Last month Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers launched their report following an investigation into the need for hoists in UK hotels.
Over 100 Trailblazers responded to the survey, sharing both positive and negative experiences.
This is an important issue that affects the lives of so many disabled people, myself included. Without the essential facility of a ceiling hoist, we are denied the opportunity to travel, whether for work or leisure purposes.
With only 18 UK hotels having installed ceiling hoists for disabled guests, this is clearly an overlooked and ill-considered feature. Who is designing these ‘accessible’ hotel rooms, anyway?!
I was one of the respondents to the Trailblazers survey. Here is my view:
“I am an infrequent traveller, not because I lack the desire but because it is so difficult to find appropriately adapted and affordable hotels. Even getting away for a single night is an almost impossible challenge, since hotel rooms are, disappointingly, not equipped with ceiling track hoists as standard.
Although some people get around this problem by hiring (at an extra cost) or taking with them a portable hoist, this is not practical for all. Portable hoists are cumbersome, difficult to store, transport and manoeuvre. Furthermore, many people simply don’t have access to a vehicle large enough to carry such large-scale equipment.
I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and am completely non-ambulant. I can’t safely transfer and so I either have to be hoisted or manually lifted. Understandably most people, excluding family, are reluctant to do the latter. So, if I want or need to get away from home, my only current option is to ask family members if they are willing to lend their time and support (far from ideal).
With less than 20 hotels in the UK equipped with ceiling track hoists, our options are severely limited. For those of us who need this facility, a premium cost is incurred, and then we are restricted to specific locations. Sadly we are not free as others are, to occupy any hotel room in a hotel of our choice, anywhere in the country.”
Click here to find out more information and from other contributors.
There are many things us wheelie folk need to take with us when travelling, besides clothes and a bucket and spade!
Here is my definitive guide…
1.Both my manual and powered wheelchairs: This year we ventured up north to Whitby where the terrain is rugged. I therefore thought it wise to take my manual wheelchair as a backup, should my power chair struggle. The luxury of travelling within the UK is that there is no luggage limit. I have a Citroen Berlingo wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in which there’s plenty of room for all the added extras I need to take with me. I personally would never take my powered chair on an airplane, having heard so many horror stories of loss and irreparable damage. But travelling by car means that I can easily take both my wheelchairs.
2.Wheelchair charger: No brainer! I wouldn’t get far without it.
3.Bipap machine and a spare mask: It’s always best to take at least one spare of everything you NEED when travelling.
4.Extension lead: you can’t be certain of where plug sockets will be located in your holiday accommodation. I need at least one situated next to my bed to power my NIV (Bipap) machine throughout the night. This isn’t always the case and so an extension lead can be extremely useful if you have a lot of equipment to charge.
5.Lightweight thermal blanket: I struggle to adjust my position in bed and I often find the duvets in holiday accommodation too heavy for me to turn. So, I prefer to take my own blanket, which can be rolled up and compacted. This means that I don’t have to worry about those heavy, immovable duvets when travelling.
Antibiotics, should I become ill whilst on holiday (best to cover yourself!)
Spare inhalers (I use Salbutamol – marketed as Ventolin)
Painkillers (Nurofen Meltlets Lemon are good for those who can’t swallow pills)
7. Lists: As someone with a disability, it’s good practice to do a little research before travelling, even if only for a day trip. I like to make a list of accessible places to dine, attractions, transport and even the places to avoid.
Time spent pre-planning will allow you more time to enjoy your holiday.
If you have a disability, what extra items and equipment do you take with you when travelling?
Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
I recently returned from my annual, week-long family holiday. This year, my parents and I chose to stay in the UK after all the hassle we had last year with flying (find my review of our trip to Salou, Spain here).
So, back in February we booked a self-catering accessible cottage through Disabled Holidays.
We’ve always loved Yorkshire; the history, countryside, charm and culture. But we also wanted to be near the coast and so we opted for the seaside town of Whitby, situated in the Borough of Scarborough.
A large ground-floor property, all rooms are generously sized. More than enough room to manoeuvre with hoists, wheelchairs and any other equipment required.
2 bedrooms, sleeps 4. Large living/dining area and sizeable separate kitchen.
Huge wet room with both bath and shower! There is a wall-mounted shower seat, though these are rarely any use to me as my balance is poor. I therefore pre-requested a static shower chair with armrests (as you can see from the photo, there are no armrests on the chair!) However, there are sturdy, wall-mounted grab rails either side and so this suited fine.
The door ridges could be problematic for some wheelchair users. I use a Quantum 600 powered chair which managed the front door but struggled with the patio door. Alternatively, I went around the side of the property and through the gate in order to access the garden.
Stunning views of Whitby coastline, the surrounding countryside and the Abbey in the distance.
Ideal location: quiet and peaceful yet only a 10 minute drive to Whitby town centre.
Overall very impressive and well thought-out accommodation. My only complaint is the beds, which were VERY firm and uncomfortable. I use an electric adjustable bed at home with a regular mattress but I’ve always slept on normal beds when away, without issue. There was however, plenty of room underneath to use a manual hoist should you need to.
I would thoroughly recommend this property to anyone with a disability, particularly wheelchair users. My only suggestion would be to take some form of mattress topper and maybe a blanket as only heavy, winter duvets were provided.
Places I visited
Robin hoods bay
Historic fishing village, scenic views. 10-15 minute drive, south of Whitby.
Pavements are fairly wide and smooth. A reasonable amount of dropped kerbs.
Sufficient disabled parking (not exempt from payment).
Most pubs and restaurants are wheelchair accessible.
Very steep towards the bay itself. I chose not to venture down as the gradient was too steep for my wheelchair.
Could do with more dropped kerbs although generally flat in the west side of the town. Pier is mostly accessible (steps to reach the very end but you’re not missing out).
The beach is accessible via slope and the sands are firm (powered wheelchairs and scooters may struggle!)
You can hire mobility equipment including scooters, manual and powered wheelchairs, beach wheelchairs and even an all-terrain wheelchair from Whitby Tourist Information. I would advise you do this in advance! Call: 01947 821001 or click here for more information.
West side of town is much more commercialised than the east side.
Plenty of disabled parking (not exempt from payment) and accessible toilets (take your Radar key). I recommend the new Marina car park toilets, located near the Tourist Information Centre, as they’re the best equipped and the most pleasant.
East side far less accessible depending on your tolerance for cobbled streets. Manual wheelchairs would struggle unless pulled backwards which is obviously not ideal or particularly appealing. I ventured through the cobbled streets and Whitby Market Place in my Quantum 600 and didn’t get stuck – so it is doable.
There are some interesting shops showcasing local arts, crafts and Whitby jet jewellery.
Scarborough North Bay
Flat, wide, smooth, even pavements.
Dropped kerbs, free disabled parking, ramp access to beach which is accessible depending on the wheelchair or scooter you use.
My heavy Quantum 600 power chair got stuck in the sand, and I had to call on the assistance of some friendly locals to haul me back onto the pavement. However, manual wheelchairs shouldn’t encounter any problems as the sands are flat and firm.
East pier and Scarborough town centre
Impressively accessible: flat, even, wide pavements and plenty of dropped kerbs.
Free disabled parking.
Much more commercialised and populated than the North Bay, so if you prefer the peace and quiet, stick to the north.
Lots of amusement arcades, fast food and tourist/gift shops.
Beach again is very flat and accessible although powered chairs may struggle.
Accessible buses and sight-seeing tour buses.
The main disabled toilet in town (Radar key required) is small and unpleasant! I would use one of the accessible toilets within the pubs or restaurants.
The Abbey is surprisingly accessible for all. I really enjoyed my visit as it was so easy to get around and there was nothing I missed out on.
Smooth, even paths and slopes where necessary. Even the grass isn’t bumpy.
4 disabled parking bays, 2 large lifts and disabled toilets at the main entrance and in the tea rooms.
All staff were extremely helpful and advised us of the most accessible routes. Even the gift shop was a decent size, allowing wheelchair users to browse without bumping into other visitors.
I highly recommend visiting the Abbey!
Obviously, the famous 199 steps are in no way disabled-friendly. But you can park at the top and take in the view.
While North Yorkshire is admittedly very hilly, rugged and rural, it is for the most part accessible to those with disabilities, as I discovered. It’s not always easy or comfortable to get around in a wheelchair, but it’s worth a bloody good try as the North Yorkshire Moors has so much to offer.
There are many narrow, winding, steep roads and country lanes to navigate. For this reason I think it’s important for anyone with a disability to have access to a car in order to explore Whitby and the surrounding area.
Though I would like to be, I’m not a frequent traveller. Living with a physical disability – in my case, Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy – can make overseas travel difficult and stressful. However, after several years without a holiday (neither at home in the UK or abroad) I decided it was about time I set off in search of sun, sea and sand – a sight unseen here in the Midlands!
Most importantly, the holiday must meet all my accessibility requirements, (I am a non-ambulant, powered wheelchair-user). Another major consideration was my parents, with whom I would be travelling. This presented me with the task of organising a holiday that would satisfy their wants and needs as well as my own.
Of course, it’s far from ideal to travel with your parents at my age (27), but it was my only option at the time. I resisted their considerate invitations to accompany them abroad for years, but I had reached the point of desperation – one way or another, I really needed to get away. There’s only so much British weather a girl can take!
Planning & Booking:
7 years earlier, I visited Tarragona, situated in the Costa Dorada region of Spain. I found it to be a great place to roam around in a powered wheelchair. Back then I booked with Enable Holidays.
For personal reassurance regarding reliable accessibility (and frankly to make life a little easier), we decided to return to Costa Dorada. When comparing prices online, I found it significantly cheaper to book with Disabled Access Holidays (DAH) – a small business based in Glasgow, UK.
Throughout the whole booking process, I interacted with the same agent who sorted everything. Airport assistance and wheelchair accessible taxi transfers were organised. An electric wheelchair was also hired for the week, as I prefer to travel with just my manual chair for fear of damage to my Quantum 600 (I’ve heard horror stories from fellow wheelchair-users).
The only thing I had to arrange was travel insurance for myself. DAH recommended AllClear, even offering a discount code. I enquired with a few providers though they all quoted a similar price. Just one week in Spain would have cost me over £500 and so, admittedly, I chose to take the risk and travel without insurance.
Off we go…
We flew from Birmingham airport on 7th July (2016), arriving in sunny Reus after a thoroughly chaotic checking-in and boarding process. Conveyer belt malfunctions, lack of staff, delays and the absence of assistance at Birmingham established an initial sense of unease.
What really frustrated me was the fact that we boarded via the centre of the plane – my parents and I being made to wait until last. Since our seats were at the front of the plane, I had to struggle some distance in an old aisle chair, bumping elbows with strangers all the way (bear in mind, I’m pretty damn petite). I can’t stand these cronky aisle seats, mainly because they offer no postural support whatsoever and are incredibly uncomfortable. My balance is poor and consequently I always feel I’m about to fall when forced to resort to one.
Upon reaching our front row seats, my poor Dad was left to manually transfer me by himself, as no one offered to help. There was a complete lack of care and consideration from all staff at Birmingham.
A short and uneventful flight ensued. This was one of my major concerns when organising the holiday. A long haul flight was a no-go as there’s just no way I would be able to access the bathroom. With the best will in the world, in my case it really can’t be done.
Disembarking at Reus:
After the disappointment at Birmingham airport I was relieved to receive a much more conscientious service when disembarking at Reus. The assistance for passengers with disabilities was swift and effective. Without question, the staff safely lifted me from my seat straight into my manual wheelchair which was brought to the front of the plane where we exited, this time without an audience. I was so thankful as I hate to have to burden my parents with the physically exhaustive task of manually transferring me.
Our pre-booked taxi transfer was at first nowhere to be found but soon arrived after being prompted by a phone call. The English speaking driver was extremely helpful and repeatedly assured us that she or another driver would collect us from our hotel at the time and date arranged.
And so we found ourselves at the Medplaya Piramide 4 star hotel in Salou, Costa Dorada. The three of us shared one, accessible room situated on the second floor resulting in a daily battle for the lift which everyone felt the need to use, regardless of age or ability.
Aside from the presence of a grimy shower chair with one, dismembered footplate, it’s difficult to see how our room could be considered ‘accessible’. The bathroom comprised a regular bath along with a roll in shower which flooded our entire room and out into the hallway within seconds. The bathroom door veneer was all peeled away suggesting this is a long term issue which the hotel has failed to address. We had to call reception for extra towels to mop up the excess water flooding our room after every brief shower.
Furthermore, the sink was far too high and unreachable for me to use whilst sat in my chair. The toilet was lower than normal and lacked any surrounding support aside from a fairly redundant and misplaced grab rail affixed to the wall. A small lip in the patio door may cause an obstacle for some in accessing the sizeable exterior balcony but with a bit of a run up I didn’t have a problem in my hired power chair.
The hotel itself, both interior and exterior, I found to be suitable for anyone with a disability. With smooth, flat surfaces, ramp access where needed, wide open spaces to manoeuvre, and a large ground-floor disabled loo, I was able to roam around completely independently. There’s also a pool hoist – a clean, fully functioning pool hoist!
With plenty to keep you occupied including a bar, restaurant, pool room, terrace area, as well as day and night-time entertainment, this modern hotel caters for all ages and abilities. The staff too were welcoming, sociable and most accommodating.
There are some steep pavements surrounding the hotel to be aware of, but plenty of slopes and access points more than make up for this. The hotel is ideally situated, just a short stroll to the impressively accessible Levante beach, 250m from Salou town centre and 1.5km from Port Aventura theme park. The area for the most part is flat and even, making it ideal for wheelchair users.
I have to say the major selling point for me was the beach. Though not an experienced traveller, of all the beaches I have ever visited this one is by far the best. It’s vast, it’s flat, and there are numerous platforms which allow wheelchairs and prams to enjoy a smooth ride right down to the waters edge. I was pleased to see many others with various disabilities accessing the sands without the all too familiar struggle.
Furthermore, the individuals who hire out sun loungers could always be counted on to offer a helping hand if and when needed. Without question they would often come running to the assistance of someone. This is not part of their job, nor is it commonplace (sadly), and so I feel it worthy of mention.
On the whole my week in Salou provided much needed respite and relaxation. However, the biggest dilemma was saved for our last day. Our pre-booked taxi never arrived so we were forced to ask reception staff to telephone for a local cab asap. This took over an hour to arrive since there is only one wheelchair accessible taxi in the local area. Fortunately our return flight was delayed otherwise we would certainly have missed our flight. Despite this rather stressful conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable holiday, I would definitely recommend Disabled Access Holidays. However, it’s also important to do your own research and investigation prior to committing to any accommodation and travel arrangements.