News

Where are we now?

Hi there. Thanks for visiting the D-trekkers blog. This latest post is one of many updates to the site which have happened in the last month after a long period of inactivity.

So, why the inactivity? As you may or may not know, our co-founder Val Richards passed away in June last year just shortly before the first iteration of the site was due to be finished. All of a sudden myself and a number of beneficiaries – who were yet to understand what D-trekkers even was – were tasked with working out if or how the site could continue without a director. And not just any director, a person who dealt with access to public transport on a daily basis.

Neither myself, nor the beneficiaries for Val’s estate are wheelchair users. But it didn’t take much discussion to come to the conclusion that a crowdsourced public-transport guide for people with access needs is still something the internet should have – even if we are a long way off becoming the go-to site for disabled travellers planning their journeys. I have been working with Val on the idea – if only in our spare time – since the beginning, and my interest in the power of community-driven tools has not wavered. I still want to see where this site can go. And thankfully, Val’s beneficiaries are keen to support the site for another phase of development.

So, the working blog and this post are not the only updates which have been implemented recently.

Profile pages:

It is now possible to add you own avatar picture to your profile page and write any information about yourself you so wish – be it hobbies, interests, where you live or what access issues you have. We hope users will be keen to add a little bit of info about themselves, because the trust others have in the site hinges on knowing the content is written by real people from the disabled community. Profile pages also include edits and comments you have left on the D-trekkers website. So if you haven’t done so already, sign up and get yourself a profile page.

Star ratings:

Don’t have the time to write about a station but want to add something? We now give users the option to give a star rating on any station page. D-trekkers automatically then displays the average star rating – giving users a quick overview of quality of access etc. at each different location.

Threaded comments:

You can now reply directly to other users in comment threads.

Next phase:

We have several ideas for our second phase of development. If there is anything you think we need to add, change or tweak on D-trekkers, let us know in the comments below or send me an email at: luke.dtrekkers@gmail.com

Image from MEN

Val Richards

I am saddened to report that Val Richards passed away last Saturday (15th June).

Val had been in hospital since April, initially fighting through pneumonia and spending some time in intensive care. She made a slight recovery from this and I spoke to her for the last time in May before she began having further complications due to her MS.

It is a shame Val will not get to see D-trekkers progress to the next phase, but I am glad she saw this initial iteration of the site. She dedicated much of her life to improving transport access for disabled people - and I have always felt humbled and impressed by her achievements as a campaigner and a consultant.

Val was my aunt and a good friend as well as a colleague in D-trekkers. She was unconventional, strong and funny. Endearingly prickly. She'd heckle at weddings. She'd swear, then would turn to me and say 'sorry, Luke' then she'd laugh. I loved that. I felt pretty special that she'd apologise to me, but was glad that she wouldn't worry about apologising until after the fact. Apart from that, She wouldn't behave differently in front of different people. She was Val.

I'm sure people will remember her for different reasons. After all, she had many things which made her memorable. There was so much to Val, and such a lot I'm going to miss.

Luke

Great Minds: Eating out

Christmas is only 19 days away, and everyone is beginning to feel festive! Apart from the last minute shopping, organising get togethers and parties is one of the most stressful parts of the season – but it’s definitely worth it!

From work parties to new year’s eve spectaculars, this month we’re hoping to bring you a range of our favourite resources for planning problem free pre-drinks, intimate dinners or making a dazzling entrance to the best bars around.

Featuring:

Bluebadgestyle.com @bluebadgestyle

Blue Badge Style is a ‘Michelin-like’ guide for less able people, their friends and their families. Establishments are rated on their style, accessibility and facilities, up to a maximum of 3 BBS Ticks.

Fiona Jarvis, who began BBS in 2007 explains: “In this way we hope that venues will aspire to achieve the maximum accreditation. Mobility, or the lack of it, doesn’t and shouldn’t mean you can’t have style! Blue Badge Style can help you to have a positive, cool, elegant experience.”

As well as the reviews, the site includes photos and videos of venues and their mobility aids. If you have somewhere in particular in mind, it is easier to search the site using the search bar and a the location, than to go back through the pages as locations jump up and down the country as well as through Europe and beyond! If you can’t find what you are looking for, BBS offers a concierge service which you can ask a question and if they don’t know they can find out for you!

Blue Badge Style also has a mobile app (for both iphone and android) recommended by the Guardian.

Accessibleliving.co.uk / @A_LivingLtd

Currently this site mainly provides information about hotels around the country, although there is some information about pubs in the Midlands and Wales and several restaurants within the London area.

Each venue has its own page, which includes detailed information about what it has to offer in terms of food, drinks, style and atmosphere; following on to accessibility particulars. You can also flick through photographs of the rooms and food.

Follow them on twitter for occasional offers and discounts at selected venues when booked through their website.

Still stuck for somewhere in your area?

Goodaccessguide.co.uk / @goodaccessguide

The Good Access Guide has contact details for many accessible restaurants, cafés, pubs, bars, theatres across the country; although does not give any specific information regarding accessibility or the venue itself. If you have particular needs and are worried about the venue's appropriateness, it is probably worth calling and asking beforehand.

The Good Access Guide also has a Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Services section, which offers business owners a range of professional contacts which can help them to audit and better their premises in accordance with the DDA.

Sign up for their newsletter or follow them on Twitter to find out about offers from their recommended hotels and restaurants.

Great Minds: Accessible Tourism Information

While researching information for D-trekkers we have found many interesting blogs and services that we thought might be useful to you. So, once a month we will have a general round-up of some of the best stuff we’ve found, connected by a topic or theme.

Welcome, then, to our first Great Minds blog post.

As local and national travel information is our thing, it seems only fitting that tourism information would be our first general round-up. We know how daunting a bus or train trip can be to some, so a trip across the country or even across the continent may appear impossible. Like D-trekkers, the following organisations are working to help people get out and about.

Tourism for All

Tourism for All UK (TfA) provides information to disabled or older people on accessible accommodation and other tourism services in the UK and at selected overseas destinations. Every year they respond to thousands of people who may need help and support to enable them to take the break they may not have previously believed possible.

TfA is a national registered charity, and its information service is backed by a website, www.tourismforall.org.uk, and supported by a helpline, 0845 124 9971. The aim is to provide lively, inspirational and comprehensive information that encourages people to try new things, see new places, and live life to the full!

As well as accommodation, travel, and attractions, TfA provides information about activity holidays for disabled people; equipment hire; places where care is available; escorts & carer services; and sources of finance towards the cost of a holiday for people on low income.

Martyn Sibley and Disability Horizons

Martyn Sibley is the co-editor and co-founder of the online lifestyle magazine Disability Horizons. Despite being reliant on an electric wheelchair and 24/7 care, Sibley works with other disabled people to maximise their potential. Using the internet and his own experiences, he shows just what is possible through positive thoughts and actions.

Sibley’s articles showcase individual achievement in tough situations, illustrating both the rough and the smooth aspects of travelling as a disabled person. His video blog gives viewers first hand experience of being there with him. Sibley’s warm nature comes across strongly through these videos, making it feel like the advice of an old friend.

He is currently journeying across Europe in a specially adapted car. This venture will take him to ten European countries, including his grand-father’s birthplace Lithuania and help him assess how different countries respond to disability.

Sibley shares his experiences with his 20,000 strong online community through articles in his magazine Disability Horizons (http://disabilityhorizons.com/), his personal blog (http://martynsibley.com/) and on Twitter (@martynsibley).

Able2UK

Since being established in 2001, Able2UK (http://www.able2uk.com) has provided a disability-focused approach to reporting on news, show-business, music and sport.

The website also features a frequently-updated travel section, with updates on the provision for accessible travel here in the UK, as well as reports from those going on holiday outside of the country.

To date, the site has scooped interviews with a range of celebrities including Bono and Professor Stephen Hawking. Many of these interviews are being collected into a work-in-progress book. The organisation are also helping local and national authorities by advising on how they can improve their accessibility.

Writing about Able2UK’s beginnings, editor Howard Thorpe writes: ‘Able2UK isn’t just for people with disabilities, we wish to show everyone just because you have a disability you are still ‘able2’ do anything.’

The Paralympics and Our First Month Live!

It is nearly a month since we launched – and it’s been a busy one.

The Paralympics kicked off just as we were going live. And what a fantastic event it was! Val went to watch the swimming finals and came back brimming with enthusiasm.

Her words: ‘It was a really good day, team GB got a bronze. The organization was clear and easy – and access was good at all the stations we used to get there.’

Friends of mine attended the wheelchair volleyball and diving competitions, and echoed those sentiments too – telling of how inspirational and well-executed the whole event was.

As for D-trekkers, thanks to everyone who has used the site and shared us about on Twitter and Facebook – it is really helping us get the word out. Each day we are seeing people come to the site either to plan journeys, add information, or just to find out more about us. It has been exciting to see the user-base grow steadily and to check out freshly-updated pages.

So the good news is the site seems to be working. There are still some creases we need to iron out from our end (eg. threaded comments and occasional pages where the maps aren’t loading, I’m looking at you Worthing!) and we are working to sort these. If you notice anything that isn’t quite right, let us know at: d.trekkers@btinternet.com

So let’s keep the momentum going. With each piece of information added to our pages, I am reminded how massive mainland Britain’s rail network is and just how much needs to be shared about accessibility at stations and stops.

This is why D-trekkers is a crowdsourced site, because the crowd is massive too! And we can improve each other’s journeys on our public transport system if we continue sharing and talking about it.

D-trekkers are go!

The big day is finally here. D-trekkers is officially live.

After tweaking our idea for an online accessibility-focused public transport guide throughout 2011, our developers have spent the past few months blending wiki functionality, Google Maps, and social tools into what has become the first iteration of our website.

From here, we hope to build an up-to-the-minute, crowdsourced site which is always evolving, where public transport users with disabilities and accessibility issues can come to look for information to help them plan journeys, as well as sharing their first-person knowledge of the UK’s public transport infrastructure as they have experienced it.

We hope that D-trekkers will one day include information about all public transport in the UK, but for now we are focusing on the rail network and the provision of accessible transport to and from these railway stations. Ourselves and our developers have added a little bit of stub content here and there, but if you or your friends and family are planning to get a train anytime soon, we ask that you try the pre-planning part of our site and come back to add to our station pages or leave a comment after your journey – so the next person who comes to the site can be even better-informed.

This is the crux of the site: that the knowledge of the community is searchable and usable by the community. After all, those with disabilities and accessibility issues who use public transport have the best knowledge on the subject.

D-trekkers will always be in beta, changing with the needs of the people who use it. Some things clearly need to be tidied up and other bits are bound to not work perfectly at first, but we were very keen to get this simple version out and being used as soon as possible so we can start to to learn how to take it forward. However, if you notice any gremlins in the works (or have any ideas on what you would like from the website) please email us at: d.trekkers@btinternet.com