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This op is aimed at people who suffer from M.E and have reduced mobility, but the information should be of use to anyone with a condition that affects their mobility and/or ability to drive. Driving There are no hard and fast rules about driving with M.E, it is up to you to decide how your condition affects you and to decide if you are safe to drive. You have to bear in mind not only your own safety, but that of other road users too. There are conditions that have to be notified to the DVLA www.DVLA.gov.uk if they have occurred or got worse since you applied for your licence these include; Epilepsy Fainting Heart problems Diabetes Chronic Neurological problems Serious Memory problems Stroke Brain surgery or tumour Severe Psychiatric problems Difficulty in using arms and legs Visual problems Alcohol or drug dependence. Some of these are symptoms of M.E, but as the condition is variable and the symptoms not as serious as those listed, many people do not notify the DLA, but it is in your best interest to do so if any of these problems affect you seriously as you can be fined £1000. To notify the DVLA you need to contact; Drivers Medical Unit DVLA Swansea SA99 1TU 0870 600 0301. When you are deciding whether you are fit to drive, you need to consider how you feel and use your common sense and if in doubt don?t do it. Think about whether you feel dizzy, what is your concentration like, how tired are you, do you have the strength to remove and apply the handbrake and to turn the car in a tight space and could you perform an emergency stop if needed. You also need to avoid driving if you are on any drugs that cause drowsiness, many anti-depressants do. Think about where you are going to drive to, are you familiar with the route, what are you doing when you get to your destination, can you park nearby, will you have the energy to drive back. I hav e often been in the situation where I have driven somewhere and then struggled to get back again, because my energy has depleted. Also remember that driving in bad weather conditions is more stressful and requires more concentration. I know this all sounds a bit patronising, but you really do need to stop and think, I have often gone out without really thinking and then realised I should not be driving. If you get higher rate DLA you will be entitled to a blue badge (formerly orange) for parking. You need to contact your local council for an application www.mobility-unit.dltr.gov.uk/bluebadge/la/index.htm tells you who to contact in your area. If you do not get higher rate DLA, but have difficulty walking you may still be able to get a blue badge by asking your GP to make a statement for you, saying what your condition is and how far you can walk. I got mine this way. Blue badge holders can park free of charge at parking meters and pay and displays areas and also in some areas where parking restrictions are in force, but these need to be checked out first. The badge must be displayed when parked and the time of arrival set on the disc. If the badge is used when the person it is for is not in the car a fine of £1000 is payable. Most shops and public buildings have disabled parking areas close to entrances. If you fail to display your blue badge you are liable for parking fines. If the vehicle is purely for the use of the disabled person they may be exempt from paying road tax, but I am not sure of the details about this, but you should be able to enquire at the DVLA. When insuring your car, you may be asked if you have any illness or disability, many people answer no as they are worried that their premiums will go up, but this is not the case insurances companies are not allowed to do this due to the Disabled Persons Act 1995. If your journey is essential then consider other forms of transport or ask someone to take you instead. I cannot comment on facilities in each individual area, but I can tell you what is available where I live. I am sure that facilities in most areas will be similar unless you live somewhere really isolated. Buses Most places have a reasonable bus service and you should be able to contact the local service to ask about timetables and where the buses stop. Some buses are adapted for wheelchair use, but not all so again you need to ask the local company. In my area we have a bus service every 20 minutes, which stops on the main road about 200 yards away, but I often find it a struggle even get to the bus stop and then there is usually a walk when I get off the bus too. If you get higher rate DLA and some other benefits you may be able to apply for a disabled persons concessionary bus pass. Taxis Taxis are the easiest form of transport to use as they take you door to door, but it can prove expensive. In our area we have several local taxi firms and they often push business cards through the door, so we have the numbers pinned up next to the phone. If you do not know any local firms try looking in yellow pages or on www.yell.co.uk. Some companies get quite busy so it is best to book in advance, but it is not always necessary. Many supermarkets have telephones direct to the local taxi firm or have taxi ranks outside. Bus stations and rail station usually have taxi ranks too. Some taxis are adapted to take wheelchairs, but this service usually has to be booked in advance and is usually black cabs rather than the local private hire company. Trains If you are going on a longer journey or have a local rail station, then the train maybe a good option. Where I live we have a lot of local rail stations for trains that go into the city centre. At larger stations there are porters to help with luggage and wheelchairs if needed. Train timetables can be obtained from you local station, or at www.thetrainline.com. If you get higher rate DLA or SDA you can apply for a disabled persons railcard, which costs £14 a year and gives you 1/3 off fares. If you book tickets more than a week in advance you usually get cheaper fares. Trains are comfortable and have toilets and often refreshments. Travelling by train is not as restrictive as other forms of transport as you can move around to relieve pain and stiffness. Coaches National Express www.gobycoach.com/ run a coach service throughout the country and serve most towns and cities. Fares are cheaper than the train, but journeys take longer. If you are under 25, a student or over 50 you can get a discount coach card for about £9 a year. If you book your journey more than a week in advance the fares are cheaper than booking at short notice. It is advisable to book as some of the coaches get very busy and you may be disappointed if you turn up and try to get a ticket on the day. I hope that I have covered all the information that you might want about getting around with M.E.
I hope this is in the correct catagory, I could not find 'weeone gets on her soap box.' Anyway, I just wanted to get down on paper my feelings on people with disabilities. I never really thought before how much hard work it can be. Since my husband broke his leg I have learned so much and we are lucky that his is a temporary situation. His leg is in plaster upto his theigh and will be for sometime so for us to go shopping or just generally out and about has been a nightmare. I did not realise the facilities that are available to help people out. Did you know that in most large shops like tescos, asda, matalan etc.. they provide visitors with wheelchairs (only if you need them of course). Some of them are even motorised which for someone like my husband is great cause he races all the kids in pushchairs and I do not have to push him (picture it, I am 7 stone and he is 16!!!) Bluewater park shopping centre ofers excellent facilities absolutly free. You can borrow wheelchairs had use them all day or you can hire them for a week for a small fee. There are no stairs to tackle and all the shops are wide enough for a wheelschair to fit in so he can look around too. The parking is great too. You can park right at the entrance and collect the chair. It is so easy. The problem I do have which we can seem to control is others attitudes towards him. OK he only has a broken leg but we get pushed, we get frowned upon and members of staff in shops offer us no help whatsoever. Bearing in mind I have a two year old too who tends to make the most of the oppotunity that I cannot push daddy and chase her at all times. One day my husband was jammed between two shelves whilst my daughter was rapidly clearing the shelves. So I was trying to un-jam him and control the cherub at the same time whilst a group, yes that;s right a group of staff stood back smirking. Well I do not mind telling you that I wish I could have wipped of those smirks. When we are walking around the shops people will not allow him through the crowds, they walk over his leg and swing their shopping into him. It is a nightmare. In restaurants we get no help storing the wheelchair it gets left to me again whilst settling our little terror. I really feel for people who have to remain permenatly at others mersy like this. It has been awful for us. The saying "walk a mile in another's shoes to learn how it is for others" is so true. I have nothing but admiration for others having to put up with this behaviour. Yes the facilities for people with disabilities does seem to be improving but we have a long way to go to improve people's attitudes.
I have updated this opinion because on reviewing I have discovered that part of it is missing chunks. This is the only opinion I have ever pre-written in 'word' and transferred, somewhere along the way bits went missing without me realising. I have also had so many interesting comments regarding this subject that I need to add more anyway. I have an orange badge that I can use in any car to park either in disabled persons bays or on yellow lines if not causing an obstruction. To quite a few non-disabled drivers this is seen as a perk. Believe me it is not. There are times when I have travelled somewhere like, for instance a shopping centre, in a friends car, only to find that all of the disabled parking spots near to the entrance are full. Only a couple of times that this has happened have all the spaces been used by people displaying an orange badge. As a result of this abuse of the system, I have had to forget my shopping trip, as I am unable to get to the shopmobility section to pick up an electric wheelchair to go shopping. If I cannot get to this section because I cannot get near enough to only have to walk a few yards, I am as unable to shop as if I had never left home. Less able really, as at home I can always shop on the net. That may not matter to a lot of people, I don't suppose it mattered to me until I became disabled. I am writing this in the vain hope that just a few who take up disabled parking spaces 'just for five minutes' will realise that the truly disabled person needing that space has no idea if they might be waiting for hours for an empty space, so they give up and go home. Orange/blue badges are, indeed, a good thing, when they can be legitimately used. Sadly there are far too many counterfeit badges out there which means that there are nowhere near enough spaces for mobility impaired people to use to enable them to get out and about a bit better. One easy solution would be to design the badges so that the photograph of the badge holder is on the outside of the badge. Unbelieveably, the current orange badge (which is slowly being phased out) has the ID photograph tucked inside the badge. Great if a policeman or traffic warden asks to see it as you enter or exit a car displaying a badge. I have to say that in about seven years of using one I have yet to be asked to show my photo to prove I am entitled to use the badge. This must surely be a reason for the huge abuse of the system. People who borrow their ageing relatives orange badges to ensure a handy parking spot are pretty safe in the knowledge that they are extremely unlikely to be caught out. If the photograph in question was on the outside of the badge I guess about 70-80% would stop abusing the system IMMEDIATELY. ~~~Recent abuses and how they affected me Recently I went to the cinema with a friend. I had ordered the tickets for our chosen film over the internet and paid with a credit card. The system is that when you arrive at the cinema you swipe your card in the machine in the cinema foyer and your tickets pop out of a slot. Very clever stuff. It means that someone like myself, unable to stand in queues without considerable pain, can access tickets without difficulty. It is modern systems like this that make it possible for me to have a decent social life outside of my home in recent years. Unfortunately the eight or nine disabled parking bays directly outside the cinema were all in use. Only two of the cars were displaying orange badges. There was nowhere within 500-600 yards of the complex to park. On that particular occassion, we struck lucky. Although the security men outside the cinema were unable to do anything about the illegal parking, they recognised that I would have wasted money on my pre-paid tickets if I couldn't park nearby,(or at least my friend, it was her car!) they removed a barrier and gave us a space to park on the paved area. Had they not been around, we could not have run the risk of parking on a non-parking area like that, for fear of clampers. Even though the need to park illegally was caused by the other cars using spaces we could have legitimately used. This is a different problem insomuchas that these people had not even cared enough to put out a bogus orange badge to 'pretend' they are disabled. Oh, I could go on. I could tell you about the young, fit man who bounced into his illegally parked 4 x 4 parked next to me. How I challenged him, how he got very threatening and then tried to run over my feet when I would not be intimidated - hang on, I think I just have. Oh well, suffice to say that I have very good reason for this rant. The thoughtless able-bodied people take 'my' spaces over and over and over again. Next time I hope they will be so good as to take my disability too! Thanks for reading to the bitter end of my rant. I feel much better, I really do! Believe me when I say I could have written countless examples to support my rant, so I have been very restrained, even if it may not seem so to you, the reader. Oh, you ARE still there! Do me a favour all you folk who get out and about on a regular basis. Next time you see someone park in a disabled bay without displaying their badges, smile politely and remind them that they have obviously forgotten to display their badges. On rare occassions, it is just a case of their forgetting to put out the badges. Sometimes, just sometimes, they have the grace to move to another spot, or at least blush. I should know, I challenge all the time, believe it or not, NOT for my own sake, as I have good friends who will always go and do shopping for me if I am desperate. I do it mainly for the disabled people who have to manage by themselves. Those too polite (or sometimes too vu lnerable) to say it for themselves. One final point I would like to make. Disabled people, in the main, do NOT want special or preferential treatment, what they really want is some degree of equality. To be made UNable to shop or socialise can DISable them far more than their physical limitations.