Posts Tagged With: wheelchair

Explaining My MS Energy

Ever Ready

My night’s sleep hadn’t been great, not restful enough so before I even got out of bed I knew that it wasn’t going to be a great day; I planned my day accordingly. I still had some energy but not a lot; it had to rationed. It is difficult to describe the fatigue that People living with MS (PwMS) experience so I won’t really try except to say that it is a crushing burden, a total wipe out. It often strikes with little or no warning and forces the cancellation of plans at short notice. It’s not that we don’t want to go out, we are just not able.

I liken my MS energy to the energy within a battery.

Batteries have a finite amount of energy stored within. Some are single-use batteries and others are rechargeable. They come in all shapes and sizes from large car batteries down to the smallest watch battery but they have one thing in common; they have no level indicator. We don’t know how much energy is inside or how long it will last; but when it’s gone it’s definitely gone. The “Ever Ready Bunny” may last up to six times longer than an ordinary battery but even she grinds to a halt eventually and is not rechargeable.

When you look at a new battery it looks exactly like it should.

When you look at me – same.

When you look at a battery you can’t see how much energy is inside.

When you look at a me – same.

When you look at a battery you can’t tell how long it will last.

When you look at a me – same.

When you try to recharge a battery you don’t know how long until it’s fully charged.

When I try to recharge – same.

I continue to do the things I enjoy doing as often as possible. I use Assistive Technology to reduce my energy wastage; my wheelchair is my biggest saver. I try to get out and about every day for a cuppa or just a chat and the days I don’t get out are the days that my energy has been reduced so people outside my family rarely see me at less than my best.

It’s not that PwMS have a load of energy to begin with and whatever energy we have can deplete rapidly. We have no way of knowing how much energy we start the day with and no way of knowing when the tank is about to empty. Everything we do takes more time and energy.

Please don’t stop asking us to join in activities. Please don’t presume that we won’t be able or want to. We may have to cancel at short notice but that is not our decision that is an MS decision. Please understand.

Categories: Just thoughts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Soba – Accessible and Very Tasty

Jean and I visited Soba Asian Street Food in Blackpool Retail Park last evening. We had heard good reports and are quite happy to add our voices to the many compliments. As you know I am not a food critic and this blog is largely about accessibility but the food was absolutely gorgeous, the portions not small, the service friendly and efficient and not expensive. A number of Gluten Free options are available and although I am not coeliac I thoroughly enjoyed my GF Chicken Wings in Mango Tamarind Sauce and my GF Sweet & Sour Chicken. Jean also enjoyed her Thai Green Curry. CLICK HERE for details

There is ample car parking available with a number of designated disabled parking spots close by. There are no obstacles to wheelchair entry but circulation space inside is a bit tight. The wheelchair accessible washroom is spacious and has the requisite rails and low level sink.

All in all well worth the visit! Accessible, tasty and great value

Categories: Cork | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Rachel’s Restaurant, Cork

Jean and I visited this new restaurant (Click Here) last weekend and were absolutely delighted with the accessibility, the staff and the food.It was another part of our ongoing birthday celebrations and it was great.

The double width entrance doorway is level with the footpath and same level continues throughout the dining with the exception of one raised section and there is plenty of circulation space. The wheelchair accessible toilet is exactly that, accessible. It is well decorated and has the appropriate rails etc. It lacked a mirror the night we were there but Rachel promised that it would be installed before our next visit.

This not a critique on the food as we are not food critics but we both loved our three courses and we gave 5 stars for accessibility, food and staff. There is on-street parking in the vacinity.

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Road Trip 2017

With our grandson Jack away in Spain with his Mum and Dad, Jean and I decided to do a bit of travelling in Ireland.

Day 1

The Rock of Cashel (Click Here) was our first stop. The ruined cathedral (1235-1270) occupies a commanding position overlooking vast swathes of lush countryside. Its age and location make access difficult for wheelchair users and the mobility impaired but it is doable and worth the effort. Public toilets, including accessible cubicles, are available adjacent to the car park.


View from the car park

We then travelled on to Holy Cross Abbey but as a funeral was taking place we decided to travel on rather than impose on the sad occasion. On the way to our final destination in Sligo we stopped off at Junction 3 (Topaz Re,Store) which has a range of snacks and an accessible toilet. We arrived at the Yeats Country Hotel, Rosses Point (Click Here) later that afternoon.

The hotel is accessible and the staff friendly and accommodating. Carpets in the reception area and corridors combined with slightly severe, but useable ramps, made wheelchair travel a bit more difficult but Jean was always nearby to give that extra power surge when needed. Our room was spacious, 2 double beds, a bed settee and an accessible bathroom. After settling in and resting we adjourned for drink and food. There are 2 designated parking spaces adjacent to the front door but a considerate fellow traveller decided that his car was too big or too precious for one space.

Day 2

After a hearty breakfast we headed north for Co. Fermanagh and Beleek Pottery (Click Here). The weather was not good and dull grey clouds hung low over the countryside interspersed with some heavy showers. The visitor centre is accessible with a great shop, a cafe, an accessible toilet and a number of designated parking spaces. We started our visit with a cuppa before spending time and money in the shop. The inclement weather didn’t allow for much exploring in either Enniskillen or Omagh and with the help of Google Maps we found our way back to our hotel.

Day 3

We enjoyed another hearty breakfast before heading off to The Ceide Fields (Click Here) in Mayo. The visitor centre is accessible with appropriate designated parking and toilet facilities. We had a cuppa in the cafe but unfortunately there was very little else that we could see as the elevator was not working and only a small section outside was wheelchair accessible. We did get to watch a video on the history of the area. We stopped for a bite of lunch in The Merry Monk, Ballina which is wheelchair accessible and accessible cubicles in the toilets.

We then traveled back to Sligo town for a mooch around the shops before heading back to the hotel.

Day 4

After breakfast and checkout we headed for home. We stopped off in Knock (Click Here) to visit the shrine and have a cuppa after which we had an uneventful trip home.




Even though the weather was less than good we thoroughly enjoyed our few days away


Categories: Fermanagh, Mayo, Sligo, Tipperary | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Accessible Restaurant in Cork

Jean and I, accompanied by my brother Martin and his wife Mary, went out for a meal last night and the chosen venue was El Vino, The Elysian Tower, Cork. The Early Bird menu is available from 5:00 to 9:00 Monday to Thursday and with 3 courses for €25 and a really good selection there were no complaints from us. Our plates were all cleared. I hadn’t seen Baked Alaska on a menu for a long time so I had to try it; El Vino Baked Alaska. Maybe it’s an age thing but I can’t understand why it fell out of favour. The staff are friendly and accommodating.

The restaurant is very accessible and has a spacious accessible toilet on the ground floor.El Vino - May '17 Circulation space in the dining area is a small bit tight for a wheelchair. There are a limited number of dining spaces on the ground floor but more are available upstairs.

Parking is available in The Elysian car park with further spaces in the multi-storey across the road, adjacent to Cork City Hall.

We will definitely make a return visit – well worth it.


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Accessible Berlin – A Packed 4 Days

We (Rose & Bruce + Jean & Declan) landed at Schonefeld Airport courtesy of Ryanair where our tour guide, Frank from Viator (Click Here), was waiting to take us on a tour of the city. Frank really loved his work as a guide and his passion was evident in his narrative while he drove us around with the occasional stop for a photo shoot or a more detailed description. We saw the Wall and its amazing artwork, Checkpoint Charlie, The Brandenburg Gate, The Bundestag and so much more that we didn’t notice the time passing.

We had booked the Holiday Inn on Alexanderplatz (Click Here) which is very central and accessible. Our room had a laminate floor which is very easy for wheeling but can be a bit ‘slidey’ when getting into or out of a bed that I felt was too high for comfort. The sink and mirror in our bathroom were perfectly set but the shower area had no seat although one was delivered after we raised the issue at reception. There were no drop rails adjacent to the toilet but we were told that they could have been supplied if requested. Overall we were happy with the hotel but really disappointed that the rails had not been offered when we complained about the shower seat. It seems to me that on requesting a wheelchair accessible room all the necessary assistive devices should be in place on arrival. I emailed the hotel on May 15th regarding my concerns and at time of publishing have not received a reply.



There is an area in Berlin called Museum Island which is a UNESCO Heritage site containing five museums but because of the brevity of our stay in Berlin we could not visit all of them. We chose to visit the Jewish Museum (Click Here) which is not located on the island and is spread over a number of floors with elevators, accessible toilet and easy access to all areas. We spent a few saddening yet enlightening hours there. There is an entry charge of €8.

We visited Sachsenhasuen Memorial and Museum (Click Here), a former concentration camp. It is about 70Km from the hotel and we opted for a taxi rather than a bus trip and guided tour. I had never set foot in a former concentration camp and it was unsettling to be in a place where so many people had lived and died in such brutal circumstances. This was an experience that put flesh on the bones of my history lessons all those years ago in school. The camp is very accessible but with large areas of cobble which make wheelchair travel more difficult but it is well worth the extra effort. Accessible toilet facilities are available and there is no entry charge. These are some of the mass graves inside the camp.

A cruise is a stress free way to see parts of the city invisible from the road. There are a variety of operators offering a variety of tour times and the operator we chose (Click Here) provided lunch and refreshments. See my previous post about the importance of selecting your embarkation point. Prices vary with the length of cruise and whether food is served.

We had planned on visiting the TV Tower (Click Here) but for structural reasons no wheelchairs, buggies or mobility impaired visitors are allowed entry. See my previous post on the topic.


TV Tower

We visited a ‘flea market’ on Sunday morning and then took taxi ride to Modell Park (Click Here) which has scale models of all the major buildings in Berlin. It is set in a pedestrianised public park with its entrance a good distance from the public roadway. It is totally accessible with an accessible toilet and the trek from the public road is worth it. Entrance fee €4.50

We then visited the Bundestag and particularly the dome built atop the building (Click Here). The views are fantastic. The Dome is totally accessible. An elevator and accessible toilet are available but security requirements mandate a security check well in advance of your visit. Entrance is free.

Food matters while on holiday; we ate twice in La Maison de L’entrecote, attached to our hotel where the Curry Wurst was absolutely beautiful. We ate in the Hofbrauhaus which is an enormous Bavarian ‘beer hall’ that is easily accessed with a spacious accessible toilet and great food. We had a beautiful meal in the Block House which is very accessible but sadly has no accessible toilet facilities; see my previous post. We had lunch while on the river cruise. We snacked and coffeed in a number of places but the accolade for the best cheesecake ever goes to Café La Mouche where we had the most gorgeous Blueberry Cheesecake. Unfortunately the toilet facilities were not great.

We only used the train system once and the train was accessible without the need for assistance from station staff. Both stations we used had elevators. A visual inspection of some tram carriages showed that they are equally accessible.

I had read a report that Berlin was in the TOP 10 of accessible cities and I would certainly agree that it deserves its place close to the top. Well worth the visit

The staff at Schonefeld were courteous and obliging but lacked the equipment for seamless boarding and disembarkation. I choose to wobble down the stairs on arrival but I was carried back up on a chair.

Categories: Germany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Berlin 2017 – Accessibility Issues

“Be Prepared” is a motto used by boy scouts the world over but it takes on a particular relevance for disabled travelers.

I visited Berlin, Germany recently and in the midst of the excitement I failed to prepare properly. I didn’t properly research the places that were on my list but I had read a report which placed Berlin high on the accessibility scale.

By and large I was lucky and only one attraction was truly inaccessible; the TV Tower. (Click Here for Details) The Tower is 368m tall, including the antenna, whilst the viewing platform is 203 metres up and is accessed by two elevators. Wheelchairs, buggies etc are not allowed up but neither are people with any mobility impairment whatsoever. The reason given is that in the event of an elevator malfunction or a fire the people on the platform would have to descend the 960 steps without assistance as the stair case is only wide enough for one person. It makes sense in terms of safety but I hadn’t foreseen this problem as two weeks previously I had visited the British Airways i360 (Click Here for Details) in Brighton, England and had no such difficulty but that was a mere 103m off the ground and the viewing platform was the elevator. I didn’t check the respective websites for accessibility information.

We went on cruise on the River Spree (Click Here for Details)  and although there were five steps down into the boat we managed, as going down steps is far easier for me than going up. The boat did have a reasonably accessible toilet. We were lucky with the cruise embarkation point we had selected as some of the departure and landing points are not so accessible as we found out when we choose to leave the boat at a different landing point; there were the same five steps back up from the boat but the there were a further 20 steps back to the footpath. By the time we realised the difficulty of the situation we had no option but to continue the tortuous ascent. My three experienced travel companions, Jean, Rose and Bruce, handled the situation perfectly and the crew were also nearby. I didn’t check the website for accessibility information.

We decided to eat in The Block House Restaurant (Click Here for Details), which is part of a nationwide chain, and is very accessible with beautiful food but had no accessible toilet. I failed to check the facilities before we ordered; luckily I didn’t the loo.

The TV Tower was built in the 1960s long before universal design and accessibility became fashionable but to my way of thinking The Block House can have no valid excuse for the lack facilities.

A full report of our short break will follow later.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Categories: Germany | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee recently opened a new outlet in Cork. It is located in the Kinsale Road Retail Park adjacent to Turners Cross and joins Woodies, Harry Corry, Halpenny Golf and Home Store and More.

The entrance doorway is more than adequate for wheelchair entry and the inside is easily navigable. The accessible toilet is clean and spacious with sink, mirrors, hand dryer and rails all in the correct position. The only negative is the Emergency Pull Cord which was secured about 5 feet above the ground and thus inaccessible in the event of a fall. This is easily rectified. There is a large car park with a number of designated parking spaces at the entrance.

Costa Coffee - Turners Cross

Accessible Toilet at Costa Coffee



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Accessible Brighton 2017

Brighton Blog

The boarding at Cork Airport was slow and disembarking at Gatwick even slower; I was the last on and the last off. Brighton is about a 25 minute train ride from the airport and all the staff members were excellent. We stayed in the Premier Inn (Click Here) on North Street which is about 10 minutes from the station and only a very short distance from everything. This was another family trip – The Magnificent Seven back together again; we were in Spain together last September.

The hotel reception, restaurant and bar are located on the first floor which is serviced by 2 elevators. There is ample circulation space and a functional and accessible bathroom off the dining area. The Premier Inn chain (Click Here) has accessible bedrooms but each venue should be checked for individual needs. We had reserved an accessible room and it was exceptionally spacious but the bathroom was a bit of a let-down as it had a bath instead of a shower and baths are difficult for me but it was well appointed with a low level sink and an array of grab rails

Over the few days we rambled through The Lanes, old Brighton with Dickensian laneways, where we visited the world famous Choccywoccydooda (Click Here) and had a cuppa in The Plant Place. We had a light lunch in The Little Shop another day. The lanes are quite narrow and prone to pedestrian-congestion but have a large number of shops. The area is a bit hilly but manageable.

Brighton Pier (Click Here) is very accessible and well worth a visit. There is a wide variety of things to do including games arcades, rides, pubs and places to have a bite to eat. Jack won more than 1,100 tokens on his first attempt at a gaming machine; a game of Paw Patrol. Jellied Eels were available but Jean and I exercised self restraint and declined.  Staff members keep a sharp eye on the Disabled Toilet to minimise abuse. We travelled on BA 360i (Click Here) which is vertical ride reaching 450 feet into the sky giving panoramic uninterrupted 3600 views of Brighton. There is a clean and spacious Disabled Toilet in the terminal building. SeaLife (Click Here) aquarium is also worth a visit and is totally accessible. The main entrance is accessed by a considerable number of steps or via an underpass from the Pier side; my only criticism of the underpass was the awful stench that pervaded the area from entrance to exit. Improvements to the extensive promenade are ongoing and probably will be for a number of years to come but it is still accessible.

I was a bit tired the first day so the gang went to a nearby Mexican restaurant, Wahaca (Click Here), and spoke highly of the food. We had a light lunch the next day in the nearby ‘All Bar One’ (Click Here) which is accessible with a stair lift to the mezzanine floor where the accessible toilet is located and the food was great. Al Duomo (Click Here) an Italian restaurant was the setting for our big dinner; the restaurant is accessible and the food and staff fantastic. I didn’t check the toilet facilities. Henry, Rowan and I visited the Colonnade Bar (Click Here) which has a large step at the front door and the toilets are down stairs. However it is a lovely cosy, old fashioned bar and worth visiting when attending the theatre next door.

We visited Churchill Square Shopping Centre (Click Here) which is new and modern and much the same as all modern shopping centres.

We noticed that many of the buses were named after local people which we found a bit bemusing albeit a nice recognition of deceased local people who had made a “significant contribution or had a strong connection to the area in their lifetimes”.

We booked an accessible taxi for the trip back to the railway station and then our onward journey home. All-In-All a five star experience

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Spanish Point, Co Clare

Jean and I booked into The Armada Hotel, Spanish Point for 2 nights for a short break. We headed off on Tuesday morning and stopped at Corbett Court, Ballyhea where we enjoyed a delightful light lunch. The restaurant is very accessible and the accessible toilet is spacious and functional. We then continued into County Limerick and under the River Shannon into County Clare and onto our final destination, Spanish Point, which lies on the Atlantic coast and the next stop is the United States of America.

We arrived at the Armada Hotel later that afternoon in very blustery conditions and whilst not actually raining at the time it was very damp. The hotel is accessible with a number of designated parking spaces adjacent to the entrance foyer. There are accessible toilets just off the reception area. We had reserved a wheelchair accessible room and now it was time to check it out. Our room was on the ground floor and it was exceptionally spacious with a functional and accessible en-suite bath room. The shower was functional but not as good as our own ‘rain-head’ but the locally handmade soap more than made up for it.

We went for a look around outside even though it was very blustery and foggy. On a clear sunny day the scenery would be spectacular. We then retired to The Ocean Bar where Jean ordered a piping hot coffee and I opted to try a local brew called Dooliner Beer. The weather being poor enough and the evening already closing in we decided to stay put and drive around the next day. That evening we ate in Johhny Burkes pub; Jean enjoyed a beautiful lamb shank while I enjoyed the largest bowl of mussels I have ever had. More pints and coffee followed.

The next morning we both enjoyed a fabulous carvery breakfast before heading off to The Cliffs of Moher. By now the rain and wind had settled in and that precluded us from going out to the cliff edge although many brave hearts did. We confined ourselves to the Visitor Centre which is very accessible and educational. It is well ramped, has an elevator and accessible and functional toilets. Two cafés and a visitor shop are also included. There are a number of designated parking spaces adjacent to the main entrance. Two of the photographs were obviously not taken during our visit. This is a link to a visit in better weather weather in 2013.

We then drove on to Lisdoonvarna and Doolin but the rain was still falling and the wind still howling so we decided to go back to the hotel for more coffee and beer. We dined in The Pearl Restaurant where Jean had paté and I had the most delightful tomato soup followed by pork for Jean and salmon for me.

A hearty breakfast followed the next morning before we headed for home. Storm Doris had passed over and it really was the calm after the storm and we drove home in bright dry conditions. We stopped off in Lily Mai’s at Bunratty for a cuppa and a scone before undertaking the final leg of the journey. Designated parking is available adjacent to the door and an accessible toilet is available inside.

Well worth a visit even if the weather isn’t the best.

Categories: Clare, Cork | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cork University Hospital

I was an inpatient in Cork University Hospital (CUH) for a week in August 2016. I recovered fully thanks to the excellent medical care received. This post is as a result of the poor facilities in the bathroom attached to the ward in which I was resident. It is a critique on bad planning and design and poor feedback. I wrote to the relevant authorities on August 22nd detailing my concerns and received a prompt reply informing me that the matter would be investigated and I would receive written details of the investigation early in October.

As I write this, on December 4th, I have not received the promised written details of the investigation despite writing again in November. I have received a number of telephone calls, which were actually return calls, detailing what action is proposed and promises of the letter. The proposed action is what concerns me and what finally prompted me to pen this post.

The photographs below describe my concerns;

the emergency call button at the toilet section was approximately 4 feet off the floor and there was no drop rail; there was no emergency pull cord in the shower area nor were there any vertical grab rails; the mirror is wrongly placed to facilitate shaving while sitting in a wheelchair. I have been told that when the refurbishment is complete the emergency button is to remain in the same location which is absolutely ridiculous. There was also a discussion as to where a cord/button could be placed; near the bowl or the sink? Falls can happen anywhere and the alarms should be in the most likely places.

Below are a number of areas with emergency alarms close to the ground and also at a higher level. It can be done. Where there is a will there is a way and patient safety should be of paramount importance.

Design and safety is not a new and should require little discussion particularly in a large organisation with numerous examples but it may be a good idea to ask service users for an opinion, dare I say advice.

What do you think?


Categories: Cork | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Starbucks – Blackpool S.C.

Starbucks seem to be opening everywhere and Blackpool Shopping Center is the most recent I have seen. For those of you familiar with B.S.C. Starbucks is located in the unit vacated by Xtravision some time ago. The entire area is wheelchair and buggy accessible (ask Jack) and has ample circulation space. Jack came with me to check it out.

Jack my assistant

Jack my assistant

The Accessible Toilet is exactly that, accessible, as it should be for a facility that has just opened. It is spacious and clean and has all the appropriate bars in the appropriate places. I was disappointed to see that the emergency pull cord was secured about 2 meters off the ground. I did speak with Tommy about the matter and he assured me that he will raise it with his immediate supervisor. I will return shortly to check it out.

Parking is readily available with a number of Designated Disabled Spaces in the immediate vicinity.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Categories: Cork | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flying Enterprise

We were at the Flying Enterprise on Friday evening for a meal and a chat and maybe even a drink or two. Who are ‘we’ you might ask and I will answer that later.

Group Photo

The Flying Enterprise (Click Here) is very accessible, tiled floor and no awkward thresholds, and the staff are friendly and accommodating. 11 of us had a meal and drinks but mostly we chatted among ourselves. The food and the service were both excellent. I have no hesitation in recommending it. The accessible toilet was exactly that, accessible and clean and neat and tidy. An extra few people joined into the group after the meal was finished. A limited amount of on street parking is available nearby.

Accessible Toilet

Accessible Toilet

Now back to the question of “Who are we?” We are a small group of people living with MS in and around the greater Cork area. This is a group of individuals who happen have Multiple Sclerosis as a common denominator. It is not about comparing notes and signs and symptoms but neither is it about ignoring the reality of MS. It is a social group that was started about 2 years ago and was originally a group for the newly diagnosed but has gone from strength to strength since its inception.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Categories: Cork | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A night out and the morning after

I’m not sure why I wrote this but it was weird this morning, not freaky, just different and since I haven’t posted a lot recently I decided that this would be a reintroduction of myself. I wanted to share some of WWW.MS.DG (Weird Wonderful World. Multiple Sclerosis. Declan Groeger)

My internal clock has 07.00 indelibly etched after a number of years taking a pill at that time every morning, a time of my choosing, and which must be repeated around 12 hours later. It really is not a hardship as I have my best hours in the morning; my energy levels slip a bit in the afternoons and evenings. Sometimes, like this morning I want a lie-in but my internal clock insists on telling me it is 7 o’clock and time to get moving.

You see last night we went for a meal and a movie with 2 of my brothers and their wives; Martin & Mary, Kerrie & Bríd and Jean & Declan. Let me set the scene; the movie was produced by my nephew Fionn and it was being shown at the Indie Cork Film Festival so it was a must see for us and a yellow rain warning was in operation for Cork. We arranged to meet in Luigi Malones for a bite to eat before the show. It was raining pretty heavily by the time we parked the car and we got our first wetting getting from the car to the restaurant. The food was up to Luigi Malones usual high standard but the accessible toilet was a major let down. It is tired looking but it is roomy and functional. It really needs a makeover. Our second wetting came while returning to the car and our third and final wetting came while we were moving from the car to the cinema by which time the rain was absolutely torrential. The film “Twice Shy” was directed by Tom Ryan and produced by Fionn Greger; it is topical and well worth watching if you get the chance. The rain had stopped by the time the film was over and it was well past my regular bedtime by the time we got home. The Gate cinema is wheelchair accessible with an elevator to the upper floors with 3 designated parking spaces adjacent.

I, and others living with MS, find that having a regular bedtime helps in getting a good night’s sleep and since I was late going to bed I decided to have lie-in in the morning. My alarm shrilled at about 07.00 and I turned over and took the pill and rolled back again. I slept but not a deep sleep and at 08.30 I was lying there thinking that I should get up, I will get up, I must get up, I want to get up. I wiggled my toes and did a mental check that everything was working and when I discovered that everything was fine I said I must get up, I should get up, I can get up but I didn’t get up and I don’t know why; I just lay there thinking about getting up but refused to act. This was MS brain at work. I wasn’t tired or cold, I was warm and rested but I just lay there and then at 08.45, without any warning my legs swung out of the bed and I found myself standing upright and ready to take on the world.

Is there a point to this story? Not really. I’m just saying that after a not very late night my head was in a different place when I awoke. I am now back to being supercalifragilisticexpialidicious sitting inside with beautiful sunlight shining in the window writing this.

Please don’t stop asking me to partake in different events. I may not be able to do them all but please let it be my decision. Borrowing Spoons has never been a problem for me and once I keep the number low pay back is not too difficult.

Categories: Cork, Just thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

McGettigans, Cork

We visited Mc Gettigans Cookhouse & Bar (Click Here) recently. The hostelry is located within the Ambassador Hotel, Cork and you would never imagine that what is now a beautiful hotel was once a nursing home. The hotel is snugly nestled on Military Hill which is the approach road to Collin’s Barracks, Cork’s only remaining working military barrack.

Mc Gettigans is a modern eatery, is beautifully decorated and the food delicious. Jean and I were joined for lunch by Elaine and Mairéad and the newest addition to the family our grandson Jack. We gave the menu a fair workout and all plates were cleared. Desserts followed with me declaring the Strawberry Pavlova the best ever.

Disappointingly there is only one designated disabled parking space adjacent to the front door which is serviced by a very gentle and user friendly ramp to a tiled and easily traversed reception area. Access to McGettigans would be difficult from other parking areas due to the hilly nature of the site. The dining area of McGettigans is accessible with a fully accessible washroom nearby.

All in all a great lunch in a great venue.

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Bellinter House and more

Saturday July 30th dawned overcast and cloudy but it was not raining and Jean and I headed toward Dublin for the wedding of my nephew, Conor Meany to his beautiful fiancé Lyndsey O’Neill.

C & L

Conor & Lyndsey cut the cake

This is not a commentary on the wedding which was absolutely brilliant. This is a critique of accessibility, or inaccessibility. I have said many times before that being able to get into and from a building is not sufficient to claim accessibility. If a person with mobility issues can’t get in it matters not what’s inside and if what is inside is not user friendly there is no point in going in.

We broke the journey in Midway, Portlaoise. There are a good number of designated parking spaces at the front door and the toilet is wheelchair accessible. There are a number of food outlets inside with a good selection of food to quell any tummy rumblings and keep us going until we reached our next watering hole.

The nuptial mass was held in St Brigid’s Church, Killester, Dublin which was about a 3 hour drive from Cork but our trusty SatNav got us to the church on time. St Brigid’s Church has ample car parking spaces and the most gently sloped ramp I have used in a long time. After the mass was finished and Conor and Lyndsey had officially been declared married we headed for Bellinter House, Navan, Co Meath for the celebration.

Considering that Bellinter (Click Here) was constructed in the late 18th century it would be unrealistic to expect it to be truly wheelchair accessible and it wasn’t. Some efforts had been made but they had not been adequately thought through. The elevator to the reception area was around the rear of the house, effectively outside the back door. It is a platform elevator that required an operator on the platform and another on the first floor and that was after an almost impossible journey over a stone covered courtyard. The hotel did provide a staff member to drag me to the lift and subsequently to our bedroom. The staff did as much as they could but the concept of independence was shot on seeing the gravelled courtyard and further died on seeing the elevator.

Our room was spacious and comfortable but the en-suite facilities fell short. The bathroom was more than spacious and the sink and mirror were set at an acceptable level; the toilet had a drop rail and grab rail at the appropriate height but the shower lacked any rails or seating and was impossible for me to use.

It was now time for the reception to begin and it began by me being dragged backwards over the courtyard gravel then around the front of the house, which was tarmacadam and was a comfortable spin, and into the second courtyard which was also gravelled. The only way in for me was to be dragged backwards again. There was a perfect concrete path connecting the function room to the Spa Area but that was of no use to me, unfortunately.  The function room was perfectly accessible and boasted a modern wheelchair accessible toilet. As my bedtime approached I faced the drag across both courtyards again but thankfully I did not have to use the elevator.

Bellinter Accessible Toilet

Accessible Toilet at Function Room

More dragging across the courtyards before breakfast the next morning; the dining area was accessible but I think this was more by accident than design.

Bellinter Dining Room

Dining Room

My one comment to the owners of Bellinter is why did you go so far but did not finish?

After a hearty breakfast and long goodbyes we headed for home. We stopped in Kildare Village (Click Here) for a break and bought Jack his first pair of boots.

Jack's Boots

Jack’s Boots

Kildare VillageTo people who don’t know Kildare Village it is an outlet mall with plenty of designated car parking spaces, is totally wheelchair accessible and has a number of wheelchair accessible toilets. We then back to the motorway and headed home.

Categories: Dublin, Kildare, Laoise, Meath | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A day trip to Rosslare etc.

Saturday morning dawned dull and dreary with dark grey clouds hanging low over the city; a heavy mist covered everything like a bad smell. Jean and I were heading to Rosslare, Co. Wexford, a round trip of approximately 400Km. We were going to Rosslare to collect our youngest daughter Mairéad from the ferry; she was coming home for some much needed ‘mum pampering’ after 7 weeks in hospital in London.

The weather varied between mist to light rain to quite heavy rain until we approached Dungarvan where it was dry and really we had expected nothing less in the Sunny South East. We stopped off in the Park Hotel (Click Here)  for a break and refreshments. The scones were lovely and you really can’t do a lot wrong with a pot of green tea. There are 2 designated parking spaces adjacent to the main entrance which is well ramped and the foyer and bar were easily traversed in the absence of carpet.

Park Hotel Dungarvan

Park Hotel Dungarvan

The wheelchair toilet was clean, tidy and accessible without having an excess of space. Unfortunately there was neither a hand dryer nor paper towels.

We called in to St Helens Village for lunch with my sister Anita and her husband Jim before heading for the ferry port in Rosslare.

There are plenty of designated parking spaces (Pay & Display) adjacent to the entrance. The entrance to the terminal building is ramped and internally the building is ramped between the ground floor and 1st floor but I think the ramps are more to facilitate wheeled luggage and passengers. I don’t think wheelchair users were considered when designing the building as you can see below the viewing deck is ramped on the inside but not on the outside.

The wheelchair accessible toilet was in the men’s toilet area and whilst spacious and functional it lacked basic cleanliness standards. Ferry Terminal 1The cubicle whilst having a sink lacked a dryer or towels.

Having collected our precious cargo we headed for home with one short stop at Mairéad’s friends house. Kate & Philip made us a cuppa and we continued on our merry way.

As the day drew to a close and dusk was falling there were some beautiful patches of red sky which we hoped were a portent for better weather tomorrow; ‘a red sky at night is the shepherds delight, a red sky in the morning is the shepherds warning.

Categories: Cork, Waterford, Wexford | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Independence & Me

This post first appeared in Ms & Me on May 12th 2016

This week Declan Groeger challenges perceptions and examines our idea of independence. Desire to be free is a driving force for innovation and personal revolution.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1988and as the years have passed, my understanding of independence has changed.The most critical ingredient in the independence recipe is knowledge. I live my independence by making my own decisions. I don’t present my decisions as a fait accompli; there is always a discussion with other stakeholders in my life but the ultimate decision is mine and mine alone. Knowledge is power. There are two areas in my MS life where independence is crucial; treatment and Assistive Technology

Knowledge is power and we can empower ourselves by getting well informed. I must admit to not being fully informed in my earlier years on medication; this was partly due to the scarcity of information at the time but in particular due to my unwavering trust in the medical professionals. I didn’t address whether to go with medication or diet route until 10 years after my original diagnosis and then it was only after a 2nd opinion confirmed I had MS. There is such a mountain of information available that it canbe difficult to separate the reliable from the unreliable. Social media plays an enormous role now as people from around the world can compare and contrast treatment options and discuss side effects in real time. The importance of a good medical team cannot be overestimated- your neurologist, MS nurse and GP all at the coalface with you. Pharmaceutical companies are different, as their prime motivation is to keep shareholders happy with large dividends and any of their claims should be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism. It is only by reading, learning, analysing and discerning that with full knowledge we can make informed decisions, maintain our independence.

The need for independence is often misunderstood and mistaken for stubbornness, I know that personally.Weakness in my legs was one of the earlier visible signs.At that time in my life I did not want to ‘link arms’ with the person I was walking with; I wanted to be me, to walk independently without assistance. I thought that people would look at me pityingly if I used a cane or other walking aid. Vanity? I now know that people looked at me as if I was drunk stumbling around the street and using walls for support. They couldn’t see my invisible illness but if I had a stick, people may haveunderstood.Not using a stick was an example of my stubbornness; once I accepted myneed and started using a stick, I became more independent in that I could actually walk without holding the walls! I’m not sure how many times suggestions were made but my family and friends accepted that any such decision had to be mine.

When my wife Jean and I went to Italy to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my need for further AT became very apparent on the cobbled streets of Rome. I rented a wheelchair there and myacceptance of myneed actually increased my independence. I had always thought that using AT was a sign of weakness, of frailty, but I wasso very wrong. Recognising the need of support shows self-awareness and strength; it is my recognition that I need supportthat has ensuredmy independence.Assistive Technology can bea liberator when accepted by the user.

The point of these anecdotes is that I made the final decisions on whether I use AT. I would have benefited from AT an awful lot earlier on my MS roadway but mentally I was not ready. But when I was ready, and once I reached that point, I embraced it wholeheartedly. If you’re a partner/wife/husband/friend of someone with MS, don’t just go out and buy a cane because you think they need it. Talk withthemfirst.

I will decide when I am ready for my next piece of Assistive Technology. I am not ungrateful for your thoughts and kind acts and help but offer and help on my terms; this may be the only true independence I have left. I have maintained my independence over the years to such an extent that sometimes I fear I have alienated some of the good people who have tried to help me at different times. Family and friends have seen me labouring under my MS load and I obstinately refused offers of help. I am much more polite in refusing help now; I also accept help more often than I used to. Independence is worth fighting for and let me put the world on notice that I will continue fighting.

Why do I valueindependence so much? Because I am human, because I am alive and being free is at the core of being human. There is also a bit of doubt- Idon’t want to become a burden on my loved ones, my family and friends. Most fundamentally, I don’t want to place a stumbling block in my own path.

Tell me, what does independence mean to you?

Here is a great blog by Mitch Sturgeon on Assistive Technology which may resonate with you as it clicked with me.


Categories: Just thoughts | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Letter to Elaine

This post first appeared on Living Like You on May 11th 2016

Dear Elaine,

It is a beautiful spring morning and the sun is shining. As I sit at my desk looking out the window, I notice one of my neighbours walking along the footpath with his infant son hoisted high upon his shoulders. The scene makes me pause to consider what part I will play in the life of your baby, my first grandchild.

Over the past few months, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on how my multiple sclerosis will impact my role as a grandparent. Because a granddad’s role is largely ceremonial in the life of a newborn,I think the true differences will really appear with the passage of time.Because of my condition, I know some things just won’t be possible. I won’t be able to hoist Junior onto my shoulders.I will be able to hold and cuddle my grandchild just like any doting grandparent, but I will have to remain seated.

Another job this doting granddad will miss out on is pushing Junior in a buggy or pram, but I certainly will travel alongside whenever the opportunity arises.I will still be there to do the things that granddads do, to buy the things that you and Henry won’t. I will still be there to spoil Junior despite what you say.

I relish the thought of playing with Junior while sitting on the ground; we will be safe there, as neither of us can fall any further. I may experience some difficultygetting back upafter,but to me it will always be a price worth paying. Actually it could be quite interesting watching both of us attempting to stand up.  As my mobility decreases Junior’s will improve and in a very short timehe or she will be able to run circles around me!

Of course, there is the matter of the small genetic factor involved in the MS equation. I sincerely hope and wish and pray that that factor will not be a part of my grandchild’s life.But I also know at this point in my life that worrying is a wasted emotion. Qué sera sera!

I know you and Henry will be Junior’sprimary caregivers and educators, but I will have my little inputs.A lot of Junior’s ”firsts” will happen with you two, as it should be, but I intend to be around to celebrate each individual ”first” even if I’m not actually witnessing them.  I know it may seem difficult at times, but grandparents want, dare I say need, to be involved. I have no real memories of my own grandparents except for my paternal grandmother who passed away when I was very young. Memories are important.

More than anything, I just want to help. MS will occasionally throw a wrench in our plans, but try to be understanding. I will love Junior with all my heart – MS, a wheelchair and impaired mobility will not change that. MS has taken a lot from me, but it has not robbed me of my ability to love, and we know Junior will have plenty of that.

Love you always




Categories: Just thoughts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s a moral in this story

Last Sunday morning as the wind howled and the rain bucketed down Jean and I headed for Dublin. I put a coat over my head as I ‘ran’ for the car. Ran is used very loosely in this context; I may have moved faster than normal but it was only marginal. Not really a wetting but more of a damping as the distance is short from the front door to the car.

The wind and rain had worsened as we approached Junction 8, M8 – the Topaz service area near Cashel when we decided to take a break for a cuppa. There are a number of designated parking spaces at the main entrance door. I decided to use my walker to go in in the interest of expediency, less setting up time. We both had a thoroughly enjoyable Apple Turnovers with our respective cuppas. The wheelchair accessible toilet is exactly that, accessible and functional – 5 stars.

The weather had deteriorated further as we were leaving after our break; the car was outside and we were inside with no alternative but to make a bolt for it. My first difficulty arose as I rounded the corner and the wind nearly blew me back inside. I was left with no choice but to move forward. I got to the car and had just folded the walker and deposited it securely in the car when a gust of wind blew the door and my hand slipped on the very wet side of the car and I did not have a soft landing. My chin met the tarmac which was hidden under a fine pool of water. Jean exited the car like Speedy Gonzales and two other ladies who happened to be passing came to my assistance and rapidly lodged me safely in the car; I am extremely grateful to those who came to my assistance. My clothes were no longer dry, my chin was a bit grazed and swollen; otherwise I was fine except for a major dent in my pride. We all know that old saying that pride goes before a fall and in my case it did, literally.

The moral contained in this tale is very simple and is often forgotten. Don’t go out in bad weather unless you really must and if you do go out pay special attention to the conditions. This obviously applies more to people not in the prime of health and help should be accepted when offered.

Categories: Just thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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