The Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2013, when Clair Tierney wrote about her experience of the Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair. 

Luke and Clair.

Luke is eight years old and has X linked myotubular myopathy. He lives with his mum Clair, dad Paul and sister Anna aged 11 in Coventry. Below Clair writes about her experience of the Hippocampe All Terrain Wheelchair.

As the years have gone by, taking our son Luke on holiday has become more and more difficult. We found that Butlins was the easiest holiday to manage as the staff were so accommodating and the apartments very large and spacious for our budget. Everything is flat and easily accessible. However, one of the hardest things was getting Luke down on to the beach. When he was much smaller and weighed less he was fine to carry down to the sea to see and touch the water and his wheelchair was small enough to pull on the beach, but as he grew and the wheelchair grew it was no longer possible. He would spend the time just sitting by the tent and building castles. Obviously we made sure he still had lots of fun but I couldn’t help feeling guilty as he watched his sister and dad go and have fun running along beach, playing by the sea, jumping over the waves.

We first saw the Hippocampe when visiting friends, they had entered a competition and won one. We thought it was brilliant. Luke had a go in it and he looked very comfortable. Our friends explained that it could be towed, pushed or self propelled and it was very easy to turn. It can go onto the beach, in water, on rocky ground and is even great for the snow. It was designed for disabled people by disabled people and is for any age to enjoy outdoor activities to their full ability. It was practical and lightweight and came with separate beach wheels which were very easy to change. We were impressed so we went home to research it but it cost £3,500, a lot more than we could afford.

So with supporting letters from our Children’s Community Nurse and occupational therapist we wrote to a few charities to see if they could help to fund one. They couldn’t. One said no because it is a wheelchair and Luke already has an electric wheelchair. Another said no because it was a leisure item not a necessity. We were frustrated by this because, yes he already has a wheelchair but he certainly could not use it on the sand, rocky ground, or in the snow and as for it being a leisure item, all children need leisure even the disabled ones but other children’s leisure is free, they just put one foot in front of the other and run like the wind. Unfortunately for our disabled kids, they cant do that, so we, the parents have to pay thousands of pounds for the same leisure. It seems cruelly unjust.

So, we then decided to research the possibility of hiring a Hippocampe for our holiday and came across Equipment Services in Somerset. They very kindly agreed to deliver it to Butlins and pick it up for the brilliant price of just £21 for the week. We were delighted. We can honestly say it was life changing for Luke, we all ran and played together on the beach and he said it felt brilliant racing around on the sand going in the sea, something he had never done before. If we had £3,500 we wouldn’t hesitate in buying one of these fantastic wheelchairs, especially as winter is now approaching and we have exactly the same problem in the snow as we do on the beach. We would highly recommend this equipment. It made our holiday and will look into hiring it again next year.

A visit to Slimbridge Wetlands Centre

This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2013, when Mike Abram told The Information Point about visiting Slimbridge Wetlands Centre. 

Mike at Slimbridge Wetlands Centre.

Earlier this year Diane and Mike Abram visited the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre, a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The centre sits halfway between Bristol and Gloucester on the estuary of the river Severn at Slimbridge and is one of nine wetland nature reserves located across the UK, each having its own unique natural habitat and wildlife. The centre boasts 325 hectares of protected wetlands and was the idea of Sir Peter Scott, also the founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Inside the fox proof fence the reserve is home to a wealth of resident and migratory wildlife, it provides shelter and food for flocks of swans, geese and ducks in the winter and is an ideal breeding ground for waders in the summer months. At the reserve you can see rare birds from all over the world including hobby, kingfishers and redshank, as well as brown hares, dragonflies, wild otters, grass snakes and wild orchids. Below Diane and Mike write about their experience of the centre.

We visited Slimbridge Wetlands Centre earlier this year for the second time. As with our first visit, the centre left a very good impression on us, as it is very disabled friendly and as such, we wanted to share our experience with others.

Most importantly for us, as Mike’s mobility is now poor, the centre has a large number of buggies for its visitors, which we booked by telephone in advance of our visit. There is no charge for a buggy but there is a voluntary donation scheme with donations going towards the costs of maintaining and fixing them. Other attractions generally make a compulsory charge which is often much higher, so we were happy to leave a donation.

Being able to hire a buggy made pretty much the whole reserve accessible to us. There are boardwalks everywhere meaning a buggy user can get as close as anyone else to the wildlife at the centre including into the hides which have ramps leading into them. Being able to hire a buggy also takes a lot of stress out the day as there are no worries about falling or Mike being too heavy to support or push. We don’t have to worry about steps, stairs, slopes or explaining anything to anyone and are able to do the things we would have done before Mike’s mobility became impaired, so allowing him to re-gain his independence for a time. We are able to get around the centre, together as a couple, at a regular pace, which is great.

We enjoyed seeing birds from around the world with no barriers between them and us. We also saw wildlife in the ‘Back From the Brink’ exhibit, so called as the animals which are part of it have all come under threat at some point from factors like habitat destruction. The exhibit has beavers, otters, including otter cubs called Mini and Ha Ha (Di wanted to take these home with her), water voles, water shrews and harvest mice and is like going through a tunnel so making visitors feel as if they are in the same habitat as the small mammals that live there. We also went to the top of the Sloane Tower, which has a lift and provides the opportunity to see out over the reserve, the Cotswolds, the River Severn and the Forest of Dean.

In the summer the reserve runs Land Rover and Canoe Safaris and although we did neither, we know that the Land Rover has recently had a new lift installed into the trailer so that wheelchair users can enjoy this experience and we have been informed that the canoes are suitable for people with disabilities if they go with their carer and that reserve staff are always willing to help visitors too.

Overall we found the reserve to be very restful, like a walk through nature and probably the most accessible place we have ever visited.