Why do wheelchairs make things complicated and ramp up costs?

Today has been a very frustrating day in general, my blog earlier regarding the ongoing saga with my local council saying there are no funds to create access to a decent play area in my home town but that there is suddenly £60,000 in reserve to fund moving play equipment from the one accessible park due to a handful of noise complaints! Needing access for wheelchairs seems a massive ask.

As I have recently been retired through ill health I have accessed my pension and with a small lump sum we have been looking at having our first and probably last family holiday flying overseas. Our eldest will be 19 before he flies and it will only be the second time for my wife. We have been searching desperately online to find wheelchair accessible hotels with family rooms that have disabled access and a walk in shower. It has been like searching for a needle in a haystack. We have found ourselves having to rely on review sites for reviewers to mention whether they were in a wheelchair and found the place accessible. Given that we o not wish to be defined by our disabilities we do not always mention in reviews how accessible the hotels/places/resorts/attractions are to people in wheelchairs. My parents have traveled abroad extensively but neither using a wheelchair have paid any great attention to the resorts accessibility.

The hotels themselves do not seem to advertise disabled access rooms and the tour operators do not on their websites seem to have a list of hotels that do. Furthermore airlines state that you have to call them before booking to ensure there is capacity to take you and your wheelchair as a disabled passenger because they can only take a certain number and have to ensure that these seats haven’t already been reserved by anyone else. There is one thing that strikes me here and that is that under airline regulations disabled people can only sit in certain seats so they do not block emergency exits for example (perfectly understandable), however these seats are not greyed out for disabled passengers so that they are the last to be filled, these could be filled at anytime by an able bodied person who wanted to pay to reserve them. a bone of contention for many disabled flyers. The way a wheelchair user is lifted onto the plane has to be checked for suitability and then you have to be loaded and your chair stored. This kind of rules out a number of your book cheap and early packages and also means you are taking a real risk as to there being room for you if you book before calling. Having tried unsuccessfully over a number of hours to find somewhere and being the disabled party I suggested going to a travel agent (well in truth I keep calling them estate agents as it is one of those words my meds keep confusing and transposing for some unknown reason). We visited one this afternoon and the first stumbling block was being my hometown and it being in an old building there was a large step up, no ramp could be put out because a van had illegally parked on double yellow lines outside the shop. Fortunately I was able to put my blue badge out and park very close and use a grab rail and help from my family to get in. Once seated we set out our requirements. They were fairly simple;

  1. 3 rooms (2 doubles and one disabled accessible family room for 2 adults and 1 3yo)
  2. Anytime between Mid September – Mid November
  3. Any of the Canaries or Balearic Islands providing it was still warm

That was it nothing more nothing less our choices we were told would be severely limited by the need of having this disabled room. All it really needed was a walk-in shower, grab rails around the toilet, a shower seat and room for my wheelchair (we are looking at hiring a number of the other home comfort aids out there, a task also proving difficult), I am purchasing some blow up aids to give the effect of being in a raised bed and chair, something I (well my mum) has stumbled across in our endless searches. Once we are out there I am hoping the sun and floating in a pool all day will be the rest of my holiday! There is a specialist company that charge a premium for booking with them for being disabled, I mean who wouldn’t want to pay a premium for a holiday due to a disability it’s not like we have to pay for masses of equipment and adjustments in our normal everyday lives already – hang on wait that is exactly what we do.

I stupidly figured there would be some sort of list that agents would have that detailed disabled rooms available that they could look up show us some of the hotels and let us choose one. Then it would be simple process of logging in to see when/if one of the disabled rooms was free and there you go. Oh no the major tour operators do not have this sort of information readily available and this set up the agent would need to contact the hotel check if they have disabled rooms and if one was free, provisionally book it and then send an official request in writing meaning it would take about 3 weeks to confirm and have it set in stone which room would be ours and that it would have disabled access. At this time we would have to book our flights and if it came back that there was an in issue with the room heavenly only knows what sort of can of worms changing or cancelling the flights would be. Alternatively we could book through some smaller operators who could confirm the room via email and within about a week who did have a list of a few hotels in each isle, but you’ve guessed it instead of being between the £650-£900 mark we have been finding hotels on line their prices were ranging between £1,100 and £1,500 per person! Seriously I didn’t realise being disabled was such an exclusive members club that people were paying a premium to join us! The flights, hotel, food, transfers, entertainment etc was all the same as the rest of the hotel, you didn’t get exclusive pools with blue badge holder sun loungers or anything like that.

We spent over an hour with Jenna at Premier Travel today and I have to say she was lovely, helpful, professional and couldn’t have tried harder to help us and you could see she was almost as frustrated as we were at the difficulties she was having trying to book the holiday for us. We left with several brochures and having looked through them, read up reviews on line and used google maps to find locations and the lay of the land out of I would say over 500 hotels in the brochures we emailed her this evening with 3 yes 3 potential hotels that may be suitable if they have disabled rooms. Fingers crossed she will have some luck tomorrow for us. This said if there are disabled rooms she will have to try and secure them and guarantee they will be there for me which could take anything from 1 day to about 3 weeks depending which company.

What should have been an exciting once in a lifetime thing is fast becoming one of the biggest debacles going. I am feeling incredibly guilty and down about the holiday already (everyone knows it will significantly impact on my pain but the reality is if we don’t do it now we never will be able to as my back gets progressively worse), once again it would appear I am being a huge financial and troublesome burden on my family when all we want is a small holiday overseas with long breaks inbetween travel days and the odd excursion so I can recover from the travelling and/or days out meaning we want to be there for 14 days.

Has anyone else had similar issues? Can you recommend hotels/places to visit that are wheelchair friendly, have you had similar experiences, can you recommend certain tour operators?

6 thoughts on “Why do wheelchairs make things complicated and ramp up costs?

  1. As a wheelchair user, too, I know only too well how difficult it can be to find appropriate accommodation. the secret is to always allow yourself plenty of time to make appropriate queries & organise things. We have managed trips as far away from England as Australia, Singapore, Canada, as well as many parts of Europe, including Tenerife & Lanzarote. However, it can be done. Companies such as Accessible Travel may not be the cheapest but they do guarantee access. However, looking at their brochures do give you ideas of accessible hotels. Thomsons do seem a bit more organised than some about giving you info on access. We usually travel independently. As you say travel with a wheelchair is expensive. I find I have to go business class for long haul holidays as I need to be able to maximum variation of seating position if I’m going to survive the trip. the other problem with air travel is the tiny size of toilet facilities on board a plane. It’s impossible to get a wheelchair in but can be a long time to hold it! If you are flying I would recommend taking any parts that are removable off & into the cabin of the plane rather than hold. They manage to lose one of my footplates between Manchester & Heathrow so I had to go on to Canada where their parts are made with different specs. Good luck on the hunt & I hope you feel the effort of looking is validated by the enjoyment of the holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, will keep looking, check out accessible travel and Thomsons some more. I hope you are right the feffort will be validated by the memories created on the holiday 🙂

      Like

  2. i know what you mean, being disabled is expensive. Need to save up for months for a simple trip. I refuse to fly, its too frustrating im afraid theyll break my chair! Sounds like hotels in Europe are not very accessible. Many in the US are, i never had much trouble. If you want to travel to Disney in Orlando, FL theres a villa with a bunch of handicapped accessible houses the rate is very affordable for a week. The flight for you to get there may be more though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s always good to know thanks pal, hopefully flights aren’t too expensive from here, I bet it’s cheaper to book your end than mine though. We’d love to take our LG but she’s only 3 at the moment so a few more years when she can go on all the rides will be perfect!

      Like

  3. i think you may find that places don’t advertise their accommodations for handicap, at least here in the states. i was power of attorney of a friend who had a stroke. i went to get her (half way across the country) and we stopped at our normal stop for a night and it turned out they had a lovely queen bed that sat lower than the other beds, (so she could sit on it and pivot to lay down), and it had its own lovely bath with everything out in the vanity area at a lowered vanity height (for wheelchair users) with a roll in stall for showering. Of course, that meant I got most of the shower, but it got done. She had no problem performing her hygiene, toileting, showering and we had no idea this hotel even had special rooms, it was just a fave hotel of ours. Of course, here in USA, there are a set number of handicap rooms/# of rooms at all hotel/motel since the ADA law passed (Americans With Disabilities Law). The only time you see a hotel or motel without these accommodations is if they were built prior to such law and thus are ‘grandfathered’ in to be acceptable without making the changes. I think as you sort out your places you’ll stay, you’ll be surprised by how many have hidden, unrecognized adaptive bathrooms, especially if they are newer. After all, they play babysitter to the rich and famous, and they need accommodations too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kat, I am sure you are probably right, we seem to think in the UK we are all set up due to the Disability Discrimination Act which falls under the Equality Act but in truth we fail so many times – even something as simple as a path to a playground I am having to fight my local council over. Overseas you see paths that run right down the beach to the water so I would hope the hotels are equipped they seem to be more on the ball than we are even after London 2012 Olympics that seems to make those in power think we are all set, in truth the government expect us all to be superhuman athletes available to work so are screwing us over (I digress). I think it is the fear of paying for a package and flights and then how we cancel that without losing money if the rooms are already booked if that makes sense. Everything is so black and white it seems in the US whereas in the UK it seems more grey…………. Thanks for the positivity though it has cheered me up!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s