Wheelchair accessible accommodation: a matter of interpretation
I’m beginning to think the words “accessible accommodation” could just as easily be “flying pigs”. Finding accommodation suitable for someone in a wheelchair shouldn’t be so difficult! For our recent trip, I searched the web for places to stay. After finding very little, I co-opted my mother in the search and she too trawled the internet. Well, I can report that our trip was a mix of the splendidly accessible and the ‘tried but didn’t quite make it.’ I suppose I should give credit where credit is due. There are many motels in Australia who have not even tried to alter their rooms to make them wheelchair friendly. So I give the motel we stayed in an A for effort – at least they had a go.
In an attempt to turn some frustration, into some humour, here’s a little guide for how to make an ‘accessible’ room, just a little more entertaining.
Step 1: Put your bed on castors
Most beds come on castors. I’m guessing that many of them must have a locking mechanism. If you want to add some spice to the life of your disabled guests, don’t put the locks on. People with limited movement really LOVE when the thing they are trying to transfer from travels across the room. It makes the task so much more exciting. Perhaps you could add some fake screams so it really feels like a fun park.
Step 2: Make them be spiderman
Bed rails are for wusses! On this trip, I discovered Andrew does an exceptionally good spiderman. His ability to use the wall to ‘climb up’ off the aforementioned super sliding bed is positively jaw-dropping. I’m thinking that next time I should find a room which just has the bed in the middle of the room and see what magic trick he can perform then.
Step 3: If something is available, put it somewhere else
This one is my favourite. Walk into bathroom. Sign on wall says ‘if you require a shower chair, please ask at reception.’ Umm… the reception which had a step to get inside?
A similar story in South Kempsey park. Right beneath the sign which said ‘Please enjoy our park but be aware that this is a high crime area’ was another one which advised the key to the disabled toilet could be obtained from the visitor centre. I wish I could take a photo of Andrew’s face after he had pushed up the path to the bathroom only to be thwarted at the end. (This little helper went to collect the key to save him the effort of another push).
However, my favourite in this category is not an experience I had but one Andrew’s dad told me about. When he asked once at a motel whether they had a shower chair, he was told there were some plastic chairs out in the BBQ and pool area he could use. Hmm… I’m sure they would be high tech non-slip!
Step 4: Assume your guests can teleport themselves
We stayed in one hotel where the guests must certainly have teleporting powers. I’m not sure how else a person in a wheelchair with no capacity to stand was going to get in the shower. It had a full shower screen; a door which wasn’t even the full width of the shower; a one inch metal hob and besides the main rail holding up the shower head, no rails. In our case, it was actually ok as Andrew had enough mobility to manage this but I was appalled. If this had been the little country motel which had modified its existing room, perhaps I would have been a little less shocked. Instead it was in a major city, in a new building by a major hotel chain owned by one of Australia’s richest men. Surely, they could have got some decent advice about an accessible shower. If guests did teleport themselves in there, perhaps they levitated as well given there was nothing to hang on to!
Step 5: Add a few annoyances for everyone
Lastly, it seems you don’t need to be disabled to enjoy some motel madness. I like when you are provided with a kettle to make a cup of tea or coffee. Very courteous and thoughtful. If only the one sink in the room was deep enough you could get the kettle in it to fill it up. Once you’ve done a conjuring trick getting the water into the kettle, you get to play with the most ridiculous milk packaging of all time. You know those single serve long life things? About the width of a coin and the same in depth, they contain enough milk to ‘muddy’ your coffee. That’s of course if you can peel back the lid without losing the contents. In the end, we resorted to stabbing them with a knife. Just don’t be craving a latte, ok?