Day: 15 August 2020

A collage of travel agents logos

Travel Agents: How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers?

I don’t know why I am still surprised to encounter such situations as this one. We are in the 21st Century, right? I wonder if it’s because I believe with all the technology and free information that is around, I expect companies etc. to have NO excuse whatsoever NOT to be disability informed and compliant!!!

My Enquiry

My latest experience with travel agents Tui, I can’t help but feel the industry is trying to make booking a holiday/trip as difficult and stressful as possible, in the hope we won’t book a holiday abroad?? Why is England seemingly so inadequate to provide for disabled people whee accessibility is concerned?? Other countries manage it with seemingly no problem at all.

I’m off to Vegas later this year to go to a concert, so obviously, I needed to book a hotel and flight.  So, we (hubby & I) went to Tui to get some info and prices.  I really wished I hadn’t bothered and wasted my time!!  We were seen by this young man who obviously didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing and presumably had never helped a disabled person book a holiday!

I explained I was a full-time wheelchair user, and all the necessary info about dates, where we would like to stay etc.  I told him that I had some questions I would need to be answered before making a booking.  Not a problem he said looking very worried!

He brought up some deals for us to look at.  We liked the look of one of them, so asked before proceeding, could we now go through some of our questions? There were 11 in total and consisted of the following:

  1. Airport Parking – I wanted to know how close is the disabled parking to the terminal, as hubby can’t walk too far.
  2. Airport assistance – What does this include
  3. Can I keep my wheelchair up to the plane door? – I don’t like the idea of being another wheelchair not suitable for several hours.
  4. How to arrange for my chair to be brought to me once we arrive at Vegas
  5. How much hand luggage can I take – Eg: Lose parts of the chair, footrest etc
  6. Wheelchair insurance – Would holiday insurance include cover for my wheelchair
  7. Wheelchair hire in Vegas – So if I decided not to take my chair, can I hire one in Vegas and what type is on offer.
  8. Will the plane have a chair to go to the toilet
  9. Can I find measurements of the toilet or see one before flying
  10. Are Visas required, if so how/where to apply?
  11. Can I take wheelchair tools as hand luggage?

Problem After Problem

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - Tui logo

I knew a couple may not be answered but most of them should be (Who was I kidding?)  When I showed him my list, the blood seemed to just drain from his face.  He told me he would need to contact their accessibility department to get the information I requested.  No problem I said.  When he came off the phone literally a few minutes later, he told us that they couldn’t help and he needed to contact somewhere else.  Ok, I said. 

Once again he failed in getting the information, again explaining the department couldn’t help.  He then went on about how the flight was being operated by a third party and how we would have to get in touch with them ourselves.  He was going on about how two airlines are offering seats on the same flight, so he or the other departments were unable to get the information we wanted.

At this point, we had been in the travel gents for approx 40 minutes.  I’d had enough, I knew we weren’t going to get the info we needed, so we went for a coffee.  After chatting it over, we decided to go back and see if there was anybody else we could speak to.  As soon as we entered through the door, the same young man jumped up and beckoned us over.  Oh boy, back to square one.

We explained we weren’t happy and the fact we couldn’t believe that it was this difficult to source the info we needed.  I wasn’t prepared to book anything until I was confident in how I board the plane, how my wheelchair would be looked after etc.  Why is this sort of info not readily available to everyone/anyone needing it?  He couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

We asked if anyone else could help us, he then went to his manager, he went over and talked with her.  Hubby got up and went over to join the conversation, as no attempt was made to involve me, I also went over.  Again she explained about third party airlines etc oh and now because it was the weekend, nowhere was open?  (But didn’t the guy speak to two different departments today?)  But everywhere is closed!!  Starting to sound like a fob off to me!!

Anyway, she asked if we could leave things with her and she will try to get the info and get back to us around Wednesday of the next week.  No problem I said and left sharply.  I had no intentions of dealing any further with Tui over this booking or non-booking!!

Solution

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - British Airways Logo

The following day (Sunday) I looked online and found a hotel and flight deal directly with British Airways and it was almost £200 cheaper than what Tui was asking…….Result.  So I contacted BA directly and guess what?  In the amount of time I had spent with Tui, I had my booking to Vegas, my questions answered AND confirmation of my accessible room in the hotel.  Airport assistance for both me and hubby also booked and confirmed!  Why had I not thought of booking directly beforehand??  So at least now I’m confident in what I have, assistance wise and happy I can take my own wheelchair.  There is, however, one last bit of info I am still to have answered.  Will I be able to use the toilet while on the plane?  Kinda buggered if I can’t haha, it’s an 11-hour flight.

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Ace of Spades next to two dice showing sixes

Las Vegas: My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User

Well, where do I start on this amazing city?  My husband and I went to Las Vegas for one main purpose, to see Billy Idol in concert.  I couldn’t see him here in the UK last year as hubby broke his leg and as he is my carer/driver, I was unable to go.  So when I heard he was doing a residency in LV, I just had to go.

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User - The famous Las Vegas welcome sign

We booked our trip for October 2019 directly with British Airways and dealt with a very nice man who answered all my question and sorted everything out for us from the hotel, flights/seats and disability assistance.  I was extra nervous as I hadn’t flown in over 20 years and this was my first time flying as a full-time wheelchair user, so had many worries due to all the horror stories I had been reading about disabled people being left on the plane, wheelchairs broke or going missing.  I really wasn’t doing myself any favours.

Anyhow, we booked fairly early on in the year so we had roughly 10 months to wait.  Everything seemed to run very smoothly and we were updated regularly from BA via email regarding our booking.  We were flying from Gatwick to McCarran airport.

On the morning of our long weekend in Vegas, we arrived at Gatwick, we parked in the long stay car park we had booked at a reasonable price, then got the bus to the South Terminal, which was wheelchair accessible.  We did try to check-in on the BA app the night before but this wasn’t working too well, (either that or I was doing it wrong).  So we went to check-in.  This went smoothly and we told the lady we had assistance booked and she directed us where to go.  We decided to go grab a bite to eat before going to assistance as we had turned up extremely early thinking traffic might be bad.  We had to be there 3 hours before departure time (long haul flight)…..We turned up 4 hours before lol.

At the assistance desk we were given a beeper and was told when it goes off, come back to the desk and we would be taken to board the plane.  So the only sensible thing left to do now was go shopping   We had approx 2 hours or so to go before departure.  When our beeper went off, we headed back to assistance where we were taken to the plane.  Jeff (hubby) required assistance also as he is unable to walk very far, so he jumped in one of their electric buggies where I followed behind, well I say behind, I was left for dust really.  Thank god I knew what gate I was aiming for, which I might add was miles away!!  At the plane door, I transferred into an aisle chair, (by god this is a tiny piece of equipment, my backside only just fitted on the seat!!)  I was extremely embarrassed to see that most of the passengers had already boarded the plane, meaning I had to pass them all as I was pulled along with my hips hopping of each seat as I passed.  Our seats were at the very back of the plane as this was the only place that had 2 seats instead of 3 and I felt a row of 2 seats would be better for transferring in/out of the aisle chair if/when I needed the loo and the fact the toilets were pretty much behind these seats.  No passengers to pass mid-flight!

We eventually take off after a delay of over an hour (A flight from Scotland was delayed that had passengers that were booked on our flight).  Well, the flight was probably the coldest I have been in a very long time.  The aircon must have been on full blast!  I wrapped up in a blanket and still couldn’t get warm.

TIP 1 – Take something warm to wear on the flight or you WILL freeze!!

The entertainment system on this plane was pretty naff to say the least.  The screen was very small (compared to the one coming home), the section where you can track your flight journey was not working and when trying to watch a film, you could see the grid lines embedded in the screen.  Even the Wi-fi was broken, so I tried to get some sleep as I knew when we landed, we would have been up nearly 24 hours due to time difference but this was impossible due to being so damn cold.

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User - Airplane Toilet
Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -  Plane toilet with side entrance

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I had spent the day watching my liquid intake as I didn’t know how I was going to cope with the toilet onboard.  Jeff had to go long before I did and he came back saying he didn’t think I was going to cope….Great, just what I wanted to hear!!  He explained the door to the toilet faced the toilet itself, Left Image – this meant I would not be able to transfer onto the toilet from the aisle chair.  I sat pondering my options and trying to work out how I was going to get onto the toilet in such a small space.  Jeff then disappeared and came back and told me there was another toilet on the other side of the plane (Jeff used the one directly behind us) and this looked more promising as the door was at the side of the toilet, Right image.  Indeed this was the answer I needed, it even had a handrail for me to hold onto whilst I transferred.  Please note:  These are not the toilets aboard our plane, just a representation to show you the difference.

Tip 2 – Do check to see if there are other toilets laid out differently as this might make the difference in whether or not you can actually go.

I packed my cushion with my wheelchair in the hold luggage.  What a mistake this was.  I was in excruciating pain the whole way as the plane seats are quite hard and my coccyx got very sore.  I didn’t make the same mistake coming home!

Tip 3 – Make sure if you have a cushion on your chair, you take it on board with you to use.

View from airplane of mountains covered with snow

If you can, (I know airlines normally prefer us disabled to have an aisle seat) get a window seat, the views over Iceland/Greenland are out of this world!!

Arriving at McCarran airport, I had the dreaded aisle chair fiasco again, thankfully I was last off so no passengers gawping at me.  My wheelchair was at the plane door waiting for me, yippee, what a relief!  Once transferred, we were taken to customs, once through there we were on our own.  We went outside to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel the Excalibur.  I was so cold from the plane, I was delighted to see the sun shining brightly I just had to sit in it for 5 minutes to warm my bones up.  The weather at this time of year is wonderful and hot!  (Well Caz, you are in the middle of the Nevada desert).

We were advised to go to one of the taxi booth’s outside. We waited in line at one of them for what felt like half an hour, so we decided to move along to another booth. The prices advertised (correct at Oct 2019)  ranged from $9.50 to $11 and on one of the booths, there was a $50 price in brackets advertised as airport tax? I have no idea as to what this meant, was this another $50 on top of the price of the trip itself? Feeling a little nervous, we went around the corner only to find we could get a bus (the SDX bus) that went from the airport to quite a few of the hotels along the strip. So we decided to jump on one of these to take us to our hotel.  This only cost us $2 each way.

I have to explain, we spent the whole weekend jumping on and off buses up and down the strip as all buses and I mean all, were wheelchair accessible. I can’t speak for all of America but in Vegas at least, all bus drivers will get out of their cab and put the ramp down for you, you then board the bus and if there are any passengers sitting in the fold-up priority seats and this space is needed by a wheelchair user, the passengers are told to move, the seats are then folded up, you then park your chair in that space where the driver then clamps your chair to the bus. In all honesty, I was amazed at how efficient the bus service actually was.  I’m terrified of using public transport (buses) here in London.  In Vegas, I would use them all by myself anytime!!

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Gold & blue double decker bus that runs up & down the Vegas strip

When you’re travelling up and down the strip, there is another bus route called the Deuce, this is a gold & blue double-decker bus that runs very frequently up and down the strip daily. The SDX bus I previously mentioned goes up and down the strip but does deviate at certain points along the strip, therefore you may have to get off the SDX bus and jump on the deuce bus or vice versa, depending on where you start your journey and where you wish to go.

Full info can be found here:  https://www.visitlasvegas.com/experience/post/getting-around-vegas/  

This tells you what you need to know about the buses that go up & down the strip.  It is also much cheaper than getting taxi’s everywhere as they use meter’s to charge for your journey, so if you’re stuck in traffic, which is pretty much every journey, then your fare is going to be expensive.

Tip 4 – If you can, use the Deuce or SDX buses when travelling up and down the strip.  Daily bus passes are fairly cheap.

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Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Excalibur hotel from a distance showing several towers of the medieval theme

We arrive at our hotel the Excalibur, this is a themed hotel (as all of the hotels along the strip are).  The Excalibur has a medieval theme with a castle look to it.  Inside you are greeted with stone walls and knights scattered around upon ledges on the walls. 

Knights armour statue in the Excalibur hotel

You can go into any of the hotels along the strip and use their amenities, shops, casino and restaurants but, I will say this about all hotels that we went in to look around.  They are all freezing…..Aircon on full blast all the time.  I can only assume this is because so many people have complained about the hotels/casinos being very smokey as there is not, a no smoking ban in Vegas. 

I have to say, although freezing, it certainly keeps the smoke at bay.  There was no smell of smoke at all!!  One or two of the hotels did smell musty and damp but not of smoke.

Being a wheelchair user, I booked an accessible room.  It was basic but had all the amenities you could want, well most, we had no tea/coffee facilities in our room.  I believe all hotels in America offer room only type of rooms.

Our accessible room came with the following:

  • Big double bed – I woke up in the middle of the night and thought Jeff had got up to go to the toilet, I didn’t realise he was on the other side of the bed lol
  • Wet room bathroom with real in shower-including a shower chair
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron/ironing board
  • Two armchairs
  • Table with mirror above
  • Flat-screen TV-opposite the bed
  • Wardrobe
  • Plenty of drawer/cupboard space
  • safe inside cupboard

There were only two drawbacks to our room,

  1. The sink in the bathroom was far from an appropriate height for a wheelchair user – It was far too high
  2. There was no tea/coffee making facility in the room

Although there were no tea or coffee facilities in the room, on the lobby floor just outside the lifts there was a kiosk selling tea/coffee/hot chocolate etc and pastries if you wanted them.

We landed in Vegas at 3:15 PM and we got to our hotel approximately 6:30 PM and due to being up over 24 hours at this point, we decided to grab a bite to eat and then just crash in bed. There was a food court on level 1, this had approximately seven or eight different places to eat.

Tip 5: A lot of the food in Vegas, as I am sure you can imagine, is very greasy. There are many places where you can get food that is not greasy.  So, it is worth shopping around.

We awoke Saturday morning at 2:00 am due to the time difference and to my horror, found my electric wheelchair had not been charging. Meaning, it was plugged in correctly to both my wheelchair and electrical outlet but still no charge! Jeff checked my wheelchair, charger and plugs and found nothing wrong with any of the connections. It turns out, (something we had not even thought about), was the voltage used in the USA. Here, in the UK, we use 240v but in the USA they use 110v, therefore, meaning their voltage was not powerful enough to charge my chair.

To cut a very long story short, we spent the best part of Saturday trying to fix my charging issue.  From having to go to a local electrical store to purchase a step-up/down transformer, finding out the machine we bought was faulty and the last one in stock.  (Ever feel the forces are just working against you?).   (I have since spoken to a friend who also had the same issue in a country she had visited and confirmed she used one of these step-up/down transformers and it charged her chair with no problem).

We had visited reception a couple of times, hoping they might have been able to help us as surely I would not have been the first electric wheelchair user to have suffered this problem! Unfortunately, they didn’t really know what we were going on about. Surprised and shocked we were directed to the bellboy desk and told to speak with the manager Andy. Andy Matteucci (Bell Captain) was a lifesaver as he spent a couple of hours trying to solve my problem including getting one of his engineers to confirm the machine we had bought was actually faulty. After exhausting all possibilities Andy suggested using one of his scooter chargers to see if that would charge my chair. (These are scooters the hotel hire out to anyone needing them).  I was praying this would be a solution, as my chair was now in the red and the sole purpose of our visit (Billy Idol concert) was in a view hours time!

Thankfully, my prayers seemed to be answered as this seemed to fix my problem, the charger was charging my chair. There was only one problem with this solution, I assume because of the electrical outlet voltage, the charger wasn’t powerful enough to charge my chair properly, this meant I had to carry the charger around with me to keep charging my chair at regular intervals. Therefore, we had to hire the scooter that came with the charger.

Tip 6: Please speak to your wheelchair service (if you have an NHS chair) or your wheelchair manufacturer to ask what their advice would be on charging your chair in the USA/abroad.  I spoke with Invacare (my wheelchair manufacturer) their advice was to purchase a 110v charger for my wheelchair at the lovely price of £300. Yeah right, gonna spend that kind of money on a piece of equipment that I may only use once……. not bloody likely!  (I may look deeper into one of those step-up/down transformers).

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Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Billy Idol sitting on my footrest between my legs while I'm sitting in my wheelchair

As I said before, the sole purpose of our visit to Las Vegas was to see Billy Idol in concert. As you can see from the image above, this was a dream come true! Billy Idol was doing a residency in the Palms Casino resort hotel. From what we saw of the hotel it looked rather plush but the view I had from the wheelchair space at the very back of their theatre, was crap, to say the least. I was in a space that had what I would describe as a cinema seat either side of me (presumably, carer/PA seats).

The theatre/auditorium was tiered and as I was sat directly behind the last row of seats, the minute people got up to dance, which was as soon as the music started, I may as well have stuck on an eye mask as I would have had a better view! The irony of this, was, to the right of me there was a balcony section for all the other wheelchair users who had no obstruction to their view whatsoever as it was a balcony! So, I have a word with the usher asking if I could sit off to the left by the pillar where the flight of steps lead down into the auditorium. He said no! I went on to explain how my view was non-existent and I would then have to leave as it would not be worth staying. He told me to hang on a moment, he went away, came back and told me if I sat against the wall I could sit by the pillar. Not the best of solutions but better than what I had previously.

Tip 7:  When booking concert tickets or show tickets especially when going abroad to see these shows, try your best to research or contact the venue itself to find out exactly where you are seated and if your view will be obstructed in any way. If like me you have to book a wheelchair space at the venue, you are limited to where you can be seated so definitely worth finding this information out before booking!

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Jeff in between 2 showirls with blue feather headdresses

So, after sadly having our first day taken from us due to my wheelchair issues, we had an awful lot to cram into one day. Wow, we were gonna be busy!  We were told you could not visit Vegas and not go to Fremont Street as this was an experience not to be missed. So we jumped up on a bus (Deuce) and took this to Fremont Street. Here, is where the Vegas strip originally started. It is basically one long street filled with shops, casinos and restaurants, with a roof cover that lights up. At one end of the street, you can jump on a zip wire and travel the length of the street.  Did you know, the Golden Nugget casino that is here, is where the film Sister Act was filmed?  Neither did I!

On the ground, you may very well see Elvis and some showgirls, be careful though, we had passed a couple of showgirls two or three times and each time they asked for us to have a picture taken with them which we refused each time. Towards the end of the day, Jeff decided to bite the bullet and have his picture taken with them. It is customary to tip these picture opportunity people for a better phrase. So before having his picture taken Jeff did ask “how much”? The answer was “whatever you felt like giving”. After the picture was taken both myself and Jeff handed the girls $10 each. One of the girls took this money and the other one asked: “have you anything nice for me”? Jeff explained that the $20 was for both of them, to which they responded by informing us that they normally get $20 each! Sorry, $40 dollars for a photo that you take with your own camera?  (I’m in the wrong business).

Freemont Street in Vegas with overhead cover all lit up with flame images

Be warned though, there are many sights you may wish to forget. For example, we saw what can only be described as an elderly lady wearing a G string, nipple doilies, masquerade lace mask and holding a whip in one hand where she found it very amusing to slap men’s backsides with this as they passed by.

Tip 8: Make sure, you have plenty of spending money if you intend to have your picture taken regularly with these photo opportunity people because in my opinion you will be fleeced!!

After our eventful day, my wheelchair was drained, so I had to use the scooter Jeff had hired that evening.  We took a ride up and down the strip seeing it all lit up and grabbing a few photos.  The strip at night is definitely worth seeing!!

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Black decorative line with swirl in the center

Monday – Time to go home 🙁   We were very sad as we felt we just didn’t have the time we needed to see and do everything we wanted.  (Oh well, just means we will have to go back again)   

Checking out of the hotel was very easy, there were machines by reception that you could use rather than queue up, all you had to do really was input your name and email address and confirm you were checking out.

So, back to the airport, we go!  We jumped on another bus (SDX) to take us back to the airport.  We got a little confused as to which side of the road we needed to be on as of course, the traffic is going the opposite direction to here in the UK.  We asked someone and was directed to a bus stop, only to find we were on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong road lol.  We should have been literally on the side, just around the corner.

Checking in was a little slow as the man dealing with us didn’t have a clue how to check in a wheelchair user!  Back and forth he went, asking me the same questions repeatedly.  One thing I didn’t understand, when booking, I had to input all the necessary info regarding my wheelchair, weight, dimensions, battery type etc yet, here I was giving all this info all over again at all the airports I passed through.

Tip 9:  Have a handy info sheet with all this info with you whenever going through the airport.  You will be asked repeatedly for it!!

We went to the assistance desk where we told this time we had priority boarding, something not told to us flying out!  We were told to go to the boarding desk approx an hour before take-off.  The time came for pre-boarding, we were already at the seating area by the desk waiting.  I was taken to the plane door where I had to transfer into an aisle seat, then I was told to wait.  The man dealing with me had to go and help another passenger?  So I was left in this aisle chair sat by the plane door, waiting, waiting and waiting.  Passengers had now started to board the plane, all passing me by a looking!  Even the cabin crew started to look worried!  Eventually, the man returned, I was now finally boarding the plane and yes, you guessed it, the aisle chair fiasco once again!!  Although that was bad enough, the biggest issue we had with our return flight was the disability assistance at Gatwick……Basically it didn’t arrive!! When we arrived back at Gatwick, I was told by a member of the cabin crew, that I wasn’t down as a “carry on”.  I explained that BA themselves booked this and nearer our flight date, confirmed all was well.  After investigation, it turned out that another lady (who had NO assistance booked) got my assistance??  This now meant my electric wheelchair had NOT been brought to the plane door!  How does this kind of mistake happen??   Getting off the plane at Gatwick, the man taking me down the aisles of the plane had no idea what he was doing.  He kept bashing my hips into the seats and at one point I had to reach out and physically stop him as he nearly crashed my legs into a doorway!!  Again, causing me lots of pain!! Because of this major cock-up, I was made to transfer from the plane seat onto the aisle chair then into another chair onboard the jetty bus that was at the plane door, I then had to be taken to luggage claim where I was again made to transfer into another wheelchair so I could be taken off the bus into the terminal entrance.  Eventually, my electric wheelchair was found and yet again, transfer into it.  This caused me a great deal of physical pain in my coccyx, arms and back.  I am still in pain as I write this!  Then, once I was in my own chair, we were left alone!  All assistance was just gone.  We had no idea where or what to do next!  My husband who also had assistance booked was now left to walk everywhere and struggle to search for and lift our luggage!!  His assistance was non-existent!!  So he also is in great pain!! Unfortunately, this kind of mistake is out of our control, all we can do is book assistance and get confirmation nearer the time.  Beyond this, our assistance is literally in the hands of the gods!!  I count myself lucky though, it could have been a lot worse in the respect my wheelchair could have been damaged, thankful for small mercies!!!

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Conclusion

We had a fantastic time and will go again.  Yes, we had our ups and downs but well worth it.  We didn’t really have the time to spend in the casinos due to the issues we had with my chair.  Next time I may have a flutter 

 It is a noisy place with machines pinging and beeping in the casinos, the general hustle and bustle of the strip and all the traffic.  The lights are amazing but I can see how they could be very overwhelming for some. The weather is great if you love the sun, we found it not too hot and not too cold (unless in a hotel). 

My Tips

TIP 1 – Take something warm to wear on the flight or you WILL freeze!!

Tip 2 – Do check to see if there are other toilets laid out differently as this might make the difference in whether or not you can actually go.

Tip 3 – Make sure if you have a cushion on your chair, you take it on board with you to use.

Tip 4 – If you can, use the Deuce or SDX buses when travelling up and down the strip.  Daily bus passes are fairly cheap.

Tip 5: A lot of the food in Vegas, as I am sure you can imagine, is very greasy. There are many places where you can get food that is not greasy.  So, it is worth shopping around.

Tip 6: Please speak to your wheelchair service (if you have an NHS chair) or your wheelchair manufacturer to ask what their advice would be on charging your chair in the USA/abroad.  I spoke with Invacare (my wheelchair manufacturer) their advice was to purchase a 110v charger for my wheelchair at the lovely price of £300. Yeah right, gonna spend that kind of money on a piece of equipment that I may only use once……. not bloody likely!  (I may look deeper into one of those step up/down transformers).

Tip 7:  When booking concert tickets or show tickets especially when going abroad to see these shows, try your best to research or contact the venue itself to find out exactly where you are seated and if your view will be obstructed in any way. If like me you have to book a wheelchair space at the venue, you are limited to where you can be seated so definitely worth finding this information out before booking!

Tip 8:  Make sure, you have plenty of spending money if you intend to have your picture taken regularly with these photo opportunity people because in my opinion you will be fleeced!!

If you decide to go, happy holidays, I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time as we did!

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Royal Caribbean logo

Cruising As A Wheelchair User: Is It The Best Holiday?

I have been very lucky and managed to go a few holidays, Ireland, France, Las Vegas, Tunisia, caravanning and of course cruises. So far, cruising has been the most hassle-free to book and to get to and of course to holiday with. Cruising is not for everyone but if you can, I recommend you take at least one cruise in your life.

My apologies from the offset, this may end up being a lengthy review of cruising with a disability.  In all fairness, would you want it any other way? Most holiday reviews in my opinion, or holiday tips, are always about flying, airports, assistance etc.?  Is this the only type of transport one can go on holiday with?  What about, riverboats, caravanning, camping and of course cruising??  Do these no longer exist?  Well, I’m going to show you they do!!

I have been very lucky to have been able to do two previous cruises and thoroughly enjoyed both.  In this review though, I am going to talk about our next cruise, which will have already happened by the time I publish this.  I hope this review will help anyone thinking of taking a cruise holiday.

It was April 2017 when I actually booked our holiday.  Yes I know that’s very early but for those of you who have booked holidays yourself, you will know how disabled rooms/facilities get booked up very quickly indeed.  As cruising is becoming ever more popular, I put nothing to chance as previous experience has shown me that the accessible cabins go like hotcakes.

We decided to go with Royal Caribbean as they had been recommended to me by a friend who is also a wheelchair user.  She said she had a great time and found them very good for wheelchair users.  So we looked online, found a cruise we liked and booked up.  We booked a 2-week Mediterranean cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, (picture above), inside cabin with virtual balcony and my time dining.

I have supplied a video of our accessible room at the bottom of this review, for you to see for yourself.

Royal Caribbean Website

Unfortunately, their website designer should be sacked immediately.  RC website is one of the most confusing websites I’ve ever had the misfortune of browsing.  It is practically impossible to find the information disabled passengers would/may require and if you do manage it, don’t expect to find it again.  Bits of information on their site seems to appear, disappear and reappear again……Very confusing indeed!!

To initially book your cruise, everything seemed to go according to plan but once we booked and wanted to find more information at our leisure, this is where things became a bit twilight zone!!  Forget finding out how accessible the ports are, there’s no information regarding that whatsoever.  I have supplied links at the end of this review, taking you to different sites that help with this type of information.

In my experience, their site seems to contradict itself in many places.  Especially where excursions are concerned, see the Accessible Excursions section.

Accessible Excursions

Why book a cruise?

So the first thing you should obviously do, is decide if cruising is for you, after all, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

  • If your cruise starts from a port in your country, then boarding the ship should be pretty simple and easy.
  • You arrive at the port, your car is parked for you (Not all car parks offer this).
  • Your luggage is taken away and boarded for you and delivered to your cabin.
  • You’re on a floating hotel and the world comes to you.
  • You get to see more than one destination (depending on length of cruise)
  • Many different bars/clubs to keep you entertained, all in one place
  • Wheelchair accessible cabins

To name a few…

Once you’ve decided a cruise is the way forward, you then have the wonderful experience of choosing where to cruise.  Mediterranean cruise?  Caribbean cruise?  Or even a Fiords cruise?  So many to chose from, how do you decide?  Well, there are a couple of factors to bear in mind.

  • Do you want to have to fly to get out to the ship you are cruising on and get another flight to come home?  Do you want to sail from Southampton (Or a port in your country) and return to Southampton (or port in your country)?
  • What countries would you like to visit?
  • Do you want to cruise on a large ship (up to 3000 Passengers) or would you prefer a smaller ship?
  • How long do you want to cruise for?  Length of cruise can determine what destinations you can visit.
Cruising As A Wheelchair User:  Is It The Best Holiday?  -  Front of cruise ship with blue interior lights

I think the biggest factor to keep in mind is if you want a fly-cruise holiday, or not.  Let me explain:  Some cruises, regardless of company, will sail from Southampton docks and at the end of the cruise, return back to Southampton.  On a fly-cruise holiday, you must first fly out to where your ship is docked.  Let’s say we’re doing a Caribbean cruise holiday.  This would entail you flying out to let’s say Jamaica, you then get on your ship, do your Caribbean cruise and then sail back to Jamaica or neighbouring country to then fly home again.  (Just remember, not all cruises will require you to fly home from the same place you flew out to.  Sometimes you will fly home from the last port of call your cruise ship makes).  So you need to decide if you want to fly and cruise, or just cruise.  Many cruise operators like P&O and Royal Caribbean (links at bottom of page) will offer cruises that sail from and back to Southampton, so no flying is needed.

Booking your Cruise

Once you’ve decided you want to cruise and you know where you want to go, the next question you need to ask yourself is do you go to the travel agents, or do you book directly with the cruise company? This really boils down to personal choice. Our previous cruises, we booked via a travel agent, this time we booked directly with the cruise company. The table below shows the pros and cons for both routes, please bear in mind everything I’ve mentioned is from my own experiences, so I can’t cover every aspect, plus this is only my opinion.  It is meant to be a helpful guide, not a rule book.

As I mentioned before, we booked directly with Royal Caribbean cruises via the telephone rather than online via their website, as I had a few questions before going ahead.  I found them to be very friendly and willing to do their best to answer my questions.  So we went ahead and paid our deposit.  One thing to remember….RC did not offer any child prices.  We had to pay full price for our daughter, (aged 14 at the time of travelling).

When making your initial booking, there are a couple of bits of information you will be given

  • your cabin number – now you can take a look on your cruise companies website and see where you’re cabin is situated on the ship
  • dining option you have chosen – most cruise companies will require you to book your dining option at the time of booking your cruise.  Royal Caribbean offers traditional dining and my time dining (this was our choice) – Explanation is given below

Traditional Dining

Cruising As A Wheelchair User:  Is It The Best Holiday? - Main dining hall - Big glass chandelier above table and chairs with white table cloths

As the name implies, traditional dining is the classic means of experiencing dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  There are two seatings, first and second seating.  First seating is usually around 6:00 pm and the second seating is usually around 8:00 pm. Exact times will vary.

When you book your cruise, you can choose which seating you like. Typically families choose first seating because it’s harder to keep kids up later for the second seating.  You will still see kids in second seating, but there tend to be more families in the first seating.  You will be assigned a table in the main dining room that can be as small as two people or as large as 16 or even larger.  Royal Caribbean can also place you at a table with other guests onboard your ship.  Who you sit with (if anyone else) depends on a few factors but it’s usually the norm to be seated with others.    You can change your seating if you prefer not to sit with others or are unhappy with whom you are seated.  Speak to the head waiter to arrange a change, although changes are subject to availability.  

Source:  Royal Caribbean website

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a lot like traditional dining with one big exception: you do not have a set time that is the same every night of your cruise.  You will still dine in the main dining room, but you can choose between making reservations or showing up and waiting for a table.

My Time Dining advertises its benefit as being you do not have a set time to eat each night.  So if one night you feel like dinner at 6 pm but another night you want to stay at the pool later, you can come to eat at 8:30 pm.

Like the main dining room, you may be seated with other people at your table.  Where you sit is subject to availability.  Unlike the main dining room, you may not have the same wait staff each night.  You can request certain waiters but you may have to wait to be seated at a table they serve.

My time dining experience once seated is nearly identical to traditional dining.  You order off of the same menu as traditional dining and can order as much food as you like from that menu.  

Source:  Royal Caribbean website

Once you have booked your holiday and paid the deposit, you then receive a few emails with all your holiday details, deposit/payment confirmation and a special needs form that you MUST fill in.  If my memory serves me right, I did mine via email.  Once you receive these, you will have the ability to sign in to your holiday account on RC website where you can:

  • Pay any remaining balance.
  • Print your Set Sail tickets – Time dependant – normally 90 days before your sail date.
  • Book excursions
  • Buy drinks packages
  • Purchase WIFI packages
  • Special event packages

You should receive emails leading up to your holiday informing you of any procedures or forms you may need to fill in along the way, so don’t worry.

Now we get all excited as our holiday is now booked….Very exciting indeed.

Back to Top

Accessible Excursions

RC’s website leaves a lot to be desired and trying to find the information you want can be like trying to get blood out of a stone!  We’re looking for accessible excursions via our holiday account.  To say this was difficult would be an understatement I’m sorry to say.  Hubby was getting completely different info to what I was getting when we each logged into our account, to find the excursions.  Also, most of what RC advertise as “accessible” excursions are very miss-leading to say the least.  For example, we looked at one supposed “accessible” excursion but when you then read the description, it says you must be able to navigate the steps of the coach??  So how is this accessible for full-time wheelchair users or people unable to climb steps???  Very confusing!!  Then, when we view our online cruise planner, at the available excursions, we’re told there are 14 available but we can only see a handful of them.  RC doesn’t make it clear as to what excursions are for full-time wheelchair users like myself.

I was then forced to phone RC, beware…..they charge 7p a minute and whatever connection charge your provider charges!!  I explained my issue and was told he would put me through to the excursion department, where I could be helped better.  Only to find I’d been put through to the private excursion line??  He then told me I needed to speak to RC??  Oh my god, pulling my hair out much?  He gave me an email address so I could contact the department needed as they don’t do phone calls.  (If anyone needs this email address, drop me a line and I’ll give you the address).  So, for now, I’m taking a break and will email them tomorrow.

I emailed them the following day explaining I am a full-time wheelchair user and can they tell me if the following excursions are suitable?  I supplied the names of the excursions we were interested in.  Oh boy, the response I got made me want to punch my monitor!!!!  They gave me NO information regarding the “Accessible Excursions” I asked about but instead another form to fill in about my wheelchair. 

This was their reply:  Read reply here

You will see the number of questions that they ask and what measurements they want about me and my wheelchair, which I might add were already supplied in their “Special Needs” form I had to fill in months ago.  RC mentions the two types of excursion levels.  You are not given this info via their website.  There is no mention whatsoever that excursions come in two levels……Again, very misleading!!

Putting all the trials and tribulations to one side, being unable to take the planned excursions is not the end of your holiday. Most ports of call will have a town close by. For example, when we arrived in Rome we were unable to take either RC’s own excursion or any other means of getting into Rome but you had Civitavecchia’s old town by the bus station you were drop off at via the shuttle bus. So you should still be able to get off the ship and visit a town to do some shopping if you wish.

Warning! Your ship pass is your entry back onto the ship if you get off the ship at any of the ports.  If you lose your ship card, don’t expect to get back on the ship. Your card is not only for purchasing stuff on the ship, it is also your room key and your pass to get on and off the ship.

Your Holiday is Booked, Now What?

One word of warning, we found RC excursions to be astronomically overpriced.  So please, exhaust every option before you decide what to book.  I feel it’s vital to look into what you can visit without having to book an excursion, before booking your holiday.  After all, you don’t want to book a holiday where you can only take in the sights via an excursion.  That would be very disappointing and expensive.  Our last 2 cruises, we were able to see what we wanted to see by ourselves.  At one port, we did have to catch a bus but it was wheelchair accessible and free, as it was supplied by the cruise company to take passengers into the local town.

I wanted to know if RC knew anything about accessibility, like disabled toilets while at the different ports.  RC was unable to answer this question.

So I took it upon myself to do my own research. I have listed below two websites that I have found to be extremely helpful.  These websites seem to have a mountain of information regarding ports, where most cruise ships will dock on their journey.  One even sorts out excursions for you.  As I mentioned, excursions can be very expensive indeed.  For example, we would love to do an excursion that takes us to Pisa, this is costing £169 per person through RC.  So for 4 people, that’s a whopping £676.  When you have already paid over 6 grand for your family holiday, do you really want to pay this on top??  To take their excursion to Rome, they wanted £285 that’s £1,140 for a family of 4.  So for two excursions for a family of 4, you are forking out £1,816, really??  (Prices correct at time of writing this).

Cruise Countdown

Log in page for cruise countdown

Most cruise companies will have their own type of countdown to your holiday.  It will inform you of things like when you are able to print off your set sail tickets, luggage tags and info on drinks packages, excursions and special events bookings like birthday, anniversaries etc.

Back to Top

Cashless System

Here’s something you may not know. To my knowledge, ALL cruise ships operate a cashless system while on board. We had to tell RC how we would like to settle our onboard account.  Our options were:

  • Credit/debit card –
  • Cash
  • bank transfer

The cashless system works like this, when checking in at the docks, your photo will be taken and attached to your ship account/card, which is then given to you.  Your ship card is then used similar to a credit card while aboard the ship to pay for anything and everything you purchase.  From drinks to the shops onboard.  At the end of your holiday, the bill must be paid.  Hence the options above.  Our preferred method is cash. Purely because we are terrified of getting an astronomical bill at the end of our holiday and not being able to pay it.  You see, it is very easy to get carried away while on holiday and not really be aware of what you are spending.  14 days is a long time to keep tabs on every penny you and your family are spending.  especially when you’ve got kids.

Also, by choosing the option cash, you have the ability to go to reception every couple of days, ask for an up-to-date bill and pay off what you owe at that point.  Remember though, RC is an American company, so your account will be in dollars.  Bear this in mind with the exchange rate.  Again, at the end of the day, it is a personal preference.

Tip: RC don’t inform you of this beforehand but if you pay your account by any means other than cash, you are charged a %5 convenience fee in the casino every time you use your ship card to purchase chips at the tables.

Boarding Your Ship

We took RC’s pier assistance which turned out to be the best decision we made, the check-in terminal was so chaotic I doubt very much we would have navigated the system by ourselves. We had a gentleman assist us to the check-in desk, sort out all our documents and then take us in the lift up to what I would call the boarding ramp/gangplank onto the ship. He took us up the ramped zigzag undercover gangplank, right up to the entrance of the ship itself. We were told this was as far as he could take us. We were now left to our own devices. Somewhat confused and unsure of what we should do next.

Accessible Cabins

All accessible cabins will have wider doors, ramped threshold into the wet room.  Sometimes you’ll be supplied with a safe in your room which, as with RC will be lowered and turning circle space for your wheelchair.

As an example Royal Caribbean advertises their accessible cabins as having;

  • Stateroom door width: 32″-34″ (vessel-dependent)
  • Bathroom door width: 32″-34″ (vessel-dependent)
  • No doorsill to get into the stateroom
  • Ramped bathroom threshold
  • Bathroom grab bars
  • Lowered sink and stateroom vanity
  • Roll-in shower bench
  • Fold-down shower bench
  • Hand-held shower heads
  • Lowered closet rods
  • Refrigerator in stateroom (upon request)
  • Raised toilet seats (most are between 17 to 19 inches high; commode chairs available – please request prior to sailing)
  • Accessible balconies (selected staterooms)
  • Lowered safes for easy access (not including Majesty of the Seas, where safes are located at Guest Relations)

Please note: Accessible suites have roll-in showers, not bathtubs except on Quantum of the Seas.

Source: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/experience/accessible-cruising/accessible-staterooms

I was also able to find information regarding inside cabins on the ship we are sailing on.  I found the following info:

  • Door width – 32 inches wide
  • Wet room door width – 32 inches
  • Toilet height from floor – 18 inches
  • Grab rails when seated – left-hand side

As a right-handed person with very weak upper body strength, it would have been beneficial to have known about the grab rails before booking our holiday, as I would have preferred them to be on my right. Hopefully, now you know this information, this will benefit you.

Note:  Our room only had ONE 240v plug socket.  It had two 120v plug sockets but I believe they are not good for European electrical equipment.  The video below shows more.

Our bed was so hard it felt like we were sleeping on stone, I suffered two nights in pain before I went to Guest Services and asked if there was anything they could do, thankfully they were able to supply a mattress topper.  This helped greatly but still wasn’t perfect. So remember, if you find any kind of issues/problems with your room, it is worth having a word with your stateroom attendant, reception/Guest services and asking them if there is anything they can do.

One thing to remember about your cabin, the door is a storm door therefore it will be extremely heavy.  So, anyone like myself with weak upper body strength you may find it very difficult to open the door, hold it open and manoeuvre yourself through the doorway.

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If you liked my blog, why not sign up to my Newsletter so you never miss a beat, or leave a comment below. If there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

Fish insurance logo

Fish Insurance: Do You Have Insurance For Your Wheelchair?

Insure your mobility equipment with the disabled insurance specialists Fish insurance

Fish Insurance: Do You Have Insurance For Your Wheelchair? – If you insure your wheelchair or mobility aid, you get peace of mind and protection for your chair.  Fish Insurance is a company that can insure your mobility products:

  • Mobility Scooter
  • Manual Wheelchair
  • Electric Wheelchair
  • Prosthetics & Orthotics

And of course all the other stuff like home/holiday insurance etc.

As you may be aware, I am due to fly out to Vegas later in the year and my biggest worry of all things that could go wrong is my electric wheelchair being broken, or worse, lost!!  That would be my trip destroyed.  So insurance is very important.  My insurance package for my NHS Electric Wheelchair with Fish includes a worldwide cover (including baggage handler cover).  This is exactly what I needed to put my mind at rest, I’m sure you can imagine the stress I was feeling!

As a responsible wheelchair user, (well, most of the time :))  I decided it was a good idea to be insured, if nothing else, for third-party.  We all know there are people out there that will do anything to make a buck or two.  Anyway, a few of my friends recommended Fish.

So I rang them up yesterday to get a quote as I found their website to have a few flaws:

  • Didn’t have my make and model of wheelchair
  • When you click on “Get Your Quote” you are taken through the steps to “purchase” the insurance.

It turns out Fish did actually have my make/model of wheelchair but was just not showing up on the website.  This flaw could possibly invalidate your insurance if you haven’t selected your correct wheelchair.

The first man I spoke with was helpful but sounded rather bored and like he really didn’t want to be there.  I didn’t feel confident in going any further with my enquiry or even purchase, so I told him I would ring back later.  Which I did do.  The second man I spoke with was very nice and very chatty, actually, it got to the point where I thought I was never going to get off the phone but nonetheless, I did.  He answered all my questions and I was happy enough to go ahead and purchase the insurance.

At the time of taking out my insurance, here are a couple of the things they cover:

  • Loss or theft Up to £7,000
  • Third-party liability Up to £2m
  • Contingent liability of Up to £2m
  • Personal accident Up to £3,000
  • Worldwide cover (including baggage handler cover) – Excludes liability cover in North America & Canada (Up to 21 days)

Please remember, insurance companies are always changing/updating their policies, so the above may be different if/when you enquire/purchase yours.

A couple of points to remember:

  • Make sure you tell them if your wheelchair is manual or electric
  • If your wheelchair is NHS or privately owned – Each have their own pricing
  • Make sure you pick the correct option for your wheelchair/scooter – You don’t want to invalidate your insurance

To get more information, please visit Fish’s website:  https://www.fishinsurance.co.uk/

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Spectra XTR2 wheelchair review

Spectra XTR2: Electric Wheelchair Review

Spectra XTR2: Electric Wheelchair Review -Electric wheelchairs or any type of disability aid are designed to make our lives easier and make us more independent. I would be house-bound and unable to have any kind of life outside my home without my electric wheelchair. The simple task of making a drink would be impossible. I share my review of my electric wheelchair.

Spectra XTR2

Spectra XTR2:  Electric Wheelchair Review - Black & white electric wheelchair the Spectra XTR2

I got my Spectra XTR2 electric wheelchair via the NHS, so, unfortunately, I can’t tell you about all the different specs that are available for this chair.  The only thing I am aware of is the seating and backrest.  I know there are a couple of options for these.

I’ve had this chair now for approx 7 months and the first thing I should mention is the fact it has a solid seat base, not a canvas seat.  This makes the suspension really bad, especially for people with back issues.  According to Invacare, they say “High torque motors and a unique suspension design provide a smoother, easier ride”.  Rubbish, from my experience!!  I feel every bump I go over.  I have wooden thresholds in my home (yeah I know, doesn’t make sense for a wheelchair adapted property) and I am jolted every time I have to go over one.  Only yesterday I went into a shop that had a step of bout half an inch and I felt I was gonna be thrown out of my chair because of the jolt I got.  Really hurt my back and chest.  With a solid seat, it is essential to have a very good cushion to protect your coccyx.  

***UPDATE*** 

I have had my suspension springs changed for softer ones and so far this has made an improvement.  There are different levels of springs: 

  • Orange – Normal
  • White – Hard
  • Black – Very hard
  • Black – Xtra hard

I now have the Orange ones.  I do still feel the bumps but at least they feel softer and not so jarring through my body!!

Luxury Items?

This chair also has tilt and recline.  This is pretty cool, especially when watching TV or at the cinema.  Most wheelchair spaces at cinemas are extremely close to the screen so watching a movie plays havoc with your neck.  Having tilt & recline is a godsend for this, especially if you have the headrest, oh yes it can come with one of those too.

The arm-rests that came with my chair offered no real comfort.  The padding was so low grade you can feel the wood inside.  So if you’re like me and use the arm-rests to transfer, then you are going to need more padding or new arm-rests.

The battery life is not what I expected.  I was told this chair is compared to the Storm.  Sorry but this chair doesn’t even come close to the Storm, (yes, I had one for 4 years).  So don’t be fobbed off.  According to different websites, you’re supposed to be able to get 30km (18.6411 miles) out of one charge.  I charge my chair all night, it came with a new type of battery charger where it shows you if it is half charged/fully charged.  My charger always says it is fully charged, yet, I just don’t seem to get much out of it before needing to charge it again.  I certainly don’t get 30 km, that’s for sure.  My previous chair (Harrier plus) seemed to do a lot more per charge.  It only needed charging approx every 2-3 days, regardless of where I went.  This chair doesn’t seem to want to do much work.  I know tilt/recline will use the battery but in all honesty, I use them hardly at all.

***UPDATE*** 

I was extremely unhappy with the battery performance and nervous of going any kind of distance, so I contacted my wheelchair service and they agreed that the distance my chair was doing, was not normal.  They arranged for me to have new batteries (the heavy-duty ones) and boy, the difference is staggering!  I would now say 30km is probably possible, (not put that distance to the test) but more than suitable for my needs.

The ride is now more comfortable than it was before since my springs were changed.  If you look at the picture above, you will see that chair has orange springs on the side.  My chair had the white ones but now I have the orange ones.  Looking at the picture again, I see the two front wheels look somewhat more luxurious than the ones I have.  Hmmm, I think this chair could possibly be a lot more comfortable than what I have got!!!!

***UPDATE*** 

When having my springs changed, it was also agreed that my front wheels/castors would also be changed.  I now have the front wheels shown in the image above.  This has now made most bumps a lot softer feeling.  Before every bump seemed to jolt right through my body and it was like my front wheels went down with a massive thud.  Not any more.

The backrest I have has adjustable straps.  Meaning I can tighten or loosen them to give more or less support in my back.  The chair has about 5 straps, so getting the right support in the right place is fairly easy.

In my opinion, this is a good chair and great for outdoor use.  The batteries (heavy duty ones) will get you around effortlessly and give you 5-7 miles distance easily, (this I have put to the test).  Tilt & Recline offer many seating positions so getting comfy should not be a problem…..Just make sure you know what specification your chair will have when ordering.

***UPDATE*** 30/9/22

I have just found out that the Spectra is no longer being manufactured (info from my NHS wheelchair service). They say parts can still be got for the chair but for how much longer, who knows? If you own one of these chairs, it may well be worth contacting the manufacturer (Invacare) to find out more.

My advice now would be not to purchase one of these chairs if you can help it!

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Hands opening a sachet of tablets

PillTime: Home Deliver Pharmacy Service

Pill Time – Home delivery pharmacy service of medication. Are they any good?  According to PillTime’s website: “PillTime does everything your high street pharmacy does while making your life more convenient and medication easier to manage.

PillTime:  Home Deliver Pharmacy Service  -  Strip of pills being pulled out of a box

“We get your prescription from your GP,  pre-pack your medication by the dose into clearly labelled pouches and deliver it to your door – as easy as that”.

As easy as that they say……Hmmmm, not my experience that’s for sure.  Many of you may be thinking exactly what I thought.  What a great idea, no more running to the chemist, or asking family to collect your prescription.  Things don’t always go as we plan.  For those of you that are interested here is my experience of PillTime.

I spoke to pill time initially to join their service.  I gave them all the information regarding my medication etc.  When and what I take during one day.  My first batch arrived with lots and lots and lots of pouches.

I had two pouches for my morning tablets, presumably because of the number of pills I have to take, they wouldn’t all fit into one pouch with the information that is printed on the pouch.  I had several pouches for lunchtime, although, I only have one pill to take at lunchtime so that seemed weird and then I had about four or five pouches for the evening and bedtime.  So, I phoned pill time and told them exactly what I would like in each pouch, which should leave me with 4 pouches a day.  Two in the morning and one each for lunch and evening/bedtime.  So I awaited my second batch.

I received an email informing me that my next batch was due and if there were any changes to please phone them as soon as possible. I knew I had already contacted pill time previously, regarding my medication so had no reason to contact them now.

Approximately 10 days after receiving this email, I received a phone call telling me my doctor had not given my full prescription, therefore they had to chase up the rest of my prescription. This would not cause any issues and my medication would be dispatched to me within the next 48 hours. This I believe was on a Monday.  I explained that I was a bit concerned as my meds ran out on Thursday, I was told this would not be a problem as my meds would be with me by Friday before 1pm.

I received another call from PillTime on the Friday, informing me that one of their machines had broke and my meds missed the post.  I was assured that my package was already boxed and ready to go and would be with me by Saturday, again, before 1 PM. I brought up the fact that my meds had now run out and I had no meds for that day.  The lady explained that she was aware of this and had spoken with the pharmacists and they told her although it wasn’t the best thing to be doing it should not cause me any problems missing my medication for one day…..Hmmm not happy at this point and somewhat concerned as I had no meds.

PillTime:  Home Deliver Pharmacy Service  -  Hands opening a sachet of pills

Early Saturday morning, yes you guessed it, I received yet another phone call from PillTime.  Would you believe it, they were telling me again due to some sort of issue my meds had missed the post.  I asked, “what a second time”?  The lady was quite shocked and asked has this happened before?  I explained yes, yesterday.  I was assured my medication would be with me yesterday before 1 PM. Now today you’re telling me exactly the same thing, how can this be the case when I was told previously my medication was already boxed and ready to go in the post? Obviously she had no knowledge of this. She apologised and said this is unacceptable. I totally agreed with her and explained once is a mistake twice is more than a coincidence but with all of that in mind, my main concern was being left without medication, therefore, what was she going to do about it?

She explained I had two options, option one was to wait until Monday for my pills to reach me or option two she can release my prescription back onto the NHS online service so I can go to my local pharmacist and get my prescription. This would be the easiest option as all she had to do was click a few buttons to get my prescription back on the system.  Yeah, again a simple task, what could possibly go wrong this time?  I gave it about an hour or two and then went to the chemist, (you’ll love this bit). PillTime had not put all of my prescriptions back online, therefore the chemist was unable to dispense my full prescription. So I had my medication and now still had to wait till Monday before I could get in touch with the doctor from the rest of my prescription.

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Adjustable Bed. Can It Give Disabled People A Good Night's Sleep?

Adjustable Bed. Can It Give Disabled People A Good Night’s Sleep?

Adjustable Bed. Can It Give Disabled People A Good Night’s Sleep? – Comfy or just a gimmick? Having a disability can make having a good night’s sleep seem impossible. I bought an adjustable bed recently and thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

Old Bed

Adjustable Bed.  Can It Give Disabled People A Good Night's Sleep? - Grey adjustable bed with mattress

My old bed was so full of lumps & bumps, I woke every morning with terrible pain all over my body, especially my back and I felt I had been fighting in the boxing ring. So I knew it was time for a new bed and especially a new mattress. We (hubby and I) searched online for what we were looking for and found the adjustable bed frame (pictured left) on Dreams website. This was a bed frame that came with a built-in TV and was adjustable at both the head and feet. I felt so posh!!

We then had to look for a mattress to go with it. We tested a few in the store and chose a firm mattress. Although it was a “Firm” mattress, being a memory foam mattress with over 2000 micro pocket springs, it didn’t feel rock hard. The softer ones felt like they were grabbing me and sucking me into the bed. This made turning over in the bed and trying to get on/off the bed very difficult. So, we went for the mattress Hyde & Sleep Hybrid Raspberry Mattress. We were told this mattress was compatible with the adjustable bed frame we had chosen. (Make sure you check as not all mattresses are compatible). So we went ahead and ordered the bed frame and mattress.

We were told it would take 6-8 weeks for delivery, (it actually took 10 weeks) we were somewhat disappointed at the quoted time frame as we were quite desperate for a good night’s sleep but what else could we do? (We were actually getting a good deal with the offer they had at the time).

New Bed

The time finally came that our bed was being delivered. The delivery guys were wonderful. They took all the boxes up to our bedroom and laid them on the floor in the order they were to be assembled. This made it much more simple to put the bed together.

Adjustable Bed.  Can It Give Disabled People A Good Night's Sleep? - Grey adjustable bed frame with dimensions of the frame

Hubby put the whole bed & mattress together in 3 hours by himself but needed help in moving the whole thing into position as it now weighed a ton. It is recommended 2 people build it together but it can be done by 1. Now, one thing to remember! The bed frame offers two heights, not something told by staff in-store or on the website. We only found this out once we started to assemble the bed. I decided to go for the higher height due to how I transferred onto the bed from my wheelchair. Once assembled, the bed frame is solid and feels extremely sturdy, with no wobble whatsoever!

The delivery guys advised us to let the mattress breathe for a couple of hours before putting on any bedding, they said sometimes the mattress can smell, which is perfectly normal. After a few hours, all was well.

Conclusion!

I have to admit, being able to raise my head slightly to sleep is a major benefit for me due to my Vertigo, this lets me lie on either side without feeling dizzy! In all fairness, I would say the only downside for me is when you raise the backup to watch the TV. I have to put the back up practically vertical to see the TV and then you are pushed down the bed as the back-rest raises up making you sit even closer to the TV.

The mattress is extremely comfortable. You feel like you just sink nicely into it and every part of your body is being supported. The mattress needs rotating head to toe once a week for the first 3 months, then every month after that.

Pros:
  • Adjustable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Built-in TV
  • Sturdy
Cons:
  • It is a big bed frame – Make sure you have space.
  • Heavy – So once assembled, very heavy to move around
  • When raising the head section, it pushes you down the bed as it seems to bend in the middle of the bed rather than nearer the head.
  • Not VAT Exempt as this bed frame is not aimed at just disabled people.

**UPDATE** 25/3/22

We found that if you raise the back up a little, it has a tendency to fall flat throughout the night. Also, if you lean too hard on the backrest, it can also lower to the flat position.

We have also removed the TV from the foot of the bed and hung it on the wall. It was just more hassle than it was worth to fight when trying to find a good position to sit/lay in while watching. Also, if you raised the foot at all, your feet blocked your view anyway.

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Through floor lift with the logo of Wessex lifts

Fault After Fault: Wessex Through Floor Lift

Fault After Fault: Wessex Through Floor Lift: I am a full-time wheelchair user, I have a Through Floor Lift (TFL) to enable me to get upstairs in my home.  This lift was installed by a company called Wessex on the request of my housing association:  Notting Hill Genesis.  This lift has given me nothing but problems after problems since day 1.  I have been living in my property for 12 years at the time of writing this.

I never dreamed it possible to ever be able to live in a “house” as a wheelchair user.  I believed I would only ever live in a single level property, so when I was offered a house, I was both ecstatic and shocked.  When I went to view the property, I realised there would be a through floor lift to enable me to get up and down the house.  This lift was supplied by Wessex Lifts.

So there I was all those years ago in a new property with a through floor lift and thinking I was very posh, haha. Unfortunately, this euphoria was not meant to last as I was plagued with nothing but problems with this lift.  I had to make phone call after phone call to Notting Hill, reporting fault after fault.

Here is a list of some of the problems I had with my first lift:

Fault After Fault:  Wessex Through Floor Lift - White through floor lift sitting the down position
  1. The first problem, which happened most of the lifespan of the lift, (10 years) was the door not having enough power to close onto the latch.  The engineer came out and seemed to fix the problem. A couple of days later, the same problem occurred, so yet again, I phoned my housing officer. You guessed it, another engineer visit.  Again, the engineer seemed to fix the problem and go away. This happened repeatedly, eventually, the problem was indeed fixed.  The main issue with this problem was, if the door wasn’t shutting, I couldn’t use the lift,  therefore having to sleep on the sofa downstairs.  Something that happened quite often!

  2. My TFL would sink approx half an inch to an inch overnight. This meant the lift was not fully in the “Up” position, so, once I entered the lift in my Electric Wheelchair,  the extra weight would make the lift sink further, making it impossible for the door to close.  Once again engineers came out, scratched their heads, fiddled about, went away, came out, scratched their heads, went away, you get the picture.  Eventually, the problem was fixed several months down the road.

  3. This fault was by far the longest to fix.  This took years to fix.  In the end, one of the head engineers from Wessex themselves had to come out and have a go at fixing this one!!  As I travelled down in the lift, the safety under-pan (that detects any objects under the lift and if so, stops the lift from travelling any further) would seem to get stuck to the bottom of the lift, then violently break free and drop into place.  Sometimes, stopping the lift altogether.  I can’t remember how many times the engineers were sent out to fix it but I can assure you, it was a lot more than it should have been.  Even top managers were called out because no one could seemingly fix the problem.  It did eventually get sorted.

  4. The most frightening fault had to be the one where we had come home from doing our shopping and found the lift about to catch fire.  Yes, I said fire!!  We came in the front door and my lift is directly opposite on the other side of our hallway.  I saw a lot of smoke coming from the left side of the lift, which is up against a wall.  The smell was like burning rubber.  My husband very quickly went to the cupboard to switch off the lift and all electrics and immediately called for an engineer to come out.  He came out but had to order a new part.  The solenoid switch is what almost caught fire.  So again, another night having to sleep on the sofa.  I ended up sleeping on the sofa for a few nights.

It’s hard to explain just how a person’s daily life is affected when adaptations do go wrong.  As good as these adaptations are, when they do go wrong, you are left stranded, unable to do the task they were supplied for.  So obviously this meant I couldn’t get upstairs, which in turn meant I couldn’t go to bed, which in turn meant I had to sleep on the sofa.  Now, this wasn’t the first time this had happened, there were times before when a fault could not be fixed on the spot, or a part had to be ordered, I’d have to sleep on the sofa every time. This would make my Scoliosis much worse and the pain unbearable.  I would wake up sore and stiff every time. 

In one of the very few services that my lift got.  (I was unaware my lift should have been serviced every 6 months. My lift was not serviced every 6 months).  I was told the lift needed a new roof to meet new health & safety regulations.  Then realising my lift was over 10 years old at the time, it was decided it would be more cost-effective to replace it with a new lift altogether.  At last, some common sense!

Well, I won’t bore you with ALL the drama that happened but I will tell you that I contacted my housing officer at the time, her boss and her boss also, explaining how I didn’t want to be stuck with the same lift due to all the problems I had endured with my last lift. 

I ended up having to make a formal complaint.  You wouldn’t believe how this brought to light the number of mistakes that were made regarding servicing, engineer reports and the lack of engineer reports, my housing officer not reporting key facts, lack of duty of care. The list was truly endless!

New lift survey

Several companies came out to take measurements, photos etc, so they could then give Notting Hill a quote for a new lift.  Can you guess what they went with?  Yep, the same bloody lift!!  Can you believe after all my complaining, begging, formal complaint, they chose the exact same one!!  Talk about throwing good money after bad.  Brainless!!!

So, now I’m on my 2nd Wessex TFL of the same make/model (installed Oct 2016) because Notting Hill decided the best option was to give me the same lift that had all the above faults and plenty more. Ignoring ALL my pleas to have a different one.  How nice of them eh?

Well, what can I say…….2nd lift and within literally 2 weeks the same faults happening all over again!!!!!  You really couldn’t make this up!

  1. Lift door not closing, not fixed – Took 4 years to finally fix it
  2. Underpan sticking.  Not fixed – Did eventually get fixed
  3. Grinding noises.  Fixed.
  4. Dropping overnight.  Found to be heat-related.  (Actually, it turns out this was incorrect as it happened repeatedly all year round) – Update: It was a faulty pump (more on that in a bit).
  5. Door not shutting level, therefore not closing onto the latch.  Just bounces off the latch and opens – (I have to get back out, close the door, send the lift up a few inches, bring it back down and try again). Took over 4 years to fix – Wessex had to come and take the lift off the wall, take it appart, raise the level of the floor to make the lift sit higher – This seems to have fixed the issue.
  6. I got trapped in the lift half way up going to bed, approx 2 hours to be released – Turns out a corregated pipe got trapped behind the lift causing the lift to stop in it’s tracks.

***Update** 15/7/2020

Numbers 4 & 5 have been happening for past 6-8 months.  4 & 5 have since been resolved.  5 is still being investigated by Wessex themselves as again no-one else can fix the issue.  It would seem even Wessex themselves can’t fix the problem….No surprise there then.  An engineer came out to fix both issues of lift dropping and lift not sensing the door is closed/locked.  So now waiting for another/same engineer to come out again.  Nearly two weeks now since my regular engineer said he would report it back to Wessex.

The list just keeps growing and the problems ongoing, as soon as one is fixed, another one rears its ugly head.  The worst part though, is I continually live in fear of going out and coming home and again finding the lift almost on fire, or god forbid worse. 

Listen to the engineers

Very recently, I found out that an engineer (outside of Wessex) had been telling (the powers to be) that the problem with the majority of the faults on my lift was down to the pump. Explaining that the pump was not doing whatever it needed to do correctly with the hydraulics, he had been telling them this for over 2 years! I SUFFERED SLEEPNESS NIGHTS, PAIN, BEING TRAPPED IN THE LIFT etc. all because the powers to be didn’t want to spend the money on a new pump as it was NOT cost-effective? Yet it was cost-effective to keep sending out engineer after engineer (and paying for this) who were NOT fixing the issues??

Listen to the engineers, they ARE NOT beneath you, they are the ones visiting the client, seeing the issue/s in person, not you, sat behind your desk thinking you’re something special!!! And councils/housing associations can’t understand why they are short of money?? Couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery spring to mind!!!

Final Thoughts

Is this really how one should have to live?  Oh, hang on…..We are only disabled people, what do we matter!!  All because Notting Hill Genesis (previously known as Notting Hill) wants to save some money but in all fairness, what are they saving when they have to keep paying engineers to keep coming out and try to fix the problems??

Would I recommend this lift?  NOT BLOODY LIKELY!!  

Would I recommend Wessex?  NOT BLOODY LIKELY!!  What I can’t understand is this, both lifts (old/new) have presented exactly the same faults and in the same order??  Wouldn’t this suggest this Wessex lift has a design/manufacturing fault??  If so, why are Wessex ignoring this?  After all, I tell everyone and anyone willing to listen to me about this awful lift.

Although I would have to say the majority of Notting Hill Genesis’s contracted engineers sent out to me, I would recommend even less!!!  Some of them literally just came out, banged a couple of things and then left.

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If you liked my blog, leave a comment below. If you would like to work with me or anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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