Thursday, 3 April 2014

Just like old times.... Almost

The last time I went to the Southbank in London was when I could still take myself up there in my offroad wheelchair about 3 years ago. Since having a live-in carer, trips out have been possible but I haven't ventured to London.... until yesterday. I guess it's a number of factors that dissuaded me. Since October it's been either too wet or cold, and before that I had worries about wheelchair battery life. However with recently fitted replacement batteries and the new eyegaze system no longer needing to use wheelchair power for 6 hours, wheelchair range is much better.
So yesterday I decided to return. We drove to Hampton Court station where there are very conveniently placed disabled parking spaces, hopped on a train with the help of the train's guard and was at Waterloo 35 minutes later.

The wheelchair was reasonably comfortable getting to the southbank because the pavements are pretty good and Kadvi is a great wheelchair driver, knowing when to support my head. I still miss the comfort and speed of the offroad wheelchair but I don't miss the constant terror of the dreaded puncture. So with one eye permanently on the wheelchair battery level lights we headed for Tate Modern.

charge indicators on wheelchairs are pretty hopeless. When the first of six lights goes off you haven't used 1/6 of the charge but around 60% which means you better be already on your way home when it goes off. We made it to the Tate fine.

We only spent about an hour looking around, not wanting to push our luck. It was nice having made it there again albeit not under my own steam anymore. As always I can't help feeling many of the exhibits fall into "The Emporer's New Clothes" category;  people marvelling at a blank red canvas, 3 rocks placed on the floor, or a video of a blue screen with someone reciting some jibberish.

Anyway, with all battery level lights still on, we headed back to Waterloo. The whole process was pretty easy, the wheelchair range wasn't a problem and the weather was perfect. All that pollution kept the sun off the eyegaze ;)

So I am planning The Shard next

Eyegaze Mk2

After 7 months of battling I have finally received my new eyegaze system. The NHS have now allocated specific funds for providing specialist communication devices but the processes for accessing the funding haven't been in place until this week. So the MNDA agreed to rent the system until the NHS purchase the system outright for me.

The system arrived 2 weeks ago and it's working great. It's not hugely different from my previous system but it's not got the faults ;the batteries last 6 hours instead of 2 minutes, the sound is much higher quality, screen is much brighter and touch screen works. It has a solid state hard drive which apart from being much more robust than a traditional hard drive is also lightning fast, resulting in reboots taking 30 seconds instead of 3 minutes. This might seem unimportant but two and a half minutes is a long time when you want to say something. It also has a webcam so I can video skype.

The only issue is with the eyegaze camera. It didn't work outside which is obviously a big problem. I have been talking to the camera manufacturers in Germany who have been incredibly helpful as this is a new problem. So with my assistance they released a new software version within 24 hours which has improved things considerably and further improvements will be developed soon.

Many thanks to Liam and Caroline for their help getting this sorted