Pet Therapy.

In the middle of September, shortly before Jarred was due to return for his final year of university, we decided to adopt a hamster. Having had one as a teenager I already knew what resources we would need, and how to provide the best care for it, and so a couple of days later we had purchased and built a cage. Once it was kitted out with food, water, bedding, and chew toys, we were ready to adopt a furry companion.

Being unsure whether the nearby pet shop was accessible or not, Jarred went to purchase the hamster himself. He selected a 6 week old female Syrian hamster, with short black and white fur, and round, pronounced ears. Apparently, she had been in an enclosure with several others like her, but while she was running around the cage like a caffeinated Crash Bandicoot, the others were all huddled together in a ball in the back corner. He simply couldn’t ignore such an inquisitive and spirited little creature.

I was waiting at home when he returned with our new pet, who was in a little plastic carry-case with transparent sides. She was sniffing and running round, trying to take in all the new sounds and smells, one of which was me. She stopped in front of me, and put her paws against the plastic, sniffing the air vents expectantly.

We lowered her gently into her new cage, and almost immediately she began to explore. She was so small that she couldn’t turn her wheel without a little help to start it moving first, and climbing up the vertical tubes into each compartment proved to be a challenge. She was not phased, even when on multiple occasions as she neared the top, she lost her footing and slid all the way down to the bottom. Once she had visited every corner of her cage, she packed as much food as she could into her cheeks, grabbed some bedding, and began to make a nest for herself in one corner.

It didn’t take us too long to assign our little friend a name. She was christened “Tribble”, after the small, furry creatures that feature in an old episode of Star Trek.

Tribble is a great companion. Despite being nocturnal, she is relatively active during the day, often popping out of her nest for some food and water, or to rearrange her nest. The highlight of the day comes in the evening, as she wakes up properly; she absolutely adores running around the flat in her hamster ball, and as soon as we show it to her, she’s out of the cage and into the ball faster than Usain Bolt. Then it’s a case of changing her food and water, and perhaps adding a little bedding, or a treat to nibble on like a grape or slice of carrot.

Cute.jpg

Once a week, her cage gets a full clean, receiving fresh bedding as well as food and water. While Jarred disassembles the cage to clean it, I occupy Tribble in her little plastic case to prevent mischief, giving her a paper towel and a treat. She is now so comfortable with me that quite often, she will make a little bed out of her paper towel, and will curl up into a Tribble-like ball, falling asleep against the warmth of my lap.

It doesn’t matter how rubbish I feel, or how bad a day it has been, Tribble brightens every single day simply by existing.

 

Diary of a Hamster.

Monday:

The big human is always first to leave the human nest, wrapped in soft things that would make nice bedding. He go to food stash and makes brown liquid from powder. He then sit by my den, and switch on big screen with moving pictures. He control it with plastic thing that is bigger than me! It is also not edible.

I go on patrol of den when he sit by me. This way, he think I just patrol cage, not that I like his company. I don’t think he notice yet. On my patrol I eat, drink, and then pee in big wheel. Then I sleep.

The smaller, wheeled human come through later. She go to food stash and she swallow small, round things whole! She has some water, and then go again. When she come back, she is wrapped in different soft things, but if I try to borrow some she get cross.

I sleep.

When I wake up, smaller human has a screen, a bit like big one, on her lap. She is tap, tap, tapping on one part, and strange symbols appear on screen. She seem very interested in these symbols, but I do not know what they are.

I sleep.

I wake up again. Sometimes I’m alone, and I rearrange things in cage as prank. Sometimes they here, and I do patrol again to see them.

I sleep.

It start to go dark, and humans switch on mini inside sunshines. I don’t think they see in dark like me; I eat lots of carrot. They get bigger portion of food from stash, put it in pot, and stir it. Then they put it in smaller pots, and eat it. Then all the pots need wash, which big human does, while small human looks at big screen.

I get excited because I know after pot-washing time come playtime. They put me in big, blue force-field, and then let me run around their whole den! They can cross it in few steps, but I need lots of steps. While I run, I bump into things with loud noise, and the humans laugh. They point tiny screens at me sometimes, but I don’t understand.

In their nest room they have another hamster, black and white like me, in blue force-field like me. it only in one corner, on front of stash where soft bedding they wrap around themselves is kept. It annoying hamster. When I move, it copies. I run toward it, it run and stop at exactly same time. It follow me. When I try to scare it off, my force-field bounces me away. The humans seem to find this amusing, and make loud noises with voice.

They fill up my water and food stash, and hide treats around den. Sometimes I get carrot or courgette, but my favourite is grape. I love grape. They get my force-field and take me back to den. I hunt for treats, then sleep, because running make me tired.

After a bit I wake up. Humans still sat by me watching big screen. The small human swallows more round things, and then they go back to human nest. I think this is when they change into new soft bedding wrappings. At this point I start to run in wheel, making loud sound so they can hear me, and don’t miss me. It go very dark.

I sleep.

Tuesday:

The big human is always first to leave human nest…

M.E Awareness Week.

MEAW Summary

M.E Awareness Week 2018 runs from 7th to 13th May – here’s what you can look forward to on Diary of a Disabled Person:

25% of all donations received during this period will be in turn donated to the M.E Association, a charity supporting sufferers of the condition.

6th May; How bad can M.E really get? Find out in special blog post “The Worst Days”.

10th May; Q&A Session. Submit your questions about living with M.E on the “contact” page by 10th May, and I will try to answer as many as possible in a short video.

13th May; What are the most ridiculous theories about M.E? Find out in “The Many Theories of M.E”.

MEAW Details.jpg

 

 

Body Negativity.

Just about every other article on the internet right now is about how we should endorse body positivity, and put a stop to body-shaming under any circumstances. On the whole, I agree with this sentiment. Someone shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed and embarrassed for the way they look; I was permanently teased throughout school for having frizzy, uncontrollable hair, glasses, and crooked teeth, as well as somehow managing to be simultaneously too fat and too thin. While I believe that a healthy weight should be maintained where possible, my concern on this front is for health and health alone, not how someone appears. In fact, I fully support women who have the confidence to display their beauty whatever their size. Women like WWE Raw wrestler Nia Jax have proved that size bears no relation to looks whatsoever; she’s walked down the catwalk at a fashion show and the ramp down to the ring with equal confidence, as she should do.

However, body positivity does hold one small but vital caveat for me. How the heck am I supposed to love a body that has repeatedly tried to kill me, and malfunctions more often than a British Leyland car? It seems like I’ve spent half my existence being poked and prodded by medics, and they’re not marvelling at how healthy I am. What might look alright on the surface may as well be a carefully decorated cake that tastes like damp and mouldy cardboard (disclaimer: I don’t know how this tastes, and I don’t want to find out). I try not to care too much about how big my wheelchair makes my butt look, but I still find it a little difficult to love a body seemingly hell-bent on self-destruction.

The media constantly tells me I should love my body no matter what, but no one in the spotlight seems to recognise that no matter how much love I give my physical body, that isn’t going to fix me (Coldplay style). I can stand in front of the mirror, wink, and say “you got this” in a cheesy teen movie voice as often as I want; my body is not going to suddenly and miraculously repair itself, however much I would like it to. It continues to amaze me that a thought pattern as shallow as this has taken hold of everyone so completely that they refuse to hear a word uttered against it.

On the other hand, a lack of general body positivity doesn’t mean I hate myself entirely. I think I can take pride in my relationship, my achievements, my work, and my writing. I think I’m an alright human being to be around, although I’d verify this first with someone who knows me well. I also think that there’s more to me than how I look. Body positivity really is great; it’s just not the be all and end all we think it is.

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The TARDOW: Another Short Story.

Matt steered his wheelchair into the rickety lift that looked as if it couldn’t take the weight of a child in a pram, let alone a fully grown man in a powered wheelchair who was soaked to the skin due to the torrential rain outside. As the lift door jerked closed behind him, he pressed the button for the 3rd floor, and was relieved to feel the lift start to move upwards despite the button failing to light up. The walls of the lift scraped and screeched against the walls of the lift shaft as it made its painfully slow ascent.

Even from inside the lift Matt could hear the thunder storm rumbling away outside, the eye of the storm almost directly overhead. He tried not to think about the fact that he was riding a metal contraption inside a metal box inside a metal lift shaft, telling himself that he was being ridiculous. However, as the lift finally stopped at the third floor, and the doors began to open, lightning struck the building. Matt was aware of a blinding flash of light and a searing heat, and then nothing more.

The Lightning Strike from The TARDOW

***

“Oh my God, this is awful.”

“As if he doesn’t have enough to deal with.”

“Poor man.”

“Shhh, he’s coming to.”

Matt was aware of whispering voices coming from all around him. He opened his eyes, but it seemed as if lightning had been burned across his eyeballs, for all he could see was an intense, bright light. He turned his head from side to side, trying to gain some idea of where he was as his vision gradually returned. He was lying flat on his back on thin, hard carpet tiles, and was surrounded by smartly dressed men and women.

“Coming through, give us room to see the patient please,” a stern voice came from the stairwell as the doors opened to reveal two paramedics in their dark green uniforms, lugging huge and heavy-looking bags towards Matt. They quickly made their way over to Matt, crouching down beside him and placing their bags alongside his wheelchair, which seemed to be steaming gently.

“Now then Mr, can you tell us your name?” one of the paramedics said as she took a finger-prick blood sample.

“Matt, Matt Mills,” he replied hoarsely.

“And can you tell us what happened?” the other paramedic was recording his blood pressure readings.

“Well, I was in the lift and then I think, maybe, it must have got hit by lightning because there was a bright flash and intense heat, but that’s all I remember,” Matt struggled to make sense of his jumbled thoughts, and fully expected to be laughed at for his unlikely theory.

“He still has his wits about him then,” one paramedic said to the other.

“You mean, that’s really what happened?” Matt asked.

“Apparently so,” the paramedic replied.

“You seem to be OK, but I’d be happier if we could take you to the hospital and have you checked out by a doctor,” the other paramedic said, lifting supplies back into the bulky bags.

“Sure, my wheelchair-“

“We can’t take it in the ambulance I’m afraid,” one paramedic said as she helped Matt to slowly sit up, “but given that it’s just around the corner we’d be happy to walk with you to the A&E department if you want to keep your wheelchair with you.”

“OK, sounds good,” Matt allowed the paramedics to gently manoeuvre him into his wheelchair, which had stopped steaming.

“We’ll have to attend to our business another time,” Matt caught the eye of the person he had been supposed to meet.

“That’s perfectly understandable. I hope you feel better soon.”

Matt switched on his wheelchair, and was somewhat surprised to see that it appeared to be working correctly. Still feeling shaky he decided that his best bet would be to lower the speed and drive carefully, but as soon as he pressed the relevant button, the world around him disappeared. Once again he was surrounded by a bright light, where all dimensions in space and time were meaningless. Almost as soon as the light had sprung up, it disappeared again, and Matt found himself perched on the foothills of a mountain, surrounded by dense forest.

Matt gazed around him in amazement. The trees were so dense that almost no light penetrated through the canopy above him, and the only thing he could see beyond the woodland was the steep mountain-side soaring upwards, illuminated by the suns’ light. What could be seen of the sky was clear, with no signs of a storm in the vicinity, and the air was cleaner and fresher than Matt had ever imagined it could be.

Suddenly, a giant feline emerged from the woods to his left, running at full pelt on strong, muscular legs. It looked like some kind of prehistoric tiger. The giant fangs protruding from its mouth seemed to suggest that this was, in fact, a sabre-tooth tiger.

Matt froze in fear as the beast stared back at him, equally bemused. Then, behind the creature came the sound of running footsteps disturbing the ground, and without a second glance in Matts’ direction, the tiger bounded away again.

Seconds later, a group of dirty, hairy men burst out from the undergrowth. They halted their progress almost immediately in surprise, and stared with intense curiosity at the spectacle before them. Matt returned the compliment, gazing at the rough spears they clutched in their grubby hands, and the way they could not quite stand upright. Their unkempt hair was as wild as the look in their eyes. Save for the carefully placed loincloths in the picture books, these men looked almost exactly like the cavemen he had read about as a child.

“Where am I?” all Matt could think was that he must somehow have stumbled across a historical re-enactment group, and a very realistic one at that.

“Huh?” one of the men, who seemed to be the leader, grunted.

“Where am I?” Matt repeated, “this façade is very good, but I’ve had a difficult day and I simply wish to find my way home.”

“Man,” the leader said.

“Yes, I’m a man,” Matt tried not to sound too exasperated as he considered playing along with their game, “Now can someone please help me out here?”

“Men,” the leader pointed to himself and his companions.

“I know,” Matt said between gritted teeth.

One of the men from the back of the group pushed forward, and knelt down in the dirt by Matt’s wheelchair. He seemed completely entranced by the wheels.

“Ah yes, the invention of the wheel, perhaps the most significant invention of mankind ever,” Matt smiled encouragingly.

“Eel,” the man tried to repeat what Matt said.

“Look, you don’t have to keep acting. Wheels or not, I’m not stupid,” Matt began to grow impatient. Slowly, he started to move his wheelchair towards the men. They all leapt backwards suspiciously, except the one knelt by the wheels.

“Eel!” the man proclaimed more excitedly.

A flicker of doubt crossed Matts’ mind.

“Erm, you really don’t know what this is, do you? I don’t think you even understand most of what I’m saying,” Matt said. He was met with blank stares.

“Although I think I just helped invent the wheel,” he muttered to himself.

He looked around him to find a suitable path, desperate to try and find a way home. Finally, he picked out a gap between the trees just wide enough to accommodate him, and slowly he made his way towards it. Bored with his slow pace, and wanting nothing more than to get home, Matt decided to increase his speed setting. Almost immediately, he was once again surrounded by the bright light that he had experienced before.

This time, when the light faded, Matt found himself in the middle of a busy street, bustling with activity. On each side of him were market stalls laden with products, with vendors all shouting over one another amidst the clamour to attract customers. The women wore heavy skirts and dresses in plain, dull colours, with only the skin on their faces and hands showing, their hair wrapped beneath small, lace headdresses and caps. The men behind the market stalls were grubby and unkempt, and no men other than vendors could be seen at all. Children ran screeching up and down the street with iron hoops and wooden toys, clattering and yelling all the while. Many were barefoot.

A horse and cart turned onto the street and clattered forwards through the crowd, people stepping out of the way at the very last second. Matt tried to move backwards likewise, but found that his wheels were trapped on the uneven cobbles. The driver of the coach fixed him with an impatient glare as he drew the carriage to a halt, and shouted down to him.

“Make way!” he yelled.

“I’m stuck,” Matt called back, “I’m sorry, but I think I need some help.”

“Just get out of whatever it is you are in,” the man returned, “and move out of my way.”

“I can’t,” Matt replied, “I can’t walk. I’m an, an- invalid.”

Everyone around him stopped what they were doing immediately, and gawped at the scene before them. Matt was aware of a red flush creeping across his face.

“An invalid? Out of bed? Why does your wife or mother not take care of you?”

Thinking quickly on his feet, or wheels as may be more appropriate, Matt said, “I have no wife, and my mother died giving birth to me. I am alone and must care for myself.”

“I think you’ll find that’s what workhouses are for,” the man in the carriage uttered with deep contempt, “now stop interrupting everybody’s business, we have more important things to do than interact with an invalid.”

Matt could feel his blood boiling in his veins.

“I cannot help being an invalid with no wife or mother,” Matt retorted.

“Clearly the Lord has cursed you for some terrible sin, now move!” the man roared.

Matt pulled backwards on the joy stick, feeling the wheels slipping against the damp, muddy cobbles as he desperately tried to move backwards. He twisted around to look over his shoulder, and discovered a particularly uneven slab that seemed to be impeding his movement. Given that no one around him was about to help, Matt did the only thing he could think to do. He increased the speed up to full, and this time anticipated the white light that surrounded him.

This time when the light cleared, Matt found himself on another wide street, with tall buildings of glass and concrete rising up on either side of him, seemingly touching the sky. Along one side of the street, maybe three metres off the ground, was a metal rail, and their seemed to be some sort of bus stop half way along the pavement. As he watched, a long, metal cabin with no apparent driver glided around the corner rapidly, hanging from the metal rail. It slowed to a halt by the bus stop, and some people clambered off before others got on, and then it moved off again. It was only then that Matt noticed the absence of any other vehicles on the ground, although there was something akin to an aeroplane trail drawn across the sky.

The pavement of the street was smooth and even much to Matts’ delight, and men and women scurried back and forth across the street carrying important-looking briefcases. Their clothes were brightly coloured, and it appeared that both men and women paid equal attention to their appearances, with many men sporting overt make-up and glamourous hairstyles alongside their female compatriots. Few children were visible, but Matt suspected that, as it appeared to be the middle of the day, most would be at school.

Many of the adults appeared to be talking to themselves until Matt spotted a small device tucked into the left ear of every person that passed him, a glowing image of an apple just visible. The ear pieces were seemingly linked to the watches they wore on their wrists, and almost no one appeared to be carrying a phone at all.

Most people completely ignored Matt as they passed him, so wrapped up in their personal business that they seemed almost unaware of the world around them. However, one by one, more and more people noticed his presence. Everyone who looked at him seemed perplexed, judging by the double takes, sideways glances, and raised eyebrows that Matt could see. Some avoided going near him at all, while others simply walked past without a word.

It took Matt longer than he cared to admit before the idea occurred to him that he was no longer in a past that he had failed to learn of in history, but was in fact, in the future. How far in the future was virtually impossible to tell, there being no signs of newspaper stands in the vicinity.

After much gazing around him, trying to take in and understand his surroundings, a little girl ran up to him and tapped him on the knee.

“Why do you use a wheelchair?” she asked, “My mummy’s a doctor and she says that no one uses wheelchairs any more now that there are medi-frames.”

“Medi-frames?” Matt asked, confused.

The little girl opened her mouth to reply, but a woman who appeared to be her mother came running towards her.

“Marissa!” she said loudly, “You know not to run off like that.” She was all set to continue reprimanding the child until she noticed my presence.

“God, I’ve not seen a wheelchair since I finished my training ten years ago!” she exclaimed.

“Your daughter was telling me that no one uses them anymore, they use something called a medi-frame?” Matt asked.

“Yes, yes,” she replied, “we can treat most diseases nowadays, replace some damaged sections of the nervous system even. But for the few things we cannot treat, we make medi-frames. They are specially designed robotic exoskeletons, built exactly to an individual’s parameters, that integrates with their nervous system. Have you not come across them before? I didn’t realise anyone lived like this still.”

Matt decided not to tell the truth, certain that even in this futuristic society, the idea of time travel would seem preposterous.

“I’m not from round here,” he said meekly.

“Well, what is it you suffer from?” she asked.

“Cerebal palsy,” Matt replied.

“Goodness, we’ve all but eradicated the condition by taking extra measures to prevent it occurring in the first place. The few who do suffer from the condition are treated soon after birth, most never experiencing symptoms for their whole life. I’m afraid for the few whose condition still persists, a medi-frame is all we can offer.”

Before Matt could stop himself, he said, “Well, it sounds as if great progress has been made since my time.”

“Your time?” the doctor asked.

Once again Matt was forced to improvise, “Oh, this isn’t a wheelchair, it’s a TARDOW. A Time and Relativity Device on Wheels.”

“There was time travel in the past? There is no record of this,” the doctor frowned.

“Ah, this was a bit of a one-off accident,” Matt explained.

“Oh,” she said.

“Yeah, when this baby hits 8 mph, you’re gonna see some serious sh-,” just in time, Matt remembered the presence of Marissa.

The doctor frowned slightly, and then broke into a grin.

“Considered a great work of cinematic literature nowadays, they study it in school,” she said.

“What year is it?” Matt asked.

“2123,” she replied, “and what year are you from?”

“2018,” Matt returned.

“Ah, the Trumpian era. A troubled time for society if I remember correctly,” she said. Matt couldn’t help but laugh.

“Just a bit. And lovely as this world is, I think it’s high time for me to return to the Trumpian era, where I belong,” Matt lined up his wheelchair for a run down the street, unable to resist the temptation to re-enact great cinematic literature for his compatriot. He set off at full speed down the pavement, and just as he was about to return the speed to the middle setting, he yelled “8 mph” as loudly as he could. What he couldn’t have known was that his wheels left two trails of fire blazing in his wake.

As Matt had anticipated, when he returned his speed to the middle setting, he was surrounded by the white light. He was relieved to see that, as the light faded, he was sat in the office he had left his own time in, having predicted that since slow speeds sent him to the past, and fast speeds to the future, the middle would return him to his own time. The paramedics were collecting their materials and making their way over to the lift, clearly unaware that Matt had ever been away. Everyone else in the office seemed to be losing interest. Aware that nobody would ever believe him if he tried to divulge his ventures, putting it down to some undocumented side effect of being struck by lightning, or just putting it down to his disability altogether, he kept his story to himself. The only sign of his adventure was the small grin that was just visible in the upturned corners of his mouth, assumed by those around him to be a muscular spasm.

 

Make Your Voice Heard!

If ever you needed proof that I care about all disabilities and not just wheelchairs, then here it is:

The company I work for helps to develop and implement digital health technology in the NHS, making healthcare easier to reach and more accessible for everyone. One of our current projects is concerned with the accessibility of GP’s surgeries to those who are hard of hearing, or partially sighted/blind. As part of this project, we will be running a workshop on Monday 14th May in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire (more details below), and I am one of the members of staff who will be present on the day. I can personally assure you that the the entire team is going to great lengths to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Our project is 1 of 20 across the country being sponsored by NHS Digital, and is jointly run with the Good Things Foundation. As well as supporting the hard of hearing and partially sighted/blind to have a better GP experience, we also aim to work with GP staff and anyone else who wishes to be a ‘Digital Champion’, sharing our combined knowledge to improve pathways through health services wherever we can.

At the workshop you can explore accessibility technology and have an opportunity to tell us what needs to change to make it easier for you to visit your GP, as well as getting to see the strange, wheelchair-shaped person behind Diary of a Disabled Person in action.

And if that’s not enough to interest you, then this should do the trick: FREE FOOD.

14.05 Workshop Details.

 

Off the Rails.

Trains; the sworn enemy of wheelchair users. They’re one of the biggest obstacles disabled people face on a daily basis, and what is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this, is that there is no need for them to be this way.

I’m not one with the money or time to travel around the UK on a regular basis, and my commute to the office where I have my “proper” job is so short that it takes me longer to wash my hair than travel to work. Still, I’ve had a few experiences of using the trains, and have used three significant, large train stations; York, Leeds, and King’s Cross in London (think Harry Potter).

The first train station I visited was York. I had been on a weekend away on the North York moors with a group of friends from University, and had travelled up to the destination on a mini-bus provided by another local university. On the Sunday, we travelled to the centre of York because Christmas in York is what dreams are made of, but the bus had to return early, meaning we had to use the trains.

The train station was one of the most accessible buildings I had ever seen, with smooth floors, a complete lack of steps, and space to manoeuvre. I was escorted to the correct platform, where a ramp was already waiting for me in the doorway of the train, and a wheelchair space had been reserved for me in the carriage. The doors of the train were a little tight to squeeze through, but that was my only criticism. Having heard horror stories about the treatment of wheelchair users on trains, I was surprised, but welcomed the unexpected consideration of disability.

After 40 minutes, the train pulled in the station in Leeds city centre. The doors opened, and I was expected to levitate onto the platform, despite prior warning that someone disabled would dare to use their facilities. My friends ran off to get a porter and a ramp while I sulked in the doorway, and eventually a ramp was provided by a very grumpy porter. The station itself was also highly accessible, despite being quite an old building. It seemed mad that the building would cater so well for accessibility, but the trains themselves didn’t.

A few months later, I went to London for the very first time. Leeds failed to provide a ramp and porter, as did King’s Cross, despite warnings in advance of needing the support. Again, King’s Cross itself was so accessible I could have cried, but the return journey was the same, despite even more prompting to provide the resources I needed. I ended up hopping on and off the train while Jarred lifted my wheelchair on behind me, as thankfully we had chosen to use my manual, foldable wheelchair.

Whilst actually in London, we used the tube to get around. Only half of the stations themselves were accessible, and even less provided access all the way to getting on an off the tube, meaning that many tourist attractions required Jarred to push the wheelchair for a long time to get there. There was still a significant gap between the train and the platform, even on the “accessible” carriages. A couple of times, my wheels even got stuck in the gap, and total strangers would have to help us out.

Recently, I booked some more train tickets to London. The website was virtually impossible to navigate, and it took a significant search to find the form describing what sort of seat/space I would need, and what times I would need a porter and ramp at both ends of the journey. Eventually, the tickets were booked, and then something happened that hadn’t the year before. I received an email with my “care plan” listed out explicitly, with what times I would need support, and what seat I would have in the accessible carriage. All I had to do was print this out and show the piece of paper to the porters to prove that I had booked support, and it would be provided. Amazingly, the system was very effective, and it worked perfectly.

You could argue that someone disabled shouldn’t have to book a train 24 hours in advance to gain access to a ramp and porter, and that you should be able to turn up, ask for help, and receive said help. We can’t be spontaneous, while others can, and it is frustrating. However, being able to get on the trains at all without a fight was something special, and is a welcome improvement upon the old system.

They could, of course, negate the problem entirely by having a little common sense; trains that line up exactly with a standardised platform height with a minimal gap, like they modified train stations to do in Japan…