the National Museum of Ireland to checked out some stuffed animals and the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition that showcases the "bog people".

The last time I visited either of these museums was when I was in primary school when Bartons Bus whisked us up to the city to wander around the dead zoo and to see the famous Ardagh Chalice. I was under the age of 10 and also using crutches to get around. I was as hyper ball of energy then too so accessibility was the last thing from my mind. I was hoping to see if the experience would be as much fun as it was then for me now that I use a wheelchair.

My first stop of the day was the Dead Zoo. The entrance has a ramp and the old wooden doors open automatically and there is a wheelchair bathroom/baby changing space immediately to your left. It was a promising start and I was impressed that they managed to keep the building's exterior intact even with the adjustments made for easy access, which can sometimes be an eyesore. I wandered about the ground floor, seeing a wide range of birds, fish, rabbits and insects that can be found in Ireland. Other than wondering if the whale hanging from the ceiling was actually made out of papier-mâché, I wanted to know where the exotic animals were. Stuffed cheetahs and other things that you can't find in the Wicklow Mountains.

Surely, if they had renovated the building after the ceiling collapsed in 2007, they would have to not only adhere to fire safety regulations but also qualify for a Disability Access Certificate? No. Preserved buildings get to skip this.

I went on to the National Museum to visit the bog people. They had a ramped entrance and inside, they had a ramp down to the cases displaying jewellery, gold and copper excavated from the Mesolithic period to the Medieval ages. If anyone studied history or art in school, you'll find familiar pieces like the Derrynaflan Hoard or Tara Brooch here.  I had heard great things about the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition and I was not disappointed. If you're not squeamish, I highly, highly recommend taking an afternoon to visit.

This was all on the ground level. Up on the first floor, you have collections from Egypt and the Brian Boru display from Dublin's Viking ear. This was all closed off to me because it is another preserved building without a lift or access beyond the ground level.

Both of these are important from a cultural, educational, historical and tourist viewpoint and as semi-state run buildings, it is amazing that "I'm sorry. This building is preserved so there is no lift" is an acceptable response to those with mobility issues.

In comparison to the National Gallery that has lifts, ramps, platforms and wheelchair bathrooms at every turn, it is incredible that two buildings showcasing the brunt of Ireland's history are closed to approximately 18% of the population and a large number of tourists visiting Ireland.

If government-funded buildings cannot step up to the mark, what hope is there for other businesses operating from preserved buildings to open up to everyone?

Whenever I go abroad, I know for certain that national galleries and museums will be 100% accessible. As sure as McDonald's falls in line with disability access, the Tate Modern, the Louvre, the MET and Park Güell will provide decent access or alternative routes for the visitor with a disability and their family or friends.

I have said time and time again that we have incredibly talented architects, engineers and designers in this country but with preservation restrictions being the ultimate blockade, their talents are going to waste and opportunities for people with disabilities remain limited.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


1 Victoria House, Haddington Road, Dublin 4

A warm welcome to Dublin 4's first review here on Legless and the honour rightfully goes to Asador. They take pride in the heat method that cooks their meat and fish and, boy, it shows. Their chicken wings are divine and almost certainly give Tribeca's wings a run for their money. I had their wings and Asador burger (jerk mayo fans take note) from their pre-theatre menu and there are plenty of other menu options for lunch, groups and for rugby days. Their basil gin deserves a special shout out. It was genuinely like a pool of heaven in a glass.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables have moveable chairs and they fit a wheelchair nicely. The moveable chairs have armrests but the fixed couches at some of the tables do not.  

Doors: The doors are slightly heavy to push open but they are wide. 

Ground: Wooden floors, which could be a nuisance on wet days. 

Stairs: Everything is on the ground level. 

Bathrooms: They have a fully kitted out wheelchair bathroom here that is decked out rather nicely as opposed to the usual sterile vibe that wheelchair bathrooms possess. 

Spaciousness: When I was leaving, I had to ask a few people to pull in their chairs so I could make my way out.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff were very helpful here. 

Parking: Parking might be a little bit tricky here. There is plenty of onstreet parking but it is a busy spot so you may have to park further afield especially if it's a match day. 

Rating: 9.5/10

Why did it lose points? The only main issue with Asador is the lack of suitable parking but, other than that, you will get a top quality meal here all the while knowing that it is good for your chair, making it an even better experience. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Foam Cafe

Foam Cafe
24 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1

Foam Cafe is perhaps one of Dublin's quirkiest cafes. Every wall is adorned with something different, be it pink flamingoes, topless photos of Maroon 5's Adam Levine or portraits of the Virgin Mary. While it may not be to everyone's taste, it's a grand spot to whittle away an afternoon.

What has it got?

Seating: Other than the chaise longue under the stairs, all of the tables have moveable chairs. 

Doors: The front door can be a little heavy to push open but it swings both ways (heh) so if you're coming or going, you have enough space. 

Ground: It's a mix of lino and carpet. 

Stairs: The entrance is flat and there is extra seating upstairs but everything you need is on the ground level. 

Bathrooms: The ladies and gents are downstairs but they have a wheelchair bathroom/babychanging bathroom on the ground level. The wheelchair bathroom hosts the Adam Levine photo which is a major plus but the babychanging table - an actual desk table - takes up a lot of room which makes it quite tough for a wheelchair to fit. 

Spaciousness: They have a number of tables that are easy to access but some might be tucked away, making it difficult to get to. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff were good at clearing the way for my chair but if they made extra space in the wheelchair bathroom - that would be superb. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot across the way from it as well as a few more further down the road and other onstreet parking spot. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? Foam Cafe lost one point simply because they made a perfectly spacious wheelchair bathroom cluttered with the babychanging table. If they found a way to neaten that up, it would be a perfect 10. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

P Mac's

P Mac's
Lower Stephen Street, Dublin 2

P Mac's is a great spot. Free Banshee Bones, lollipops, all the craft beers going and a completely unpredictable music selection from Snoop Dogg to Queens of the Stone Age. It's an incredibly busy pub for a very good reason but this means that it can often be uncomfortably packed.

What has it got?

Seating: A lot of the tables have moveable chairs of different shapes and sizes with some fixed couches. 

Doors: The front doors are double doors which can sometimes be difficult to push open but they fit a wheelchair. 

Ground: Wooden flooring. 

Stairs: The entrance is flat in but there are a few steep steps up to the toilets.

Bathrooms: They have no wheelchair bathroom here BUT the Drury Court Hotel next door has a wheelchair bathroom that you can use. To the right of the bar, there is a snug which has doors that open directly into the hotel. Ask at the desk for the bathroom and pee freely, my friend. 

Spaciousness: This is a very, very tight spot because it is always rammed with people. If you use a wheelchair, I recommend that you sit in the snug to the right of the bar so that you can get to the bathroom easily without skinning the ankles off of everyone in there. 

Helpfulness of Staff: They are top notch. And if you are nice to them, you will get extra crisps. 

Parking: There are two wheelchair parking spots down the road. They are opposite Break for the Border. 

Rating: 5/10

Why did it lose points? P Mac's lost points because it is really tough to get around when it is busy. The lack of wheelchair bathroom is also a massive pain because you have to leave the pub, through the sea of people, to get to the nearest wheelchair toilet. The path outside is also quite tight because their smoking area blocks off a lot of room. 

I really like this pub but I wouldn't go unless I know that it's not too busy or if the table in the snug is free. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Legless in Cork: Hayfield Manor

Hayfield Manor
Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork

I visited Hayfield Manor yesterday for a light lunch in the lush library but with its decadent surroundings, including an aviary,  I knew I'd have to visit again when I had something to celebrate. It's a five star hotel so it's top quality all round. I only went for food there so I cannot comment on their bedrooms but Hayfield I'm willing to test them out - call me.

What has it got?

Seating: The chairs are all moveable but they also come in plenty of different heights. Some of the tables might be a little low but there are many options of tables. 

Doors: The front doors are double doors but there is a doorman there to open them. The rest of the doorways were wide and easy to push open. 

Ground: Carpet and tiles. Outside, there is a mixture of cobbles and gravel which might be a little bit tough but you can get dropped right to the door. 

Stairs: On the ground floor, everything is level but there is a lift up to the rest of the floors. 

Bathrooms: Their wheelchair bathroom was just a delight. Proper mirrors, nice soap, mouthwash, towels and ear buds. Yup, the full hog. Most wheelchair bathrooms are very basic so this was a treat. It was a little bit tight but it certainly does the trick. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room to maneuver here. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Incredibly helpful. Five star service really. 

Parking: They have their own car park with wheelchair spots. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? It's quite difficult for older buildings to accommodate for wheelchair users while retaining the correct periodic style but Hayfield achieved this and they deserve a round of applause for that. 

Legless in Cork: Crane Lane Theatre

Crane Lane Theatre
Phoenix Street, Cork

I have only been to Crane Lane once and that was after The National in the Marquee in the summer of 2013. It was the height of our Irish heatwave and spirits were high. The place was absolutely rammed with the post-gig crowd and it certainly rammed a way into my heart. This is probably because the DJ played 'Fill Me In' by Craig David.

What has it got?

Seating: Plenty of moveable chairs here and low tables. 

Doors: Most of the venue is open plan but all of the doors are wide and easy to open. 

Ground: Grated wooden flooring. 

Stairs: There are a couple of steps in the front entrance but the bouncers will bring any wheelchair users around to the side entrance. You also get to skip the queue this way. Win. 

Bathrooms: They have a large wheelchair bathroom near the side entrance. 

Spaciousness: Enough room for hundreds of punters to throw shapes to Craig David, that's for sure. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The bouncers were great here and showed me to the accessible entrance before the thought even crossed my mind. 

Parking: You're out drinking. Leave the car at home please. But if any Cork folk could tell me where parking is, please do. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? Now, I have a lot of grá for this place but they don't seem to promote their access enough so a lot of people are not aware of what they have to offer, even Yelp says it's not wheelchair friendly when it is. So, Crane Lane, if you're listening, promote the JAYSUS out of your access. 

Legless in Cork: Liberty Grill

Liberty Grill
32 Washington Street, Cork

I have been lucky enough to visit Liberty Grill twice. Once for a hangover brunch (pancakes with bacon and maple syrup - hommana hommana!) and once for dinner with an old buddy (Friend: Martin, Dinner: a hearty chicken burger). According to my Corkonian friends, it is one of the top spots to visit for food, especially for a weekend brunch. Now that I've sampled two of their menus, I can confirm that it tops the list of places I must visit in Cork, along with Crane Lane.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables have moveable chairs and the tables are a good height. 

Doors: The front doors are double doors so you might need a hand hooshing them open. 

Ground: Tiled floor .

Stairs: Not a step or stair in sight. 

Bathrooms: They have a large enough wheelchair bathroom but it might be a little tight for bigger wheelchairs. 

Spaciousness: The tables are a bit close to each other so you will have to ask people to pull in their chairs when you're moving through. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are very sound and helpful. You could do a lot worse for yourself.

Parking: There is plenty of onstreet parking in the area but there is a wheelchair spot on Hanover Street

Rating: 9.5/10

Why did it lose points? Liberty Grill is a fantastic spot and I'll always visit here when I go to Cork but the layout of the place may be a little tricky for larger, electric wheelchairs. It's worth testing out just for their Lemon Lime Bitters. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

From Sticks to Wheels

Crutches are not just for walking.
I had initially written this piece five months ago for another website but they never published it so here we are. 

I was born with a walking disability so when I first learnt how to walk, it was with a Zimmer frame. My mother tells me that I first went into motion by chasing ducks in Stephen's Green. I like to think that that's how we should all live our lives...

At the age of four, I started to use crutches and they remained as an extension to my arms for the next 20 years. I was good with the crutches - especially when it came to showing off at the long jump in school as my sticks added an extra boost as I leapt. They were also nifty for beating the Jaysus out of somebody in a testy game of Red Rover. 

I attempted everything. When line-dancing was all the strange and nationwide rage in Ireland circa '94, I was in the front row. When Wimbledon fever hit us every summer, I'd be out in my garden hitting a ball against a wall and, even though I was no Steffi Graf, I was happy to be doing what I was doing. I did all the dances at the ceilí in the Gaeltacht and I even tried to look like Britney Spears in her 'Slave 4 U' era at Wesley disco. Thankfully every other teenage girl at the time made that hazardous error. 

All through my teen years, I was known as the girl with the crutches but I made sure that they weren't my defining feature. I made sure I was known as the girl who was loud.  I liked to sing, I liked to dance and I liked to have a damn good time. My college years were no different. Whenever someone thought that I had broken my ankle, I was pleased. If they didn't realise that I had a walking disability, then I was fooling them and, on another level, I was fooling myself.

Front row at a Boys Noize gig. This photo screams 2008.
Things didn't stay this way. When I was 23, I noticed that things became difficult. I was always told by my doctors that I would inevitably end up in a wheelchair but I was stubborn and ignored them. As time went on, my energy levels were fighting with my desire to be everywhere and do everything. I couldn't walk at the pace I wanted to anymore and I was putting so much strain on my body that I soon became afraid to leave the house. I didn't want people to see me struggling or working up a sweat. I was putting my life on hold.

I felt like a hindrance to everyone. I was slowing people down and I could hear whispers of my friends. "Is she ok," they'd ask each other. "Maybe we should just stay in again tonight," they'd say unwillingly.

I had to announce through an email to my closest friends that I was struggling and I could not keep up with life. At this stage, I couldn't walk the length of Grafton Street without stopping two or three times for a breather.

One day, I decided to make my life and everyone else's so much easier. I started using a wheelchair. At first, it was to cover long distances, like big music festivals, or just as a back-up plan if my legs were having a bad day and wouldn't cooperate.

Eventually, the wheelchair became a full-time accessory and my crutches were cast aside - I now use them to open up windows that are too high for me, a trick I had learnt when I was younger/shorter and couldn't reach a light switch. 

This wasn't an easy decision to make. Many tears were shed and I had built up a lot of anger. Anger at myself for being in this tricky situation and, because I couldn't express how I felt, anger at others for not understanding. 

As the months and years went on, I've managed to accomplish so much more. 

My body had restricted me for so long and by admitting to my decreasing mobility, I had given my life a new freedom. My mind is at ease now and, more importantly, my body doesn't hate me anymore.

The benefits of using my wheelchair over the struggle of crutches are huge. I don't have to worry about slipping on wet surfaces when it rains or worry about someone accidentally kicking my crutch over.  One big difference is that now I don't sweat when getting from A to B. Crutches work every muscle in your body, carry your entire weight and burn up more energy than you have to offer. It seems minor but now that I am no longer a Sweaty Betty, my make-up remains intact and I can wear any clothes that I want to. My hair doesn't get in my way and I can wear it in any style. I can actually put effort in my appearance - something that would have been a waste of time before - and it is so bloody liberating.

The biggest and most important thing I've realised since using the chair is that I, as a person, am unstoppable. I had placed boundaries before because I didn't want people to see my at my weakest. This wheelchair has given me strength to push myself further and the only barriers are poorly constructed buildings or a pesky flight of stairs. For the first time in my life, it's not my fault that I can't do something - it's the bad designs of an architect or engineer. For the first time in my life, I am excelling and I can finally focus on me instead of worrying about every little detail of every day.