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:

One in three children in parts of Oxford are living in poverty, says charity

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Thursday 30th October 2014

ONE in three children are living in poverty in areas of the city, a charity has found.

UPDATE: Road reopens after car overturns in Heyford Road, Middleton Stoney

Oxford Mail: Ambulance stock image

10:12am Thursday 30th October 2014

A woman has been taken to hospital following a crash in Middleton Stoney.

LONDON WELSH: Piri Weepu plays down injury concerns

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh scrum half Piri Weepu yesterday played down concerns about the ankle injury that has left his right foot in a protective boot.

More than 40 Oxford buildings to get free wi-fi

Oxford Mail: Oxford Ice Rink

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

ART galleries, civic buildings and even Oxford Ice Rink will soon have free wi-fi thanks to government investment.

London Welsh scrum on down for a bit of action at Oxford's Radcliffe Camera

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh rugby players are well known for their big hits on opponents in the Aviva Premiership, but yesterday they were the big hits as they took the Big City Scrum to the streets of Oxford.

Bishop of Oxford's farewell eucharist

Oxford Mail:

9:10am Thursday 30th October 2014

A farewell eucharist will be held today at Christ Church cathedral for the retiring Bishop of Oxford.

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