No room at the Inn – well no bed to be precise.

About 9 months ago the dates for the Firework Championships were announced – so we quickly booked into the Holiday Inn, Plymouth. I’ve written a separate blog post on our holiday.

We had chosen the Holiday Inn based on personal and practical requirements. The location meant we could walk to see the fireworks, it had parking and was one of the few places to have air con (as I need to keep the air cool because of my ventilator mask which otherwise gets really hot and uncomfortable)

At the time of booking the only wheelchair accessible room available was one with a double bed.

Out of 211 rooms there are only 2 with wide doors etc and a larger bathroom for wheelchair users which is rather poor. The chances of getting a twin room in hotels with so few rooms are slim.

 

We made the wrong assumption

 

bed

 

When we have stayed at other similar places (Premier Inn, Travel Lodge and even other Holiday Inns etc) where we can only get a double bed, we have been offered a camp / folding bed or sofa bed.

I have to take my pressure relief mattresses, turning equipment that goes under the mattress etc and I use a ventilator – so sleeping in a double bed with my husband isn’t an option. However, he has to be next to me to make sure I’m ok and to help me during the night.

Just before we went I spoke to them on the phone to ask for the folding bed and was told they had a policy not to provide these. Also, if we wanted second room for a carer (which wasn’t adjoining through an internal door, so wouldn’t have been any good for us anyway) we’d have to pay for it.

 

 

Making it possible to stay for work or leisure

Hotels have to make ‘reasonable’ adjustment, under UK  equality law,  to enable disabled guests to use their services – including providing aids and equipment. I’m assuming this is why the portable bed is often provided for carers in other places.

Another example is that if a person can not use the bath they can request a bath lift at one of the major hotel chains. Another chain offers low beds that can be raised on blocks to suit different height requirements.  It can make the difference between going or not going on holiday.

Also, it’s not only holidays that are the problem,  I’ve been to many hotels in the past for business trips, attending conferences or running training events for my company – and it really made working life difficult.

Basically, affordable, portable equipment that can help a range of guests have a much better stay are one of the things they can do for customers.

An apology

Holiday Inn isn’t cheap, we didn’t want to pay double and we needed and wanted to sleep near each other. My husband didn’t want to sleep on the floor – so on principle we felt unwanted and cancelled – moving to the Future Inn.

Since then, we have had an apology from Holiday Inn after I made a complaint. The manager was very polite and wrote in detail about the facilities they do have and the training provided for staff. He also explained that they do have a policy of offering a free room for carers and will consider a portable bed.  I hope this is a real genuine consideration.

I would like them to understand that things like a portable bed would have made all the difference and is better than the other option of us taking a camp bed or my husband sleeping on the floor.

I suspect many other people are in the same boat as us (from what my friends have been saying) and I know some wheelchair users who sleep in their chairs because of the ‘bed’ problem. It’s hard finding accommodation when most hotels only make 1% of their rooms wheelchair accessible.

Access for people with mobility impairments is more than wide doors and a few grab rails – its also about giving accurate information so that people can decided where they want to spend there money. We need a higher proportion of accessible rooms to choose from – that have been designed in a way that will benefit a wider proportion of disabled guests – not just mobile wheelchair users who don’t need assistance.

 

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Dungeness RSPB reserve and lighthouse

Saturday was a scorcher – just right to visit Dungeness as it’s probably freezing any other time of the year.

First stop was the RSPB reserve.

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The entrance drive/path is horrifically bumpy if you have low muscle tone – and very long. We paid a grand total of £2 to get in (the soon to disappear concession rate) plus assistants go free. The visitor centre was rather nice with a gift shop and glass front overlooking the main water of the reserve. You could sit and use the telescope/binocular view finders to watch the comings and goings. Many different birds if you know what you are looking at.

I tried out my iPhone zoom lens to look over to the nuclear power station.

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We then had a wander around.

Paths are small shingle bumpy and hides are accessible (you can drive to them if you ask). Hides are great but not for arachnophobes like me. I managed to go inside a few. They did get stuffy in the heat and a bit dusty. This us the view from one.

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For me the best attraction was watching butterflies i’d never seen before.

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Next we drove down the road to Dungeness lighthouse.

What a weird place. Shingle, succulent cabbage type plants and the bumpiest board walk I’ve ever rolled across. I can quite honestly say I won’t ever be going back there. There are also these cabins / houses that are a cross between a dreary beach hut and a large garden shed, dotted around the grass shrub. The sort serial killers or zombies live in. A ‘shop’ was selling mystical gifts and there were a few boats.

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Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

A lovely afternoon here and it’s right off the main road – so easy to get to.

Clocked up 2 miles following a straight path walk by some of the lakes. We got close to some bunnies, saw some busy bees nesting at the side of a bird hide and quite a few butterflies, dragonflies and damsel flies.

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A short video of the reserve.

 

 

 

 

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The paths were pretty good but you do need binoculars to see the water birds.  There are accessible toilets and smooth car park spaces. The Grebe Hide has a ramp to one of the windows but you can’t see the bird feeders or anything through the side windows. Kevin did the bee video for me to see what they were doing.

 

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Deserts, rain forests and a broken wheelchair

Tropical plants

Last Saturday it was a hot and sunny day in Richmond, Surrey – and perfect weather for visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Ignoring the terrible M25 queue (trying hard not to turn this whole blog into a pun), we had a brilliant afternoon. Kew is super accessible and quite straight forward to get to. We had planned to park in the car park but couldn’t access it because of road diversions. Eventually we decided on to park on a quiet side street on Kew Road (which is also the coach drop of point). There are lots of ‘parking permit only’ signs but these seem to be odd times and not applicable when we were there so we chanced it. Incidentally, if you are lucky to get one of the 300 parking spaces in their carpark it will cost you £6.50! Kew has a vast array of transport and parking information on their web-site which is worth a look.

So, parking done, time to head towards the gate. Oh my goodness. You know those drills they dig up roads with that vibrate the brains out of the operators …. that is how my head felt after driving along the most bumpiest pavement I’ve ever been on. If you use a chair – DO NOT use the pavement alongside the wall of Kew on Kew Road. It is horrific (take a look at it on street view to see how bad it is).

My brain now feeling like a blancmange that has gone through a tea strainer and my contact lenses still whirling round my eyeballs, we were in. We don’t know why but we were both given free entry (normally, carers/assistants go free and disabled people get a concession).

Really, I should have been paying full price because my experience was no different to people who walked in. The 300 acre grounds are all very accessible, smooth paths and gentle slopes. I could see nearly everything and they get a pat on the back for having a CP toilet.

Here is a sample of some of the different paths/terrain.

Paths at kew gardens

Kew is huge and you can easily spend an afternoon in one glass house. Currently the Evolution and Temperate House are closed for major works that will last many years. However, give me a tropical house and a huge conservatory with ten climatic zones any day. One minute you are amongst the plants of Madagascar and then next you are sitting with Cacti of central America. Did I mention I like succulents…. and rain-forests of orchids…. and bananas and mangos…. lets just say I was dragged out of there.

Kew plants

Tropical plants require tropical climates – just perfect for me. So with my husband and mother-in-law, Molly, wilting, I reluctantly came out the other end. I guess I’ll have to save the other side of the Prince of Wales Conservatory for next time.

We were rather out of season for the grass gardens and some of the floral displays but had a gentle meander through the rock garden and pools.

Next stop was a wander towards the Palm House. Within seconds of entering Kevin and Molly shot straight back out the opposite door! If you think the desert is hot – try this on a scorching summer day. Kevin did the gallant thing and came back in just in case I passed out or something. This glass building has 16,00 window panes to channel that summer sun like a death laser onto your hot and sticky body. Hard to believe the whole thing was dismantled and replanted in 1988. The glass is now toughened safety glass and the frame is stainless steel.

Here is a fact, inside this building is the Mexican Yam – used to develop the contraceptive pill! You can find plant facts and touchy feely boxes all around kew – it can be a very tactile experience! All the main tropical fruit trees and huge palms can be seen.

With the humidity in the extremities of the building it must have been over 100 degrees. After ten minutes I melted and went out. If you can walk down steps into the basement there is a modern aquarium display of 4 marine environments so I just read about it on the Net.

Pineapple

Bit of a breakdown….

There is only one ramped entrance but a few stepped exits – and it was on my way around the outside building that my chair started making a loud whirring noise… then it went putt-putt, jumped around … and stopped. My right motor failed and got extremely hot. Eventually it cooled down and I could move on snail speed. I don’t think it was the heat directly but the tropical house probably hastened its death.

I limped around the water-lilly house and we wandered through the wood area towards the lake. It was late afternoon and the treetop walk had closed. Kevin was quite up for it … until he saw how high it was (18 Metres high) and that you walk on mesh looking straight through to the ground! The walkway has a lift but does not permit mobility scooters (I guess electric chairs are ok?). Either way, some people were still going up despite signs that it was closed. We gave it a miss.

We also missed the Stag Beetle habitat, the Bonsai House, bee garden, aquatic garden and Lily Pond, museum, Kew Palace … so many areas that you really need a 2-3 days (and of course different seasons if you want spring bulbs or cherry blossom).

and for the tech geeks….

I had the Kew App (which you can download at the gate on free wifi) and with that you get a whole encyclopaedia of plant information. You can scan QR codes or hold up your phone to scan the area. As you hold up your phone on camera mode, it highlights the names of trees and plants you are looking at, which are clickable. You can then find out about the tree, what the wood is used for, where it comes from and all the technical information a hardy botanist might need.

Always an expedition

Our trips away don’t happen that often but recently we went to Chichester for a weekend.

Travelling lightly – impossible!

Whether it is one night or ten – there is always a lot to take. For three nights at a Travel Lodge I took the following:

Normal stuff

  • 6 items of clothing.
  • electric toothbrush,
  • toothpaste,
  • soap,
  • flannel
  • my own pillow
  • hairdryer / brush
  • Contact lens case/fluid.
  • Poncho (+outdoor clothing).
  • Phone and charger.

This would have fitted into a small hold-all and we could have packed in minutes, jumped in the car and drove off with hub’s additions of some clothes etc.

I can’t do that… it takes all afternoon for my husband to get things together, bring disability equipment out of the loft and load up the car. I find people don’t understand this in ‘holiday’ conversations. It’s not like we can forget anything neither. You might be able to go to reception and buy a toothbrush if you forgot it but if you forget a vent hose you’d have to drive back home again. It’s this added pressure that you just can’t convey to people – or they don’t appreciate. Similarly making sure you bring it all back home!

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Disability ‘stuff’ includes:

  • Manual wheelchair
  • Shower hose extension.
  • Battery charger for my chair
  • 2 large foam cushions to prop up parts of me
  • Decking plank and wood blocks to keep my feet level on the toilet or under the sink
  • Foam mattress topper
  • Wedge pillow for my head (left side)
  • Second pillow for the other side of my head/cheek to protect the side of my face.
  • Blanket for between my knees and several towels and blankets to support me in bed
  • Ventilator
  • Ventilator mains lead, night time face mask, tubes and circuitry.
  • Ventilator mask ‘slugs’ and 2x padding that goes around the mask.
  • Nasal spray to keep my nose clear to breathe,
  • Adhesive plaster/tape to put over my face and nose to protect it from mask sores (and scissors to cut it).
  • Bottle of fairy liquid to clean my mask cuff and hand sanitiser liquid to clean the mask shell.
  • Shoe horn (personal hygiene item)
  • Andrex (personal hygiene item)
  • Change of clothes (personal hygiene item)
  • Wheelchair bits like footplates I only use when out
  • Radar Key
  • Allen Key to adjust bits of my chair if needed
  • Puncture repair kit

Sometimes we take more stuff with us depending on how accessible a place is e.g. this year we will take my mobile hoist for our main holiday.

Holidays are hard work but if you don’t put in the effort you never see anywhere new and that would be even worse.