Tuesday, 26 August 2014

No disabled fans…

The poor treatment of disabled football supporters is nothing new (http://theadventuresofwheelchairboy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/level-playing-field.html) and while the BBC done well to shine a spotlight on the matter, I feel a fan needs to reiterate the point so that actual changes can happen. That’s why I have decided to keep a diary of all my experiences at various grounds during the 2014/15 season. I’ll keep all my evidence and then send one massive letter in May listing the concerns to all the relevant heads to do with the National Game. Hopefully, they will ashamed of the blatant discrimination and act.

My first away day was up in Liverpool on Saturday and already I have a couple of issues to raise. Just like last year, the game was televised on Sky Sports and once again, the pitch side cameraman got in my way. Everton have tried to resolve the problem by taking out the advertising hoardings but it doesn’t really help. He did step back out of the way when there was little action but rushed out everytime a team attacked the goal nearest me. I ended up missing three out of the four goals. I knew what happened due to the reactions but it was far from ideal.

I just don’t get why it clearly doesn’t matter if disabled fans get blocked off. People would argue able-bodied supporters have cameramen in their way but luckily they can stand and move to the left or right. I can’t. The stewards go crazy if I move an inch. Also, why have mixed disabled fans? You wouldn’t put an able-bodied Everton supporter in the Arsenal section so why is it acceptable for a wheelchair user. It antagonises us when they score but must have been awful when we did. Mind you, it’s not as bad as the segregation at Villa Park or Anfield.

Anyway, I took some photos and will be adding them to my collection. I hope to add to my dossier in the coming weeks and months if I get some away tickets. The next one is Leicester City but there are only a measly six wheelchair spaces so I was unsuccessful with my application. I find that a disgraceful ratio as they think there is only six disabled fans to every 3000 normal supporters. I’m in no way saying it should be 50:50 or even 90:10. I just feel there should be at least 20. Wheelchair aside, we want to follow our team too.

Bye for now!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

That didn’t last long…

Last week, I mentioned the FM system that I picked up from Manchester University for a six-week trial. I said that it seemed to be helping with my hearing (particularly in busy places such as shops, restaurants or at the football) but people, including my mum, had noted how small it was and that it could easily slip out of my ear. As always, she was proved right last Thursday when I lost the small contraption in the artist formerly known as the Harlequin Shopping Centre. I definitely remember having it in the toilet but between coming out and going to the lift, it must have popped out.

My carer and I retraced our steps (or hers I should say) but couldn’t find it. Surely no one would have picked it up and took it as what good would it be without the microphone but you never know how some people think. I started to panic as it’s annoying when you lose something but when it doesn’t even belong to you, it’s even worse. I left my number at the information desk in case a cleaner found it but I wasn’t holding my breath. The only place I could think of was if it fell down the gap between the lift and the floor. I know that is a minute space but it would be just my luck.

The next morning, I felt sick with nerves as I had to call up one of the student’s who was organizing the research to tell her the bad news. I wasn’t sure how she’d react and I thought it would definitely be the end of the trial for me. I was pleasantly surprised how nice she was about it. She was aware that the earpiece did not fit securely and would flag up the issue to the company that makes them. She also told me not to worry and they would send a replacement in the post immediately so that I would still be able to complete the questionnaire.

I received it on Saturday just in time for the first Arsenal match of the season. I used a bit of tape to help it remain in my ear as I didn’t want it to full out if I got excited (turns out that was a very good idea what with the last minute winning goal). It worked very well before and after the match as I could hear most of what my brother was saying behind me. It doesn’t make my hearing perfect but it certainly assists with my difficulties and definitely improves the situation. Interference from other microphones/speakers was a problem inside the stadium but that is understandable.

Right, I better fill in this questionnaire while I remember.

Bye for now!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Complaining does work…

Quite a lot of what I write on here is left open and may leave you with a few unanswered questions. None more so than my post back in February about the issue I faced when visiting my local VUE cinema (http://theadventuresofwheelchairboy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/cinema.html). No one had replied to my original letter two weeks after the incident took place and they still hadn’t five months on, hence the lack of news that I had. I couldn’t be bothered to pursue it but after explaining to my aunt and uncle why I was boycotting VUE cinemas (nice to know my family read the blog), they encouraged me to contact head office because I might get a response.

I gave in eventually, sending the original complaint to the customer relations department at VUE accompanied by a second letter reiterating the various points I had made and the fact that the Watford branch had seemingly ignored it. I thought, “here goes nothing” but it was worth a try as you don’t get anywhere in life by putting in no effort. As it was, the response was pretty uninspiring and fobbed me off about not receiving the initial letter (eventhough I handed it in). They also said my comments/suggestions had been noted for consideration.

However, the second letter of complaint wasn’t a complete waste of time because as a gesture of good will and to obviously entice me to start using VUE again, the person responding attached a £20 gift card. I was more than happy with that bit of compensation and it certainly made typing up two letters worthwhile. I have already used up the voucher on two sequels, The Purge: Anarchy (as good if not better than the first) and Inbetweeners 2 (quite apparent that the writers had run out of ideas). I still prefer Odeon though as the wheelchair spaces are positioned at the back, which is better for my eyes and neck.

The moral of this story is that a letter of complaint will probably not resolve an issue but you might get something in return from the company. This is the second time ‘Wheelchair Boy’ has been rewarded for complaining (http://theadventuresofwheelchairboy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/i-get-what-i-want.html) so it clearly works. Even if it is only to maintain good PR, I couldn’t care less because the outcome is positive for me.

Bye for now!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Say it again…

I have mentioned hearing difficulties on here a couple of times before but it was all up in the air when I wrote about the problems I was facing back in May. Funnily enough, I wrote ‘Hear me out…’ (http://theadventuresofwheelchairboy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/hear-me-out.html) a few days after Arsenal lifted the FA Cup. Similarly, I am writing this post still buzzing from another Wembley victory on Sunday and the second trophy in under three months (hopefully more are on the way). Coincidences aside, the hearing part of my condition had been getting worse over the past 6 months, maybe a year, and I wanted to get it sorted.

As I said previously, the doctor at the Ear, Nose and Throat team in Harpenden told me that my problem was “discriminatory” meaning that I cannot shut out background noise and hone in on someone’s voice. He explained that a standard hearing aid would not benefit me, as my normal hearing is good. I can hear noise fine but I just find it difficult to focus on speech depending on the environment. We spoke about an FM Receiver, which is a little microphone people speak into that transmits sound to an earpiece in my ear. He said that might help but didn’t know too much about it.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from the Audiology department at St. Albans City hospital confirming the time and date of my appointment. This was a waste of time as after running a few hearing tests, she again reiterated that my problem was “discriminatory” and there was little that could be done. I mentioned the FM Receiver and she said although it might help, the NHS would not be able to fund such a device because of the price. I left and done some further research at home. I was looking for a company that would allow me to try it and if it worked for me, I’d then think about raising the money to buy one.

That was until Kai Uus, from the University of Manchester, e-mailed me regarding some research to do with FM Receivers. I read in the Ataxian that she was looking for some participants earlier in the year. However, the research hadn’t begun yet so she promised to contact me when it did. Kai did and I was invited up to Manchester last week to take part. After a 3 and a half hour journey up, I met two research students who performed a few tests on me, including some standard hearing test and one to see how my brain reacts to sounds. They then compared my hearing with the device before showing me how to use it at home.

I now have the FM Receiver for six weeks and have to fill in a questionnaire every two weeks so that they can see if it is helping. The good news is that one of the students told me that if it is really helping after my trial, a charity might be able to purchase it. From what I can tell (I haven’t been out in it yet), it helps in those situations where background noise is prevalent. My hearing doesn’t become perfect but it’s certainly improved by having the little radio in my ear.

Bye for now!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Got my tan on…

Being the vein metrosexual I am, having a decent tan in the summer is important to me. I realise that sentence is the most pathetic thing for thing for a man to say but hey ho. I am not afraid to say that I like to wear shorts and show my slightly cooked flesh off to the world because what’s the point otherwise? (It’s a bit like people who get tattoos on parts of their bodies that only their partner/s can see). That’s why when I heard the forecast of stormy weather in Tuscany; I was concerned that there would be no tan this year. However, it wasn’t as bad as first thought and I came away well toasted, albeit slightly burnt in patches.

We finally got to the villa at roughly 15.30 local time, almost six hours after touching down in Pisa. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, the idiotic taxi driver misunderstood what time to pick us up. Secondly, the village we were staying in was a two and half hour drive from the airport (it was the nearest one). By the time we did arrive, I was determined to make up for lost time sunbathing wise and get started on that tan. It was probably the hottest day of the whole week but I was disappointed at my lack of progress.

The forecast was constantly changing so there was meant to be one more sunny day before the storms and downpour would begin on the Monday. It looked as if I would have to take some drastic measures to get that tan I was after. I halved the factor of my sun cream from 30 to 15 (living on the edge or what?). It worked a treat though as I soon turned a nice brown colour. Luckily, the weather wasn’t consistent so after the storm on Monday, the sun came back and we were poolside again on Tuesday.

I somehow managed to burn my legs on the final day but it didn’t hurt that much and I was too pleased with my tan to care. I was especially happy as it was only sunny for four out of the seven days so I thought I done well to get a noticeable tan. It also makes me proud as so many people use spray-on tan or sunbeds and at least I can say mine is 100% authentic. Let’s just hope it lasts a while and all that effort (laying on the bed) was worthwhile.

Bye for now!