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.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Against The Grain

Against The Grain
11 Wexford Street, Dublin 2

As far as pubs go, Against the Grain is a sturdy choice. With its handy location on Wexford Street, you can treat your palette to beautiful beers and beautiful burgers before you head on over to Whelan's for a gig or a good aul bop. And if this is properly up your alley, visit its totally wheelchair accessible sister pub The Black Sheep on Capel Street and The 108 in Rathgar.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the chairs are moveable here with tables at the perfect height for a wheelchair. 

Doors: The doors are wide enough to fit a wheelchair. 

Ground: Hello wooden, non-slip flooring!

Stairs: They have one flight of stairs up to another room which is often used as a venue for private parties. 

Bathrooms: Sadly, they have no wheelchair bathroom but the ladies and gents are on the ground level. I often do the hop job from chair to cubicle with no problem but that's not for everyone. 

Spaciousness: Other than the masses of people, there is plenty of room here to move around. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are particularly great. Good craic and accommodating. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair spot across the road, just outside Bunsen, as well as plenty of other on-street parking spots. 

Rating: 7/10

Why did it lose points? Against the Grain loses three points it has no wheelchair bathroom. It's a real pity because it is a brilliant spot. Hopefully they shift their asses into gear and put an accessible bathroom in soon. 

The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep
61 Capel Street, Dublin 1

In my humble opinion, The Black Sheep is one of the most perfect pubs in Dublin. Although it closes circa 1am, up until that point you can enjoy a gigantic range of craft beers, tasty food and a fine selection of board games. Its sister pusb, Against The Grain on Wexford Street and The 108 in Rathgar, are heavy in the deliverance of delicious booze and food. Take note of these venues if ever you've got the hankering for a solid platter and a ice cold pint of heaven.

What has it got?

Seating: The chairs are all moveable (other than the low-slung couches that are perfect for hiding away in) and the tables are a good height for a wheelchair. 

Doors: The front entrance has double doors and can be a bit tricky to navigate but their side doors are wider and much easier to use. 

Ground: A lovely wooden surface that has a bit of grip to it. 

Stairs: Not a step in sight. 

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom at the back of the bar (next to the board game table). It requires a reverse job in as the door opens inwards but it is big.  

Spaciousness: The only thing that can delay your way to a pint would be the crowds. It gets quite busy at the weekends but it's a nice crowd. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Sound as a pound. They'll give you a hand choosing which beer you want and any other help you may need. 

Parking: Capel Street has a number of wheelchair parking spots to avail of. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? You can spend an evening here without any wheelchair hassle whilst dining like a king. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Honest To Goodness

Honest To Goodness
12 Dame Court, Dublin 2

Today I asked the internet for a good city centre lunch destination and, boy, did it deliver. Thanks to Dublin band Sleep Thieves who pointed me in the direction of Honest To Goodness. I ordered the Kick Start sandwich (crispy bacon, sausage, pudding, egg and relish) with white chili bread and it hit every spot of my mild hangover. It had enough substance so I wouldn't be craving a filthy takeaway later on. Brilliant spot for breakfast and lunch.

What has it got?

Seating: The majority of the tables have moveable chairs and there are some high stools around the bar area.

Doors: The front doors are wide and easy to open. 

Ground: The floor is concrete

Stairs: Everything you need is on the ground floor. Hurray!

Bathrooms: They have a big wheelchair bathroom that also has a mirror and proper handrails. 

Spaciousness: Even though every table was full, there was still plenty of room to get through. They layout is great here so it never feels crowded or that your chair is in the way. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Great staff and incredibly helpful. The counter at the till is even slightly lowered so you're not reaching up to pay. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking further down Dame Court beside Ukiyo. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? The staff acknowledged that their old location was completely inaccessible and it's great to see that they made sure their new venue would be spacious and, with that, it is totally wheelchair friendly. The food is wholesome and delicious. I can't wait to go back and sample another sambo.