accessibility

Feature image with 2 star rating of Brighton Hilton Metropole

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton – My daughter and I stayed here for a weekend convention. We were looking forward to staying here as it looked very grand and all the rooms had just been renovated. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the worst hotels for accessibility that I have stayed at!

Lifts were too narrow, no heating around the hotel and the restaurant was not available. Renovations happening and raised thresholds in all the doorways. The list goes on and on! My accessible room only had two accessible features: A wet room and red alarm cords.

We had this weekend booked months in advance as it was a convention for our favourite show (Supernatural) and one of the main stars was going to be there. Excited is very much an understatement of how we were feeling.

The Hotel

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton

Our first issue was parking! We could not use the hotel own’s car park as my van (WAV) would not fit in the underground car park. This meant we could not benefit from the discount offered by the convention organisers. Also, hubby had to take us & pick us up as parking anywhere else was just too expensive! Prices of other car parks are anything from £25 a night!

The entrance to the hotel was very difficult. There was a ramp up to the main revolving door. There was a single door on either side of the revolving doors but these were very narrow. When we arrived, both these doors were locked. My daughter had to go into reception to ask for some help. The first door opened inwards, then directly after that, a second door opens towards you before you enter the foyer. Very difficult to do if you were on your own.

Once inside, first impressions are good. The hotel looks very clean and upmarket. Check-in was easy, I can’t fault the staff in any way, they are all very polite, friendly and helpful. The hotel is advertised as having 340 rooms. When I spoke to the hotel, I was told they have 9 accessible rooms but don’t quote me on that as at the time they were being renovated and things may have changed.

The hotel features advertised:
  • Connecting Rooms
  • Digital Key
  • Spa
  • Beach
  • On-site restaurant
  • Indoor pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Pet-friendly rooms
  • Room service
  • Meeting rooms
Available accessible features include:
  • Accessible meeting rooms
  • Audible alerts in elevators
  • Bathroom doors at least 32 inches wide
  • Bedroom doors at least 32 inches wide (812 mm)
  • Braille elevator
  • Cutlery with oversized or adapted handles
  • Digital alarm clock available with sound and a vibrating pad
  • Disabled parking
  • Elevator buttons lowered
  • There’s an Emergency Call Button on the Phone
  • Emergency pull cords bedside bed & bathroom
  • Evacuation chair is available to help evacuate a disabled person
  • Grab bars in the bathroom
  • Hotel complies with ADA Guidelines
  • Induction Loop System available at reception & in meeting rooms
  • Inflatable chair is available to assist in getting in and out of a bath
  • Large Print Menus
  • Level or ramp entrance into the building
  • Lowered emergency evacuation instructions
  • Public Areas/Facilities accessible for physically challenged
  • Roll-in Shower
  • Rooms accessible to wheelchairs (no steps)
  • Serv support animals welcome
  • Strobe alarms
  • Swimming pool hoist for pool access
  • Vibrating fire alarm available
  • Visual alarm for hearing impaired/Visual alarms for hearing impaired in hallways & public areas
  • Wheelchair ramp for lobby/reception access

Some of their accessible features need reassessing, for example. Their disabled parking is not accessible to WAV drivers. The lifts were far too small, ok you can access them but if you’re a wheelchair user, there is only room for you and one other person. Grab bars in the bathroom for me were useless!

Hotel Access

We found the lifts in the foyer to be extremely small in size, there were two of them. Actually we found all the lifts to be very small. It didn’t help they all have floor-to-ceiling blankets on all sides as part of the hotel was still being renovated. My daughter and I just fitted into them! My wheelchair is a small chair (16×16), I don’t know how anyone using the lift in a bigger chair managed it.

Key card entry system to hotel room in corner of corridor

Due to the layout of the hotel and our room being on the 2nd floor, this made navigating around the convention very tiring and time-consuming. We would have to take a lift down to the foyer, which at times took forever. Then travel around to the back of the hotel to another lift (which was smaller again) to get upstairs to the mezzanine floor (foyer lifts didn’t go to that floor). Again, this could take forever as all attendees are practically leaving and arriving to/from talks, photo ops, autograph sessions etc. at the same time,

I found the hotel was cold throughout the whole weekend. This played havoc with my chest and circulation in my legs. The only time I was warm was when I was in bed, which I have to say was rather comfy.

There were doorway thresholds throughout the hotel and in our accessible room, which were all raised causing you to bump over each one and some were more violent than others. I have a powered chair and found them difficult and painful.

Our Room

I found the room to be inadequate as far as accessibility goes. I encountered many issues with our room considering the hotel has just had a complete renovation in all its rooms:

  • Raised thresholds in doorways causing pain in my back
  • No table at wheelchair height – One large round table at knee height. Also prevented safe transferring on/off the bed
  • Not enough grab rails – One on each side of the shower seat but quite low, none at a higher level
  • Grab rails chrome & round – This made them slippery and difficult for me to grab. A silicone cover needs to be added
  • Dim lighting – The room was very dark – The only lights were the two bedside lamps and a lamp in the corner of the room and one just inside the room door (overhead). Windows didn’t let in much light either
  • Safe at the top of the wardrobe, too high for a wheelchair user
  • No clothes rail at all – In what I assumed to be the section of the wardrobe meant for hanging clothes, there was no rail, so you couldn’t hang anything at all
  • The bedside table blocked access to the wardrobe – The wardrobe was in the corner of the room. There was a bedside table in between that prevented access to the wardrobe
  • Light switches too high
  • The room was at the end of the corridor in the corner making it difficult to use the key card and open the heavy door
  • Room temperature control not accessible by a wheelchair user – This was sat against the wardrobe and as the round table also sat next to the wardrobe, again it prevented access
  • The bathroom mirror is too high
  • No finger basin/sink close to the toilet

Staff

I can not fault the hotel staff in any way (shame can’t be said about a certain member of staff from the convention side). Every member of staff I interacted with was polite, friendly and willing to be as much help as possible.

One member of staff from reception (I wish I had got her name), was absolutely lovely as she went out of her way to get me a table I could use in my room. This made all the difference to my being able to function in the room from taking my medication, drinking, eating & brushing my hair.

Hotel Food

Their Salt Room wasn’t open and their advertised on-site restaurant was only open for breakfast. I was told the restaurant was only for special bookings and had to be made 48 hours in advance. The bar serves afternoon tea and all-day casual dining. I personally found the food choices in the bar to be poor and not sufficient enough to be the only place to have a meal all over the weekend. The only other food we had were food huts upstairs when things were happening convention-wise, which served hot dogs & burgers.

I felt the food was very overpriced and what we didn’t know, was that the bar was adding a 12.5% service charge to every order. There was supposedly a sign up at the bar, not helpful for those having table service.

Breakfast was held in the main restaurant. There was any amount of food you could wish for, from toast and cereal to a full English breakfast, all buffet style. Tea, coffee and juices were also available.

Conclusion

The hotel is very clean, with nice enough decor (not my taste). Breakfast was very good but a shame nothing substantial to eat for dinner. Considering this hotel has just had all its rooms renovated, you would think this would give them the perfect opportunity to get accessibility spot on. Instead, it is practically non-existent. I also spent the whole weekend frozen! For these reasons, I would never stay here again!

I’m due to stay in their Birmingham hotel for another convention later this year, I have been assured by other convention goer’s that the Birmingham one is much more accessible and better on the whole. Fingers crossed.

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Links

Hilton Hotels
Starfury Events

cartoon strip about my experience of Hilton hotel
Cazbarr - Family sitting on a sofa with an empty wheelchair beside them

Wheelchair Life – Is This A Fate Worse Than Death?

Society tells us that being in a wheelchair is terrible, a fate worse than death! Telling a wheelchair user “how terrible it must be to be stuck in that” or “how they couldn’t/wouldn’t want to be in a wheelchair themselves!” IS NOT COOL!!

Ableds have no idea of what it’s like to be a wheelchair user, so what gives them the right to tell us how awful it is? I’m here to tell you my story of how I became a full-time wheelchair user & why I disagree with the above statements!

How I Became A Full-Time Wheelchair User

Cartoon Cazbar sitting in a wheelchair with tank tyres

I became a full-time wheelchair user roughly 20 years ago. I was born with (Arthrogryposis) and walked using calipers until becoming a full-time wheelchair user. Unknown to me (because my disability is very rare and still is today), Scoliosis can be a side effect of my disability. Scoliosis caused so much pain in my back, it prevented me from walking completely.

My back was getting worse & worse and my ability to walk was becoming more & more difficult. I visited the doctor who referred me to the pain clinic. Which in all honesty, from my own experience and from hearing others, is pretty much a waste of time. It’s like a stopgap so “statistics” look better than they really are. As I got no joy or relief from there, I was referred to Orthopaedics.

It was through them I had facet joint injections in my spine, which only worked for 3 days. Then it was onto radiofrequency facet joint injections but this didn’t work at all.

Since then, the medical profession has seemingly washed its hands off me. They ceased contact with me. No advice on how to deal with the pain outside of taking painkillers.

Fearful

Facing the rest of my life in a wheelchair was daunting & scary. There is no escaping that, no matter how positive of a person you are and I would class myself as a pretty positive person. Nobody wants to be disabled but…..I do believe being born with a disability is easier to deal with than becoming disabled later on in life. I’ve experienced both! I was born with my disability and grew up knowing no different. Later in life, I had my independence taken away from me. I now had something to compare to. I now had to grieve the life/independence I lost.

At this point in time I was 33 years old with a son aged 12. I was used to doing everything for myself and my son. I was terrified as to how I was going to cope in general. How was I going to look after my son? I had no choice but to find other ways of achieving what I could do previously!

I’m not going to tell you life in a wheelchair is wonderful and a bed of roses. It isn’t! But it’s most certainly not a fate worse than death! Yes, you have to be a resilient & determined person. A problem-solver! As life throws many curve balls that we (disabled people) must navigate on a daily basis. Live with the knowledge that in most cases, there is always a solution to these curve balls.

I know it’s hard, but it’s not what you’ve lost that counts, it’s what you have left.

Billy Isle – Amputee & atrificial limb manufacturer

Coping

Wheelchair Life - Is This A Fate Worse Than Death? - Male wheelchair user playing wheelchair basketball.

All in all, I would say it took me around the year mark to finally accept I was now a full-time wheelchair user. Learning how to do simple tasks would make me scream and cry every time! These tasks were now more difficult and took 3 times as long to accomplish. I not only had to learn how to do things from a sitting down position but I had to deal with my poor strength in my arms and hands. This made lifting and opening things difficult and painful. I was also in a manual chair which made self-propelling impossible. I felt useless and a burden. (Even the strongest of us can wonder if it is worth it)……But I can tell you, YES, IT BLOODY WELL IS!!!

Everyday life as a wheelchair user can be difficult when society & infrastructure prevents me from doing what I want but thankfully the good far outweighs the bad. The saying: “I’m only disabled due to societal barriers” is probably one of the truest sayings I’ve ever heard! If I’m visiting a venue and the only entrance is by steps, then I cannot enter. If there was more education & understanding about disabilities, I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about my physique caused by my weak & miss-shaped bones. (I get extremely embarrassed when I shake hands or have to hand over money to a cashier as people either pull away or let money fall onto the counter).

My husband was a massive help throughout all of this. He would be positive when I wasn’t. Helped me come up with solutions that helped me complete tasks I would struggle with. In fact, he still does today. I have asked him many times to help me come up with a solution to a problem I may have.

Accepting

Being a wheelchair user has not stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. I’ve been to many places and done different things, from, Scuba Diving, a long weekend to Vegas to see Billy Idol in concert, Cruising 3 times with a 4th in the pipeline. All giving me wonderful memories that I can tell to my 4 grandchildren (at present lol). More planning is needed of course but it is so worth it!

I had to learn how to redo many things, including the simplest of things like making a cup of tea to getting dressed, all from a sitting down position. I would go to stand up and suddenly realise that I couldn’t. This tortured me every time and made me so frustrated and angry. I would take it out on anyone close to me at the time. Understanding this is all quite normal and part of the healing process is where more understanding needs to come into play. I know this helps as I (unknowingly) needed to know this after my heart attack. Just knowing other people feel the same way and that what you’re experiencing is normal can be half the battle.

Friends and family (and ourselves) forget we are grieving the loss of our old life, this grief is just like any other grief. It takes time to deal with this grief. You will go through many emotions on a daily basis. With a positive attitude and time, you WILL get there. You will learn to adapt to your new way of life!

The longer I was a wheelchair user with limited strength and grip, the more help I needed. I needed help with showering, dressing & cooking. Sitting down made tasks much harder for me than they were when I was able to stand.

Life Changes

Being a wheelchair user means (as I’ve said previously) you must learn to do things differently than you once did. This can also mean adapting your home. Unfortunately, if you own your own home, there is little to no help that you can get financially, or from your council. You have to do everything yourself. If you are a council or housing association tenant, they should be able to help you.

Your first port of call though should be to get yourself an OT (Occupational Therapist). Occupational therapy aims to improve your ability to do everyday tasks if you’re having difficulties. You can get occupational therapy free through the NHS or social services, depending on your situation. You can:

You can also pay for it yourself. The Royal College of Occupational Therapists lists qualified and registered occupational therapists.

How Can An OT Help

Occupational therapy can help you with practical tasks if you:

  • are physically disabled
  • are recovering from an illness or operation
  • have learning disabilities
  • have mental health problems
  • are getting older

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life in your home, school or workplace. They look at activities you find difficult and see if there’s another way you can do them.

Source: NHS UK

Benefits

I am in no way gonna enter the minefield of DWP benefits but, you may well be entitled to some benefits. These could include, PIP, ESA, Universal Credit and if you have someone who helps/cares for you on a daily basis, they may be entitled to a carer’s allowance. The best people to talk to is Jobcentre Plus where they have all the up-to-date information.

Don’t miss out on what you are entitled to, JCP will not voluntarily tell you what you can claim for. Speak to other disabled people to find out what other benefits there might be. Another good source of information is the CAB.

Body & Mind

The words mental health on top of blank scrabble tiles.

Some of you reading this are thinking, I could never do that! I couldn’t cope! Let me tell you this, at first, yes it’s extremely hard to accept you need help after being so independent, I know! But once you get past this stage and you will, it does get easier, to the point of it becomes normal every day.

Mindset is paramount though, having a positive mental attitude really is the key to your coping and accepting. Another extremely important thing is to have supportive and understanding people in your life. This includes family. I was very fortunate to have family around me that were supportive and understanding. Something else that is crucial, counselling and/or supportive groups. I was sceptical until my heart attack and I joined a counselling group. This helped me understand that my feelings and attitude were very normal.

You either get better or you get bitter. It’s simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you!

Josh Shipp

Don’t let negativity in your life wherever possible, especially in your transition stages. It will hold your progress back!

My Final Thoughts

I’m living my life no differently than anyone else. I have a roof over my head, and food on the table that I am extremely grateful for. My family of two wonderful grown-up kids. I go visiting my grandkids, I holiday, I have friends, I socialise and I have sex! Would I say this is a fate worse than death? HELL NO!! Even with the trials & tribulations of daily life and some of society’s attitudes…..I seriously wouldn’t change a thing.

Links

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cartoon strip illustrating a person becoming a full=time wheelchair user
Services available to disabled people

Facilities Available To Disabled People – Are You Aware?

Facilities available to disabled people – There are many facilities available to disabled people. The problem is, not everyone is aware of them, hence why I have written this blog. Today, I hope you find a facility that you weren’t aware of before and indeed benefit from it.

I will talk about Motability, Taxi card schemes, freedom passes and even Radar keys. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with any of these, you will understand more as I take you through them!

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Eurokey Project

Eurokey (similar to the Raday key)

The Eurokey Project is a facility similar to the Raday key. It enables physically impaired people to independently gain access to disabled sanitary facilities and facilities with a unit key (presumably) across Europe. At the time of writing this, there is currently a time frame of up to 8 weeks for orders to be processed.

Cost: Key – 28.90 Euros
Key with Locus Disabled Toilet Directory: 30 Euros (correct at the time of writing this). Please always check the website for an up-to-date price.

Eligibility

The key is only handed out to people who are dependent on disabled toilets.

The German severely disabled person’s pass is considered an entitlement if
• the mark: aG, B, H, or BL
• or the mark G and the GdB from 70 and upwards is included.

As soon as the severely disabled person’s pass or proof of entitlement is available or has been transmitted with the order, we will send you the invoice in advance.

The following are still entitled to subscribe:
  • severely/exceptionally handicapped;
  • Wheelchair user;
  • stoma carriers;
  • Blind woman;
  • severely disabled persons who are in need of assistance and may need an assistant;
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • Crohn’s disease,
  • Ulcerative colitis sufferers and
  • People with chronic bladder/bowel disease.

Medical proof is always considered sufficient if a disability cannot be proven otherwise. This applies in particular to persons from countries that do not have a comparable identification system. The European parking card for severely disabled persons can also be used as proof here.

Source: Euro WC key: CBF Darmstadt (cbf-da.de)

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Just Can’t Wait Toilet Card

Just can't wait card from bladder & bowel company

Just Can’t Wait Toilet Card is from the Bladder and Bowel Community. They use the universally acknowledged W.C. signage, giving you the benefit of discreet and clear communication for those moments when you just can’t wait to use the toilet.

The Just Can’t Wait card is now available to download to your phone.

Eligibility

No requirements, just a few questions.

Cost: FREE

Source: FREE Just Can’t Wait Toilet Card – Bladder & Bowel Community (bladderandbowel.org)

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Disabled Persons Railcard

Example of disabled rail card

Disabled Persons Railcard can save you a 1/3 off train travel for you and an adult companion. Average savings of up to £91. They are available digitally or as plastic cards.

Eligibility

If you are disabled or have a progressive medical condition you are eligible for the Disabled Persons Railcard if you:

  • in receipt of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Adult Disability Payment (ADP)
  • receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Child Disability Payment (CDP) at either:
    • the higher or lower rate for the mobility component, or
    • the higher or middle rate for the care component
  •  visual impairment
  • hearing impairment
  • epilepsy
  • receive Attendance Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance or Pension Age Disability Payment (PADP)
  • get War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement
  • receive War or Service Disablement Pension for 80% or more disability
  • buy or lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme

Cost: 1 Year – £20 3 Years – £54

Source: Disabled Persons Railcard | Official Retailer | National Rail (disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk)

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Fuel Service

Fuel service app to get help when filling your car at a petrol station

The Fuel Service app provides disabled drivers with all they need to refuel their cars. FuelService tells you which nearby stations have assistants available who will refuel your car. You can also use fuelService by dialling our interactive voice service or by sending an SMS TXT message.

Cost: FREE

Source: fuelService – Helping disabled drivers refuel their cars

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Blue Badge

Blue Badges help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination. You can apply for a badge for yourself, on behalf of somebody else or an organisation that transports people that need a Blue Badge.

People who automatically get a Blue Badge

You automatically qualify for a Blue Badge if you are aged 3 or over and at least one of the following applies:

  • you are in receipt of the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres (a score of 8 points or more under the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component)
  • registered blind (severely sight impaired)
  • you receive a War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
  • received a lump sum benefit within tariff levels 1 to 8 of the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation) Scheme and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking
  • you receive the mobility component of PIP and have obtained 10 points specifically for descriptor E under the ‘planning and following journeys’ activity, on the grounds that you are unable to undertake any journey because it would cause you overwhelming psychological distress
Eligibility

There are many other reasons you may be entitled to get a blue badge, please visit the website for a full breakdown and more information.

Cost: Individual councils charge different prices, please contact your local council for more information.

Source: Who can get a Blue Badge? – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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Motability

White circle of petals next to the word Motability on a blue background

Motability is a scheme where you can exchange your qualifying mobility allowance for a brand-new car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV), scooter or powered wheelchair.

Eligibility

For a full list of benefits and more information about eligibility, please vist their website: Allowances and rates | Motability Scheme

Cost: Individual to each applicant

Source: Motability Scheme | Lease a car, WAV, scooter or wheelchair

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Disabled Persons Freedom Pass

Freedom Pass – The travel pass for disabled people allows free travel across London and free bus journeys nationally. A Disabled Freedom Pass is valid all day every day. London Councils fund all the journeys that are made at those times.

Eligibility

To be eligible for a disabled persons Freedom Pass:

  • Your sole or principal residence in London And

Cost: FREE

Source: Disabled persons Freedom Pass | London Councils

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Taxicard

Taxicard offers subsidised travel in licensed taxis and private hire vehicles to London residents with serious mobility impairments or who are severely sight impaired. It enables members who have difficulty in using buses, trains and tubes to get out and about.

Application details: Apply for Taxicard in your borough | London Councils

Eligibility

I haven’t been able to find any information regarding this on their website.

Cost: Again, I’ve no information. I believe the card is free and you just pay a subsidised taxi fare.

Source: Taxicard | London Councils

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Radar Key

Radar Key The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers disabled people independent access to locked public toilets around the country. Toilets fitted with National Key Scheme (NKS) locks can now be found in shopping centres, pubs, cafés, department stores, bus and train stations and many other locations in most parts of the country.

Eligibility

None

Cost: £5.00 (price correct at time of writing this)

Source: The official and only genuine Radar Key – Disability Rights UK

Passport Services If You’re Disabled

There are free services and facilities to help you with your passport application if you’re disabled.

Source: Passport services – Gov.uk

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More Facilities

I haven’t gone into too much detail as each website explains things about each facility and there is no point boring you with repeating the information. I hope you have found something that helps you and you can benefit from. Of course, if you have any questions, do drop me a line and I will do my best to help you.

As I become aware of more facilities, I will add them to this list so keep checking back. If you know of a facility that can help disabled people, please leave a comment below.

Related Blogs

Blue Badge is Changing

Disabled Facilities: Do You Abuse Them? I Bet You Have!

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

Cartoon strip about facilities for disabled people
My pimped up wheelchair with red cushion covers

Wheelchair Life – Ignorance, Personal Space Invasion & Damage!

Wheelchair Life – Ignorance, Personal Space Invasion & Damage! – I have been a full-time wheelchair user for approx 18 years now. During this time, I have been sat on, kidnapped in a foreign country, (yes, you read that right) climbed over, all by adults!! As a wheelchair user, forget personal space, you become a public leaning post and you are invisible!

My Wheelchair

Wheelchair Life - Ignorance, Personal Space Invasion & Damage! - My wheelchair in red cushion covers with black lace trim

I have an Invacare Spectra XTR2 electric indoor/outdoor wheelchair with tilt/recline. The price of my chair with tilt/recline is approx £5,500. I’m lucky enough to be eligible for an NHS electric wheelchair. (Many disabled people are not and have to purchase their wheelchairs privately). As with everything in life, there are pros & cons when taking either route. I will discuss this later on.

The price of wheelchairs (both manual and electric) can cost well in excess of £10,000. That’s the price of a family car and when the average life span of any wheelchair is 4-5 years, this can be too expensive and unreachable for a lot of disabled people!

The more modifications that are needed, like tilt/recline, elevated footrest, bigger batteries etc. all add to the cost. Recline alone is around £1000 to have put onto a chair. Can you begin to understand why we are so protective over our wheelchairs?

I’m sure most if not all full-time wheelchair users will agree when I say my wheelchair to me is the equivalent of your legs to you! Without my wheelchair, I would not even be able to get out of bed, let alone do anything else! I wouldn’t be able to live my life!

Boring!

Wheelchairs as a whole can be very boring and clinical looking. Thankfully, manufacturers are becoming more aware that not all disabled people want this. Some of us, like myself, like to pimp our rides (so to speak). Therefore, I “pimp my ride” as shown in the image above. I come up with ideas to dress up my chair and then hubby makes my ideas a reality. I feel, that my wheelchair is an extension of me and my personality, so why shouldn’t I have it portray that?

As my chair is now 5 years old and I’m unsure what chair will be offered to me by the NHS (past experiences have not made me hopeful) I recently went to a wheelchair company to see what was on the market that would suit my needs. I found my perfect chair but it would cost me £10,000. The main things I need on my chair outside of what comes as standard are: electric tilt/recline, swing away joystick and swing away leg rests. Not a lot maybe but the electric recline alone chucks on an extra grand.

While at the showroom, I saw some wicked colourful wheels on a manual wheelchair with various frame colours. When I have to remove my handmade covers and accessories from my chair, I feel like I’m in a completely different chair and it actually feels depressing sitting in it. I feel drab and dreary and can’t wait to get my covers etc back onto my chair!

As I am typing this blog up, I received an appointment to go for a new wheelchair assessment at my wheelchair service, (more on this later) but I just wanted to share that the new chair I will be getting is exactly the same chair I fell in love with at the showroom. Best part? I can change the colour of the shrouds on the chair. I am so excited!

More Than One Way to Get A Chair

To my knowledge, there are a couple of ways to get a manual or electric wheelchair:

  • Purchase a brand new chair privately via a showroom
  • Buy a new/second-hand chair on places like eBay or Amazon
  • Be referred to your local NHS wheelchair service (eligibility required)
  • Loan scheme a brand new chair via Motability (eligibility required)

I’ve created a pros & cons file for you to download below if you wish:

 

Out & About

If I’m going somewhere for the first time, I have to do plenty of research before venturing out. This will include:

  • Is your venue/restaurant/pub accessible? Do you have level entry? If steps, how many & how high? (My electric chair can manage a small step). Company websites fail terribly at supplying this sort of information, which then means many phone calls or emails to find this information. (very time-consuming, which in all fairness is totally unnecessary!)
  • Do you have a disabled toilet? Will I find it being used as a storage room, (too many are used this way)?
  • Can my family sit with me if going to a show, or will we be split up due to only having one carer/PA space?
  • Do you have disabled parking?
  • Internal steps?
  • Width of doorways

The list just goes on and on! The most frustrating thing is when you are told one thing, then arrive and find it’s nothing like what you were told. Most of the time, it means having to either find somewhere else to go or worse, go back home!!! For example. I was going out for a meal with family that came to visit. The venue was told there would be one wheelchair user in our party. When we arrived, the table we were taken to was higher than my head, with tall stools sitting around it!

When I looked funny at the waitress, she had NO IDEA what the issue was. I had to ask her how she thought I would be able to eat a meal at the table. The penny dropped! Thankfully there was another table vacant that was more suited. It’s stupid things like this that make going out anywhere frustrating and embarrassing and make you feel a burden to the people you are out with.

If companies were penalised for this treatment of disabled people, I’m pretty sure things would change very rapidly and drastically. Access would almost be perfect. Other countries can do it, so why not here? I am ashamed of how disabled people are treated in this country, I truly am.

Personal Space

My wheelchair headrest with silver spikes across the top

I’ve put metal spikes across the top of my headrest as I’m sick and tired of people who think it’s ok to lean on it!! IT’S NOT!!! (No, it isn’t illegal, I asked a police offer to be sure).

I’ve Scoliosis and suffer from severe back pain a lot of the time. When someone decides to lean on my headrest suddenly, it makes my chair jolt, this makes me jump and jars my back. This causes pain that can last several days for me. So my spikes now prevent this from happening.

Many wheelchairs cost an absolute fortune. Do you really want to be responsible for breaking something and having to pay the cost of repairs which could run into hundreds of pounds? NO? Think before using someone’s chair as a leaning post, shopping trolley or hanger! More importantly, you have no idea what a person’s disability is and how it affects a person, so you could be causing harm to the wheelchair user.

NEVER, EVER just push a wheelchair (while the person is still in the chair) without explicit permission from the wheelchair user themselves. It’s scary, invading personal space and can be dangerous!

Holiday Trauma

I was in Tunisia on holiday with my husband. We visited a local market and were browsing one of the stalls when a complete stranger grabbed my manual wheelchair and started pushing me away. I literally screamed out for hubby but couldn’t see him. I had no idea where I was being taken and I couldn’t see hubby. This terrified me, all sorts were running through my mind at the time.

It turned out, due to the jewellery I was wearing, this man saw this and took me to what I assumed to be his friend’s jewellery shop. Just so I could get away, I ended up buying a bracelet and finally hubby caught up with me and we left.

Travelling

In my own vehicle, I’m fine. I know my chair is tied down securely and most importantly, safe! My WAV has been made to my requirements. Anywhere else though, is a roll-of-the-dice situation. Let’s take the biggie, air travel!

Airlines, baggage handlers and staff, in general, do not treat our wheelchairs with the respect they deserve! It angers me so much when I hear about another person having their wheelchair damaged or destroyed purely because airlines are ignorant and/or incompetent.

This kind of treatment of our wheelchairs (which is primarily the same as ableds LEGS) is disgusting and definitely puts disabled people off from flying. Maybe this is the airline’s intention!

Wheelchair Damage
Broken wheelchair sat next to an aeroplane.

On average, airlines damage 28 wheelchairs a day in the United States ALONE! Can you imagine how high that number raises worldwide? If airlines broke that many passengers’ legs, there would be uproar and probably no longer be in operation! Why then, is it ok to break our metaphorical legs?

If our chairs are broken, we too are out of action, actually, we are worse off. Most disabled people’s wheelchairs are made to prescription that fits the person using it. To be without our chairs, just doesn’t mean we can no longer enjoy whatever trip we were taking, we are now in severe pain having to use a mainstream non prescription off the shelf wheelchair.

Some wheelchair users rely on headrests, body straps to help posture and head controls so they can move their own chair. To be without these is beyond comprehension! More importantly, for airlines to be allowed to continue this treatment without any repercussions is discrimination and downright disgusting!!

Links

What To Do If Your Wheelchair Is Damaged

CAA – Travelling with mobility and medical equipment

Related Blogs

WAV – What Is It And Why has It Improved My Independence?

Hotels Don’t Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination?

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Spread Eagle with 3 stars

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn – Gailey – My Review

Having short notice that I would be attending Comic-Con in Telford, you can imagine all the local hotels were booked solid. Having to look further afield, we settled on the Spread Eagle Inn in Gailey. Approx 20 mins from Telford city centre. We managed to book one of their accessible rooms. This is my honest review of our stay.

Spread Eagle Inn

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn - Gailey - My Review

As a full-time wheelchair user, I have to have a wheelchair accessible room when travelling. If I am unable to book an accessible room, then I simply can’t travel! Accessible rooms are far and few between so you have to book them very quickly. When we have taken a cruise holiday, we have to book almost 2 years in advance or you have no hope of booking one.

As you can imagine, ALL local hotels were fully booked so we had to look further out for an accessible room. We chose Spread Eagle (part of the Marston’s group) as we have stayed there once before. Although, I wish we hadn’t (more on that in a bit).

Spread Eagle has 4-5 disabled parking bays and a ramp-up to the main doors of the restaurant/reception. You book in at the desk by the side of the bar. To go to your room, you can travel down the ramp inside the restaurant and make your way to the side entrance where you walk/wheel over to the hotel building.

The hotel building has an automatic door entry that is operated by your room key card. You hold the card to the box at the side and the doors open. You do the same for the next door inside that leads to all the rooms. This door is very heavy, presumably a fire door. My accessible room was about two rooms on my left after entering. Again, the room door is operated by holding the card next to the electronic fob box. Your room door is also very heavy.

Accessible Room

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn - Gailey - Accessible room

There’s literally nothing in the room apart from a bed, a small desk in the corner with a mirror above. There is a TV on the wall opposite the bed. You have what is meant to be hanging space beside the bed, again in the corner. The hangers are fixed in place. You have to unhook the pin from the part of the hanger that slides on the rail. From a wheelchair user’s perspective, I feel it is unusable. The hangers are very high and very fiddly to use. My suggestion is to bring your own hangers. If you are able to reach up to high places, you may be able to use it. There are a couple of shelves below but really not enough for two people if staying more than a night or two.

There is a tea/coffee facility available in the room by the means of a kettle and sachets. Only full-fat milk is provided in the room though. You can ask at the bar for semi-skimmed milk which they can provide. You only get provided with two tea bags. We had a cup of tea before going to bed on the day we arrived but didn’t get a refill of tea bags the following day. Not a problem, we just went back to the restaurant and got some from the tea machine. They supply sugar/sweeteners and a couple of wrapped biscuits.

I mentioned a TV on the wall. The remote control for the TV is sat on a little ledge directly under the TV. Due to my dexterity, I found this very high and very very difficult to grab hold of due to not being able to get my hand in under the TV to get a grip of the remote.

The Bed

I’ve slept in many different hotel beds (even a broken one) and I have to say this was probably the worst by far! The bed was so hard that it caused pain in both of my hips and back. The severe pain I was in from the bed, made my weekend more difficult than needed. My husband had to do all the driving, transferring in/out of my chair was painful. I took my own specially designed pillow last time but stupidly forgot to bring it home. I rang the hotel explaining the situation and asked if I paid for the postage, could they post it out to me. They refused, saying they didn’t have the means to post stuff out!

With this in mind, I left my new one at home but found their pillows to be too soft and flat. They slid up the wooden headboard throughout the night which caused me neck pain too. So all in all not a great night’s sleep!

There is an emergency alarm on the right-hand side of the bed by the lamp.

If you request a double accessible, don’t expect a double bed. You are given two singles pushed and locked together! This (in my opinion) is why the mattresses are harder and you also have to deal with the rope-like rim that goes around the edge of each mattress making it double trouble down the centre of the bed.

No Subtitles

The TV’s remote was kept on a ledge underneath the TV, I found it very difficult to reach and grab the remote. Every day the cleaners would put it back. I found it impossible to switch on subtitles as I couldn’t find this facility anywhere in the TV’s settings. Being partially deaf, this meant if I wanted to watch TV I had to sit underneath it to hear it or turn it up loud and run the risk of annoying other guests. Yes, I could have asked staff for help but I didn’t want to bother them, so just left it.

Accessible Wet Room

It’s a fairly functional wet room, shower, toilet, shower seat, sink, grab rails and two red alarm cords. Although the one at the entrance is far too close to the light cord so could be pulled by mistake. That’s it though! No extra bins, the small bin provided was a pedal bin? My pet hate, the sink was too near the toilet and I almost fell twice while transferring. (I know the sink has to be close but this was almost over the toilet itself). There was no shelf provided so nowhere to put a wash bag, brush or anything at all.

The toilet roll was so thin and cheap feeling I’m glad I take my own. On the plus side, the toilet chain was on the right side of the toilet and there is a mirror over the sink, for what use that would be without a shelf. Plenty of space to swing your chair in a full circle.

Restaurant

There are two entrances to access the main building where the restaurant is. Both are ramped. The restaurant is not always a table service. It has one unisex disabled toilet.

Breakfast – Either continental, which is buffet style or cooked breakfast which is ordered at your table. Be careful though, it is not obvious that they have two types of cooked breakfasts. You have the Classic & The Works. Hubby ordered a full English not knowing there were two kinds. Classic gives you one of each item of food but the Works gives you two of each item. He was given the second and charged accordingly.

Evening Meal – You decide what you’re having from the menu, find your table number and go to the bar to order your food. There is no table service so if you want something else or more drinks, you need to visit the bar. You also have a carvery (buffet style) but both I and my daughter found this to be rather poor quality and cold.

We were told a new menu was in place since our last visit. Hmmm, not much choice outside of steak & burgers and what we did have was not very tasty and cold like it had been made at the same time as our starters and left to sit!

Staff

The staff as a whole are friendly and very helpful. On our first visit last November we found what seemed to be mould on our bedsheets & pillows. We went to reception and within minutes the manager came to change our bedding. (This was approx 11 pm).

On our second day of this visit, I asked the room maids if it was at all possible to have a quilt put under our sheet as the mattresses were causing me pain. She said this would not be a problem as she has had many requests for this before. Why don’t the hotel do something about their mattresses then? It helped but because I was already in so much pain, unfortunately, it wasn’t perfect.

Worth The Stay

If you need somewhere overnight, then it’s probably one of the better places to stay. The price of a room is reasonable, the food price is average but the quality could be better. Rooms are very clean if somewhat minimalistic.

The big question is, would I stay here again? If I could find somewhere else, I would not stay here again. Unfortunately, we go to Telford for one reason, Comic-Con. So unless we could book an accessible room early enough before they are all sold out, then we probably wouldn’t have a choice in the matter and I would stay here begrudgingly!

Deals & Offers

At the time of writing this review, Spread Eagle have a 20% off main meals if you book directly with them. Full terms & Conditions.


Related Blogs

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

Travel Agents: How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers?

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

High street with speech bubbles saying "We're Accessible"

So You Advertise As Accessible?

So, You’re Accessible? – Many companies and retailers advertise as being “Accessible” but what does this actually mean? Does it tell me if you have any steps in and around your premises? No! Does it tell me how high your counters are? No! So the fact you are advertising yourself as “Accessible”, gives me and other disabled people NO information whatsoever! Not only that, but you are probably also in breach of the Equality Act 2010!

Claiming to be Accessible Doesn’t Mean You Are Accessible!

So, You’re Accessible? – As a company or retailer, advertising as being “accessible” and then giving no further information, means you are not being as inclusive as you would like to think! Just because I CAN enter your premises, does NOT make you an accessible company.

Your interpretation of accessibility will most probably be completely different to those of a disabled person! There are many things you need to have in place before you can warrant yourself the title of being an “Accessible” company.

I am a full-time wheelchair user and my accessibility needs would differ from those who say are deaf or blind, I can not climb steps but a deaf person would most likely manage them. My arms are very weak and I can’t raise them up past my midriff, therefore using card machines on a counter is extremely difficult but yet, again a deaf or blind person would most probably find it easier to use.

Being Accessible

So, You're Accessible - Equality Act 2010 & Buildings Regulation compliant Disabled Toilet
Equality Act 2010 & Buildings Regulation compliant Disabled Toilet

Disabled toilets, do you have a unisex one as well as male/female ones? Some disabled people have carers who are of the opposite sex. They would need to use a unisex toilet.

Changing rooms, the above would also apply. The amount of times my husband has been refused to come in a changing room with me is shocking, to say the least.

When shopping for new bras in a very well known high street chain. My husband couldn’t come in with me as it was a female changing room. When asked if there were any unisex changing room, I was told no. I asked where the disabled changing room was, it was in the female changing room section.

When I argued the point that he was my carer and I could not try on the bras without his help and the fact I shouldn’t be expected to have a complete stranger help me with such intimate form of help, especially when they are at fault for not providing a unisex changing room, my husband was eventually allowed in to help me.

The other side of the coin is companies that do have these amenities but then use them for other purposes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been to restaurants, clothing shops and found the changing room or disabled toilet being used as a storage room. Using these amenities outside of its intended purpose is again, NOT being inclusive. I STILL can’t use them!! So yes, having these features may make you accessible but you ARE NOT USABLE!!

So What Is Accessible?

When a disabled person wishes to visit your premises, we need to know quite a few things to allow our visit to be as hassle-free as possible. I don’t want to read/hear the words “Yes, we are accessible”, only to turn up and find that actually, you’re not accessible at all. We need to know things like the following (this is only a fraction of the information we may need):

  • Are you level throughout your premises?
  • Do you have any steps? If so, how many and how high (most electric wheelchair users can cope with one small step)
  • Do you have a unisex disabled toilet?
  • Are your changing rooms unisex? Do you have a disabled changing room?
  • Restaurants, how high are your tables, I need to know if my knees will go under the table as I am in quite a high wheelchair.
  • Do you supply large print menus?
  • Hearing loops?
  • Height of your customer counters?
  • Hotels, do you offer wet rooms?
  • How high is the sink in your wet room?
  • Does the shower/toilet have grab rails, if so, where are they and are they horizontal/vertical?
  • Do you have lifts?
  • Can you supply letters in braille?

Accessibility Fail

Primark’s wheelchair accessible till

When accessibility fails on a mega scale, it is very distressing, soul-destroying and extremely frustrating to say the very least. My husband booked a hotel for a surprise long weekend in Cornwall. He phoned the hotel first to check out its accessibility, they answered all his questions and assured him all would be fine.

We turned up at the hotel only to find a list of accessibility failures:

  • There was a flight of steps leading up to the entrance. No problem said the hotel, just use the trade entrance round the back!
  • Our room was upstairs, the lift was a very tight squeeze, if I had my electric chair I have now, I wouldn’t have got in!
  • A step down the middle of the hallway leading to our room, the step was over 5 inches high
  • My manual wheelchair would not fit through the bathroom door, again, not a problem said the hotel, we’ll remove the door for you!
  • The disabled bathroom was NOT a wet room, it had a bath with a glass door across it, I had to get my husband to help me shuffle across the floor from the bathroom door entrance to the toilet so I could use the damn thing!
  • No room on either side of the bed to park my wheelchair.
  • The patio doors leading to the garden area had a very high step.
  • When in the restaurant, hubby had to get my food at the buffet as the room was so small. Hubby would have to go see what was available, come back and tell me, then go back to fetch it!

Not How To Resolve Issues

When things do go wrong and you get a complaint, here is a prime example of how NOT to deal with it!

To add insult to injury, when we complained to the hotel manager, he was rude, and obnoxious and accused us of lying only to get a refund. I told him to check with the staff member who offered to take the bathroom door off for us. He still wasn’t having it.

I told him he could stick his refund, that was not what this was about. The hotel was advertised as being “wheelchair Accessible” when clearly it didn’t even come close.

How To Improve

  1. Make sure you are actually accessible BEFORE advertising as so.
  2. If you are unsure of the accessibility features you should have (some are business dependant), ask!! There are many of us only too happy to advise you on accessibility needs, Some do it as a business!!
  3. Give disabled people more information. Have a section on your website explaining how you are accessible.
  4. If something is out of order, like lifts, let us know!
Wheelchair-accessible changing room

It really isn’t that difficult to be Equality Act 2010 compliant!!

More Blogs

Hotels Don’t Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination?

WAV – What Is It And Why has It Improved My Independence?

Wheelchair Life – Ignorance, Personal Space Invasion & Damage!

If you would like to work with me, or if there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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