This year we were excited to be attending the Naidex Show for the very first time. “What is Naidex?” I hear you ask. It turns out that it’s the most established exhibition in Europe dedicated to people with disabilities, and a place where trade, professionals and consumers can all get together. We couldn’t wait to get stuck in!
We’d visited the NEC in Birmingham many times before for caravan shows, so it was strange seeing it set up for a different event. The layout was much the same as the other shows, with the addition of extra disabled toilets within the halls, this included a spacious “changing places” one. There was also tons of designated parking, which was free to blue badge holders and a lot closer to the entrance than we are used to.
Inside the atmosphere was buzzing, and with over 350 exhibitors it was difficult to know where to start, so we just made our way around the stalls in our usual disorganised fashion to see what would catch our eye. There was so much to see, but naturally we were drawn to anything that assists people with disabilities to get out and experience adventures, and there was plenty of that on offer.
One of the first things to catch our eye was of course caravan related- our friends at Coachbuilt GB. I know I’ve said this before but I think their work is amazing. The huge fully accessible motorhome they had on display willed us in for a closer look and as always, we were blown away by the quality of craftsmanship. Although it was fitted with a wheelchair lift, electric bed and wet room, it had such a luxurious feel that it was easy to forget it was designed for a wheelchair user.
Accessible leisure vehicles are unfortunately still a very niche market and there are very few companies in the UK who specifically cater for it, but at Naidex we were pleased to see another company giving it a go- Brook Miller Mobility. They adapt vehicles for people with disabilities and have recently started making accessible caravans and motorhomes. Their technique of starting from the ground up means they can be built from scratch to your exact specifications and layout requirements. The team were lovely and let me have a look inside their accessible caravan and van conversion that they had on display, both with electric wheelchair lifts and ample room inside.
If you’re going to get a caravan you need a tow car, and as we wandered around Stephen couldn’t help ogling the shiny new WAV’s (wheelchair accessible vehicles) at the Lewis Reed stand. Having a VW ourselves we were drawn to the brand new T6, but the Mercedes V-class certainly gave it a run for it’s money! For now we’ll just have to keep dreaming.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog you will know how much I love going outdoors and exploring. My wheelchair is fantastic but it’s not designed to go to all of the places I’d like it to, and sometimes it can be like trying to get a Rolls-Royce to do a Land Rovers job- it just doesn’t want to. So at the Naidex Show I was really pleased to see some off-road wheelchairs! Terrain Hopper were just one of the companies showing off their fleet, and they were impressive! They can be made in child or adult sizes and come with a range of different specifications. These beasts are designed to go places standard wheelchairs simply can’t- through deep mud, streams, sand and snow and over steep and rocky ground. It’s safe to say, if money was no object I’d have one tomorrow and you’d find me up a mountain somewhere!
If adventure activities are more your thing then you will love Calvert Trust. Based on the edge of Exmoor National Park they have a residential centre for people of all abilities to go and try their hand at a number of adventure activities. This includes abseiling, cycling, archery, horse riding and more! I was particularly intrigued by the big accessible zip wire.
Calvert Trusts motto is “it’s what you CAN DO that counts” and I think that perfectly sums up the whole attitude of Naidex. Everyone we met was so friendly, welcoming and not judgemental. In my everyday life I’m used to being in the minority, so being surrounded by others with disabilities was a surreal experience, and for once I felt like I was in the majority!
We both had a great time at the show and would highly recommend going if you are disabled or know someone who is. It’s a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people and keep up to date with the latest products. There is so much to see, from wheelchairs, prosthetics, vehicles and tools for independent living, to companies and charities offering a range of opportunities. Not to mention all of the inspirational seminars taking place.
We can’t wait to go again next year! Maybe we’ll see you there?