Living with progressive sight loss can be isolating and daunting. Inaccessibility, along with negative stigmas and portrayals of disabled people all contribute to the belief that disabled individuals are limited in their interaction and participation within society. Everyday activities such as sports and exercising seem impossible due to the lack of accommodation, understanding and the fear of rejection and exclusion.
Before my diagnosis of Usher Syndrome Type 2 at the age of 14, I considered myself naturally athletic, and I was involved with sports such as football and cycling. As my peripheral vision deteriorated, I stopped partaking in sports, and I could no longer independently cycle as my tunnel vision worsened. Keen to boost my confidence and reignite my love of cycling, my Dad borrowed a tandem bike from an incredible charity known as Charlotte's Tandems. We learned how to tandem cycle and we went for cycles every weekend for a matter of months. A few years later, and I now have my very own tandem.
Charlotte's Tandems is a registered charity who lend tandems and tag-along bikes to those with disabilities or additional needs, who are unable to safely ride a bike themselves, for free. Naming the charity after their daughter, who has severe learning difficulties and autism, Kate and Alex found cycling as a way to keep Charlotte content and active. After discovering that Charlotte loved tandem cycling, Kate and Alex decided to expand their love for tandeming, encouraging friends and families to experience tandem cycling. Charlotte's Tandems became a charity in 2011, and Regional Helpers were founded to assist in creating a national community of tandem users.
Tandems are seen as a beneficial means to encourage individuals with disabilities, whether they are learning, visual or physical disabilities, to engage in an enjoyable experience that can be easily shared with friends and families.
Charlotte's Tandems have 140 tandem bikes, 24 tag-along bikes, 2 tandem trikes, and 4 tag-along trikes all over the UK and Ireland. They are available for hire at no cost for a few months at a time, but some individuals have them for much more extended periods.
The disabilities of borrowers have included:
Severe Learning Difficulties, Autism, Asperger's, Blindness, Visual Impairment, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Amputation, Hearing Loss, Dyspraxia, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson's, MS, ME, CRPS, COPD, Hemiplegia, Tuberous Sclerosis, CHARGE & MPS III.
Are you someone with a disability who's always wanted to try using a tandem bike? Do you know someone with a disability who does? You can find out more about Charlotte's Tandems on their website, their Facebook Page, or their Twitter @CharlottesTand