So you need to book a taxi with your guide dog? No drama!

As many of you who read this blog *and thanks heaps for doing so* will know I’ve had more than my fair share of taxi dramas. from being abandoned at a train station at 10.30 at night after a taxi I’d pre-booked refused to take me home because I had a guide dog, to being told |I had to put my guide dog in the boot.
The second one was perhaps worse than the first – as the driver was underhand, rude and made me feel like the worst guide dog owner in the world. In the end I had to tell him I’d had guide dogs for over 20 years, and there was absolutely nothing he knew about them which I didn’t.
So, it’s refreshing to find a company in Cardiff which was set up to support the community – and particularly people with disabilities. Drive taxis is a co-operative formed by former taxi drivers from local companies and other taxi firms.
I first heard about them from a former work colleague – and was eager to find out more.
Paul, one of the lovely drivers and founders of the company took James, my guide dog and I to a school talk. He was kind – and most of all he didn’t try and make James go in the boot – but asked me where I’d like to sit.
He also took me to the reception. This in itself was great, as I’ve been unceremoniously dumped by the side of a road by drivers with absolutely no idea where I am – let alone how to get to where I need to be.
He didn’t whinge about James hair – which he can shed in copious amounts at times.
Even that has caused trouble in the past. I’ve had drivers who have claimed they have to take the rest of the day off to clean the car.
I’ve had drivers charging me a pound extra for “having to hoover up the dog’s hair!” *needless to say I didn’t pay it*
One of the worst experiences was when I gave a driver a £10 note and he claimed it was a fiver!
The other thing which enhances the experience of using Drive taxis is if you have a concessionary bus pass, you get %10 off the fare.
Drive currently have around 10 drivers – and are hoping to recruit more in the coming weeks.
I wish them all the best. At last, I’ve found a taxi company which, as they quote on their Facebook page:
puts customers first!”

I can enjoy walking more thanks to a new invention

I didn’t learn to run until I was 21.
Well, I could obviously run, but it looked more like a baby bird trying to get off the ground than proper running.
The reason is – when you’re born totally blind – as I was, you don’t run like your sighted friends.
If I took a tumble, I just had to wait for someone to come and help me – or galumph my way to where I thought help might come from.
We did track and field events at school – and I had a guide runner *someone who runs along-side you invariably attached to a piece of cloth/rope or something.
There was also a system where we ran by ourselves and someone would say “five, five, five!” if we deviated one way it was “six!” or “Four!” and if we veered totally off course it was a 1 or 10.
So, the very convoluted reason for me explaining this to you is that after I “learned” how to run with a friend I completed a half marathon.
This gave me the running bug – or in my case the walking bug.
I’ve subsequently done two long distance walks – one is 190 miles and one was 70.
I know to some people these don’t seem like much – but I raised almost £20,000 for the guide dogs organisation by completing them.
Now, the good thing about walking or running with a sighted friend/guide/partner is that you can chat away and put the world to rights. The downside of this is that, if you have a guide dog with you *as I do for much shorter walks* sometimes the dog goes scampering one way on it’s lead, and you end up doing a really good impression of a push-me pull-you!
The other difficulty is when arms/hands get sweaty.
Another drawback I have found is that if someone is excessively tall – or small, it really hurts my arms.
So, I was very curious when the RNIB mentioned on Twitter that there was a new piece of equipment called the Rambletag.
I got in touch with Laura – one of the inventors and she very kindly sent me one to try out.
I love it!
I first used it when I went for a walk around the Orme in Llandudno with a couple of friends.
It’s very hilly – and the route is about a five mile round trip from my house.
The Rambletag looks a bit like the cuff they use to take blood pressure with – but it has a strap on it which the blind/partially sighted person holds.
The sighted person wraps the cuff around their arm and secures it with Velcro.
It’s available in a range of different colours including my favourite colour, red.
It’s perfect for people with dogs as well. In fact, it was a chance remark by Tom Forsyth, one of the inventors which sparked the idea for the Rambletag.
Tom and his neighbour – and co-inventor *if there’s such a word* Laura Maclean used to walk their dogs together, but would inevitably end up in a pickle if the dogs got too playful.
They realised if they had a way of keeping together by using a strap it’d be easier to walk.
So the Rambletag was born – and it’s now being used all over the world.
They’ve recently had the Rambletags used by staff in Glasgow airport who give passengers assistance.
I’m taking it with tomorrow on a five mile walk – and I know that it will be a much more enjoyable experience if I use the Rambletag.
I really recommend it to anyone – whether a casual stroller or a long distance walker.

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