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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

Churchill Fellowship Day Fourteen: Different but Not-so

Today was the Abilities Expo New York (strangely held in New Jersey). The Expo itself was smaller than I expected, particularly considering the number of attendees. The normal Disability themed exhibitions in the UK  (outside of NAIDEX) have more exhibitors than attendees, here the opposite seemed to be true! At times it felt as though a wheelchair traffic light system needed to be installed at various junctions.

It was great to meet up with fellow AMCers, something I really miss doing in the UK. There’s nothing quite like discussing differences in range of movement and seating requirements with someone whose body resembles your own.

I was also invited to attend a round table discussion looking at how to improve powerchair design. This was incredibly fascinating and proved that all powerchair users across the globe more-or-less want the same fundamental improvements, some of which include:

  • Electric flip up footplates

  • Less squeaking

  • High beams

  • Better training about their chairs capabilities

  • Smart home and Bluetooth integration

  • Accessible bags, accessories and crutch holders

  • Waterproof joysticks!

Image Description: PowerPoint presentation slide at the start of the round table ‘Consumer Round Table 2024’.

It was great to be part of this discussion, we could certainly use a few more of these consumer led discussions to lead innovation at home. What a crazy idea! Using those who use and live in the product daily to influence change! More of this please…

Anyway! The most frustrating part of my day (as usual) revolved around accessible transport. It took over 90 minutes for the so-called ‘regular free shuttle’ to collect us from our hotel, frustrating but we got there. Coming back however, that was a whole ‘nother issue!

We left the venue at around 4:20pm, the shuttles were running between 4 and 6pm. There were four or five other powerchair users waiting outside at this time and it was both cold and raining. After about 25 minutes the first shuttle appeared - now let me clarify, these ‘shuttles’ were WAV taxis, holding a grand total of one wheelchair per car - ludicrous right?

As the clock ticked on, more and more powerchair users filtered out of the venue, by this time we had been waiting nearly an hour and it wasn’t looking hopeful. There was no organisation at all, the expo organisers were clearly hiding from the chaotic scene growing before them. Your chance of getting a taxi was linked to your position on the pavement, the speed of your chair and your ruthless mindset! I found myself rolling to the furthest edge of the pavement, quickly eyeing up the curb height and readying myself for the dash - does anyone remember the ending of Dreamwork’s ANTZ?

I quietly shared the plan with Leisa and as one of the two shuttles appeared we made a run for it, ignoring the angry shouts from others behind us. Success! Judge me all you like but we were cold and hungry and had been waiting longer than most. We made it back to the hotel just in time for dinner. Abilities Expo you need to do better - it shouldn’t have been a surprise that a great number of your attendees use large wheelchairs, two spots coming every thirty minutes was never going to cut the mustard!

Image Description: A whole bunch of wheelchair users waiting for transport outside the venue.

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