Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tuesday – Being on the move

“Start your engines…”

Let me tell you a story. I was born and raised in Australia where sheer distance from A to B means that from the age of 16 you are near obsessed with getting your driver’s licence. My sister, Leah, was no less determined than I and, although we are both occasionally flummoxed by reverse parallel parking, we are most successful and law-abiding road users. When a car joins our family it gets a name and, inevitably, takes on a life of its own. The following is reproduced with the permission of my sister, although she might tell it a bit differently.

Leah’s car, Sebastién, was a lion amongst Saabs. Breaking down a mere handful of times and guzzling only slightly more petrol than his German and Japanese counterparts, Sebastién was regarded very fondly and even occasionally washed. Whilst living with my sister in Canberra (Australia’s capital city and, I’d thought, a pretty peaceable place where nothing much ever happened), Sebastian passed his time in the car park of Leah’s college until one day, when the worst occurred. Sebastian was no less than assaulted, such that his glistening windows were smashed and his driver-side door forcibly unlocked. His assailants proceeded to start him (note that there is division amongst my family as to whether his keys had been left in the glove box, as my father’s version insists, or they somehow managed to spark his ignition much in the vein of 007, as my sister maintains). The thieves had stolen no ordinary car, however. They had not gone more than 100 metres in the direction of the exit before Sebastién shuddered to a stop. He had run out of petrol. 

I had been reminded of this episode as I considered how reliant I used be on private transport, in preparation for this piece. I mentioned in Monday’s blog that I am new to Revive and I do not have MS, so I am learning more and more about both the organisation and its clients. It struck me that in this new age of innovation there is still so little support for those with additional travel requirements to get about, save for within some of the bigger cities where there has been a push towards achieving the golden goose – “accessibility”. My family has always viewed private transport as crucial – an ally in the constant struggle against where you are and where you want or need to be, especially given that public transport is so often unreliable. Perhaps naming a car and thus becoming so attached to it that you’re convinced it subverted its own theft out of loyalty and affection goes (wayyyy) beyond whacky, but I maintain the principle translates. Transport today is difficult enough without feeling uncomfortable and unable to use services by virtue of reduced mobility. Transport shouldn’t be a barrier, it should be a friend.

There are some key services in place to help people with reduced mobility get about. One such is the Blue Badge Scheme, which helps to facilitate parking closer to your destination, if you meet the criteria and are registered. Additionally, there is the Motability Scheme, another national initiative that gives clients the opportunity to lease a car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV), scooter or powered wheelchair in exchange for their mobility allowance. Black cabs are another, excellent way to get around, as they are wheelchair accessible.

Other ways in which the lot of those with reduced mobility is being made slightly easier include vehicle tax exemptions, concessions for certain tolls (if you apply in advance of your journey) and having your kerb lowered to facilitate easier access to the road from your driveway. Unfortunately, the latter of these three examples is only available in England and this discrepancy in mobility services available to people north and south of the border is a serious issue. The system is far from perfect and the simple truth is that outside of the larger cities it is even harder to get from A to B. The luxury of your own private, adapted transport and someone to help you each step of the way – a Sebastién, if you will – just isn’t the reality for most people. Light needs to be shed on the fact that individuals with MS, and indeed everyone with conditions that affect their mobility, have a tough time with transport.

Revive has been able to address this in at their outreach clinics, with the help of their van and very friendly drivers. The free transport from home to the outreach clinic and back after a therapy has been a godsend for many clients of Revive and is the sort of assistance that would be readily available to everyone, everywhere, in a perfect world. Many of you will be aware that Revive was able to purchase a new van in 2015 through the kindness of our amazing supporters. Perhaps there should be a competition to give it a name…

Useful links
Government website on medical conditions, disability and driving - https://www.gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions
Blue Badge Scheme – https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge
Hello and welcome to a very special MS Awareness Week! This is the second in a series of guest blogs, with which the author hopes to entertain or, at the very least, spark such lively debate that it breaks the Internet.

Our theme: mobility. Our aim: to raise awareness of the challenges of living with MS and managing its symptoms. These pieces will tie in with the various events Revive is running throughout the week so make sure you check out the Group and Classes Schedule as well. The author invites any and all contributions, and wishes you a very happy, active week. 

For more information about Revive MS Support, check out our website. Also, please remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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