Why some taxi drivers should be given the boot!

I’m afraid I have to blog again about an access issue, this time involving a well-known taxi company in Cardiff.
I’d had a fantastic time out with a friend, celebrating the fact that he’d finished his PHD course.
I normally book with a company called Dragon, who are mostly OK with my guide dog travelling with me.
But this company *I’m refusing to name them because I don’t want them to have publicity, good or bad* but I thought I’d use them for a change.
I’ve used them before, we had a few issues, but nothing like I experienced last night.
as soon as the taxi arrived the man said the dog would have to go in the boot.
I told him that it was better and easier for my guide dog, whom I’ve had for 2 years to sit with me in the foot well in the back of the taxi.
He said guide dogs normally went in the boot, and I re-iterated my reason for having him with me.
All the way home he wouldn’t let it go, and just kept on and on about how he takes guide dogs all the time and they go in the boot.
I felt utterly bullied and it really spoilt a lovely day.
I tried to assure him that we’d had a lot of training as to what to do with our dogs, and that if he was in the boot he’d be more more upset and restless than if he was with me.
The driver said the dog was all scrunched up in the back and couldn’t move, which made me, feel like an incompetent bad owner.
I eventually had to say that I’d had guide dogs for 20 years and I doubted there was anything he could tell me about how to look after them correctly.
His response was to say: “Oh, sorry I spoke, I won’t do it again!”
I do not expect to be questioned as to how I should or shouldn’t look after my dog when I am in a taxi.
I told him that no other driver had ever had a problem with my dog.
His attitude was absolutely wrong – and I refuse to let any other guide dog owner experience what I did yesterday.
I reported the issue to my local guide dogs team – and they were, as always fantastic.
Another thing which has enraged me is that the Email I had back from the company said they’d look into the “alleged” response.
Now, I’m a trained broadcast journo, so I fully realise there are instances when you have to write: “Alleged” but this isn’t one of them – she was basically saying: “If you’re telling the truth.”
I was very shaken and upset when I arrived home.

I had to write this to let other guide dog owners know about the issues, and to let any taxi driver know that what happened to me yesterday was unacceptable!!
Here are some things to read from the response guide dogs have sent to the company.
1. When travelling, guide dogs are trained to sit at their owner’s feet at all times, not to bother other people and not to climb on seats.
2. Providers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way they provide their services.
3. Drivers should ask the blind or partially sighted person what assistance is needed before making assumptions as to what might be required.
4. If drivers have been hired to carry a guide dog owner, ask the passenger where they would prefer their dog to be. In purpose built taxis the dog will travel in the passenger cabin with the owner. In saloon cars guide dogs are normally trained to lie in the front or rear passenger foot well, between the feet of their owner.
5. If the front foot well is not large enough to accommodate the dog, the guide dog owner should be advised to travel in the rear of the vehicle with the dog in the foot well behind the front passenger seat. The front passenger seat should be pushed forward to make space for the dog. In an estate car, if the guide dog owner is in agreement, the dog may travel in the boot space.
Have you had taxi dramas?
Pop your experiences in the comments section of my blog, or follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

a blind persons view of voting in the general election

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or climbing a mountain on Antarctica you’ll know we’ve just had a general election.
What you think of this is your own business, but have you ever stopped to consider how people with little or no sight vote?
Read on for my story, it’s not how everyone is affected, and I want to make that disclaimer to avoid any offence or outrageous tweets!
First, getting to the polling station.
A lovely friend of mine offered to help me find my local polling station.
After navigating a six inch step, they’d decided to put a helpful little ramp up to the building.
We then walked in to be greeted by a lovely lady who remembered me from the last few elections and asked if I’d like the Braille overlay.
This is a plastic card which fits over the ballot paper, it has braille numbers down one side and a little flap which you lift and pop your cross in.
Then she sighed and said:
“Oh no, I can’t get the Braille to fit over the ballot paper properly!”
I felt so sorry for her, as it wasn’t her fault.
But here’s where the real change needs to happen.
Luckily we only had 5 names to choose from, but on some occasions there can be up to 10 or more!
I’ve been saying for years that if the names were available in Braille, along with the parties each candidate represented, you could vote totally independently.
Nobody has listened to blind and partially sighted people, or disabled people in general.
So, you have to ask someone to read the names out and numbers while you try and remember which one you want to vote for.
We’re still being denied a basic fundamental human right, purely because people fail to make the necessary changes which would help us.
So, I marked my paper, but then my friend had to show the lady where I’d marked and ask if it was OK, which again is showing her who I voted for, which is a very personal thing.
I felt so sorry for both of them.
So, how would I change things if I could?
Firstly, there’d be an option when registering to vote where you could declare *if you wanted to* that you had sight loss, however you want to describe it.
Then, each polling station would have a selection of braille/large print ballot papers *or realistic option* with the left-hand side displaying the names/numbers of the candidates. The other side would have a line of dots, after which would be space to pop your tick/cross.
Easy right?
That’s what I’d do, but the only problem is, I’m only one person – I’m not a politician/returning officer/anybody really.
But maybe someone will read this and think:
“You know what Nicki, that’s actually a pretty good idea!”

Let me know what you think by popping comments underneath this blog or following my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Happy Birthday Goldilox

I adore cake! I actually enjoy eating most things – which is why I also love anniversaries.
It doesn’t matter how trivial it is. It might be the first time I met one of my guide dogs, the first time I trained with them or anything like that.
21 years ago today, at 4.17 AM, 9 wriggly little puppies were born.
One of those was Vale, my first guide dog.
I know she wouldn’t have lived until she was 21, but it’s still a good thing to remember her and reflect on how much love, confidence and laughter she gave me.
She was a bouncy ball of cheekiness from the start.
Mum had lovingly prepared sandwiches for when we came home for the first time after training, but unfortunately Vale got there first and gobbled the whole lot!
She was well-known in my local area for stealing things.
I knew my reputation had reached new heights when I met a lady on the bus and she said:
“Ah, that’s Vale isn’t it! She stole my lunch at a meeting we were at together!”
She was also very good at her job, when she wasn’t shoplifting!
She won an award for her work, and was in the local media a lot of times.
So happy birthday Goldilox!
Right, I’m going to the cake shop!
I’d better not over-indulge though – there’s another anniversary at the end of May!
You can follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Don’t put your hands over my eyes!

You are a kind, well-mannered considerate and sensible person. why else would you be reading this blog? I know you’d never indulge in the kind of stupidity this blog is about, but just in case you decide to change your mind, or know someone who’s inclined to behave in the way I describe, feel free to pass this on.
There aren’t many things which annoy me.
The only few exceptions are bad manners, people who eat crisps loudly on public transport *particularly smoky bacon or prawn cocktail* and tourists on mobility scooters who insist the pavement is theirs!
But, top of that list are people who interrupt me when I’m working James.
I encountered three people on Saturday which have forced me to write this blog.
I had been to a local cinema and watched a fantastic film called Their finest.
I was walking home, planning what to cook for dinner when a hand shot out from nowhere and I heard a voice say:
“Hi little champ!”
I then had to say “No!” to James, and he then swerved round the offender and carried on his way.
“What’s your problem!” you may be shouting
“The poor man only wanted to say hi!”
James is a guide dog! That means he guides me, with his eyes!
I have beautiful eyes, but unfortunately they’re no use to me at all.
So, to put your hand out and interrupt him is not only stupid with a capital S, but downright dangerous!
I’d only been walking about two minutes when a lady shouted:
“You’re nearly on the road, the dog wants to take you further away!”
I thanked her, but carried on the way we were.
James walks near the kerb, it’s just his thing, the guide dog trainer is fine with it, so am I!
He’s not going to put himself on the road or me.
But because of that well-meant interruption I had to reset my thinking.
Then, an incredibly drunk man lurched in front of us and shouted:
“Hallo!”
I carried on, hoping to avoid him and get home when he bellowed even louder.
“Hi,” I said
“You live by me you do, your Mum’s got your retired guide dog!”
I assured him he was right *even though only one statement was correct* and said:
“Sorry, I’ve got to get him home for his dinner!”
Now, I love doing the whole PR thing for guide dogs – I’m quite infamous in the local community for various charity fundraising adventures and other things I’ve been lucky to achieve and I’ll happily answer any questions people have about guide dogs, but I can’t accept behaviour like the three cases I’ve described.
Imagine if you were driving and someone popped their hands over your eyes!
That’s exactly what interrupting a guide dog owner when they’re working their dog is like.
So, unless there’s a huge hole that Jimmey hasn’t spotted, please give us the space to do what we’ve both been trained to do.
You can follow our adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.comnickiandchelly

if my dog gets ill, it’s your fault!

There’s nothing to jolt you from a lovely dream more than a dog throwing up.
The sound is unmistakable.
I soothe poor Jimmey and then the fun begins.
First, you have to try and persuade the little man not to gobble it up.
Then, you have to frantically find something to clear it up.
Then you have to find it!!
I like to sing to myself as I perform this task. It helps to pass a bit of time!
Then, when I’ve eventually located it I clean it up.
Now, I’m a good dog owner – so I do everything I can to keep my dog happy and healthy.
I can’t say the same about people who use my local park.
I actually had to ban Jimmey from having playtime there because he was literally being sick every morning!
Why don’t people pick their litter up? There’s bins everywhere!
I was prompted to write this post because I’ve just spent five minutes trying to persuade Jimmey to remove his little yellow mouth from a bag of chips which some idiot had put next to a bin on the floor!
When he got back – he had a big bowl of water, belched extravagantly ad flopped down!
It’s not just food either! He’s a total coprphagic! *look up this term if you don’t know what it is – it’s disgusting*
Why don’t people pick up after their dogs?
I’m totally blind and I can do it!
The thing is, if Jimmey gets into a habit of scavenging he’ll get fat.
This means he won’t be able to work.
This, in turn means I will be without my lifeline and independence.
Alternatively he could get very ill if he eats anything which disagrees with him.
Please share this blog with as many people as you can – particularly if you know a person who litters with impunity!

Lastly – scoop the poop – and drop the plop!!

What Chelsea did next

Chelly is 12! I can’t believe it. It only seems like yesterday when the little black whirlwind was running round my house with two toys in her mouth.
Many people ask how she is getting on. After all, this blog started as a result of my preparations to retire her and start training with my new dog.
There wasn’t a blog like this, so I was happy to write mine. I found it therapeutic.
Mum looks after little Chelsea for most of the time.
They’ve settled into retired life very well.
Chelsea even has her own “bedroom” under the stairs.
She’s living a life of leisure.
She’s doing everything she was forbidden from doing when she worked.
This includes:
Jumping on the sofa and settling down with Mum.
Gobbling up everything she shouldn’t, such as bread, eggs and on one occasion Mum’s unattended sandwich.
She sits by the fridge door and refuses point blank to move until a carrot is produced!
At first I was upset at seeing how well she had transferred over to Mum.
Now it’s lovely.
She’ll always be my dog, and we’ll always have a special bond.
But when I am sitting on the sofa with Mum, I have Chelly lying on one foot – and James on the other.
They love each other very much.
The other day, James gave Chelsea’s ear a tender lick as she wandered past him.
They are affectionately known as “rascal and ratbag” among many other pet names.
I’m just so happy that I have two wonderful, comical and happy dogs in my life!
You can follow my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

My little boy has arrived!

On the 10th of October 2016, little Johnny whiskers was born!
Actually, his name is John – he’s a life-changer, but he doesn’t know it yet.
The only thing he’s concentrating on is chewing shoes and getting up to as much mischief as a prospective guide dog can.
I was so proud when I got his birth certificate.
To those of you who are new to my blog *and, to everyone else, I am so sorry for the ridiculous length of time it’s taken for me to update my blog*, John is a guide dog puppy which I sponsored by raising almost £6000 by walking from Bath to Cardiff.
He was named in memory of my father who died in 2012.
In a few weeks’ time I’ll get to meet John.
I’ll leave James with friends, as it’s not fair to introduce the two dogs. For one thing, James will probably undo all the hard work John’s puppywalkers have done.
Also, he’s more than likely to tell John what he’s letting himself in for by being a guide dog.
I’m so grateful to everyone in Cardiff who helped me with the walk, no matter if it was by walking with me or donating. Each one of you played a part in John’s life.
The lovely friends in North Wales were also incredibly generous.
So many people from as far away as Australia donated to my just giving page – and I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to give independence and freedom to another visually impaired person.
I’ve got heaps to tell you all, so I’ll write another blog soon.
A date for your diaries, I’ll be on BBC Wales’s weatherman walking with Derek Brockway from BBC Wales, and Julian Hughes from RSPB Conwy.
You can watch it at 7.30 PM on the 10th February on BBC 1 Wales.
Follow my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly