A solution for someone with a disability is a solution for all

Niall Strawson

Niall Strawson

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

So here I sit at a desk, on a come down as I have just returned from (yet another) trip to France. This time it was a fun-filled family holiday at a lovely gite nestled in the hills of the Lot Valley.

Given the remote location and the potential intensity of a full week with my family (sorry mum and co who read this), I decided to drive to give me some freedom to escape and explore on my own.

Driving as a wheelchair user is generally easy. I drive an automatic car with hand controls to accelerate and brake. Normally I would travel with a companion but on this trip I took on the journey alone, perhaps foolishly.

The drive to Figeac is 756 miles one way. In reality that’s days of driving.

I didn’t quite realise that in order to drive along a motor way at 70ish miles an hour for days, I would have to grip the hand control constantly. City driving vs long distances are two quite different things. When I eventually arrived my hand and forearm were genuinely aching.

On a previous trip to France I had come across issues with toll roads.

Once I am in the car I can’t move from my seat, my wheelchair folds up and sits on the passenger seat thus obscuring any reach I could have. But also I am not Inspector Gadget – my arms are only so long.

I can’t nip out and around the car to throw some change in. On the last trip I struggled with blocking lanes to the extent that someone from the toll road company would come and assist me.

On my return I overcame this with a piece of cardboard and a fly swat. I crafted a sign saying ‘je suis en chaise roulante aidez moi’ roughly translated to ‘I am in a wheelchair help me’. It worked but was stressful to say the least.

On this occasion my mum found an amazing solution.

The toll roads have a proximity system called telepeage. You buy a small box that sits by your rear view mirror, fill in your bank details online and it direct debits the cost from your account.

Also that means no faffing about with cards and tickets and pocket change. You simply drive up, the box beeps and the light turns green and up the barrier goes. All I had to do was order it online and arrange the bank registration before I left the UK.

As a wheelchair user I love to travel as I did before my accident yet whichever mode of transport I use there is always some thought that goes into how can I do this with the least amount of faff?

Often a solution for someone with a disability is a solution for everyone. So irrespective of whether you have a disability or not, if you are travelling through France, I highly recommend telepeage for a stress free journey and a relaxing start (and finish) to your trip.

  • Our top stories:

Cyclists warned: Don't be dimwits

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 25th October 2014

BIKE safety campaigners have warned that cyclists are risking their lives, after an Oxford Mail survey found more than half of them were riding without lights.

Football match in Banbury stopped after bottle was thrown towards the referee

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

5:18pm Saturday 25th October 2014

A FOOTBALL match was abandoned this afternoon after a bottle was thrown onto the pitch.

Extra hour tonight! Celebrate with top bands at unique Oxford gig

Oxford Mail:

1:40pm Saturday 25th October 2014

With an extra hour to enjoy - or recover with - tonight is the perfect night to celebrate one of Oxford's biggest nights of music

FOOTBALL: Rose wants to keep Oxford United climbing

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Saturday 25th October 2014

Danny Rose is targeting a move into mid-table today as Oxford United visit Carlisle United in search of a third win in eight days.

Shhh... silent film is a reel hit with movie buffs

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Saturday 25th October 2014

FILM buffs were given a taste of how movies used to be watched as they turned out for a silent screening in Witney.

Update: Oxford University student Isobel Priest is found safe and well

Oxford Mail:

8:49am Saturday 25th October 2014

Police have said the 21-year-old Oxford University student who was reported missing has been found safe and well.

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:09am Wed 23 Jul 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

These wee boxes are great.

I have one for the Westfield Shopping Centre car park at Shepherds Bush. Just place in the windscreen, drive up and park all day for £4!

Tempted with one for the Birmingham bypass too.
These wee boxes are great. I have one for the Westfield Shopping Centre car park at Shepherds Bush. Just place in the windscreen, drive up and park all day for £4! Tempted with one for the Birmingham bypass too. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

11:40am Wed 23 Jul 14

Madi50n says...

Brilliant advice, I'm off to France this year and am going to get one of these. Thanks
Brilliant advice, I'm off to France this year and am going to get one of these. Thanks Madi50n
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree