Sometimes, amid all the preparations for the big day, it’s a great idea to step back a little and indulge in some festive fun! Whether it’s a trip to a bustling Christmas market for food, festivities and fizz; or a more gentle approach with a visit to a stately home, there is lots to do across the UK.
We take a look at some of the most popular, all of which provide accessibility in different ways.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London
One of the biggest Christmas events these people have really thought about how to make it fun for all. There are access ramps, accessible toilets, allocated disabled car parks and even a wheelchair access pod on the giant wheel! It’s a great festive frenzy and with something for just about everyone much fun can be had whether you visit for an hour or the entire day.
Frankfurt Christmas Market, Birmingham
On until 23rd December, this amazing market is a cacophony of all things Christmas – food, music, drink and gifts as well as Santa too. There is an accessible route that avoids steps and accessible toilets so a visit here can be a true pleasure.
Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland
Whilst some of the gradients here are quite steep almost all of the market is accessible with ramps at all entrances, access parking and accessible toilets. The Christmas tree maze is wheelchair accessible as is Santa Land, and sensory back packs are available in two sizes for children and adults.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
One of the most popular stately homes when it comes to Christmas, this year’s theme is Amelia Earhart and Phileas Fogg. The house is accessible and, should you wish to view the gardens too, an accessible route can be provided. Eight wheelchairs are available for hire but should be booked in advance. And, for the first time this year, quiet days have been held; the second and final one will take place on 2nd January 2020.
Lapland UK, Berkshire
Yes, you read this right; there is a little bit of Lapland in a forest near Ascot! With rave reviews, it’s a wonderful experience to see just what Santa and his Elves do and what a lot of work they have to undertake each year to make Christmas magical for everyone. Whilst the experience is accessible it is worthy of note that it is in a forest environment and therefore is subject to individual requirements as to whether it is deemed suitable for your own personal needs. It is particularly recommended that you call or email ahead to determine suitability, access and facilities.
Santa’s Snowflake Grotto, Westfield Shopping Centre
What’s not to like about Santa’s Grotto and this one is simply spectacular. Visitors are transported to the Snow Factory where the Elves make all the snow in the world, and they can also visit Santa and make their own Christmas decoration. The experience is fully accessible although it is recommended that each wheelchair user has their own helper; admission for the helper is free though.
Cardiff Christmas Market, Wales
If you fancy getting a fix of a Christmas Market and are around South Wales the Cardiff Christmas Market is certainly an option. There is Blue Badge Parking and a free City Centre Mobility Scheme that takes elderly and disable passengers around the pedestrianised zones of the market. There is a number of accessible toilets although opening times should be determined prior to your visit as it does depend on the time of day and night that you are there.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Lake District
Imagine boarding a train and taking a magical Christmas journey complete with Santa and his Elves. This scenic rail route is guaranteed to put you all in the festive mood and is pretty much accessible. Stations at the beginning and end have accessible toilets and eating facilities with wheelchair accessible carriages available for pre-booking.
Wherever you visit this festive season and whatever you do we always recommend doing your own research and calling ahead to ascertain if the visit will suit your own personal needs or those of the person you’re going to surprise.
Wishing you all the happiest of Seasons!
Emmie Roberts at Courtside Conversions, a customer of ours who supports WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicles) users across the UK, discusses what to consider when choosing a WAV and the benefits that can be enjoyed.
Having the vehicular provision to travel brings a new dimension to the lives of many wheelchair users. It restores a sense of independence that may have been temporarily inhibited and for many can permit the return to a more independent lifestyle.
Many people living in rural locations are not serviced by regular public transport routes and can become more isolated and find it difficult to get reasonable connections for basic activities like shopping or going to a barbers/hairdresser. Courtside Conversions supply vehicles to Community Transport groups across the UK, these fantastic organisations which are often supported by volunteer drivers offer an invaluable service helping to create a positive impact on individual wellbeing by reducing loneliness and isolation and improving general quality of life for those which otherwise would not be able to get out and about.
But what do you need to consider when choosing a WAV?
Depending on the use of the vehicle there are a few fundamental considerations that must be made. For example, a vehicle which is going to transport a couple of disabled school children every day is likely to require a very different specification to a vehicle which will be transporting patients on a stretcher bed, perhaps to and from hospital. Different platform lengths and safe working loads are an important consideration.
Many vehicles can be adapted now to support wheelchair travel providing they offer enough space and enough access through the rear doors. When a smaller vehicle is adapted perhaps for individual use, due to the low roof, the floor of the vehicle is lowered to increase headroom for the wheelchair passenger and to ensure that the ramp is not too steep.
Courtside do offer vehicles already adapted for sale but prefer to build each vehicle to the customer’s exact specification and requirements. There are other companies in the industry which offer strict specifications which cannot be changed, but having the flexibility to make changes to things is likely to result in a wheelchair accessible vehicle that fits the purpose rather than making the purpose fit the vehicle, which can have negative effects on the wheelchair users.
When choosing your vehicle, you should consider the type of wheelchair access you would like installed. Courtside can fit wheelchair ramps, internal lifts or under floor lifts but some models are only suited to particular access options. Manual ramps for example, are only suitable for a handful of front-wheel drive vehicles. If a ramp was fitted to a rear wheel drive vehicle the ramp gradient would be far too steep. When fitting a ramp we normally accompany this with an electric winch to help pull the wheelchair into the saloon of the vehicle. The type and weight of the wheelchairs being transported is also an important consideration.
Courtside can recommend which type of vehicle would be best for you. These days almost all vehicles can be converted in some form or shape, however there are particular vehicles which are more suited to a wheelchair accessible conversion.
Safe and Secure
Safety is also of the highest consideration and securing the wheelchair during travel is imperative. This can be achieved with restraints and a range of system components can ensure the correct solution is found for differing requirements and vehicles.
This of course can differ between domestic and commercial use vehicles and the team at Courtside Conversions is on hand to offer support and guidance pertaining to individual and legislative requirements.
Conversion companies are also well placed to offer advice on the types of lifts, ramps, hoists and vehicles available and the configurations that can make vehicles work for a whole host of needs.
As with your vehicle, it is important to ensure the ongoing maintenance of all components of vehicle support equipment. Each manufacturer will have individual servicing requirements to continue the validation of the guarantee but we, along with other conversion operators can support this process to ensure your vehicle continues to offer the support and assistance you demand from it.
The Lifting Operations Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) are a set of regulations created under the Health and Safety at Work Act and is legislation which covers the use of lifting equipment. The purpose of the regulations was to reduce the risk of injury from lifting equipment used at work
Owners or people responsible for the safe operation of a lift at work are known as ‘dutyholders’ and have a responsibility to ensure that the lift has been thoroughly examined and is safe to use. Lifts when in use should be thoroughly examined every six months if, at any time, the lift has been used to carry people.
The benefits that WAV’s bring are immeasurable in terms of independent or supported travel, the ability to enjoy employment and social experiences and revoke the perceived limitations that being a wheelchair user has.
The conversion process is simple and straightforward and by choosing an experienced company like Courtside Conversions it can be just a matter of weeks until a whole new world of travel and accessibility is unlocked.
As one of the market leaders for vehicular access, Faiveley Vapor Ricon enjoys strong relationships with many well-known brands operating in the disabled marketplace – especially those serving wheelchair-users. One of these is Enable Holidays – the award-winning specialists for accessible holidays abroad.
We’re delighted that Enable’s managing director, Lynne Kirby, has agreed to be our first guest blogger here by providing her five top tips for planning a stress-free accessible holiday.
Five Top Tips for Planning an Accessible Holiday Without the Stress
Planning a wheelchair-friendly holiday shouldn’t be stressful but unfortunately, sometimes, it is. Finding, booking and planning it all can put some people off entirely – and we can definitely understand why. To make it easier for you, I’ve written up five of our top tips for a stress-free accessible holiday.
1) Decide what type of accessible holiday you’re looking for.
While looking at destination photos might be a bit more fun, taking the time to consider which type of holiday will best suit you is an important first step. Relaxing on an accessible beach is ideal for some people, but you might prefer the idea of a river cruise or a city break full of sight-seeing opportunities. Before you start planning the finer details, make your decision on this.
2) Find your dream destinations (yes, more than one).
Grab a notepad and a cup of tea, open up our Destinations page and make a list of the places you’d most like to visit. Are you all about Amsterdam? Ready to leave your heart in San Francisco? Looking to go to Ibiza for a party in the Mediterranean Sea? Don’t just look at photographs – ask friends where they’ve travelled to, read up on the accessible activities on offer in the locations you’re interested in and don’t forget to factor in flight time (we offer short-haul and long-haul destinations, and even UK options, so you can choose what’s best for you). The more choices you have written down, the better – it’ll make things easier later down the line, especially when cost becomes a factor.
3) Think about the type of accommodation you want.
There are so many options for accommodation – from self-catering apartments and villas to 5* luxury hotels. The accommodation you choose will be your home away from home while you’re abroad, so it’s worth thinking about it and making sure it’s what you want.
It’s not just the style of adapted accommodation that’s so key here – there are other factors to consider, too. Think about how close you’d like to be to shops and attractions, and whether your preferred accommodation choice will have the right accessible features for your mobility requirements.
When you book with Enable Holidays, our advisors will take the time to talk through these factors with you and use their knowledge to find the best options for you. Since we carry out our own accessibility audits, we’ll be able to advise you on everything from door widths to bed heights, and we guarantee the adapted accommodation when you book, so there won’t be any nasty last-minute surprises.
4) Get your details ready.
If you’re a wheelchair-user, make sure you have detailed measurements of your chair to hand during the planning stages – we can use these measurements to find the best airlines and accommodation options for you and it’ll take the hassle out of the later stages of the process for you. If you’re taking any other equipment or medical supplies, make a list of these details, too, to streamline the planning stages.
5) Make sure you’ve got it covered.
Remember to ensure your passport will be in-date, any visas you might need are arranged and you’ve got insurance to cover things like medical emergencies, travel delays, the loss of valuables and any damage that may happen to your mobility equipment – while these eventualities are unlikely, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’re travelling to an accessible destination in Europe, getting an EHIC card is a fantastic idea. Our advice is to get one sorted before Brexit if you’re going to need one, as that increases your chances of being able to use it after the UK leaves the EU.
We’ll be here for you every step of the way and take the stress out of planning your holiday – we want you to enjoy your accessible holiday, not worry about it, which is what really sets us apart.
Easter is always a great school holiday to enjoy but this year it’s particularly great due to the fact that it falls so late in the typical time period.
This means that the weather should be better and the days longer giving more time for fun activities and visits to new places.
To make these days out as much fun as possible we know that accessibility and facilities for wheelchair users will make all the difference. And, with that in mind, we’ve found a handful of visitor attractions that are really geared up for making it a great day out for all the family.
A walk on the wild side
London Zoo has the accreditation of being the most accessible visitor attraction in the UK; not bad given that it’s been open for over 170 years and has 12 listed buildings! It just goes to show that where there’s a will there’s a way and there are also several accessible facilities to make visits as enjoyable as possible. Meanwhile, the UK’s first ‘walk through’ safari park, Yorkshire Wildlife Park, is fully accessible with many facilities to support wheelchair and disabled visitors.
Art and culture
A little bit of art and culture goes along way and we are blessed with some fantastic museums and art galleries across the country.
The iconic Tate Modern in London was given a high rating as an accessible visitor attraction in Euan’s Guide whilst Motability listed the best accessible museums in the country including Churchill War Rooms in London and the International Slavery Museum in London.
Many smaller attractions have also given great consideration to the accessibility of their visitor attractions not just in a physical and practical sense but also in terms of supporting those who have limited hearing or sight such as permitting guide dogs, induction loops and Changing Places facilities.
A right royal occasion
Royal Yacht Britannia is a wonderful trip down memory lane and a great insight into the place where the Queen spent many happy years with her family. De-commissioned in 1997 her home is now on the waterfront, just minutes from the City of Edinburgh. Surprisingly accessible it’s a great experience with a central lift taking you to all floors. And if your wheelchair is less than 670mm wide, you can enjoy the whole tour and even tea, cake or a delicious lunch on board.
We know that there are lots of places to visit near where you all live and our advice is to always call ahead, or visit the website to find out everything you may need to know to allow you to have a great day out. We are glad we can play a small part in allowing you to explore and enjoy and if you use one of our ramps or lifts please tweet us a picture @vaporriconltd whilst you are out and about.