Despite living with restricted mobility, Rachel Gibson-Leigh from Brighton, continues to enhance her freedom after attending a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on a new folding TGA Maximo mobility scooter.
Before taking early retirement due to severe Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rachel worked in publishing and was an accomplished book and graphic designer. She now lives with her wife, Debbie, who has recently retired from public service as a long standing civil servant. Debbie now cares for Rachel and with the help of two new folding mobility scooters, a TGA Minimo Plus and Maximo, they can both still enjoy accessing Brighton – especially The Lanes, Seafront and new i360. They also enjoy days out in the car with freedom on arrival at scenic locations such as Arundel Castle, the South Downs and Chichester. The compact Minimo is the best-selling folding car boot scooter from TGA and the Maximo is a larger 4-wheel version. The Minimo is lightweight and easy to lift into the car boot whilst the more spacious Maximo provides enhanced comfort, stability and support. Both scooters fold into a compact shape which is essential for Rachel and Debbie as they live in a first floor flat where storage space is limited.
The catalyst behind ownership of these two scooters was Debbie’s invitation to the Buckingham Palace Royal Garden Party – in recognition of her service to the nation. As Rachel cannot walk far, being able to accompany Debbie would not have been possible without the assistance of a mobility scooter. Rachel explains: “Following our invitation to the Palace we could see very early on that there would be a great deal of standing and walking involved. This is something I find very difficult now. Therefore, we decided that a mobility scooter would be the perfect solution. At the time I was about 20 stone in weight so couldn’t make use of the lightweight machines. We also live in a flat serviced by an old Victorian lift so the scooter had to fold. It soon became obvious that the TGA Maximo was the scooter for me. The TGA Assessor, Shaun Finch, brought one to the flat and after a good test drive I bought it there and then. I called her Boudicca, because she represents freedom and liberty for me. I also own a lightweight Minimo Plus now as I have lost weight.”
Rachel continues: “The sun was shining and it was a pleasant and balmy day when we went to the Palace. The gardens quickly filled with approximately 7,000 guests from all walks of life. After a little mingling the food tent opened at about 2.30pm and at 4pm the Royal family emerged to the playing of God Save the Queen by one of three military bands present. We then went for a turn around the extensive and beautiful grounds and gardens. My Maximo was just what I’d hoped for and I was both comfortable and able to ride over the gravel paths, inclines and grass with ease. We stopped and before too long we saw the Royals walking along the path towards us. The Queen led and as she came up to us, I said: ‘A very happy 90th year ma’am’ to which she said thank you and then I told her how lovely her outfit was, to which she also said thank you. The Duke of Edinburgh was behind The Queen but didn’t come forward for conversation. Then came Katherine Duchess of Cambridge. I said: ‘We were hoping to see George and Charlotte but she said that they would create mayhem and need a thousand nannies to keep them in check!’ She had such a sparkling smile! Then came Prince William in his morning suit and top hat, followed by several more members of the family who we greeted. What a wonderful day made all the more enjoyable because I had my TGA Maximo scooter.”
Since the experience of the Royal Garden Party Rachel continues to enjoy hassle-free mobility around Brighton, especially as her TGA Minimo and Maximo are suitable for local bus travel. She became involved with the Brighton & Hove Buses Accessibility Day as she explains: “We were in Churchill Square doing some shopping when we noticed a brand new bus parked next to a sign advertising Brighton & Hove Buses’ new mobility scheme and accessible bus. We picked up a few leaflets and were chatting with the bus company staff about the scheme when they asked if I could try to get on the new design of bus with my Maximo scooter without folding it. They took lots of photographs as I manoeuvred on and off the bus and they were thrilled that I could manage without dismounting and having to fold the Maximo. They were so pleased that their bus had worked that they took pictures with me and the Mayor of Brighton. I now hold a ‘Helping Hand’ scheme card which is a credit card sized card that I keep in my wallet which shows any bus driver that I am allowed to get on their bus with my scooter.”