Sunday, 28 September 2014

Disability and Fashion



In life if someone's perception of you is unfavourable then you can learn to shrug it off. Tell yourself that they don't know the real you. But what about when a whole industry and its related medias and companies has the wrong perception? Today I'm going to let you in on something that I'm involved with and am really proud to be a part of. Firstly though, to set you up for this post I want you all to watch this video. Note the looks of horror and disgust. It's incredibly sad. But in some ways this reaction is understandable because people do not associate beauty and fashion with disability. Why? Disability can be thought of as ugly, imperfect, with close links to accidents and illness. Almost the opposite to the beauty and perfection that the media and catwalks want to sell us. Disabled people seem so far from the medias bench mark because  you can make over and transform people  in all Miss Congeniality glory to try and 'make them fit in' but the fact  is they'll still be in a wheelchair, missing a limb, have a curved spine, blind, deaf, ill and many other forms of disability. And because of these implications it simply isn't shown. It's hidden like some shameful secret. But as you saw in the video and will see in the photos I have included in this post, (the above photos are of my gorgeous friend Hayley, taken with permission from her blog) disability can be beautiful and attractive. Disabled people can be fashionable. And we shouldn't have to 'fit in' to an unrealistic perception of beauty. We have beauty in abundance the world just needs to be open to beauty in all its forms, prosthetics and all. In a recent tweet author Ken Jennings wrote "nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair." As you can imagine this enraged many people. You can read more how on the following blog. And goes to show that we have a long way to go in getting disabled people represented in fashion in the media and the catwalks. Below is a photo of Britain's Missing Top Model (the show mentioned in the video), Kelly Knox. For more videos on Britain's Missing Top Model, click here. 

As a disabled person most of your expected role models are Paralympians for example. They are incredible athletes. However as a person disabled by illness the fact is I'm not going to be following in their footsteps. I can't. And neither can a lot of other people in wheelchairs. But what I can do is be fashionable. I realise that might sound contrite in comparison but there is more meaning behind it and to me too. As I can also be an advocate for the use of disabled models. I'm a woman that likes to buy clothes. Just because I'm disabled doesn't mean that I no longer do. Okay, I might not get to wear clothes that aren't pyjamas that often. In fact fashion has come to mean more to me as a sick/ disabled person than it did as a healthy person. Dressing up makes me feel happier. And we all need that. And this is why I got involved with Models of Diversity

Models of Diversity are questioning the beauty and fashion industries perceptions. You can read more about them in my blog post. They are actively campaigning to make the fashion industries a more diverse place and that includes presenting disability and proving that disability is beautiful/ fashionable/ attractive/ sexy. That it does deserve a place in advertising and on the catwalk. The following video explains Models of Diversity's perspective on disability within the fashion industry. Models of Diversity on Disability. We live in a society that knows it's wrong to dismiss or discredit disabled people. Even more so since the Paralympics. There has been debates over the use of words such as invalid, saying that we cannot tar disabled people with a name that says they have no place in society. Not that the word disabled is much better. So why then is it still happening? 


Above are photos of some of Models of Diversity's disabled models who are helping bring about change. The first image in this section is of Chelsey Jay, Models of Diversity's Director for models with a disability. When she became ill very suddenly with POTS, she found herself confined to a wheelchair. As a young woman keen to make a career as a model once she became disabled she found herself pushed out of the fashion world. As though the industry perceive that once she became disabled so too did her interests in fashion and beauty. And it's the same for so many of us and particularly hard on young people who are still finding their way. People assume that disabled people do not share the same interests as healthy people. Some people might be surprised if we look fashionable. I've heard a story about someone in a wheelchair looking at some shoes in a shop and someone standing in front of them; when asked to move out of the way they said "it's not as if you're actually going to buy them. What's the point when you are clearly paralysed?" Well news flash we're not all paralysed. And like that would affect our wanting a nice pair of shoes. Or just wanting to look nice in general. As though we're not entitled to. It's attitudes like this that stem from lack of representation. People just do not associate disability with fashion.

 For this reason, each disabled model is also an advocate and campaigner. Forging the way for others to aspire to be models despite their disability. And hopefully changing the industry in a way that it won't be a fight to be represented in future. That young disabled people that want to be a model can grow up knowing that they can be. That they do not have to feel ugly or ashamed. The four Models of Diversity models above are not only divine in their beauty but are  also wonderfully inspiring people that are sharing their stories. 

Of course the biggest influence on the fashion world stems from the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris. This is where the world takes note. In another promotion for the tv show Britain's missing Top Model one of the models says "New York would rather burn their city down than have a disabled person on the catwalk." Well I guess New York is pretty hot as it happened! At New York Fashion Week AW2014 designer Carrie Hammer, used Danielle Sheypuk (above) Ms Wheelchair New York 2012. You can read more by clicking on the link below the photo. At the recent London Fashion Week the creative director, of Topshop spoke about how they wanted to make their shows more accessible. They made their show interactive with the use of instagram and live feeds at their store at the shows venue. For all the people that could interact with the show such a small percentage would have been represented on the catwalk. And for a high street store I feel they need to be doing more to represent the wealth of diversity that shop at their stores.

Alongside Chelsey Jay there are group of 20+ disabled people, of varying disabilities and walks of life that have all teamed together to form a pressure group. Each week we contact a brand en masse to encourage them to use disabled people in their advertising. That in their lack of representation they are isolating a large proportion of their customers. We want to know why this is? And hope to influence their future choices in who they employ to model their clothes. 


We even have the support of the Minister for Disabled People, Kate Green who will be alongside Chelsey in future meetings with the brands. She recently suggested we raise the issue with our local MP's and get them to address the issue in Parliament during London Fashion Week. We received some great responses saying that they would happily put it forward. Responses from brands so far have varied. Some have been keen to respond whilst others have ignored the emails of 20+ people and subsequent follow up emails. With brands that we have contacted so far we hope to hold meetings with them to discuss the issue further. As well as emailing more brands. Like the poster says above we don't want special treatment just the same treatment. 

I hope after reading this blog post you too believe there is much more to disabled people and that disability should not affect their place in the fashion and beauty industries. I'm really proud to be a part of the pressure group and for raising the profile of disability in fashion. We're a pretty determined group who are keen to make a real change. 

Sian x

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Travel interview with Emma

Today's travel interview is with Emma and is an interview with a twist, because she had a holiday abroad and here in the UK. So today you are getting the best of both with a home and away account and comparison. Hopefully anyone that doesn't feel up to travelling abroad can get some insight into what it's like to holiday over here. Also because Emma doesn't use a wheelchair or walking aids she isn't visabley disabled so it's an insight into coping when you could easily be mistaken for fit and healthy.
Name: Emma
Illness: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME
Destination: Zante, Greece
Who did you travel with? Friends
What airline did you use? Fly sun wing.. I think! 
First of all, how was your holiday? My holiday was fantastic, the most fun and happiness I've experienced in a long time.
What was your biggest worry before travelling? And how did you overcome it/ justify it? Gosh, I had so many! Firstly flying, I'd not been on a flight in 15 years and had been scared too in my early teens, so this caused the first of my worries which turned out ok in the end as I really enjoyed it. Seeing the world is something I want to do and getting on a plane is a fact of life to do so. The excitement about the destination outweighed the worry in the end. 
Did you notice any changes in your health whilst away? Good or bad? Any new symptoms? I don't know if it was luck or the change of scene, but I felt quite well most of the week and was able to socialise most of the day all be it around the pool, but still that's not something I normally find easy without needing massive rests and bringing on all kinds of symptoms.
How was Tsilivi as a resort/ destination in relation to your illnesses/disability? (Access, flat, close to restaurants etc, quiet) when we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by a staircase and steep drive, initially this panicked me as I couldn't lift my suitcase at all, luckily the staff took our bags up to reception and up to our rooms later. I found I managed well getting around the hotel, we were on the first floor and I didn't need to go up and down very often. The area of Tsilivi is mostly flat, at least what I saw. The town wasn't very close and I did struggle the one time we went down. The beach was a short stroll again not ideal but there's plenty of taxis around at really cheap rates so it wasn't really an issue.
 How did you find attitudes/perceptions towards you by other travellers and from the locals? I got one bad reaction from a fellow passenger when I was asking for help to lift my bag but otherwise no one thought I was different or acted different towards me as my illness is pretty hidden. 
From your experience(s) what piece(s) of advice would you pass on to other spoonie travellers? Don't push yourself just because you're on holiday, yes there's lots of lovely things to see but it's ok to go home and to have seen only one of those things. 
What items would you not travel without? Earplugs, eye mask and pain killers. I use Earplugs and an eye mask everyday but I would recommend to anyone who doesn't to take them with you. The plane is pretty loud and if you have to share with other people it's worth using them for noise and lights. The hotel I stayed in was very quiet at night, in fact when in my room I couldn't hear any other guests at all which is very important if you're sound sensitive. 
What are your favourite holiday beauty products? Garnier Ambre Solaire Aloe Vera After sun. I bought this a while ago after burning in the uk and found out how much it left my skin feeling smooth so now I use it as a cooling body moisturiser all the time. It's great to cool you down in the summer heat.
If you were to go on holiday again what would you do differently? I would worry less in the weeks leading up to it! 
How are you after the holiday? I lost my voice from the aircon on the plane and was very sleepy and kept falling asleep in the afternoon for about a week after.
Do you think that despite all the extra 'hassles' of travelling as a chronically ill person it is still worth it? Yes, totally 100% worth it. Personally being housebound most of the time I find I get very bored of the same four walls, I loved seeing a different area, somewhere my eyes had not seen before. I also think getting away from normal life is something we all need especially if you're chronically ill, for that week I left my worries that haunt me day in day out at home and found myself almost carefree (as much as chronic illness allows) and laughing so much, and they say laughter is the best medicine.
And here is Emma's interview after her trip to Cornwall.
Destination: North Cornwall
Who did you travel with? My mum
First of all, how was your holiday? It was lovely, I always feel so at home in Cornwall.
What was your biggest worry before travelling? And how did you overcome it/ justify it? The 6 hour car ride. It's always a draining time for me, but the beautiful beaches and country is well worth it.
Did you notice any changes in your health whilst away? Good or bad? Any new symptoms? I didn't feel well on the way down and the next day I woke up with an awful cold which my mum then got too. We spent a lot of time feeling ill together but otherwise my ME wasn't too bad, colds always make it worse to an extent but I wasn't as bad as I can be.
How was Cornwall as a resort/ destination in (Access, flat, close to restaurants etc, quiet) relation to your illnesses/disability?  We stayed at a family friends holiday home which is all on one level so no stairs. The beach is really close too which is great. The towns are good too as they're mostly flat.
How did you find attitudes/perceptions towards you by other travellers and from the locals? The same as most places. I went out for lunch one day with my mum and the waitress was telling my mum about a lovely walk and said she could show us the way if we would like, my mum said not to worry as I'm not well which sparked a very odd look. I could tell she was trying to workout what was wrong with me! This happens anywhere though.
From your experience(s) what piece(s) of advice would you pass on to other spoonie travellers? If you travel to north cornwall try and go out of school holidays as places like Padstow are a spoonie nightmare when the streets are full.
What items would you not travel without? Ear plugs, eye mask and water colour paints - if we go on holiday via the car I always take paints for quiet days.
What are your favourite holiday beauty products? Aftersun, fake baked body scrub
If you were to go on holiday again what would you do differently? I'd try not to get a cold! If I had the chance I would fly, half an hour on a plane beats the 6 hours in the car!
How are you after the holiday? It took me a few days of being housebound before feeling a little less drained.
What advise would you give for surviving long car journies for spoonies? If you can try and rest the day before traveling and if like me mornings aren't your best time try and get whoever you are traveling with to agree to a slightly later start.
Other than the location of course what where the biggest differences in holidaying at home and abroad? The weather, here I needed a hot water bottle at night as it was cold and the cold was setting off my leg pain. The beaches in the UK are much more enjoyable as there isn't music being played from beach bars or men trying to sell you knock off watches every 5 minutes! 
Did you find that there were was a bit more pressure to find things to do with a home holiday? Not at all, I've been going to Cornwall with my family for 7 years. We're all happy going to the beach or kicking back reading books.
Was there a difference in how your symptoms/ energy levels were in Zante and Cornwall? Surprisingly to me my energy levels were better in Zante than cornwall, my energy levels are always hit and miss and I think I got lucky the week I was in Zante.
 How did your PEM compare after each holiday? After Zante I kept falling asleep every afternoon for a week, I felt so tired. It took me about the same time to feel 'over' both holidays though.
Thanks again to the lovely Emma for doing the interview. You can read more about Emma and check out some of the fabulous outfits on her blog.
Sian x

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Get ready with me: How to look less ill

Hi! So if you're new to my blog let me just fill you in a little. I suffer from a chronic illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or M.E for short it is also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. I am around 90% housebound and when I do get out I need to use a wheelchair. Anyway moving on... many people that suffer from a chronic illness despise the phrase 'but you don't look sick.' However of course there are times when we want to look less sick and more human. Not wanting to scare members of the public too much. So todays post is a little how to/ get ready with me post on how to do so.

 The look I was aiming for was quite understated but very fresh and of course awake. The occasion was a family gathering at our house so I didn't want to go too overboard.

If you can prepare the night before then do so. Plan your skincare, haircare, make up and outfit and lay out all your items so they are easily accessible. Get someone to help you if you need to. As you can see I have prepped my make up bag so that all the products I expect to use are at the top. Hung my dress up outside my wardrobe. And I thought I would opt for a bit of a different hairstyle for a change with some waves. So I thought the easiest way to achieve this would be by platting my air in bunches. I really struggle to hold hairdryers etc so this seemed ingenious.

Secondly the night before try and get as much sleep/rest as you can. And I say as you can because I know it is often beyond your control.

Now onto getting ready. Note to any chronic illness folk that you should only do what you can manage on that day and get help where needed. If you are able to wash your face then do so. I like to use simple moisturising face wash as being indoors a lot my skin needs as much moisture as possible. Prep all the items that you wish to use and obviously make sure you have a decent mirror close by too. I usually do skincare (other than wash my face) in bed, the more I can have my legs extended the better. Then apply a moisturizer to help your skin look more hydrated and healthy. At the moment my two favourites are Garnier skin naturals moisture match for dull skin (the orange one) and Clinique dramatically different moisturizing lotion+. Both make your skin feel really quenched. Then if you want extra radiance or more of a pick me up I like to apply Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. It makes your skin look fab and is a great base for your make up.
For this look as I wanted something very light and because I have a teeny bit more colour than usual (I know, I'm super pale) I opted for a cc cream rather than foundation. I used the Max Factor which is great for evening up your skin tone and giving a fresh base.

Now if you are looking tired and worn out your greatest make up friend is concealer. I opted for the Rimmel Wake me up concealer (does what it says) under my eyes to disguise the dark circles. Then on any blemishes and around my nose I used Collection Lasting Perfection. Blending them all with a soft brush.

Then I took the Collection mosaic bronzer and used an angled face brush to contour my cheek bones. Making the lovely fish face as I did so. Because I was in a rush and wanted to use most of my energy on chatting and eating cake that was all the make up I applied. If you do want to add more make up then I would suggest using a white or nude eyeliner on your water line, a light eyeshadow in the inner corners of your eyes and mascara to open up your eyes more and make you seem more awake.

I then got dressed with some help from my Mum. As I wanted to wear a dress I cheated on the legs front and wore tights. Tights can be a spoonie lady's best friends. Also loving the fact that the dress came with the necklace attached, yet another small cheat. Extra glam, without the extra effort. 

I then used the Batiste dry shampoo to help hold the waves. Applying it to my roots and rubbing it in, then to each plait.   Brushing it through gently once I'd taken the plaits out.

And there you have it my completed look. Looking less sick chick that had just woken up to more healthy and ready to socialise.

Sian x

Sunday, 21 September 2014

London Fashion Week SS 2015: The Swoon Collection


Last week was strictly a bed rest week however I did have some entertainment in the form of feasting my eyes on some of the fab photos courtesy of London Fashion Week. Here are a few of my favourites. 

As seen above, the gorgeous gowns at Marchesa made me want to dress up as a Princess all over again. Do you think they'll let me borrow one for Team Princess 2015? It's floral done at its best. I love the swish and softness of the gowns. But on the other hand that structured floral dress (2nd from the right on the 2nd photo) is just as divine.

Julien MacDonald

There was just so many pieces that I loved to choose from! I'm in love with the prints. I'm in love with the colours. I'm in love with the structure. The gorgeous detailing. It's all so lady like and elegant. I like that it's all very wearable. You know sometimes when you see photos or footage from a catwalk and think 'who would actually wear that?' (Not that I'm saying it's wrong.) However this collection I just want to try it all on right now. Plus I can imagine my friend Hayley in that gorgeous mermaidesque dress.

Some of my other favourite pieces include (from left to right) Matthew Williamson, Tom Ford, Temperley. I liked the rock and roll of the Tom Ford show, although it seemed strange that such dark colours were used for a Spring/ Summer collection. But black is always a staple choice.
Away from the catwalks, the streets of London during fashion week are the place to be seen and showcase your style. From those on the front row, celebs and fashion bloggers. Those invited to the shows are just as much on show. It can be a big part of the brands advertising. Getting famous people to wear their pieces and showcasing them to their millions of fans. 
My absolute favourite piece just has to be this gorgeous geometric print navy beauty from Julien MacDonald. Navy is such a classic colour, it's so elegant. I love how flattering the design is, with the lighter coloured sides. I JUST LOVE IT, FULL STOP.
And let's hand it to Moschino's Barbie girl collection for letting us know it's okay to dress like Elle Woods. I'm off to get a Chihuahua.
Faustine Steinmetz
As a former stage manager what appeals to me other than the clothes is the whole production. The theatre of it. How each designer has chosen to create the perfect setting to showcase their collection and its concept. I just love it. Erdem, was themed around a Victorian hot house. It started with white, very ladylike gowns, but the more time they spent in the hot house they turned into these beautiful wild birds of paradise. I also liked Faustine Steinmetz presentation, where all the models were laid out like mannequins, on turntables. Whistles took over a tube station corridor as their catwalk and had the models coming down the escalator beforehand.
I can't wait to see how the high street translate it all and produce to these styles and at prices I can afford.
What were your favourite collections or pieces?
Sian x

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Models of Diversity

photo source

In the wake of London Fashion Week what better time to talk fashion. In my post on body image, which you can read here. I mentioned an organization called Models of diversity. As their name suggests, Models of Diversity, are campaigning for the use of more diverse models in the fashion and advertising industries. Calling for more equality on our catwalks and in magazines. They are saying that the fashion industry needs to be more representative of a larger cross section of society. And there are so many cultures, ethnicities and lifestyles that are not represented fairly, even today in an age where we are educated about racism and political correctness.

photo source

I don't often read magazines now, but when I do it strikes me that more diverse models seem to be used as a 'token gesture' almost, and I do hate using that phrase. But it does almost appear like 'oh we've added a black model in to the mix to avoid any claims we're not an equal opportunities employer.' It's something I think a lot of brands are doing. And let's face it it's a pretty lazy way to tackle diversity. Because yes, diversity is about colour but it's about much much more than that. In an interview click to view male model Rob Evans says that it's only ever the same faces too and that he can visit various casting agencies and only see 2 black models on their books. He admits that because of his colour he was held back from many castings. He explains that in Brazil they have a policy of 50/50 casting. However the issue in his own words is that Brazil is not known as a fashion capital. More diversity needs to be shown on the catwalks of New York, Milan, Paris and London in order to make a real change. These are the shows that have the most influence. In a recent vlog Youtuber Tanya Burr said that she loved London Fashion Week because you could look around and everyone was so different. After all London itself is a melting pot of diversity. But is that being reflected on the catwalk, really?

The founder of Models of Diversity, Angel Sinclair (seen above) asks 'Where are the models of colour? The bigger models? The shorter models? The models with a disability? The older models?' and has established the organization to help make the fashion, beauty and marketing worlds more diverse places. A place where more consumers can identify themselves. With the ultimate aim 'to change the face of fashion and modelling.'

Angel, herself was inspired to start Models of Diversity after appearing on Gok Wan's Miss Naked Beauty and being surrounded by beauty in many, many forms. She noticed a clear contrast in what we perceive to be beautiful and what the magazines and fashion industries tell us is beautiful. And so Models of Diversity was born. They strongly believe in getting the publics opinion and asking them what they want to see on the catwalks and magazines and transferring that information into the fashion industries.

But where does the blame lie? With the designers? With the model agencies? Or casting directors? The following video is a CNN intervew with Iman, discussing the issue and how she thinks there needs to be a radical change in the Fashion industry. I think each of them has a responsibility to make the changes. However if the model agencies do not have more diverse models on their books, like Rob Evans pointed out, then the casting directors and designers don't have the choice available to them. Likewise if a model agency does not send their models to castings.

photo source

Whilst Models of Diversity recognise the need for more diveristy in fashion and modelling, they also understand that modelling on a professional scale is not for everyone. It takes a certain skill set and creativity. It is the same with an profession. But what Models of Diversity are saying is that if you have that potential then being more culturally diverse should not impact whether you get the job. And Models of Diversity are there to support aspiring models on their journey with training and test shoots. As well as promoting these models in the hope that agencies, casting directors, marketing executives and designers will take notice. As well as telling these models that they can be beautiful/ sexy/ glamorous. Building their confidence; which in itself is important, when they are used to thinking they are different and not seeing themselves represented in magazines and other advertising. In an interview on Sky News (which you can view here), model and director for disabled models at Models of Diversity, Chelsey Jay, explained that it's hard and isolating to be young but to not see yourself represented.

With the fashion industries, media and magazines being so powerful in their influence on so many people, especially young people seeing more diversity and widening the perception on beauty and attractiveness then perhaps more tolerance and understanding will stem from that. As well as inspiring more confidence in lots of men and women that feel they are not beautiful because they do not look like the models in the magazines. Now wouldn't that be nice?

To find out more about Models of Diversity visit their website, view plenty more videos of their events, campaigns and catwalks on Angel's youtube channel. Stay tuned for another Models of Diversity post on here soon.

Sian x

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Invisible illness week

Unfortunately I've not been able to prepare a dedicated post to mark invisible illness awareness week, which  was this week 8th-14th September. I've been trying my best to finish other posts that I'd been working on for weeks and feeling really rough, with 3 days of being bed bound. However what I can do is to use this week as a jumpstart. 
For a while now I have been thinking about the reasons I started this blog, one of which was to raise more awareness and to let more people know about an illness that they'd perhaps never heard of before. Mainly because there is not a lot of help out there and a true life account is the most honest way to share what it's really like to be chronically ill. Being told that you have a condition that you have never even heard of is frightening. You would think that an illness that can be so disabling would be more common knowledge but sadly there is a lot of misconceptions and untruths in what little understanding there is. So I wanted to share the truth and perhaps create a little corner of the internet that could help other sufferers, new sufferers and friends and family of sufferers to help nurture understanding.
With this in mind I have been wanting to branch out a bit (there will be a lot of branching going on hopefully in posts to come) by featuring lots of other chronic illnesses that a lot of people have never heard about. What I want to do is to educate myself and others about more invisible illnesses and share them on my blog. To try and raise more awareness.
I already have a few in mind. Some of which I have experience of and I will be doing more mental health posts. However, I would like your input. Do any of you suffer from a chronic illness other than M.E or Fibromyalgia? Would you be willing to share a little of your story and information to help educate others? Even links to charities, organizations, blog posts and articles you have found helpful would be much appreciated. You will be credited of course unless you want to remain annonymous. Your help will be gratefully received. Please contact me in the comments or through gmail. If we can raise more awareness and educate people then all the better.
Lastly I created the photo at the top of this page after seeing a similar post that my friend Olivia did. These photos were taken on the same night. Now looking at the photo on the left if people didn't know better they would assume I was healthy but the truth was I was only out of my chair for 2 minutes to take the photo. Even the photograph in the wheelchair does not portray the whole picture. It says I have a disability but does not portray the days of being bed bound, needing care every day and the lack of independence. In both photos I'm the same level of ill but who would guess? The point is we never know the full story and therefore shouldn't judge. Many of us are fighting silent battles behind closed doors. But when we do go out we crave that little bit of normality that we don't get to experience often.
I have wrote other posts on invisible illness and M.E before so please do have a read of them too.

In my 2013 post I say that the best way to educate and spread awareness that is truthful is to read the blog posts of sufferers. Below are links to some of the blogs I read regularly, all written by some very lovely people that are doing a sterling job at raising awareness through their bravery. As you can see there's a fair few. All ladies though, I need to discover some male bloggers. Come on fella's.
All About ME by Alison
Meg Says by Meg
M.E and Me by Chloe
Katherine and ME by Katherine
Smell the Roses by Rachel
Spoonie Sophia by Sophia
Smoothie Spoonie by Lennae

Friday, 12 September 2014

Come Fly with Me

It's been a few weeks now since I've been back from holiday and I still have a few more posts to share about it to continue the travel series. I know, it's never ending! This time I managed to document my journey to share some of my travel tips put into action and so that you get a clearer idea of what to expect should you decide to travel yourself.

Luckily pain levels etc were on my side and the days of complete rest before travelling helped me have the energy I needed.

Above is a glimpse of my travel outfit. I wrote a separate post on that which you can read here.

At the airport

If you have booked assistance from the drop off area which is useful for passengers travelling alone or those that need extra help with luggage and equipment there should be someone there to meet you. They should be wearing a fluorescent bib. If you have not requested help from the drop off point then once you get inside the airport locate the special assistance desk and check in there first. If you are travelling alone a member of the special assistance team will meet you there (if they haven't at drop off). If you have requested a wheelchair to help you through the airport you can collect that there too (again unless you got one at the drop off point). They will then direct you to the check in desk for your flight. 

Often there will be a separate queue for special assistance users or if not ask at the special assistance desk and they will usually tell you to go to the front of the queue. Cue lots of looks from those in the queue. At check in if you have your own wheelchair then you will need to get it tagged for identification purposes because it will go into the planes hold once you are on the plane. They will also tell you where and what time to meet a member of the special assistance team to board the plane. Unless you have booked assistance through the airport; in which case they will take you to the gate. The may also ask if you would like to get a coffee or drink to have while you are waiting.

Being in a wheelchair going through airport security is very different. Firstly as normal you will need to put all your hand luggage, jacket and hat etc into a tray to go through the x ray scanner. Take out your bag of liquids and put that separate. If you have any allen keys for your wheelchair with you like I do in a little pocket at the back of my chair then take them out and place them into the tray as well. Do show the security guard and explain so that they can pass it on to the person on the scanner. 

A member of staff will then take you to the side as you cannot go through the scanner, a female for female passengers and male for male passengers. They will perform a quick search of you and the chair. They should also ask if you are in any pain so not to hurt you. A swab of your shoes will also be taken. It's important that no other member of your party touches you or the chair until you have been given clearance by staff.

At the specified time, a member of the special assistance team will meet you and help check you in with a member of the gate staff. Once they have been given clearance they will take you out to either the ambilift or the plane's steps depending on what you have booked.

The top photo is of the ambilift that helps wheelchair users and those who cannot climb stairs to embark the plane. It's like a van with two lifts either side. One to lift you up the inside of the lift, where there are seats for others you are travelling with or those without their own wheelchairs. 

The 'van' then drives to the plane, generally to the back on the opposite side to where the other passengers are boarding and parks so that the front platform is level with the plane door. The floor of the van then rises level with the platform. I took the photo above as we were going up. It can be a little wobbly so hold onto the bar.

Once you are level with the plane and the plane door is open, you have the option, depending on your disability or symptoms on that day whether to walk to your seat or transfer into an aisle wheelchair or evac chair like the one shown in the photo above. I asked to use the chair as we were near the front of the plane and my legs didn't feel strong enough. Also as other passengers are boarding you can often not get directly to your seat. Having someone to help you to your seat makes people take notice. You get strapped into them.Those chairs are not very big or very comfy though and you will get tipped backwards to get over the lip of the plane door. Nor is it great when someone drops a suitcase on your feet! The evac chair is quite good though as it doesn't have any sides allowing for easier transfer into your seat.

On board

Now speaking of seats. Different airlines have different policies. Some have dedicated assistance rows. You can find out this information from your airline. Once on board make yourself as comfortable as possible and try to take small power naps or meditation sessions often to relax and recharge. I was lucky to be sat with my parents so that I could put my legs up across their laps (I was sat by the window.) If your legs begin to ache try and elevate them as much as you can.

Above is a photo of part of the menu for Ryanair, which I took to give you an idea of what is available and prices. As you can see the prices are quite dear so be prepared or take food on board with you.


Once you land your wheelchair will be taken out of the hold and will be put by the steps of the plane and then taken to the ambilift if it is being used. If you do not have your own chair but have requested one then that will also be waiting. I recommend waiting until last to disembark so that you can do so in your own time. If you are using the lift and evac chair then you will do so anyhow. 

The above photo shows a bit more of how the ambilift works (and a very nice Greek man, I think you have to pay extra for him.) Once you are in the lift if your chair is in there you can transfer into that if not it will be bought to you once the lift is lowered. The van will then either drive closer to the arrival building or you will be taken on foot (obviously not yours.)

When it comes to transfers I've never had an issue with being able to put my wheelchair into the hold of the coach. The biggest issue is whether you can manage the steps of the coach. They can be quite steep. Again this is were a walking stick comes in handy. I've also often had people move from the front seats so that I could have them. A private taxi could also be a good idea. Only pay extra if you need a specialist vehicle and after checking policies etc. I know some holiday companies can arrange specialist transportation if you are on a package holiday.

Then all you have to do is relax and enjoy and take it easy. It will take a while to get over the travelling so make sure you rest. 

For a few more travelling tips take a look at my other posts.

I hope you enjoyed this post and it's took away some of the mystery of travelling as a disabled or poorly person. I have a few more posts on the travel theme to come, including my favourite products and some more interviews with other spoonies.

Sian x