A friend of Ataxia UK has spent months visiting all of London’s Tube stations to make the most of his mobility while raising awareness of his condition.
Ben, aka TubeSnapper, has progressive cerebellar ataxia and lives in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. He is a former bouncer but is taking a year out of his career to work on a series of detective fiction novels and explore his photography.
Last year July, Ben was told that he probably would not be able to walk in a years’ time. As a fan of the London Underground, he set himself the challenge of visiting all 272 stations.
He says: “I am raising awareness of Ataxia and the challenges it presents by visiting and photographing all of London’s 272 Tube Stations. In order to highlight access and disability issues of travelling on the underground, I am getting off at each station, exiting and entering the station to experience the stairs, escalators, ramps, and lifts while I am on my two sticks for walking and still able to access non-step free stations.”
On 10 February, Ben finished his challenge at Tottenham Court Road. Viktor, our communications manager, was among the individuals who greeted him. We know from Ben’s previous blog that he is a dedicated photographer and does his utmost to raise awareness.
“I came up with the idea for the tube challenge after I started taking photos on the tube on my way to the London Library in St James Square, where I do my writing. I realised that the struggle I was going through getting there and back on two sticks might be interesting to others. I also realised that I would not be able to use the closest station, Piccadilly Circus, for too much longer as I am struggling most days with stairs and escalators and will soon be using a wheelchair.”
With the help of his two sticks, Ben completed his challenge, overcoming his struggles at times but not giving up. During his journey, he has become aware of numerous accessibility problems.
He says: “I realised that the struggle I was going through getting there and back on two sticks might be interesting to others. I also realised that I would not be able to use the closest station, Piccadilly Circus, for too much longer as I am struggling most days with stairs and escalators and will soon be using a wheelchair.“
Ben felt very lonely when he was first diagnosed. He did not have anyone around him who had ataxia and shied away from asking for help. This is Ben’s advice to you:
“My top tip would be to engage with the community because since I have, I do not feel alone. My other tip would be not to be afraid to ask for help. This was something as an ex-bouncer and a Millwall supporter, we are a tough bunch, did not come easily to me, and I struggled a lot unnecessarily. Both mentally and physically.“
Social Media handles
Facebook: Tube Snapper
Ben is raising funds and awareness for Ataxia UK by trying to get as far up Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) using his wheelchair, rollator, and walking sticks. He will be using wheelchair accessible transport including a London Bus, The London Underground, the Elizabeth Line, Mainline Trains and the Snowdon Sherpa bus service to get to base camp in Wales.
Find out more here: Snowdon 4 Ataxia challenge