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;
- 3 rooms (2 doubles and one disabled accessible family room for 2 adults and 1 3yo)
- Anytime between Mid September – Mid November
- 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?