Monthly Archives

December 2016

A crowd of people with a band performing in the blurred background

Accessible partying: The dos and don’ts of a wheelie great night out

By | Disability, Emily Yates, Lifestyle | No Comments

This weekend, I’m all for getting glammed up with my friends and having a blast on the town.

We meet, pre-drink, put a mixture of three different lippies on and endure umpteen outfit changes whilst telling each other how hot we look. Then, after a ridiculous amount of pouting selfies, it’s a taxi ride or short stroll to the bar or club.

Up until now, my night has mostly been a breeze (especially if the taxi driver gets my wheelchair into the boot on the first try – result!) But, unless I’ve planned it meticulously, we can often get to a venue that isn’t step-free, doesn’t have an accessible loo (not good after too many shandies) and is so cramped and noisy that I end up having to slap numerous bottoms to make my way through… not that I always mind that bit.

So where do I go to ensure I always have a good time? And what tips do I have for other disabled party-goers? I often don’t want to go to all the obvious ‘branded’ places that I know will have what I need; I still want a night out that will give me the quirks of a weird but wonderful evening. Here are some things I’ve learned in pursuit of a ‘wheelie’ great night out…

Emily Yates holding a beer with a big smile on her face

You need a safe haven as a second option

Be it somewhere that’s step-free, has larger loos, great provisions for guide dogs or hearing loops a-plenty, having a ‘fall back’ venue near you in case any and all plans go awry is never a bad thing; at least you know you’re going to have a smashing night regardless.

Equally, somewhere that’s fully accessible to your needs but the music and general atmosphere bores the hell out of you is no good either, so it’s good to work out exactly what you’re into first and go from there. Anywhere with lovely staff, toilets I’m able to transfer into and a vibe that is simply second to none is a winner for me, so much so that I’ll happily chair-dance the night away without thinking twice!

It pays to know your drivers, bouncers and bar staff

When I’ve been on big group nights out where access hasn’t always been fully available at all times, one thing that’s really made my evening is getting to know any taxi drivers, club security or members of staff. If a driver has been particularly helpful, I’ve always got their card and have been sure to use them again for future stress-free nights. If bathrooms haven’t been that accessible in venues (although they all should be), I’ve found out where the nearest hotel or restaurant is from a member of staff and gone from there.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to manage a couple of stairs too, and doormen have always been more than happy to give me a hand and carry my wheelchair. In an ideal world, none of this would be needed as everything would be universally designed for all. The reality is, though, that that just isn’t the case right now, and grabbing a hand or some information from someone in the know can really save time and face.

Drink can sometimes equal disaster

We’ve all done it, and I continue to on the odd occasion, but I’ve finally worked out my drinking limits now after being in a few sticky situations thanks to alcohol. Sitting down, it’s really tough to gauge how drunk I’m getting, that is, until I stand up to transfer onto a toilet, drink rushes to my head and I collapse in a heap and end up sleeping curled around the bowl. Yep, this happened at a German house party my sister and I once gatecrashed, never again.

Although I always want to have the best time, I’ve learnt to never let my drinking increase my vulnerability to the point where I can’t push myself or make sure I get home safely.

Get in touch if you have any venue suggestions for an inclusive night out; I’m always on the lookout for new ones!


Group of people bringing their drinks together, Cheers!

Finding accessible places to go

By | Emily Yates, Lifestyle, The Love Lounge | No Comments

Hi Love Lounge,

I’ve just moved to a new city and am finding it hard to find accessible places to go, and that’s causing me to feel quite lonely as meeting new people and finding relationships is almost impossible! Can you help me please?


Hi there, and thanks so much for contacting us.  It’s amazing how much getting out and about (and no longer being able to) really affects the way that we see ourselves and our relationships.  As I don’t know where you’ve moved to, I can’t give you any specific location advice, but Euan’s Guide, Disabled Go and Tourism for All are all good sites to visit.  In terms of meeting people, I’d suggest going on these three sites and finding a couple of bars/restaurants that suit your taste and style and make them your local hangout! Do you have friends from your old location who might come and visit you and give you a hand going to these places for the first time? Friends can act as great cupids, too! 😉

If nerves might get the better of you, download a dating app and just have a go at chatting to people first – who cares if the first chat up line you use doesn’t quite go to plan?! Find out what does work for you and then use it in person! Wishing you the best of luck in your new home and making new connections J


Em x

Scrabble wooden blocks spelling "learn"

Why disability awareness does, and should, start in schools

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

As well as delivering disability awareness training for Enhance the UK, I also give motivational speeches, mainly in schools, for presentation evenings and assemblies.  It is quite possibly my favourite kind of work, as I feel that there, just by being merely present as a 20-something in a wheelchair, I am making a difference.  Disability awareness starts in schools, and this is where we need to focus our efforts, collectively.  This is why:

  • Children listen, and can still develop their own opinions.

Children are by far the most interactive and engaged when it comes to my impairment.  They marvel at my pink and purple spokes, and find all the similarities between my chair and their pram, rather than focusing on the differences between us.  They are still open to new ideas and forming their own opinions.  To me, it is vital that I give them a positive and welcoming view of disability, especially before their parents ‘shoo’ them away!

  • They can teach adults too!

Young people are often the ‘ice breaker’ that enables an older person to become flexible with their own thoughts.  If a child knows how to help a visually impaired person cross the road from what they learnt at school, for example, there is no reason why they can’t educate those around them, too.

  • Preparing for a more inclusive future generation.

The youngest amongst us have the pressure of providing the brightest future they can for all.  That future is one that I want to be accessible, inclusive and welcoming.  Let’s focus on making our school children so disability aware that, finally, it is normalised and accepted.

The importance of volunteering: a personal perspective

By | Business, Disability, Emily Yates | No Comments

I’ve now been volunteering for over ten years, for causes I care deeply about and with friends I’ve made from all over the world.  As a wheelchair user, a huge focus has been on disability awareness and its importance, which has ultimately led me to a brilliant role with Enhance the UK, but still I am often asked why I volunteer when I could be spending that time and energy bettering my bank account.  Granted, I have a mortgage to cover and a car to run, but nothing quite compares to the ‘buzz’ of helping out at a major sporting event, a gig, or cheering others on from marathon sidelines…

A Zebra in africa with a lake in the distance

Volunteering became a meaningful part of my life at the age of 16 when I travelled to southern Africa with the Journey of a Lifetime Trust, a charity that takes young disabled or disadvantaged people literally on a ‘Journey of a Lifetime’ to an exotic location.  We rode elephants in Lesotho, climbed sand dunes in Namibia, and cage-dived with sharks off the coast of Capetown, but we also taught in schools and visited HIV/AIDS clinics.  This made me want to come back home, share a little bit of what I had experienced overseas, and encourage others to look out for opportunities to help others.

Emily snorkelling over coral reefs

I then joined lots of great societies at Queen Mary, University of London, where I studied English Literature.  I also went on a year’s exchange to Melbourne, Australia and helped out in a juvenile prison.  All of these experiences opened my eyes.  I was no longer going through life in search only of my own progression, and ventures that would help me to succeed.  When you unleash that desire to think about and help someone else, and realise that this also helps yourself and makes you a better person, then you’ve unleashed a beautiful potential.  And it’s a potential that everybody has.

Emily Yates at the Rio Paralympics in her uniform

Nothing quite compared, however, to my experience as a Gamesmaker at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.  I made some wonderful friends, got to see the performances of so many incredible athletes, and I even got a personal mention from Sebastian Coe in his Closing Ceremony Speech! I had told him that the Paralympic Games had ‘lifted a cloud of limitation’ for anyone who may have previously been seen as limited, be it through a physical impairment, or even a lack of confidence to follow their dreams. I was lucky enough to also help out at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (a city I totally fell in love with, and where I now live!) and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the incredible Rio, an amazingly vibrant city I consider to be my second home.

Emily with her arms spread openly with a huge bridge in the background over the water

On a broader scale, this is what volunteering does for me.  When asked, I can never ‘put a finger’ on why I do it, but to know that I’ve helped to make something wonderful happen, whether that’s helping a young person with their CV and interview skills, giving an offender hopes and opportunities for when they leave their institution, or being a part of the amazing event that was London 2012: that is one great feeling.

There’s always an opportunity to volunteer with us at Enhance the UK: visit us and see what you think!