Doug Paulley

Wheelchair user and residential care user, sometimes thorn in the side of authorities.

Apr 262019
 

There’s something perverse about running out of mobile battery whilst sitting in a wheelchair or scooter with huge batteries. Various commercial products bridge that gap; the best of which is Cripple Concepts’ charger. These plug into the charging port on an electric wheelchair and provide a turbo USB charging socket.

These products suffer from some limitations however. Many of them (notably NOT Cripple Concepts’) give out too little power to charge a modern mobile phone. Many of them are expensive (CC’s $40 isn’t bad.)

It’s comparitively easy to create your own charger that is more powerful and versatile, and cheaper. You don’t need to know any electronics to do it either – if you can solder a wire onto a pin you can make this.

wheelchairdriver.com shows how to create such a USB adapter. I found his instructions invaluable (and wouldn’t have been able to make mine without them), but I have concerns about his creation. The first is heat dissipation: if doing similar with a high power charger, sufficient heat may be generated within the USB adapter to cause it to fail. I also think the connection to the adapter may not be robust enough to survive use and abuse. I would prefer a more powerful rapid charger. Also I would prefer a more “universal” product with e.g. 2+ USB sockets (and that also applies to the Cripple Concepts’ one.)

There’s an alternative, clunkier solution:

It’s clunky but cheap, powerful and useful.

The charger doesn’t stop the wheelchair being driven, like plugging the wheelchair in does. It has a negligible effect on the wheelchair batteries. My wheelchair has two 72 amp hour batteries and my mobile battery is 3.3 amp hours. So it can be used pretty much as much as you like without concern.

Parts needed:

1) “Neutrik” / XLR microphone plug.

Any will do. They are about £3 on eBay.

2) Cigarette lighter inline socket.

The cheapest way to get one of these is to buy a cigarette lighter extension and cut off / discard the plug end. However, I have discovered that those sockets aren’t very robust so break quickly. I advise against getting this very common socket:

Try to get one of these less common but more robust sockets:

They are about £4-5 if you shop around.

3) A cigarette lighter USB adapter of your choice. But NB: the adapter must work with 24 volts, not just 12 volts.

I use one that has two Qualcomm Quick Charge 3 USB sockets. This is about £2 delivered on eBay.

Solder the wires from the cigarette lighter socket to pins 1 and 2 of the Neutrik plug, as described on wheelchairdriver.com.

Strengthen the wire if you want, using heat shrink, hot glue or whatever. I also cable tie it to the wheelchair cable that runs to the control / joystick module, for extra strength and convenience. That way it’s always at hand.

Put the USB adapter in the cigarette lighter socket. That’s it, really, all done.

The only thing I also did however, is to find a way to keep the USB adapter into the socket. Reason being that otherwise it tends to work loose over time, which is frustrating – I’d discover my phone hadn’t been charging when I thought it was. Pushing the charger back into the socket does the trick until next time it works loose.

Over time I’ve discovered the best way is to use a metal bodied USB adapter something like this:

Metal USB cigarette lighter adapter

 

With a pair of pliers, I simply squeeze the body of this to deform it enough that it bulges and jams into the cigarette lighter socket. This is remarkably robust.

Previously, I drilled a hole through the cigarette lighter socket and the USB adapter (carefully, to avoid damaging its internal circuit board) and put a cable tie through. Otherwise you could glue the adapter into the socket etc. But this is a pfaf.

To use it: plug the Neutrik plug into the charging socket on the wheelchair. The USB sockets are now live and can be used for anything USB. In my case this is charging my phone, my Go Pro camera and/or my battery banks, and running a USB fan (I recommend the “Key Nice” fan below from Amazon) and/or Christmas fairy lights.

To charge the chair, simply unplug the USB charger and plug in the wheelchair charger.

Jan 112019
 

Today we won two cases against London Underground, over their failure to effectively promulgate information about lift closures and alternative step-free routes for disabled people.

Westminster

Video of Westminster lift closure incident

In October 2016, I attempted to get from Westminster to Kings Cross but was thwarted as both the lift at the main entrance and the alternative lift at Canon Row were out of order. Signs still directed people to the entrance on Canon Row, despite this lift having been out of order for a number of days.

Kings Cross

In May 2017, I traveled by Underground to Kings Cross station, to discover that the lift to the surface was out of order. No warning had been given at any other station, and the response station staff gave to my plea for help was inadequate.

Judgment

District Judge Troy gave judgment today, 10th January 2018. The following are extracts from my notes of his judgment. Whilst I am satisfied they are substantially accurate, they are not a verbatim record from the transcript (which I shall order.)

Westminster

In the circumstances, the defendant was in breach of its duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect to deficiencies in signage directing people requiring step-free access to Canon Row lift as opposed to the entrance via Westminster Pier. … In respect of the Westminster case, there has been a breach of the defendant’s obligations. …

The detriment was limited, but was not solely the time wasted going down to Canon Row entrance, but also to bear in mind the frustration caused from the access being blocked, and at that point being left uncertain as to what other options available to him. Although he didn’t have a specific train, this would be a legitimate source of annoyance, no different to an able bodied person sent on a wild goose chase. This would result in frustration, and doubly so for Mr Paulley as a wheelchair user. …

Service users doesn’t have to experience actual loss in order to experience detriment, it is enough that they would prefer to be treated differently.

Kings Cross

In respect of the King’s Cross incident, it is clear that this was notified on the website … Travel on the Tube is a very different scenario compared to mainline or air, where it may be a reasonable expectation for a traveller to check in advance whether services affected, especially if some general experience of difficulties, e.g. travelling on Northern Rail on a Saturday morning, or the recent impact on Gatwick airport caused by a drone. That’s all very well in those circumstances, but any one individual traveller using the Tube may undertake several tube journeys in any one day, of varying length from 1-2 stops or longer. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect any traveller, able-bodied or not, to consult a website. What is needed is something more to alert the traveller at point of access.

The defendant contends that staff resources and communication make the use of whiteboards difficult and the information liable to be out of date, and that this produces bigger problems for travellers, especially to disabled travellers, who may need to commit greater diversions unnecessarily. The defendant contends that Electronic Service Update Boards (ESUBs) are updated regularly, but I already observed that regarding the Kings Cross incident these were not updated until after 16pm, though the original failure was at 0640. I have my doubts as to how promptly these ESUBs are updated. However, if the information on the ESUB is to be accessed, it requires travellers to sit in front of a screen whilst it scrolls through, without any knowledge that relevant information will be displayed. It may take only 9 seconds to scroll through, but it requires the traveller to locate the ESUB. It can be particularly difficult to navigate a station concourse, especially at peak times, for wheelchair users. …

It is not onerous to the defendant to post whiteboards, so as to be of particularly assistance to the disabled community, in the 12 stations with step-free access in Zone 1.

The alternative arrangements the defendant put in hand did not amount to reasonable adjustments to avoid the situation. …

This alternative option (of assistance up the escalator) should have been offered at the outset, avoiding the distress felt by the defendant in waiting on the platform in uncertainty and with the train deadline. … The defendant had adopted an intransigent attitude in initial dealing with the claimant, in making it clear that the only alternative offered was to take the tube to Caledonian Road and a bus back. The claimant specifically questioned alternatives, including the fireman’s lift or face to face assistance, but this was not explored.

My decision may have resource implications for the defendant, but if the defendant is to comply with its obligations to make reasonable adjustments, individual employees should be identified and trained to provide such assistance to wheelchair users, especially at major stations and especially those answering emergency call points. They need task cards and their training updated to offer alternative mechanisms of egress.

Regarding Kings Cross, the detriment was more serious. … I am unimpressed by the handling of the incident by the operative, which increased the claimant’s frustration. Although a solution found, there was a period in which the claimant experienced detriment and worry.

Judicial comment

I therefore make observations (not intended to modify the judgment or understanding of the law) on future expectations regarding the defendant due to resource implications.

On the methodology of notifying incidents affecting travellers, I have come to the view that the use of any one is mechanism is insufficient, and in respect of the facts all three are found to be wanting. ESUBs must be updated immediately on discovery of lift failures. As regards communication via the website, given that passengers may undertake tube journeys on a daily basis, perhaps several times a day, it is impractical for the defendant to rely on the website to comply with its obligations because it is impracticable for users to consult the website before every journey. What is required is a combination of these mechanisms. For wheelchair and pushchair users, the practical solution is to provide some further information at the point of access at the 12 stations with step-free access in Zone 1. To the extent that the defendant is concerned that whiteboards employed to this purpose aren’t easily kept updated, all that needs to happen is to say that there has been an incident notified, please check the website or ESUB before traveling further. If adopted, this procedure would alleviate problems for the traveling public, and would not in any way place an unreasonable burden on defendant’s resources.

The judge also made the point that I am clearly more interested in the point of principle than in damages.

Doug’s comment

It’s an indictment in itself that it took 2+ years in court to reach this point. The circumstances of both incidents speak for themselves. TfL personnel’s sloppy lack of adherence to those procedures and standards designed to minimise disabled people’s inconvenience is shameful and unacceptable; and I am amazed and disturbed that TfL would spend so long, and so much money, fighting to defend such behaviour.

TfL have clear procedures as to what they can and should do to warn disabled people about lift failures. Procedures that they didn’t follow at two key step-free interchanges – King’s Cross (the busiest station on the Underground) and Westminster (right next to the houses of Parliament.) If they don’t follow them there, then what chance have we that they will follow them elsewhere?

TfL refused my multiple offers to settle out of court, stating:

Previous indications were that London Underground Limited (LUL) was very unlikely to offer any money, money having been paid in the past without stopping claims (LUL of course recognises that you are entitled to pursue your legal rights, while it may take a different view as to whether they have in fact been infringed); I have no reason to suppose that this view would have changed. Further, while LUL believes that (putting it broadly) it strives to make things better for disabled users of its services, there is no sensible way LUL can guarantee that, with the best will in the world, it will never slip up in future.

I had concerns about TfL’s adherence to previous agreements:

I am always open to discussion. My issue is that in response to previous such discussions, London Underground made promises / took actions which they didn’t keep up. Take, for example, the Tube accessibility update guidance London Underground composed in 2011, following out of court discussion with me.
So whilst I am prepared to take part in potential out-of-court action, I do need to have some form of assurance that I won’t be re-inventing the wheel.

I am really sad that TfL spent so much time, money and other resources fighting this indefensible discrimination case.

I very much hope that in future they adhere properly to suitable procedures for disseminating information and taking action when lifts break, such that other disabled people don’t go through what I did.

easyJet mauls wheelchair

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on easyJet mauls wheelchair
Jan 022019
 

A guest blog by my excellent co-campaigner and friend Esther. Please share awareness of this and bring pressure on easyJet to do the decent thing.

Just before Christmas I went on a phenomenal holiday to Egypt.

On the way home, it was ruined by Easyjet who messed up the boarding at Hurghada so I was carried on to the plane last (it’s supposed to be first) in a totally humiliating fashion, meaning other passengers had to move and I was holding up the plane. Then, it got worse; they smashed up my travel wheelchair. Now, they’re refusing to fix or replace it as they say the ‘Montreal Convention’ limits how much they can pay to fix ‘baggage’. Thing is, it’s not baggage; it’s my mobility. It’s my way of getting around. It’s an object of freedom. And they smashed it up so surely they should put it right?

The chair had been carefully wrapped in packing plastic by my assistant, but when I picked it up, someone had tried to force it out of the plastic (rather than either leaving it for me to sort OR cutting it) putting enormous forces through the brackets which hold the backrest to the seat. Before I even got near it, when it was still on the concrete, the man driving the ‘ambulift’ (thing that takes wheelchair using passengers off planes) said ‘that looks totally wrong’ because the backrest was bent, handles at 45 degree angles etc.

The ‘chair is an Icon A1. It’s adjustable and custom to my needs. The specialist seating I need used to fit on it, but not it’s so bent it’s unusable. I can’t travel anywhere, and when my power chair is having work done on it or something, I’ve no mobility at all as this ‘chair is my travel/backup one. It had served me so well – enabling me to travel across the world, go diving with amazing fish at a disabled diving school, go out and go in the sea… and yet Easyjet couldn’t get it through an airport without destroying it.

Easyjet, it’s on you; please get me a suitable replacement or more likely a whole new chair as the frame itself has been bent.

Please share – it’s simply unacceptable for companies to smash up mobility devices. They’re not ‘baggage’ in the usual sense.

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