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Professor Peter N C Cooke, A Sideways View

Peter Cooke is a professor at the University of Buckingham Business School. He has been a wheelchair user for nearly twenty years and is a well known commentator on disability and automotive issues. He appears regularly in the press, on radio and television. He is the author of a dozen books.

I’m convinced that three words sum up the secret to overcoming disabled mobility problems – ‘information and planning’. Take my word for it. – I’ve been a wheelchair user for nearly twenty years. To start with I was scared, almost scared of my own shadow; what would family, friends, colleagues, the world at large make of this guy wandering around in a wheelchair? Would they take pity on him, stare at him – or what?

I’ve certainly not conquered disability, I’m not only twenty years older and less mobile but I’ve started to learn to live with it and treat it as a challenge.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced information and planning are key to minimising the impact of restricted mobility – let’s not call it disability problems – they are a separate issue.

I welcome this new website – I anticipate it presenting a lot of useful information provided by people with mobility issues for people with mobility problems. There are a lot of sources around – some good, some bad – but I’m looking for a one stop shop of quality information and comment.

I travel a lot and have had to learn to plan – good information is critical.

This year so far I have been to Paris, Moscow and Brussels as well as numerous trips to London and other places all as part of my job.

You can say ‘it’s OK for him – somebody else pays and organises it’. Sure the trips are paid for but I do my own organisation – I’ve learnt a lot of tricks and protocols. Some are simple others more subtle.

What does ‘disabled accessible’ mean? In Moscow the other week it meant the snowdrift had been moved so I could get my wheelchair across the pavement. Yesterday at a posh hotel in Brussels the doors to the lift to my room were too narrow for my perfectly standard wheelchair – but more of that in a later piece.

Let’s celebrate this new portal – and make sure it tells us what we need – not what others think we should read!