Saturday, 2 February 2013

Telephones For The Elderly With Big Buttons


Special Phones For The Elderly or Disabled - with Big Buttons - for Stoke on Trent folk.

Helping Staffordshire and Cheshire retired and disabled people, stay connected to those they may need to contact - and be contacted by.


Public Domain Image
Telephones have certainly come a long way since that first one developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.  Now we expect to be able to speak to people any where in the world or at least text them.  You’ll have noticed that many people are always speaking or texting on the phone even when walking through the streets, in a restaurant, at home, everywhere.  Nowadays we expect to be connected at all times!

People in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire were perhaps ahead in the mobile telephone revolution in the 1980s as local entrepreneur, John Caudwell created one of the world's biggest mobile companies





Source:Wikipedia Pbroks13
Telephones are a way of keeping in contact with people who live a long way away or a lifeline to help or just for going about your daily life.  Test yours out by giving us a ring! 01782 611 411





The developments in telephones have certainly made it possible to advance phones with special applications that can make them easier for those with disabilities or mobility issues.  Now that landlines have cordless handsets and there are mobile phones that connect to a network wherever you are – most of the time – a telephone means that you can easily be connected to whoever you need to speak to at anytime.

Features and benefits of the telephone for those with disabilities
  • Cordless handsets: this means that you can keep the telephone handset close to you especially if you are slow to get to the telephone base holder or hard of hearing
  • Hands-free telephones have built in microphones and loudspeakers which means you can speak to them and hear the caller without lifting the handset
  • On-hook dialling allows you to dial a number without lifting the receiver
  • Digital or caller display telephones have a small screen on which the number of the caller (or their name if you have their number stored on your phone) comes up when they call.  This means you know who is calling before you answer the telephone
  • Telephone memory allows you to store important numbers on your phone
  • Last number redial or call-back allows you to call the last number that called you by pressing just one button
  • Inductive couplers can be built-in to the phone or a small add-on box that can be attached to the handset.  They allow hearing aids that have a ‘T’ switch to pick up the ring tone
  • A pulsator gives a vibrating sound when placed on the bone in front or behind the ear.  This helps some people to hear the conversation of the caller better
  • Keys with a raised dot on the ‘5’ help people to navigate around the keypad.  The 5 is the central button so those who can’t see for instance know this key is in the middle
  • A phone with a ringer volume control allows the user to turn the volume of the ringer up or down
  • Built-in volume control allows the user to turn the volume of the conversation on the phone up or down
Telephones for those with disabilities
A number of the specially developed features for those with disabilities can be useful for several disabilities.  Others have been developed specifically to focus on a particular problem

Telephones for the visually impaired
There are some features that can make it easier for those who find it difficult to see.
  • For instance a larger keypad with larger buttons and more space between them helps to avoid misdials; a contrasting colour to define the space between keys will also help to avoid misdials. One of the main brands is the Doro.

  • Number memory allows frequently used telephone numbers to be stored in the phone.  This is really useful for quicker dialling for those who have difficulty seeing clearly

  • The raised dot on the ‘5’ as we’ve already mentioned helps to identify where you are on the keypad as 5 is the central figure

  • Either a wall mounted telephone so that it is at eyelevel or a cordless handset which you can bring closer to your eyes are both a help for those whose eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be
  • An added bonus can be a voice prompt that is available in some answer phones.  This could give you a voice message when a message has been left on the answer machine for you.  Some of these also give you voice-prompts when you are retrieving messages left for you or trying to record outgoing messages

Telephone for those with impaired dexterity
There are several adaptations of telephones for someone with limited movement especially in their hands:
  • Large concave buttons and more space between them
  • Hands-free set so that you can just use your voice
  • On hook dialling so that the handset doesn’t need to be lifted to dial the number
  • Telephone headsets to enable private conversations i.e. not on speaker phone but still leaving your hands free
  • Number memory to store frequently used numbers
  • Pre-dial allows you longer to key in the number and then just press the dial button i.e. gives you more time and makes it easier
  • Last number redial which allows you to call the last number that called you with one key
  • An automatic answering phone allows the person dialling in to manage the call as long as they are a pre-recognised number.  All the user has to do is listen and speak into the provided clip-on microphone.  The caller has to activate the phone with a 3-digit PIN.  This also means that only those with given permission can get through
  • Telephone conversation recorders allow the user to record conversations.  This is a particularly useful feature if the user is unable to take notes
  • Holders and stands are available for the handset so that the user doesn’t have to pick up or hold the handset for any length of time – nor put it back on the receiver!

For those with speech impediments
  • Hands-free is a useful feature especially if the user is using a computer or other aid with a keyboard and synthesised speech
  • Speech amplification on out-going calls means that a user with a weak voice can be heard
  • A fax machine allows the user to communicate in writing rather than by voice
  • Caller display allows the user to see who the caller is without speaking to them
  • Recording or using a recorded message on an answer phone or voice mail box can invite callers to leave a message so that the user doesn’t need to speak
  • If the user’s speech is difficult to understand a textphone allows the conversation to be typed rather than spoken
  • SMS or texting is widely available on mobile telephones and allows the user to send a written message to another similar phone
  • Video phones come into their own if you need to use sign language for instance as both parties can see one another

Communicating by telephone if you have a hearing impediment
  • Use a telephone that is ‘hearing aid compatible’ i.e. has an earpiece with an audio magnetic field
  • Using a hearing aid with a T setting affords a clearer sound as long as the aid is switched to T
  • Use the ringing volume control to ensure you hear the phone ring
  • Or add on a telephone bell unit to increase the ringing volume.  These units are usually mains electric or battery powered and will need a telephone socket to plug into
  • A telephone with a flashing light when the phone rings helps for those who have no or very poor hearing.  Be aware that often these flashing lights are small so you may need to position the phone near to you
  • Again add-on flashing units can be installed.  These are usually powered by mains electricity so will need a nearby plug and telephone socket
  • There are systems available that can cause lights in the house to flash when the phone rings.  These should be installed by an electrician

For those who find it difficult to hear the telephone conversation
  • Using an inductive coupler with your hearing aid turned to T will help to clarify the voice of the caller and also cut out background noise.  These don’t actually amplify the volume though
  • Inductive couplers can be built-in or bought as an add-on unit
  • Pulsators can help some to hear the conversation more clearly.  They operate by vibrating the sound when placed on the bone in front or behind your ear
Wikipedia:Ben Schumin Zach Vega

Mobile phones for older people

Pros - developed in the 1980s, the mobile phone can be useful for those with disabilities. As well as text messaging and caller recognition, many of them now accept the voice as a way of communication.  For instance you can ask a new smart phone to call a number in the stored phone book.  The internet can also be activated from many mobile phones too.

Cons – sometimes people who are less dexterous find mobile phones too small and fiddly to use and they usually take longer to set up than a landline phone.  Just as you have to remember to put your cordless handset back in its base to ensure it is charged, a mobile also runs on battery and must be plugged in and charged regularly using a special plug and cable.  Digital mobile phones can cause bad interference to analogue hearing aids but this can be addressed by wearing headphones or a headset.
  • There are a number of additional services that are available to those who have problems:
  • If you have a BT landline, they will supply an extension ringer to help you hear the telephone ringing
  • A free Directory Enquiry service is available to those who cannot use the directories due to a disability as long as it is backed up by your doctor
  • Several telephone service providers offer an ‘assisted call service’ if the user has difficulty using the keys to dial
  • Vulnerable customers (disabled or older) should let their service provider know of their condition so that when an engineer visits they can be given a pre-arranged password so that you know it is OK to let them in.
  • Literature and bills in accessible Formats – suppliers are legally obligated to ensure you get bills and other literature in a format you can read i.e. Braille, large-print and multi-media.  Many now provide Internet access so that bills can be seen online or there is a service where your bill is read to you over the phone.

If you are having difficulties or want more detailed information this factsheet produced by the Disabled Living Foundation should help.  And if you want something locally give us a call at Castle Comfort Centre and we will help.  Call us today or pop in.





Saturday, 26 January 2013

INCONTINENCE in Stoke on Trent, Staffs.



Incontinence Products in Stoke on Trent


Also Pads - Bed Pans - A Potty or Urinals (male  or female)  Portable Urinal - Chamber Pot - Commode  -  Receptacle -  Catheter - Bed Bottle or Bedpans can all be required at times.


And many enquiries for these items  (as seen here, often described in rather quaint and amusing ways)  are received at Castle Comfort Mobility Products, which covers Cheshire and Staffordshire. Such mobility aids requests, are of course related to an issue far from amusing - INCONTINENCE.

The number of people who are incontinent as detailed in this report is somewhere between a staggering THREE AND SIX MILLION!    As the population of Staffordshire is about 850,000 (approx 15% of the  63 million UK total) - a rough calculation, means that in this one county alone - perhaps exist almost a million folk with an incontinence related condition.


Being incontinent for obvious reasons, is a delicate subject, but we hope your discovery of this article will be of help. A phone call, or an email, or if convenient, a visit to a friendly and helpful team of advisers at a mobility aids firm close to you -  will make the world of difference.

The leading Mobility Products company in the county of Staffordshire, is to be found at Wolstanton, just outside Newcastle under Lyme.  Castle Comfort, since 1998 have earned an excellent reputation, and this family business has expanded to be one of the UK's best known suppliers of their flagship products - Stair lifts,  Riser Recliner Chairs and Electric Adjustable beds.




Whilst the company is always working to capacity supplying and installing their main essential items to many older and disabled people, there is always time to advise on other issues. Castle Comfort Centre is often the first port of call to many folk in the Staffs and surrounding counties, ie Cheshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire,  when a mobility gadget or home aid is needed.

It is impossible for one mobility shop to stock all of the thousands of things that may be necessary, so a free advisory service has been set up to let you know just where these products can be found at the best and cheapest wholesale prices - often direct from the manufacturer. There are too many things to list here - so maybe have a glance at the sister mobility blog here - for a list. Also, you will be referred to other organisations that may help - such as the NHS incontinence advisory  service.

But now, as promised we are looking at the issue of incontinence. What is it exactly?

Our old friend Wikipedia, gives us  technical definitions of three types of incontinence -





  • Fecal incontinence, the involuntary excretion of bowel contents
  • Urinary incontinence, the involuntary excretion of urine...
  •  ..and less obvious -  Incontinence (philosophy)

  • We'll simply let the curious academics study the philosophy version but in simple terms, let's address the other more common two types of this problem.

    1/    Fecal incontinence is sometimes known as  bowel incontinence. Bowel incontinence is being unable to control bowel movements, so it means that stools may leak without control from the rectum (or the bottom.) Of course this will be upsetting and not easy to cope with, so make sure you see your doctor urgently as there are many treatments available. The condition will no doubt affect a person's quality of life, confidence and psychological well being.  Embarrassment and reluctance to talk about it is an issue in itself, and because of this the problem is much more common than most of us realise. Many are willing to discuss their ailments from a hangover to a hernia, but bodily leakage is somewhat more difficult to announce.


    Bowel Incontinence is not as such a condition in itself, but more of a symptom relating to a medical condition such as muscle and nerve damage or even  undiagnosed dementia. It can occur at any age - though more likely in older people.However, it is also possible from complications in pregnancy.

    TREATMENT IS VITAL.   In many cases, even if the condition is not cured, normal bowel function can be maintained throughout life. Total cures however, may be the result of dietary changes, lifestyle adaption, prescribed exercise plans, medication - or in cases surgery. See  Bowel incontinence - treatment.   And a website from a familiar High Street name, Boots, is always reassuring to study - but we suggest that before you are tempted to try any of the recommended remedies, that may be available without prescription - GO TO YOUR GP.  And if an appointment is offered days away - ask for an emergency appointment - or even just turn up during surgery and ask to wait. No NHS doctor is likely to turn down a registered patient, behaving sensibly and politely, who believes they need immediate advice.


    2/   Urinary incontinence

    This is the unintended passing of urine. It's is an extremely problem and affects millions of people in  every country irrespective of them being third world or advanced.  Somewhere between three and six million people in Great Britain have a degree of urinary incontinence. 
    At Castle Comfort Centre in Newcastle under Lyme we have an ever present stock of highly absorbent seat covers - as some buyers of Riser Recliner Chairs, who may occasionally have a slight incontinence issue, are supplied with these pads. Each will absorb up to 1.5 litres of liquid and can be laundered over and over again.  They are produced in an attractive variety of plain and patterned finishes.  One is pictured below on one of our oatmeal riser recliner chairs.


    In cases where there is a  severe incontinence problem then riser chairs can be manufactured in totally waterproof material. Remarkably, this space age material look and feels like ordinary quality Belgian swatch fabric - but is totally impermeable.
    Advice can also be given for waterproof bedding items when an electric adjustable bed is being supplied.


    Urinary incontinence affects roughly double the amount of women as men and is more prevalent with age.  

    What are its symptoms?   Well,they can depend on the exact type of condition suffered.
    There are several types of urinary incontinence, but the most common are - 
    • stress related incontinence – when the pelvic floor muscles are weak and urination occurs, causing urine to leak when the bladder is under pressure.  Caused perhaps during a coughing bout or even  laughter!  No laughing matter of course.
    • 'urge incontinence' – when urine leaks as you feel an intense urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards.
    These two types of urinary incontinence are thought to be responsible for over 90% of cases. It's  possible as well to have a mixture of stress and urge urinary incontinence combined.

    Read here about the symptoms - symptoms of urinary incontinence.

    What are the underlying causes of urinary incontinence?

    As mention there are different types and the causes vary.
    Stress  related incontinence is usually the result of the weakening and damaging of muscles that are used to prevent urination, like the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.
    Urge incontinence is usually the result of over activity of the detrusor muscles, which control the bladder.   Specific things can  vastly increase the likelihood of urinary incontinence starting,  such as -
    • pregnancy and vaginal birth
    • obesity
    • family history of the condition
    • age
    Read about the causes of urinary incontinence.

    Is diagnosis difficult?

    It can usually be diagnosed after a consultations with your doctor, who will ask about your symptoms and will almost certainly carry out a pelvic examination.
    Your GP may ask you to list a daily record noting how much fluid is drunk and how often you have to have a pee.  If your doctor thinks that  a urinary infection might be the underlying  problem, they will arrange for a test of your urine. Read more here about diagnosing urinary incontinence.

    Treatment for urinary incontinence?

    Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, or pelvic floor muscle training. ie squeezing your pelvic floor muscles can all help.  Bladder training, so you increase periods between needing to go to the loo is also recommended by some doctors.
    If this doesn't work, medicine may be used to treat any obvious stress and urge incontinence.
    Read here about non-surgical treatments for urinary incontinence.

    If such treatments are not successful, a number of different  techniques involving surgery can be employed. Treatments for stress incontinence, like a 'tape or sling procedures' are used to reduce pressure on the bladder, at the same time as strengthening muscles that control urination.
    An alternative to cure or treat urge incontinence may involve the enlarging of the bladder or the implanting of a device stimulating the nerves that control the detrusor muscles system.
    Read here, about surgical treatments for urinary incontinence.

    Prevention

    There are a few possible ways you can take to hopefully prevent the chance of this condition developing, for example, watching and controlling your weight, reducing or stopping alcohol consumption. Keeping up a good exercise programme ie keeping fit.

    Read here about preventing urinary incontinence.



    As ever,  the team at Castle Comfort will take your calls on -

    01782 611411

    or Freephone 08000 832 797
    and will help in any way possible regarding health and well being issues especially relating to
    health care products and mobility aids.


    Monday, 21 January 2013

    Raised Toilets and Commodes in Stoke on Trent


    Safe Seats for Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire folk

    The term ‘safe seat’ is used in many connotations. With regard to mobility products it could be a riser recliner chair that safely lifts someone to a standing position, or it could be a raised toilet seat or commode with handles to enable one to do ones ablutions in a safer manner. I always prefer to sit in the tail end of an aircraft in the hope that it is going to be safer; after all, should disaster strike it would be furthest away from a mountain!

    People with mobility problems often lack confidence and need the reassurance of a safe wheel chair seat or the safe seat on a stair lift when ascending and descending stairs as well.

    In the world of politics, a safe seat is the prize for the chosen few who are thought to be destined for high office or to be used to replace those already there. It was reported by James Chapman in the ‘Mail online (January 14th 2013) that such a plot is allegedly afoot.

    ‘Boris Johnson lined up for safe seat in 2015 to fight Cameron for top job’

    The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, may be given a safe seat in the next general election as part of what is called a ‘stalking horse’ plot to replace David Cameron. In response, Boris has denied that he has any intention to try to return to Parliament. However, rebel Tory, young Zac Goldsmith, is reported to be intending vacating his safe seat in Richmond, after Boris had a clash with the PM over Heathrow, to make way for Mr Johnson.

    The Tory Party is of course not alone in courting safe seats. Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle -under -Lyme are both traditionally Labour strongholds. Once a prosperous industrial area, the world famed pottery manufacturers, Royal Doulton, Minton, Spode, Wedgwood, once household names, are all gone. Together with engineering, iron and steel at Shelton Bar and of course coal mining, the traditional industries no longer exist, resulting in a seriously depressed area.

    Other ‘safe seats’ are far more important to all of us. How many people have ever heard of Michael Kaastrup Kjaer, Mike Skovbjerg Vad, Marten Baltzer Kristensen and Rene Nygaard Christensen? No... I hadn’t either. I took a guess at a Scandinavian pop group, or perhaps boy band, following in the tradition of Abba with a new version of ‘Dancing Queen’. These guys are not a part of the glitzy glamour of Abba and pop culture. There is a much less glamorous reason for fame. They follow in the steps of Sir Thomas Harington and one Thomas Crapper. The group were students at Skjern Technical College in Denmark. They invented a lavatory system with a safe seat which closes automatically once the lavatory is flushed. I am not too convinced that this will change the course of history but it did allow them to win a Best Product Award in 2009 for their ‘Intelli Toilet’

    Perhaps the invention could have a definite social role to play in ending an age-old row between men and women, thus removing grounds for divorce! I look back with amusement to a time when I had a female boss. Close to her office was a toilet, located adjacent to the photocopiers and IT room. I don’t think it was ever really the case, but she, by ‘tradition’, requisitioned the facility for her own private use. Geographically, the gents’ was quite a way down a long corridor. If, during a long printing run, nature called, it was sometimes used by male members of staff, but only when it was certain that she had gone home. As if endowed with some psychic powers, an irate notice would soon follow, requesting men not to use the holy of holies. I was once naive enough to tread where angels feared and asked her how she knew that such a heinous crime had been committed?
    The answer came with the conviction that springs from certainty. “Ladies do not leave the seat up dear!

    The history of the toilet

    The availability of modern, hygienic toilet systems is taken very much for granted in developed countries. Ancient civilisations, including those of Roman and Egypt, developed toilet systems attached to simple flowing water sewage systems. The 3rd millennium BC has been referred to as ‘The Age of Cleanliness’. Toilets and sewers were invented, some being quite elaborate constructions.
    The ancient urban ‘lost city’ of Mohenjo Daro in what is now Pakistan was not by discovered by archaeologists until 1921.It’s origins go back some 4,500 years, prospering from its location in the fertile Indus Valley. “It was the most advanced urban settlement of its time” (National Geographic).

    Mohenjo Daro had no palaces or grand arenas, but it did have a large public bath system and, most interestingly to me, it had an advanced toilet system. These were built into the outer walls of the more affluent (or should it be effluent?)  houses. The lavatory was a brick structure, with a wooden ‘safe seat’ mounted over vertical chutes, through which the waste fell into drains or cesspits. (Photo: National Geographic –Google images)
    Sir Mortimer Wheeler was the director general of archaeology in India from 1944 to 1948. Speaking of Mohenjo Daro he said “The high quality of the sanitary arrangements could well be envied in many parts of the world today.”


    Going for a crapper?
    However, in this country, anything resembling modern toilets didn’t really come about until the late nineteenth century. Popular opinion gives the credit for the 1800’s invention of the flush toilet to one Thomas Crapper. He certainly was an early maker of the product, and indeed in the Gladstone Pottery Museum there is an entire display dedicated to the toilet bowl with ornate, white and blue ceramic decorations, (including a genuine Crapper,) but really the crucial component was designed very much earlier in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a Godson of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Harrington designed a valve which allowed the flush water to be circulated but its application was to wait a long time. From medieval days, bad sanitation was the cause of dreadful disease from contaminated cesspits and excrement being thrown out of windows into the streets and running into drinking water. Since 1825 there have been five cholera outbreaks and pandemics. In 1849, in London alone, 10,000 people died from the disease. John Snow was the physician who first proved that cholera deaths were caused by people drinking water contaminated by sewage.  
    The availability of safe sanitation is not yet universal. It is estimated that 40% of the global population, mainly in regions of Africa and Asia, does not have facilities for safe excreta disposal.
    (Statistic from The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment (2000) World Health Organisation)

    One scheme is to encourage people to dig a hole or pit and install plastic liners, screening the area with sacking. This remains a very primitive solution and far from being a ‘safe seat’ for the user! It has to be said that in some parts of Eastern Europe things are little better. I well recall my first experience of the ‘squat toilet’ – no ‘safe seat’ – just markings to show where to place your feet!  Continental France is not much more advanced having the hole in the floor toilet still featuring in many public conveniences.  There are some surprising advantages to the squat down toilet in that it helps avoid constipation and is good for maintaining hip and knee mobility.  If you or your relatives hip or knee flexibility requires a raised toilet seat in Stoke on Trent in order to more easily use the lavatory then contact Castle Comfort for free advice on 08000 832 797.

    Privy to the finest chamber pots

    Before the advent of bathrooms and toilets becoming a feature of all houses, and today many expect the en suite, it was not uncommon for the toilet to be an outside ‘privy’ in a back yard or garden. Many terraced houses sacrificed a bedroom to indoor bathroom conversion. 
    As our climate does not encourage a trip down the garden in the ‘wee’ small hours, the chamber pot was a necessary, albeit not too pleasant a feature of every bedroom in dwelling houses and even in most hotels. The requisite pots ranged from the very simple to the most lavish of ceramic design in the grand houses of the day. 
    The need to relieve the call of nature is common to all, regardless of rank or status, and some fine examples of chamber pots graced the likes of palaces and stately homes such as Chatsworth, Blenheim and no doubt Downton Abbey!

    You will see pictured a fine example of a decorated chamber pot designed for the wealthy in the grand houses of England. An item worthy of holding the soup on a grand dining table than part of a commode. 

    What is toilet humour?
    A man staying in a hotel rang for room service. Expecting a young lady, he enquired of the bell boy “Where’s the chamber maid?”He lifted the pot from a cupboard, holding it high to read the back stamp. “Made in Stoke-on-Trent Sir.”

    It is perhaps not surprising after all that such basic needs have resulted not only in ingenuity but in attracting the skills of some master craftsman. One such item was the commode. Whilst accepting that for some unfortunate people, the use of a commode is an unavoidable, clinical living aid, we tend to shy away from such objects and would prefer not to know. The chamber pot was common to all at one time and, for those who could afford, so was the commode.

    I was hoping that my research would link the commode to the 18th Roman Emperor, Commodus (the clue in the name perhaps?) but, disappointingly, whatever Commodus may have achieved for the empire, the commode was not attributed to him.

    A commode was really far more than a chamber pot. The name applied to any of several pieces of furniture. The name does have a Latin derivation (adjective), commodus. The word found its way into French as commode meaning ‘suitable’ or ‘convenient’ hence we have ‘public convenience’ meaning toilets in modern usage. In Staffordshire, musicians can rehearse at an establishment oddly entitled, The Toilets.

    The commode was introduced in French furniture making during the 1700’s. Many were elaborate pieces demanding the skills of a master cabinet-maker to create the veneers and gilding.  Prior to the plumbing advances during the mid 19th century, the commode remained an essential item of furniture.  It took the form of a low cabinet, sometimes with drawers, and a cupboard to house the chamber pot. It was usual for the top to be made of marble, ideally, matched to the fire surround in the bedroom. The chamber pot would be hidden away in a cupboard and only a ceramic water pitcher and bowl would be placed in full view on the top.


    The skilled cabinet makers who created the elaborate commode furniture during the 1700 -1800’s are not the only craftsman worthy of mention.
    I turn again to the skilled workers, in the now lost pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The City of Stoke-on-Trent, with its six towns, Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton, are still known collectively as ‘The Potteries’. The name of the Premier League football club,‘The Potters’ still echoes the past. Statues of former worthies still stand sentinel. The obligatory Queen Victoria, stands aloof in the Queen’s Gardens in Newcastle-under-Lyme (‘Castle’ folk would not forgive me if I didn’t stress that they are not a part of Stoke-on-Trent!) The Pottery towns are still presided over by the towering figures of Spode and other famed pottery makers, and Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) the best known of all, stands tall, with a Portland Vase in hand, opposite Stoke Station to welcome all to the city. 

    There is an aspect of the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industry which is usually overlooked. Amongst the famed creators of fine china to grace the dining tables of opulent palaces, the makers of sanitary ware are the less glamorous examples of the potter’s art. Baths, basins, lavatories and bidets, however essential, just do not have the same appeal! Amongst the names of the Staffordshire potters we should acknowledge Joshua Twyford and family. 


    Joshua was born in 1640 and died in 1729, for the period at the amazing old age of 89. It was he who was to establish a factory to make commercial pottery at a site near Shelton Old Hall, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Oddly enough, I could not find a record of when production ceased at the site. Examples of work by Joshua Twyford can be seen in Stoke-on-Trent Museum in Hanley, in particular an interesting  salt glazed teapot bearing the inscription ‘Sarah Twyford’.

    Thomas Twyford was born on September 23rd in Hanover Street, Hanley. He was to build two factories, but not to make teapots or tableware. Thomas saw the need to develop sanitary products and developed the production of washbasin, urinals and lavatory pans. The distribution of these products was, for the period, remarkable, with exports to America, Australia, France Germany and Russia.

    The accolade for sanitary ware development must be awarded to Thomas William Twyford (son of Thomas) born in 1885. It was Thomas William who perfected the building of a one-piece, integrated pottery pedestal toilet with both pan and trap, the UNITAS, establishing the way forward to the design used to day.

    The Telford family was not without compassionate responsibility for their workers. The Cliff Vale ‘pot bank’, built in 1887, was a model factory. Perhaps not surprisingly, the toilet facilities were innovative, as was the ventilation system with ample opening windows, Factory inspectors treated the new building as the pattern to be emulated throughout Staffordshire; no mean achievement!

    The Cliff Vale Factory
    Rather sadly, the redundant Cliff Vale site was recently demolished to make way for a canal side housing development. However, the original entrance facade was saved and remains today as part of the local industrial archaeology of Stoke-on-Trent. T W Twyford died in 1921. He is remembered as the leading pioneer of the application of the principles of hygiene in sanitary appliances. The Twyford Bathrooms brand, locally based in Alsager, Cheshire, is still a major player, boasting a Royal warrant, (Ma’am is on the throne!) This is the only bathroom company to do so. The company supply innovative sanitary products worldwide, including a new easy clean rimless pan with the now obligatory self closing safe seat. Innovative ‘Independent Living’ products include easy access baths with stepped levels and easy reach lever taps, adjustable height semi-pedestals with extra height safe seats for close coupled toilets and easy wheel chair access bathrooms. Amongst the famed manufacturers, another son of the Potteries has left his mark on industrial history.

    Travel, it is said, is part of a sound education. This may well be true, but it can be a lonely, insecure  experience. Some fifty years ago, I travelled to the old Soviet Union. This was not the Russia of today. It was the time of cold war fear and suspicion and western travellers were certainly followed and watched at every move. It was a fascinating visit and left me with lasting memories. I recall the gilded opulence of Katherine’s Winter Palace with room after room of priceless works of art.


    There were the Hermitage, with its collection of the Tsar’s coronation jewels and countless priceless treasures. The bizarre St. Basil’s Cathedral looking something akin to a gingerbread castle in Disneyland, and, of course, there were the Kremlin Cathedrals and Red Square. Tourists were allowed to jump the long queues at Lenin’s mausoleum. Outside, the goose-stepping guards of honour kept vigil. Chillingly each pair seemed like identical twins selected for the task! Inside, one descended down and down a stone stair case into the chilled air and, not being allowed to stand still, filed past the glass coffin to see the body of Lenin, bathed in orange light. I recall that I felt sick.

    It was in Moscow that I had the most frightening experience of being alone. I managed to get lost. I say lonely only because albeit I was surrounded by hundreds of people in the rush hour, unlike me, they spoke Russian! The unfamiliar cyrillic alphabet allowed not even a feeble attempt at translation
    And even if I could have made anyone understand angliyskiy, I didn’t know the name of my hotel. No number of do svidaniyas was going to help and yes, I was scared. Even the old English adage of ‘ask a policeman’ was no help and each attempt made the salt mines of Siberia seem a real possibility. It is too long a story, but it ended happily. As the night came on, I needed to relieve myself, but where was I to find the loo? I resorted to take the risk and entered an official looking building via an open side door. Trying to look as though I had every right to be there, I checked a number of doors as my bladder was nearly at bursting point, with no time left to worry about what that would entail.  One more door awaited; this was an only too real game of ‘Russian Roulette’. A lavatory pan, extravagantly decorated in Wedgwood blue jasper style, came before me not a moment too soon.

    As I aimed at the bowl with an involuntary audible cry of relief, I was transported back home. I was urinating over a very familiar name: ‘Twyford’ was clearly visible in the wet glaze! All my fears left me as I walked quickly back into the Soviet night, strangely comforted by the fact that two lads from Stoke had been united in an alien land. I had found a safe seat in Moscow.

    If you have enjoyed this article please feel free to leave a comment below.  Also if you wish to find out more information about any daily living aids that you would like us to research then do get in touch.

    Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Mobility Products Cheshire

    Mobility Products Shops in Cheshire


    This feature (like its sister mobility blog) has had the most amazing response in our history of our Internet bulletins.

    In just over three weeks, we have had more mobility products enquiries than ever - with folk searching for help and advice on home aids from lots of towns and villages. Read on to find out just how many have found us.
    As expected, most of them come from Stoke on Trent as that is where our mobility products showroom is located.
    Take a look below to see how near we are to those making the short journey from south Cheshire.



    (In fact there have been over 180 as we write)  ... almost 100 from Newcastle under Lyme and a total of 125 enquiries from some of Cheshire's main towns: Including Wilmslow, Congleton,Alderley Edge, Macclesfield and Sandbach with a handful of contacts from residents of small villages and hamlets that, we confess,  we have never even heard of!
    mobility products shops in cheshire
    Acton Bridge, Cheshire rings a bell, but some places with strange names really puzzled us - for example - Antrobus, Bruera, Soss Moss, (near Macclesfield, and famous we now learn, for a 16th century hall and a hospital.  Then we have obscure place names such as  Prior's Heys, Wimbold's Trafford, Saughall and Tilston.  Bucklow Hill is a touch more familiar, but the hamlet Dawpool is previously unheard of.
    However, we are informed by a recently acquired customer of Castle Comfort Mobility , a Mr Ernest Greenun, that - Coole Pilate  is indeed famous. At least it will be to to many 2nd world war veterans, as this parish (of just 60 residents now) was where a Home Guard platoon was based.
    Finally,Capenhurst (home of a 50 metre communications tower controlled by the American communications giant Urenco ) certainly had the staff at Castle Comfort practising on their sat navs to locate these places.
    Brochures were posted out for a huge variety of home help aids to all who contacted us, and it is expected that soon home visits and deliveries of products will soon be made along some of the lesser-known country lanes in the delightful county of Cheshire. And as this comment section was being compiled, a telephone call came in from the bizarrely titled hamlet of Golborne Bellow and another enquiry from the web landed  from Ince village - near Ellesmere Port.   
    A noteable conclusion to these comments... and we thought this enquiry was a wind-up, was from a retired farmer in Cheshire seeking some mobility socks for his incapacitated wife. HE GAVE HIS ADDRESS AS STOKE IN CHESHIRE!!  There is a Stoke in Cheshire which is in fact a hamlet near Nantwich with a population of about 20. The name Stoke incidentally, means "hamlet", from the Anglo-Saxon meaning place - a fact that few Stoke on Trent residents are aware of.
    It is quite a fascinating experience discovering the existence of these places in Cheshire, so us Stokies, (though we don´t like this description of us)  or Castleblacks - consulted our our old friend Wikipedia, for a comprehensive list. Here it is.
    So if you live in Cheshire, and we (or Wiki in their article) have missed off your place please tell us. Here's our main list to add to the list of smaller places already mentioned.

    Alderley Edge, Cheshire
    Betley, Cheshire
    Broadbottom, Cheshire
    Cheadle, Cheshire
    Chester, Cheshire
    Congleton, Cheshire
    Crewe, Cheshire
    Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
    Frodsham, Cheshire
    Hollingworth, Cheshire
    Knutsford, Cheshire
    Lymm, Cheshire
    Macclesfield, Cheshire
    Madeley Heath, Cheshire
    Malpas, Cheshire
    Middlewich, Cheshire
    Nantwich, Cheshire
    Neston, Cheshire
    Northwich, Cheshire
    Onneley, Cheshire
    Runcorn, Cheshire
    Sandbach, Cheshire
    Stockport, Cheshire
    Tarporley, Cheshire
    Warrington, Cheshire
    Widnes, Cheshire
    Wilmslow, Cheshire
    Winsford, Cheshire
    Woore, Cheshire
    Wrinehill, Cheshire

    Our sister mobility products blog will soon have it's own study of lesser known places in Staffordshire, that enquiries for mobility aids has come from. So any comments or requested for contributions will be received with thanks.

    Wednesday, 9 January 2013

    Disability and Independent Living Aids Stoke

    Disability and Independent Living Aids – a history
    Physical disability and the ensuing problems with mobility and the need for help when striving to achieve something approaching a normal way of life is nothing new. Cures for many conditions have been associated with the healing powers of water, but getting to the water is not always easy.

    ‘Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool with five porches. A large crowd of sick people were lying in the porches – the blind, the lame and the paralysed. A man there had been ill for thirty eight years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

    The sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.”

    Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, picked up his mat and walked.’
    (St John’s Gospel - 5 v 1-9)
    Whilst life expectancy in the developed world increases so do the problems of mobility. However, partial loss of mobility is not the prerogative of the elderly. Victims of accidents and combat troops in the armed forces also have needs to be addressed. Also many children are in need of help.
    Source:Wikipedia
    We have had at Christmas, showing at the famous Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the traditional dramatisation of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Dickens and Christmas are almost inseparable and I, being a person not over fond of the ‘festive season’, often can be heard quoting the miserly Scrooge –“Bah, Humbug.”It has been claimed that Dickens was the first English novelist to write with a social conscience. Certainly much of his writing highlights the inequalities and suffering of much of the less fortunate of his fellow beings. In ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) he chooses the image of a disabled child to convince Scrooge to change his miserable non-philanthropic ways.


    Timothy Cratchit or ‘Tiny Tim’ is the child of Scrooge’s nephew Bob. Tiny Tim is disabled and has to use a crutch or be carried about by his father. Tiny Tim may well have been suffering from rickets and tuberculosis as a result of poor diet and lack of vitamin B. The solution in the 1840’s would have been leg braces, similar to those used by victims of polio.

    Bob cannot afford to pay for medical treatment but of course his uncle could well afford to help. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, weighed down by chains, padlocks and cash boxes warns Scrooge to change his ways if he is not to share the same eternal torture. Scrooge was to be visited by three other ghosts; Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, who whisk him off into those ghostly dimensions in an attempt to bring Scrooge to a clear vision of himself.

    The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge a glimpse of Tiny Tim. He is told that Tim is ill and will die if the family cannot raise the money to save him. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come allows Scrooge one last vision, only a crutch is seen; Tiny Tim had died as a result of poverty depriving him of treatment. Albeit that Tiny Tim is a minor character, it is his fate that transforms Scrooge into an unrecognisable, smiling and laughing philanthropist, thus avoiding the fate of Jacob Marley.


    It is interesting to trace the historical development of mobility products. We just take it for granted that stair lifts, walking aids, bathing aids and so on are common place, but is there any surprising history behind them? My research resulted in some unexpected answers.

    Perhaps the oldest image is that found on an ancient Chinese stone slate. It appears to show a person seated in a wheeled chair. A 16th century Greek frieze shows an image of what looks like a wheeled bed, perhaps for a child. Did you know that the humble wheel barrow was invented by the Chinese? It was a dual purpose tool, not only for transporting material but also people.

     From our history lessons, we are well aware of King Henry VIII and his string of doomed wives. We may even associate him with the reformation, schism with the Pope and the beginnings of the Church of England. Few would know (and neither did the writer) that he actually possessed and used a stair lift!

    As a young man, Henry was slim, tall, athletic and very handsome.  In his later years, he was obese. His armour dimensions record a height of 6’1” with a 53” chest and a waist of a massive 52”. Henry jousted. Our Royals play polo, and, like Prince Charles, he was known to take a few tumbles from his horse. Henry sustained a jousting injury which together with his other pursuits resulted in mobility problems in his latter years. From research carried out by the historian David Starkey, amongst his possessions in Whitehall Palace was a stair lift. It was a chair of wooden construction which was moved by a system of ropes. Servants hauled on them and the ailing giant of a king was transported up and down the stairs, in stately manner, on his chair lift throne! Keith Simpson, managing director of Castle Comfort Centre, with its head office in Wolstanton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, can no longer claim the title of ‘Stair Lift King’ it seems. Henry beat him to the accolade!
    What possible connection could there be between mobility products and the Spanish Armada?
    There is in fact another Royal link in the person of King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)
     Source:Wikipedia
     
    Philip married Mary Tudor in the old capital of England, Winchester, on the 25th July 1554, just two days after they met.  Philip used a wheel chair at the service. It was designed by one Jeham Lehermite.  (shown in a sketch from 1595).The chair was made from iron with small wheels on each of the four legs, a foot rest and an adjustable back. With the marriage, he became King of England and Ireland. Mary was a Catholic, and her marriage to the Catholic King of Spain was a move to ensure that England once again became a seat of the Roman Faith. Mary died of cancer in 1558 and was succeeded by her sister, Elizabeth 1st, daughter of Henry VIII, and a protestant.

    On the death of Mary Tudor, Philip lost his claim to the English throne and had to resort to battle to defeat the English Protestants. The Spanish launched a sea battle which was known as the Spanish Armada. Neither the Spanish King nor the Pope could control the English climate. The adverse weather forced the Spanish fleet to flee for shelter and the battle was lost. King Philip, addressing the survivors, expressed his exasperation at the defeat:

    ‘I sent you to fight with men, not the weather.’

    Here we see an image from 1680 of the renowned Chinese philosopher Confucius being grandly transported along in what resembles the later concept of a wheel chair.

    (Source: Wikipedia)

    It is arguable that the history of the wheel chair as a specific walking aid dates back to 1655. Stephen Farfler, a young disabled watchmaker, set about solving his own mobility problems. He built a wheel chair. Earlier vehicles needed other people to pull or push them along, but Stephen wanted independence. His design was a box-like structure supported by three wheels. He cleverly attached a lever to the front wheel that could be turned to propel the chair along.


    The next significant period of wheel chair development was not to be seen until the 18th Century.
    What became known as a Bath Chair, was built by one John Dawson in 1783.  I always associated the name with a bathing aid. In fact the origin of the name is the City of Bath, the inventor’s home town. Dawson’s chair was of a three wheeled design, with a reclined seat in basket weave. Bath Chairs can often be seen in stately homes whose wealthy occupants could afford such an aid to mobility and of course had someone from ‘below stairs’ to push them around the estate.

    It was to be a long time before a light weight wheel chair, more akin to those of today, was invented.
    There is a difference between a transport chair and a wheel chair. A transport chair, often used in hospitals, has to be pushed. A wheel chair is self-propelled by the user, usually by means of a frame around the large side wheels.

    The first lightweight, folding wheel chair was probably the 1933 invention of an engineer, Henry Jennings. He designed the chair for the use of a friend, Herbert Everest, a paraplegic. The road to mass production was to follow when the two men founded a manufacturing company of Everest and Jennings.

    It is the case that trade names can become a generic name for a particular product. You don’t vacuum cleaner the carpet, you hoover it, (using a Dyson or Electrolux probably) You don’t ask to borrow a bic or a parker, you ask for a biro. No doubt when facing the tiresome task of wrapping Christmas parcels you look for the cello tape, not a roll of transparent sticky tape perhaps really called Scotch Tape.

    A few years ago, a teacher friend of mine took up an exchange post in a junior school in Australia. He expected a change of culture of course, but he was taken aback when a squabble broke out between two young boys, barely eight years of age.

    What is this all about?” he asked as he parted the warring parties.
    Charlie started it Sir, he’s pinched my Durex.”

    He understood that kids grew up quickly on a good diet and warm Australian sunshine, but such a level of child development came as a shock. He voiced his concern to a colleague only to be assured that Durex was a generic Australian name for sticky tape!

    Such product names becoming generic also applies to walking aids. People refer to a Zimmer, regardless of manufacturer. 

    The Zimmer Frame was probably the idea of the idea of one Andrejz Muiza, a Latvian who moved to the United States after World war Two. In the UK a walking frame was first filed at the Patent Office in August 1949.

    In the USA in the 1950’s, a patent was filed by William Cribbs Robb who hailed from Stretford in Manchester UK. This was followed in 1970 by a later design from Alfred A Smith. The design was taken up by the Zimmer Corporation in Warsaw Indiana. The company was created in 1927 by Alfred O Zimmer. In 2009, the corporation reported a staggering turnover of $4.095 billion. It employs 8,200 people, 49000 being in the United States, and 3,300 mainly in Europe and Japan and now specialises in orthopedic joint replacements.

    The evolution of disability living aids has a long and varied history of helping to overcome physical difficulties and improving the quality of life for millions of people world - wide. The 2012 Paralympics displayed not only the courage and tenacity of disabled people, but was also a showcase and testament to mobility aids technology.