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Friday, 26 August 2011

Travel Trepidation

 My sincerest of apologies to you for not having been in touch for the last couple of days. As per usual of late, I have been struggling massively with my pain and the side effects of my medication- and when coupled with a virus to contend with this week, it seems to have completely knocked me for six and frustratingly rendered me completely unable to do a thing!
Thankfully I seemed to have turned a slight corner this morning and with a bank holiday weekend looming, (albeit evidently an extremely soggy one!), I hope that I am well enough to travel to Devon this evening to visit my husband’s family for a few days.
With my sister-in-law’s idyllic country cottage located in the deepest and darkest of valleys in rural Devon, I am afraid to say that you will again have an imposed break from my incessant ramblings for three days as there is no internet access there for me to be able to write to you.
I am blessed with a truly wonderful family in the form of my brother and sister in-law and my mother and father in law, and I know that the break and country air will be exactly what I need; however I also know that as with any trip anywhere with a disability, there is always a stress and anxiety about the pain of travelling itself, along with the apprehension of the accessibility issues that may lay ahead of us at our destination.

 I’m sure you are well aware by now that I am currently in the process of trying to raise awareness of the huge inadequacies in our country’s provisions for disabled access. Unfortunately, the problem is not exclusive to our shores and whereas prior to most people’s holidays there are feelings of immense excitement- for my husband and I there is, (whatever and wherever our destination may be), much anxiety and trepidation that the accessibility at our hotel may not be quite as sufficient as the staff or host had assured us in correspondence prior to our trip.
I do believe that in my five years of being disabled and requiring the use of a wheelchair, I am as yet to be pleasantly surprised and relieved to find that the access in my holiday location is sufficient and as described in the brochure or by the representative.
On the arrival at our hotel on our last holiday to Barbados, we were confronted with no ramp to the reception or indeed our room. After 12 hours of travel, all my husband and I wanted to do was rest in our room; but instead I had to remain outside whilst Garry ran around the hotel chasing the maintenance man, so that they could build a makeshift ramp out of a dubious piece of wood and 4 bricks so that I may simply be able to get into my room that we had paid for!
Travel when wheelchair dependant, or indeed with any other form of disability, is often always accompanied by that feeling of holding one’s breath and anxiety that on arrival at your destination you will be confronted with access issues such as this and the inevitable battle with resort staff.
It appears to me that as I get more accustomed to my life with a disability, the more the word battle seems to keep cropping up!
I genuinely appreeciate that life is often a battle even without a disability; but when you add into the mix the scenarios that occur with this added issue, you soon realize how much life can at times feel like an impossible uphill climb.
 There are so many anxiety issues that occur from medication side affects alone, and so when you have forced yourself to get over these to go out socially, only to be confronted with being unable to access the restaurant where perhaps all of your friends are already sat waiting to eat their meal, you can understand why many people give up and avoid going out at all!
Well as I have said before, I believe that I personally have two options when it come to dealing with these issues- I can either sit back and complain incessantly and drive myself, my husband and indeed you mad with expressing my frustrations; or I can do my best within the confines of my physical limitations to really make a difference for the better.
Wherever you are in the world, whatever your level or form of disability, please email me at discoverdisability@hotmail.co.uk with any experiences you may have of insufficient access so that I may collate these examples to make a difference as a united voice. I would also like to perhaps feature some of your tales of access inadequacies on my site.
Whatever your plans may be, I pray that you may have a wonderful bank holiday weekend despite the rain and now thunder that appears intent on making an appearance; and that you are also able to access all of the restaurants, hotels or bars that you may possibly want to enter!
I look forward to speaking to you again on Tuesday- until then stay safe and well,
Karen.  
This video has made me smile today the puppy looks so much like my Barley when he was that age!
If you like cute dogs, check this out!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5V6XNAXXAE
 Tell us on our Facebook or Twitter pages what has done the job for you! 


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Must See Viewing- Harry’s Arctic Heroes


I am writing to you this evening having just watched one of the best pieces of television that I have seen in a very long time!
The BBC’s two part documentary Harry’s Arctic Heroes follows four injured servicemen as they take on one of the world’s most fearsome and ferocious challenges- hiking across the Arctic to The North Pole for duration of four weeks.
The men have a variety of injuries, from arm and leg amputations, to spinal injuries.
It truly is must see viewing and is available on BBC IPlayer for at least a week, with part two on BBC 1 at 9pm next Tuesday.
I urge you to watch this programme, as it focuses a lot upon the emotional side of becoming disabled far more than the actual physical activity of trekking to The North Pole and proving that they can still achieve a physical challenge.
As I have been stressing and ramming down your throats for the last two months, the boys featured agree with me that becoming disabled has much greater ramifications emotionally even more so than it does physically.
Please take an hour out of your week to watch that which is in my opinion an extremely well rounded and well made programme, with obviously an extremely inspiring subject matter at its core.
Good night everyone. Speak to you tomorrow.



Monday, 22 August 2011

Another Night, Another Accessibility Nightmare!

Once again this evening, I tried taking a small trip out with my husband, only to be confronted with yet another issue of accessibility!
I promise you that I won't myther you with this point everyday, but it really is SUCH a serious issue!
The reason why this point is today's Reason to Smile, is because as of two days ago I had a breakthrough in my thought process and finally decided that I could either continue to get angry, frustrated and annoyed every time that I get told that there isn't anywhere to go for that wee that I so desperately need, or that I can't go to my friend's birthday dinner as there isn't sufficient access for me; or I could knuckle down and do something about it- and so I have!
After a triple whammy of access issues on Friday evening- as of Saturday lunchtime I launched my campaign- ‘No access? No Excuse!’, which  aims to tackle the complacency that has come about over the last few years, that it is somehow acceptable to allow businesses and public buildings to have insufficient access for those with disabilities.
After the DDA was passed in 2005 and there was an initial push to make improvements to the access of some businesses, I believe that people have become relaxed and unconcerned about retrobution as there appears to be nobody out there actively enforcing the law.
I appreciate that it is impractical for local authorities to pursue litigation against every small retailer, as this understandably comes down as always to cost- but I do believe that if we come together as a united voice to highlight the fact that this issue is becoming out of hand, then we can make a realdifference!
I aim to compile a list of names, addresses & photos of businesses that could be accessible, but choose not to bother.
I plan to aim high with this list, as I believe that this problem should never have got so bad. If it is in anyway possible, then I will take this list all the way to government.
I hope to name & shame the bad, as well as praise the good that do go out of their way to help. I hope that if you have faced these problems yourself or you simply share my opinion that this situation just simply shouldn't be so, then PLEASE send me examples of the bad and good out there at my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002588247268  Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/DDisability or hotmail discoverdisability@hotmail.co.uk .
If you also waste your energy getting annoyed and angry, then turn your negative into a positive too and email me just one of what I'm sure is a list of many offending businesses that you get your goat!
Rant over for now- watch your backs though, as no doubt it will be back to bother you again soon! Ta ta for now folks- don't get annoyed- get actively doing something! 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Touch of the Carrie Bradshaws

Like many of you out there I’m sure, I have spent this fine summer’s evening, (that actually lived up to it’s name for once!), watching the smash hit film, ‘Sex and the City’.
With the blockbuster having unbelievably passed me by until now, I am pleased to have finally had the pleasure of two and a half hours of sublime escapism entertainment at last!
Believe it or not, apart from the phenomenal wardrobe and the enviable figure of course, there are in fact a few similarities between myself and the lovely Carrie Bradshaw!
The first point is the name- although many of you may know me as Karen, (or those closer to me Kaz), my family members have always all indeed called me Karrie, (well a consonants difference- who’s counting?)!
Point number two, is that I too sit at a laptop every night in front of a wonderful view my city, (New York, London- what the difference? Oh yes, just a few thousand miles! Again- who’s counting?), every night trying to express to those who will hear me, the inner most thoughts and feelings of my heart.
The third and final similarity I’m afraid to say, (it goes without saying that I wish there were more!), is that I too am a hopeless romantic, who despite the hurdles that life presents me with, I always believe that there will be a happy and perfect ending winging it’s way to my door!
Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, Karrie Reader did get her big white wedding- yet even I have to be honest enough to admit that things have been far from a fairytale since that day that will be an amazing two years ago in October.
I won’t bore you by once again trawling through the details of my journey, but for those of you who have not before clicked on my site, all you need to know is that as a result of my car crash that took place in 2005, I have been left with a degenerative neurological disease that renders me crippled with pain for hours, days and even months at a time at it’s worst!
My Carrie Bradshaw style dream that after the big white wedding and the idyllic honeymoon in The Maldives would come the miracle recovery and the pitter patter of the much longed for tiny feet; was sadly more than a little off the mark.
I’m not too proud as to admit that I’ve shed more than a few tears, in fact I no doubt could have flooded my bedroom ten times over with the amount of tears that I have shed for myself whilst I was confined to my bed over the last couple of years alone; but there really does come a point when you have to cease mourning the life that was once, or was once to be- and play the game with the hand of cards that has been dealt unto you.
I’d like to stress at this point, that if you are still in the drowning yourself in your own tears stage of excepting the fate that you have been dealt with, then please, please do by no means feel frustrated, angry or a failure that you are not yet feeling like you can stop grieving for the mobility that you believed would always be there for you- it has taken me five years of dashed hopes and failed dreams and more than a bucket load more tears to reach the point that I am ready to accept my fate and start embracing it the best that I can.
At my lowest point I used to hate hearing self-satisfied, smug survivors who had made it through the other side, stating that you will get here too- just believe in yourself and you will win also!
…Which is why I am not going to tell you that if you simply believe and have faith then all of your troubles will be lifted, because they won’t necessarily- life is just not that simple, otherwise none of us would be sick, disabled or facing the dark futures that we never ever dreamt in our wildest dreams would mar our lives.
Unfortunately some diseases will never be cured, some pain will never be reduced and some conditions will always be degenerative. My point is not to depress you but to reinforce the fact that there are challenges in life that we can never change; I believe that it is how we deal with these challenges that are what life is all about.
I can only tell you what I have personally found has worked for me from the wisdom that I have gleamed from self-help, philosophical and religious books, along with my .five years experience accepting my disability.
I have learnt the hard way through five years of depression since my accident that for starters there is unfortunately no magic recipe for how to beat the tears that naturally accompany becoming disabled and also that you must never feel inadequate for not feeling ready to take on the world like the inspirational people that you may read about and the stories that others may with well meaning intentions try to ram down your throats.
 Although I believe that these motivational tales have their place in helping you along in the right direction, that is only when you are ready emotionally to hear them- that is not to be misunderstood as when you want to, but when you have gone through the grieving process enough that I believe has to take place beforehand.
Other than that which I have read, these theories are only my own thoughts born of my experiences and many, many hours contemplating my life over the last few years.
If reading this helps one person out there to not beat themselves up and put themselves through the emotional torment that I put myself through because I did not feel like I was achieving enough in my recovery and living up to the inspiring individuals who I was being held up to and compared with- then it is worth it currently being 3.30am and way past my bedtime!
Having read many of the biographies of these inspirational people that I keep focusing upon, I can assure you that I believe it to be true that all of the people in question had their dark roads in which to travel along to get to the other side and make sense of their fate; which is why I feel it so important to continually talk about my down days, (weeks and months!), along with the light hearted and positive things in my life.
If life were all smiles then we would never appreciate and value the good times. Life has to have variety and varying levels of happiness.
Right now, I genuinely believe that I have turned an important corner emotionally- one of acceptance and of embracing my future, that is not as to mislead you that I never have my down moments- again I believe that is to be expected, but I can assure you that for me, the old saying of time is a healer is very true.
I don’t want to contradict myself, but despite my rational rant I also believe that faith has played an important part in my recovery also.
The little girl in me that dressed up my Barbies in wedding dresses made out of toilet paper is never going to stop being a dreamer, and do you know what, I don’t think I ever want her to.
Dreaming to a certain extent is healthy and even important provided it is balanced with an equal measure of reality.
As I said at the beginning of this meander through my crazy mind- there is unfortunately no magic formula for getting through this challenge, so perhaps a little bit of all of the above isn’t such a bad idea!
My biggest piece of advice is to once again never feel that your feelings are not valid and to most importantly stick with whatever you feel is working for you.  
Good luck on your personal quest to get through whatever challenge life has thrown at you- we all have them and we are all shaped by how we deal with them.
To quote the real Carrie-  ‘As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost, and when that happens I guess she just has to just let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda and buckle up and just keep going!’.
I am grateful and happy today for the support I have had to allow me the time to work my way through my complicated and conflicting emotions to get to the point that I am today- the point to start embracing my life and start living again!