Friday, 26 August 2016

Let's Talk About Accessbility

Today I want to tell you all about a super positive experience I had recently regarding accessibility. Ever since I started using a wheelchair more and especially since I become independent and got my powerchair I've totally had my eyes opened to how inaccessible the world can be for disabled people. We all have different access needs and using a wheelchair means that even one step into a shop, for example, can look like a mountain to me and others. In my local town centre the access is generally good but there is a small shopping centre with some shops that are basically a no go zone for me. Last year I finally decided I'd had enough though and I contacted the worst big chain shop access wise, Topshop.

My local Topshop is made up of 3 floors and I'd always known that there were escalators to get up to the first floor, steps back down and then steps down to the lower floor, I also just assumed there was a lift to all floors. I don't shop in Topshop all that often so when me and my Mum went in there, with her pushing my wheelchair, we were pretty disgusted to find that there actually wasn't a lift. The Equality Act states that shops have a duty to make reasonable adjustments and I was sure that putting in a lift was reasonable for a big brand like Topshop to do. Apparently I was wrong. I emailed Topshop and after a few exchanges I stopped replying after they basically said that the process of putting in a lift would be too inconvenient for other customers. Always lovely to hear that a company values it's able bodied customers over it's disabled customers, I was under the impression we were all equal.

So, when another shop caught my eye in terms of lack of access I was hesitant and nervous about contacting them. I had no need to be though because what followed was the most positive interaction with a company that I'd ever had. I hadn't fully noticed the access problems with my local LUSH store until I got my powerchair, the step to get into the shop is small enough that my Mum could always get my wheelchair and me up and over the step with ease but in a powerchair this isn't possible. LUSH is a shop that I do really love going into so I put my nerves to the side and sent them a tweet. The conversation that followed couldn't have been better. I understand that the shop legally should be accessible already but when this isn't the case so often it is nice to celebrate when shops own up to the problem and quickly sort it out.

The manager of the St Albans store was very open and honest with me and explained that the accessibility issue wasn't something that they had been aware of until I'd said something. Often if you don't personally know anyone who is disabled then you won't have any idea what some of our access needs are and something like a small step being a barrier isn't a thought that comes to mind so I'm glad I spoke up and told them. They apologised and said that they had ordered a ramp that should be with them soon, I honestly couldn't believe that they had reacted so positively and also that they wanted to correct things so quickly. The ramp was in store within a couple of weeks and at the start of August I went to try it out and everything went perfectly. The ramp managed to take the weight of my powerchair easily and it will enable so many people to access the shop! You have to ask for the ramp if you require it, which is no problem, except for the fact that in theory I was the only one who knew about it as there wasn't a sign to let people know that it was available. I emailed them to suggest putting a sign up and they impressed me again by saying that they had already requested for one to be made!

As I said before I realise that shops like LUSH are legally required to be accessible already but when so many shops and public places still often aren't I think we should definitely praise places that put their hands up, apologise and quickly put things in places to improve their accessibility (especially when big brands like Topshop don't seem to care). A huge thanks to the team at the LUSH St Albans store for being so friendly and wonderful, I'll have no worries about going in store again.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Celebrating My Achievements

Yesterday the shortlist for the Blogger's Blog Awards came out and today students across the country got their A Level results and together they've got me thinking about a few things. At first I was a little gutted not to be shortlisted for an award, I think anyone would be and I still get upset sometimes that I had to drop out of school 3 months into my A Levels but it all got me thinking about some of the things that I have achieved.

When I first starting talking about my health and Marfan Syndrome on my blog the goal was always that talking about it would hopefully do some good, whether that be raising awareness or supporting others and making them feel less alone. Life has been pretty non-stop though and I haven't really had chance to take a step back and see what kind of impact I have had until now. I sometimes think that I haven't achieved much at all and that what I'm doing is pointless but after looking back at some of the things I've done over the past couple of years I can see now that I've achieved more than I could imagine. I might not have a blog award or A Levels but I'm pretty proud of myself and wanted to celebrate that a little today, perhaps to remind my future self that I have reached some of my goals.

Last year I was put in contact with a charity, the Hypermobility Syndromes Association (HMSA), who help support people with a hypermobility syndrome like Marfan and EDS. They asked me if I would like to share a little about what life is like living with Marfan Syndrome in their journal (their bi-annual magazine) and I jumped at the chance. I was finally given a real opportunity to educate people and raise awareness of my often unheard of condition. Marfan is very often left out of the conversation when people talk about hypermobility syndromes so I was more than happy to share my story and it was a little surreal to see my words printed out in a professional magazine. This year I then took the next step to volunteer with the charity and now I'm often their go to person if anything Marfan related pops up since I'm the only volunteer with the condition!

Recently I've also been given the opportunity to work with another charity, Scoliosis Association UK.  They got in contact with me after reading my scoliosis story that I shared for International Scoliosis Awareness Day and hopefully I'm going to be working with them really soon on a few things. My type of scoliosis is syndrome scoliosis, rather than the much more common adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and they are keen to share my story to inform people of how having a syndrome, such as Marfan, alongside scoliosis affects things such as having spinal fusion surgery. I really hope that sharing my experience will help others who do not have the usual scoliosis type as such information was not around when I had my surgery and even my surgeon wasn't sure how my recovery, for example, would differ from others.

I hope that by talking about Marfan Syndrome on my blog and social media and sharing my journey that I have raised awareness of the condition. Even if more people at least know the name then I am happy and perhaps a handful of you know some of the symptoms and physical features to look out for now which would be even more incredible! I sometimes wonder if I'm doing the right thing by sharing my story so openly but if I've even raised awareness of Marfan by just a tiny bit then it is all worth it.

Lastly this is a bit of a more general achievement and something that I never give myself credit for but I'm pretty damn proud of myself for just continuing blogging through everything. Since starting blogging nearly 5 years ago I've gone from having mild aches and pains to then having 3 major surgeries and now having to use a wheelchair/powerchair and the only constant that has really continued through all that is my blog. I'm not sure how I've managed to keep it going to be honest and of course there have been times when I have questioned whether I should continue or not but even after having a couple of months off I always come back to it. This is just my little space where sometimes I can get away from everything by talking about my favourite lipsticks or I can openly confront my health problems which in the long run has really helped me with acceptance.

I think what I'm trying to say for once is that I'm proud of myself what I've achieved. For so many years I had a very simple plan which really was only based of doing my exams and going to university so when those dreams shattered I found it difficult to focus on building new goals but I think I've finally found something that I can be proud of. If you are feeling down or like you've not reached your goals then look back on what you have achieved, even if they are only small achievements, because I guarantee it will make you smile.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

July Paradise Nailbox | Monthly Subscription Box

Over the past few years we've seen a lot of beauty subscription boxes appear, some have come and gone whilst others have stuck it out. All the boxes have always appeared to be very similar in my opinion though so when Nailbox contacted me I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are offering something a little different. Nailbox is a subscription box for people who love nail polish and all the nail accessories you can get these days to keep your manicure looking fresh and polished.

Nailbox Subscription box review

Each box contains 5 items, either 3 or 4 nail polishes and either 1 or 2 nail treatments/tools, a pretty good balance I think! They never send out the same nail polish twice as well and they work with big brands like Nails Inc, Elegant Touch and China Glaze to bring you a selection you'll like each month. I'm pretty rubbish at keeping my nails painted and perfect so I hoped that this would encourage me to try a few different colours and spend more time on my nails! Each box is £15 and delivery is free but they offer discounts if you pay for a set amount of boxes at once. On to what is actually inside July's box though which has a paradise theme!

The first product, the True Brit Nail Enamel in The Summer House (RRP £12.50), is meant to represent a sandy beach. I've not heard of this brand before but I really love the bottle and design! The shade is gorgeous but also quite neutral so it could be paired with any outfit quite easily and I think it would even look great when Autumn comes around.

The second product is more of a basic one but a total must have, the Brush Works Toe Separators (RRP £2.49). I actually don't own any toe separators which makes painting my toes very tricky so I was more than happy to open my box and find these inside!

The product that I was most excited to find inside the box was the Nails Inc Gel Effect Polish in Soho Place (RRP £14). I've tried Nails Inc polishes in the past before and really liked them but I've never tried the gel effects ones so I was excited to give this a go. This shade is meant to represent the sea and it's certainly a bold but very summer appropriate choice. I think this would look great on your toenails just peeking out from a pair of sandals!

The 3rd and final nail polish is from Angelica in the shade Snow White (RRP £2.75). I think at one point you were able to buy this brand in Primark, I'm not 100% sure if you can anymore though. I've never worn a white nail polish and I'm not sure if it's entirely my kind of style but either way it's a good basic colour to have in my collection.

The last product is the Nailberry Coconut Nailbalm (RRP £12), as I said before I definitely don't look after my nails well enough so I was more than happy to find this in the box. I've been using it ever since it arrived and it's definitely helped improve the condition of my cuticles especially, my nails are looking a lot more presentable now!

I have to say this subscription has most definitely impressed me! This box costs just £15 but you are getting nearly £45 worth of product inside and these are all products that I will use! If you paint your nails a lot and really enjoy taking care of them then I'd definitely say that Nailbox is worth trying!

This product was sent to me for review consideration but this does not affect my opinion and I am always 100% honest.