Our trip to hell and back! Really? Back? 

Hi everyone, sorry it has been so long since I last wrote but what started as a dream vacation two months ago, turned into a nightmare. A nightmare that has not yet finished.

It will take me more than one post to let you know what happened. For now, I’ll just give you a brief summary. More details will be given in further posts in the next few weeks.

It all started about a week before my wife Lisa and I were due to leave. We could smell gasoline in our car when it was idling, so we took it into our local repair shop. Two days later, the bad news arrived. The car needed a new engine.

We are on first name terms with the boss, so when he suggested our car be scrapped – that is exactly what we did. Then, and now, there’s not enough money in our bank to replace it. We are stuck at home. We are in the country, nearly a mile from the main road but even there, there is no bus service. And our nearest town is a good 20€ taxi ride away. A car of our own is essential.

Holiday dream shattered

Anyway, back to our vacation.

We had already pre-booked a ride to the airport. He was an hour late, great start.

Flight one, no problem, but flight two was delayed. This meant missing our connection and having to take a replacement flight the next day.

Flight three went without a hitch. Phew, we were in Los Angeles.

We stayed in LA for almost a week, but we didn’t visit anywhere or take a tour, as we gad planned, for reasons I’ll explain in another post.

That Sunday, we flew to San Diego and boarded our cruise ship, the Carnival Miracle. That turned out to be the worst cruise of our lives! Watch here to discover why.

Back in San Diego after the 7-day trip, we had a one-night stay in a hotel. The next morning, I was rushed to hospital by ambulance. Instead of going home, I was set for five days in hospital – and, not having travel insurance, now face a bill of nearly $40,000 .

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To help me meet the costs of a wheelchair accessible vehicle and the hospital care, I have started a Go Fund Me page. Please help by making a donation, however small, HERE.

Thank you

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Guide Dogs Week – still time for your support

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Guide Dogs are valued around the world. This one is working in Brazil.

GUIDE DOGS Week, halfway through

Service or assistance dogs, those wonderfully intelligent and friendly creatures, are known throughout the world for their dedication to their owners. They can be hearing dogs, guide dogs or provide another form of invaluable help.

Well, today (Wednesday) is the halfway point of Guide Dogs Week in the UK and it runs until the 11th. The Guide Dogs for the Blind charity is encouraging people to Stand Out for Guide Dogs, part of which is to take a photograph of yourself highlighted in neon paint. It is fun and looks impressive.

The charity says: “We will not rest until people who are blind or partially sighted can enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

“Every hour another person in the UK goes blind. We need your help to make sure that when someone loses their sight they don’t lose their freedom as well.”

During Guide Dogs Week you can help change more lives and create more partnerships. I urge you to do all that you can to help this great cause.

Many years ago, I was a member of a young men’s service organisation called Round Table. Our chosen charity that year was the Guide Dogs and through effort and determination we raised enough to pay for the training of a dog.

A few years later, I found myself volunteering as an adult leader in the Scouts. Our cub pack was raising money for the same charity and was successful enough to be able to choose a name for a dog. We held our meetings in the church hall, so we named her after the saint of the church.

In the last couple of weeks, twice these fantastic animals have caused me to think of their bravery and commitment to the task they have been expertly trained to carry out.

The first was an incident in which a taxi driver reversed his vehicle onto a pavement (sidewalk in the US) and into a young, newly trained guide dog and her owner. The fact that the pavement was in use seemed not to bother him and the car did not stop until the blind man realised what was happening and tapped on it with his cane.

Police were called but no action is being taken against the driver who has said he is going to claim damages from the blind person for denting the taxi. That is ridiculous, isn’t it? Luckily, the dog only suffered bruising but we don’t yet know if her training will be enough to overcome the shock of the incident.

The second dog is Lara, a yellow Labrador. After just four years’ service, she has been found to be suffering from a birth defect that could not be discovered at an early stage and so she needs help. Her female owner decided to retire her in March this year and, speaking to her just the other day, I asked when she can get a new guide dog. I thought that she would have a new guide living alongside the retired one.

lara2In fact, she won’t have another guide dog while Lara is still with her. Her words brought tears to my eyes.

“My mobility had to come second to her needs.. I am waiting until Lara is no longer with us, wouldn’t be fair, she has a lot of needs so she has to come first.

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way, she took care of me for nearly four years, kept me safe. Now it’s my turn to take care of her and give her the best life I can with the huge restrictions she has. Sadly her working life was very short, she was an amazing guide dog, so intelligent she qualified early, best in her year. She’s a very spoilt lady now!”

And repaying Lara’s dedication and service with such love means that this woman is once again getting about using a white cane.

Such a two-way bond of love and trust is just beyond words.

 

Retired Guide Dog Lara enjoying the sofa.

 

  • You can find Lara’s owner on Twitter @barefoot&paws

 

 

 

 

Ambulance targets ditched for 90% of emergency calls

ambulance colours

If you have a target that you fail to achieve year after year, there is a simple answer. Just tear up the rules and start again.

It’s what is sometimes called ‘moving the goalposts’ – and there really is no better description.

Ambulances have target response times, not just where you live but almost everywhere. In Wales, UK, the target is to reach 65% of emergency incidents in eight minutes. But, after seven consecutive months of improving to 61.7% – so target was still missed – in August the success rate fell to 58.8%. The September figure is not yet available.

So, now a new system for dealing with emergency 999 calls for ambulances in Wales has come into force and response time targets will be scrapped for all but life-threatening cases during a one-year trial.

Calls will now be graded and it is estimated only 10% of the 420,000 ambulance emergencies a year will be coded “red” for the most critical.

Welsh Ambulance Service chief executive Tracy Myhill tried to put some spin on the slackening of the targets by saying that the new system was based on clinical evidence and put the sickest patients first.

Under the new system, emergency telephone operators will assess how serious each incident is and despatch ambulances in the order of severity and according to predetermined classifications which are colour-coded like traffic lights.

Life-threatening emergencies are the top priority, coloured red – and it is only this group, the estimated 10%, to which the eight minute response time target still applies.

In the United States there are no official Federal or State standards for response times but they often do appear in contracts between communities and Emergency Medical Service providers.

This has led to considerable variations between standards in one community and another. New York City, for example, has a 10-minute response requirement on emergency calls, while other places have response time standards of up to 15 minutes.

It seems to be generally accepted within the emergency services field that an ‘ideal’ response time would be within eight minutes for 90% of calls but this objective is rarely achieved and current thinking questions whether or not that standard has ever been valid’.

As call volumes increase and resources and funding fails to keep pace with the growing demand, even large ambulance services find that they have difficulty in meeting the standards. So Wales is definitely not alone.

Whether it is right to change the rules and take 90% of emergency calls outside any response time target, however, is open to question.

I suppose that we will just have to wait and see how the new system works – or doesn’t.

Cute toddler’s first steps on artificial leg

Bravery seems to be a recurring subject in my blog in the last few weeks. Now, a little girl is being hailed as being brave, alongside the heroes I have talked about in mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews.

The little girl in question, no more than a toddler, is the subject of a You Tube video posted by the Amputee Coalition of America. It shows her taking her very first steps with her new prosthetic leg.

She is clearly delighted, stopping to blow raspberries, before walking onwards. She falls over but picks herself up and walks on to her dad who is waiting with his hands outstretched. When she reaches him, he picks her up for a cuddle.

The video shows an inspiring moment in the little girl’s life. It is a moment that shows the child’s determination to not let her amputation control her life. And it is a determination that is shared by many people with disabilities but it is also a great example to those who think that their problem means that they cannot do anything; to those that seem to believe that the world owes them a living.

For reasons of privacy, the name and information about the little girl have not been shared online, nor has the reason why her leg has ben amputated, but the heartwarming video has captured the attention of many on both You Tube and Facebook. One Facebook user wrote: “Puts into perspective all the stupid things we complain about when we see the bravery of this little one.” Another added: “This cute angel will do amazing things one day! She is a fighter!”

Those comments both hit the nail right on the head. The video certainly does put other issues into perspective and she may well go on to bigger and better things. This is one girl who is not going to let her amputation get in the way of her life. She is already accepting her prosthetic leg as completely normal for her.

But, is she being brave? Well, her spirit is obviously enviable. In the video, she falls down but gets up easily and carries on. That is what life is all about – other children do that too.

Owing to living with multiple sclerosis, I have serious mobility and balance problems. In fact, when I am not using a wheelchair, falling is an all-too-frequent event. The floor is one of my closest friends!

The trick, however, is to get up and get on with life.

This little one is coping with her disability in the only way she knows. It is not a position of her choosing and as such, while I admire her fortitude, she should not be burdened with being described as ‘brave’ or labelled a ’hero’.  They are such high aspirations to have to attain and then maintain. Similarly, I am not being brave in coping with my disability; she and I are both just doing what we can to overcome our difficulties.

Long may she be happy and able to grow up without being negatively affected by artificial leg.

Live for the future, let the past go

TheSmiler2015(2)

Vicky Balch has every right to be furious with the awful hand dealt to her this year but she really must get a firm grip on her life and look to the future with a new, positive outlook. Otherwise she is going to have a truly miserable time of it.

On 2nd June this year, Vicky was one of several people injured and trapped in an accident on the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers, one of the leading theme parks in the UK.

Her injuries were so bad that, despite a series of operations, surgeons eventually had to amputate one of her legs. Another young woman also lost a leg as the result of the accident.

Vicky hit the headlines again today when she lashed out at the decision of Alton Towers bosses to re-open the ride. She is reported as saying that two senior bosses told her of their intentions, during a visit to her home. She said that they told her that they might be able to reopen the ride by the end of this year.

She is disgusted by the possibility of the ride being reopened at all, let alone within seven months of the incident. Is she right? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Before considering that, though, maybe we should take a look at her attitude to life in general since she suffered that terrible injury.

There is no doubt that the accident caused a considerable upheaval in Vicky’s life we can see that she has not yet been able to come to terms with it. In all likelihood, it is too soon. She is still suffering, still grieving for things she can no longer do.

“I’m very up and down at the moment,” she is reported having said. “Talking about things I can’t do any more makes me really emotional.

“I can’t walk my dogs and I can’t ring up my friends at uni and say, do you fancy having a drink tonight?”

Yes, she is in a bad place right now but, and I don’t mean to be unkind here, she has to realise that she is no worse off than some other people. She is using a wheelchair for travelling more than a very short distance, just like me. But she has now taken her first steps using a prosthetic leg, while I will still need a wheelchair.

Again, Vicky looked back instead of forward when considering her future when she said: “I feel less feminine now. The way people look at you, that’s a big thing for me. I liked the attention before but now they look at me in a different way. It’s horrible.

“After my first op I asked my mum, ‘Who’s going to want me like this?’ And I still think like that.” Well, while it is true that the guy she had been dating has now left the scene, I have no idea of what went on between them at that point and so will not comment on that.

However, looking ahead, Vicky is likely to meet men who are shallow and so avoid any possibility of a relationship with her but she will also meet some who see beyond her injury, beyond her prosthetic leg, and fall in love with who she is.

But first, she needs to let go of the past, accept the present and make the very best of the future. That’s the way to find happiness.

So, what about reopening the ride? Alton Towers’ management has discovered the accident was the result of human error. There was nothing wrong with the ride itself, they say. If that is true, as long as steps have been taken to eliminate an error such as this happening again and the authorities are happy, then put the accident in the past and let the ride be reopened.

And in the unlikely event that she is reading this: Vicky, we cannot change the past but what you do now will affect your life to come. You can make yours a great life, embrace it and live it to the full. Shape your life around what you can do now and what you can strive to achieve in the future.

North Wales MS charity set for year ahead

Future plans and activities for MS Synergy were decided by members at the annual general meeting held alongside its September monthly gathering earlier this week.

MS Synergy is North Wales’s own independent support group charity for people with multiple sclerosis and those affected by it, such as relatives, carers, friends or anyone with any kind of interest in the illness.

At the AGM, held at Prestatyn’s Paanshee Bangladeshi Restaurant on Tuesday 15th, members approved the annual report, adopted the accounts and took important decisions about future administration and organisation. These were finalised by making some minor amendments to the constitution.

After two years as chairman, Nigel Partington had already forewarned us that he had decided it was best for him to stand down. Naturally, everyone was sorry his health had prompted that decision and sent him their best wishes along with their hopes that he would attend future gatherings whenever he felt able.Kathy Ruane

In his place, the group was fortunate to be able to elect two Co-Chairmen. These are Christine Cooper  (below) and Kathleen Ruane (right). Kathy has MS and if her surname sounds familiar, that is probably because her brother is Chris Ruane, former Labour MP for Vale of Clwyd. He served as MP for 18 years before losing his seat at this year’s general election.christine cooper_edited

The role of secretary proved to be a little more difficult to fill but was resolved with the help of some lateral thinking and ingenuity. I have been secretary for the last two years but moving to Spain in November meant that MS Synergy needed a new secretary – or did it?

With no-one putting themselves forward, the meeting decided to re-elect me (below left) as secretary to do from Spain everything that I had always done on computer in Colwyn Bay. Let’s face it, that can be done anywhere in the world with access to the internet. The one important part of the work that needs a hands-on presence in North Wales, the organisationian gravatar_edited of the monthly meetings or ‘gatherings’, was given to another committee member.

Former long-term group organiser and, for the past two years, gwawr_editedtreasurer, Gwawr Jones (below centre), was re-elected to look after the finances while Eryl Thomas (below right) Eryl Thomas_editedjoined the committee as Gatherings Coordinator.

Three remaining committee member roles were left unfilled, allowing the committee to co-opt people in the future.

With me going to be many miles away, members agreed that future general meetings and committee meetings should include a free computer-to-computer video link to make it possible and feasible for me to take an active part and to take minutes. Isn’t modern computer technology wonderful?

One last piece of re-organisation agreed by the AGM was in regard to bank payments and withdrawals. The previous constitutional requirement was for each cheque to bear two signatures from any of the three officers. An amendment passed on the night now requires two signatures from any of the officers and committee members resident in the UK. That will make the treasurer’s work a lot easier.

  • MS Synergy is a ‘local small charity’ as defined by the Charities Act. As such, it is only allowed to raise up to £5,000 a year.

 

 

 

Steps towards Spain

Work 1 

Bathroom fitments removed and stored in bedroom while wet-room is fitted.

Preparations for our great move to Spain continue apace with Tuesday witnessing another step, actually two steps, along the journey. Then, one more step was taken this morning.

First step: Pictures have arrived showing the work in progress to turn the dream home we found into one that is absolutely perfect and one in which I can live comfortably with my disability. Although I don’t need it now, Lisa and I made the important decision to buy a home in which, if needed in the future, I could use a wheelchair indoors.

In truth, if it ever happens, that should be several years away but as we are making a big move, really a lifestyle change, we decided to be ready for whatever Multiple Sclerosis may hold for me in the future. We don’t want to be forced to move again.

One of the key improvements being made as part of the package of conversion works is the provision of a wet-room. The bathroom fitments have been stripped out already and a full wet-room is about to be installed complete with a fully accessible level entry walk-in shower that will also be suitable for a special roll-in shower chair,

Step two we made without actually needing to do anything more ourselves as we had already done our part. It came in the form of an email from Paul, the driver/courier from Anyvan. He let us know that our possessions have arrived safely in Spain and have been delivered into our new home. Nothing more can be done with those until we get there in November.

I have to say that Lisa and I are both so impressed with Anyvan’s method of operation in which any of its couriers who want a particular job bid against each other to win the business. That way the client can get the best possible price. What’s more, the professionalism, courtesy and willingness to be as accommodating as possible – as clearly demonstrated by Paul – show all of the company’s associated drivers in the best possible light. They really do seem to know everything about giving top-rate service and superb customer relations. We would have no hesitation in using their services again and would highly recommend them to others.

Step three took the form of a visit to the vets this morning. Having given both Pooka and Prissy a health check-up, the vet scanned the microchips they had implanted before their trip here from Florida in March 2012 and gave them both their rabies vaccinations.

Tomorrow, we have to go back to the vets – just us, not the cats – to pick up their ‘pet passports’ that will allow both of them to enter Spain without going into quarantine.

Just one more thing to do today, this time because of our holiday before we leave for Spain, and that is to telephone the cattery to book the cats in for their stay while we are in the USA.

If you wonder why we have a holiday just before moving abroad, the holiday was booked before we decided to move; then the money came through from my former matrimonial home. It is all a bit of an almost runaway train but one of our own choosing and in which we are enjoying the ride.

MS Synergy Independent Support Group looks to the future

Scan_mss poster

My beloved Lisa and I were out and about last night We weren’t exactly painting the town red but were attending the monthly social get-together of MS Synergy – our local support group for people who have MS, their families, carers and friends.

The group will be two years old next month, having split from the MS Society in September 2013 following abortive discussions about our desire, indeed our need, to have more of a say about our affairs without interference from the local area branch. When faced with an immovable object that absolutely refused to allow the group to operate free of branch controls but still as part of  the society, everyone involved in the support group decided unanimously to change our status to that of an independent support group.

Since then, the group has flourished. It is now a ‘small charity’ as defined by the Charities Act, the UK law that governs charities in the UK, it has its own health & safety policy including a laid-down risk assessment procedure, holds fundraising activities and is about to publish its second Annual Report.

In the year ahead, there are a couple of potholes in the road to continuing development. The first is that our chairman’s MS has caused his health to deteriorate to such an extent that he feels unable to continue in office; and the second is that Lisa and I are moving to Spain in November. In fact we are leaving on 26th October and going on a holiday to the USA before arriving at our new home.

With Nigel not standing for re-election as chairman and our departure to Spain (I am secretary and Lisa is a committee member), the charity has to look to other members to take on more responsibility. At last night’s social event, we discussed the issue prior to next month’s AGM and the outcome looks encouraging.

One member had already been asked to agree to stand for the role of chairman but she has not, so far, been very keen as she has a lot to cope with personally. She has MS, has three children of her own and two adopted children – quite a commitment. But, last night, another member said that she would be willing to be chairman. So, we were off to a promising start.

Organising the monthly gatherings, which is what we call our get-togethers, including booking the venues and sending out emails or text messages to our members and supporters, has been part of the secretary’s duties but we now have another member who is willing to join the committee and act as ‘gatherings coordinator’. Excellent. Although now retired, her experience as a solicitor may also be useful.

The biggest problem appears to be finding someone to replace me as secretary because no-one seems willing to undertake the role. After our discussion last night, however, we may have found a way through but it will be up to the AGM to decide.

When I detailed the duties our secretary needs to undertake, it became fairly obvious that in today’s electronic world most can be completed anywhere. Rather like working from home instead of commuting to an office. They could, we decided, be carried out as easily in Spain as in Colwyn Bay.

If that is the way that the AGM decides to go and I stay as secretary despite being in Spain, the secretary will not be attending committee meetings or future general meetings in person – but I could be there on a video link using the free Skype system. Of course, there would be a few other small points to clear up but, on the whole, last night the consensus was that we could make it work.

It may not be easy but what is a problem if not a challenge to be overcome?

Caring through love not duty

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High above New York City on the viewing gallery of the Empire State Building.

To misquote a well-known Shakespearean saying about greatness: some people are born carers, some people learn to be carers while others have the role of a carer thrust upon them.

In the case of my carer, the last one is most definitely true. Not that my carer thinks that what she does is any more than any loving wife would do but Lisa has to cope with quite a lot – which she does exceedingly well, without complaint, and usually with a smile. And this is despite her having diabetes and a touch of arthritis.

She says she does it out of love not out of duty.

Actually, we both had to laugh when we looked at the requirements for her to claim the UK’s Carer’s Allowance benefit. It says she has to provide at least 35 hours of care a week. Oh, if only it was so little. She provides me with many more hours of care than that. In fact, she rarely goes out leaving me at home alone; and it is almost unheard of for me to be allowed out by myself. And I do mean ‘allowed’ as while, in most cases I have the final say, where my health is concerned Lisa is in charge.

Care covers a whole multitude of things that most able-bodied people take for granted, such as preparing my food, cutting up meat so that I can eat it easily because I cannot hold a knife and fork at the same time, helping me to shower and dress, getting my wheelchair in and out of the car, wheeling me about, and physically supporting me if I try to walk a few yards using my walking stick.

And that does not include extra washing of clothes and/or bedding if I have an accident involving problems with my waterworks. Then there is responsibility for my medication, ensuring we have enough of each one, preparing correct doses and making sure I take the correct tablets at the proper times.

At home, although our new home in Spain is suitable for wheelchair use, I do not yet need to use one indoors. Instead, I get around by supporting myself on furniture and the occasional grab rail. Sometimes I fall and Lisa has learned not to rush to help. If she is in another room, she just calls out to ask me if I am all right. A negative answer or no answer at all would bring her to my side in seconds.

One thing that is remarkable about Lisa is that she married me knowing that I have MS when her only previous experience of the illness was her grandfather and he, it seems, chose to be a sufferer not a fighter.

As my wife and carer, Lisa has to cope with so much, day and night, seven days a week. She has to contend with my occasional outbursts of frustration, my impatience when something won’t go right first time and, sometimes, my determination to do something that I am no longer physically able to achieve – that usually ends in a fall. I often joke that the floor and I are on very good terms as we spend so much time together.

In the ‘CAN do’ attitude to life page on this website, Lisa says I am her hero because “He truly amazes me every day. I don’t think I know a more positive person.” However, in truth, she is really my hero, or heroine if that word is still used today, for all she does both seen and unseen by others.

Lisa is my love, my lady, my life, my very best friend and my carer. She knows that I have a positive outlook on life but she is my strength when I am weak, my support when I am in danger of falling, and, above all, the most wonderful person in my whole life.

 

 

 

Access for people with disabilities. What is ‘reasonable’?

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For the disabled, particularly anyone in a wheelchair, gaining access to buildings and all their facilities can still be more than a little difficult in the UK. The situation in other countries may be similar but, from what I have seen, Britain seems to be lagging behind other westernised countries.

True, we have the Equality Act 2010 that followed the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and this legislation is supposed to make discrimination against the disabled illegal. But the trouble is that the law contains the word ‘reasonable’ and that term is subjective – what is reasonable to me might be unreasonable to someone else. Just who determines what is reasonable?

So, as far as access to a building and its facilities such as toilets, the owner of any commercial business otherwise known as the ‘service provider’ is required by law ‘to take reasonable steps to remove, alter or provide a reasonable means of avoiding a physical feature which made it impossible or reasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.’

Hm, one sentence with reasonable twice and reasonably once; room enough, in my view, for said ‘service providers’ to avoid doing anything.

Of course, most shops, restaurants, offices open to the public and so on do have level entrances or have alternative means of access, such as ramps or lifts but some still need improvement.

Over the last year, Lisa and I have eaten out at several restaurants in Colwyn Bay, the town in which we live. All the meals have been enjoyable but the facilities for customer with disabilities have been a bit hit and miss.

Pen-y-Bryn bar and restaurant is in its own grounds with a large car park but, disappointingly, has just one bay bearing the wheelchair symbol. Access to the building and the necessary facilities is trouble free.

Dolce Vita Italian restaurant has an on-street location with a level entrance. It has its main seating area and facilities upstairs but when I telephoned to make a booking and mentioned my wheelchair, I was guaranteed a table in the small ground floor dining area and was assured that I would be welcome to use their staff restroom on the same level. The owner also told me that he had plans to put in new customer facilities downstairs.

Vergilio’s Pizzeria and Portuguese Grill also has an on-street location and when I phoned to book I was told that my wheelchair would not be a problem. Well, true the staff were attentive and most willing to help me overcome the step into and out of the building as the entrance is not level. However, the bigger problem is that the restrooms are upstairs and so beyond the reach of people like me.

The Venue @ The Clockhouse Indian restaurant is another on-street location with a step to go in. Once again, the owner and manager together made short work of helping me both in and out of the building. Inside, everything is one level but facilities for the disabled do need improving. I discussed the issues with the owner and was pleased to hear that he already had plans to address both of them.

In the past year, my wife and I have also dined at more than 10 restaurants in Honolulu, New York City and Spain. All had level entrances or gentle ramps, the ones with dining rooms not on the ground floor had elevators. All washroom facilities were perfect. A lesson worth learning.

Back in Colwyn Bay, The Toad restaurant is in a prime location with sea views from its first floor restaurant. But there lies the problem, access is by external stone stairs while inside there is a staircase going down to the toilets on the ground floor. When I asked about facilities for customers with disabilities, I was told nothing could be done as it is a Grade 2 Listed building. That’s a building of special interest.

However, to say nothing can be done to such a property is not true. Any alteration would need listed building consent but even if such consent was denied a service provider would still need to take whatever other steps that are reasonable to provide the service.

And to underline that, Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG 15) issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions makes it clear that “it is important in principle that disabled people should have dignified easy access to and within historic buildings” and that with a proper approach “it should normally be possible to plan suitable access for disabled people without compromising a building’s special interest”.

So, alterations should still be possible – even to listed buildings.

Access laws in America seem more strict than in the UK. Lisa told me about a Florida restaurant that had an upstairs bar and entertainment venue with no access for people with disabilities. The owners were told to make such access available or to close their business. No messing.