I enjoy travelling, as I like finding out about new places. However, I haven’t travelled very far in my 20 years; the furthest from the U.K. I have been is Cyprus. Although I haven’t been out of Western Europe, I have visited many places so have stayed in countless hotels. Most of them have been chain ones such as Holiday Inn Express (our personal favourite) and have mostly been in Britain, when I have been on my travels following Arsenal Football Club. I thought I’d share a few experiences as hotels and travelling in general is a difficult part of disability so the advice/practical tips will probably be welcomed.
Most hotels will claim to have an accessible bathroom but check what that means before booking. I need a wheel-in shower with a wet room so that I can either make a slide transfer over to the flip down seat (if it’s sturdy) or use my portable wheelchair to wheel in place. One time, my family and I turned up at this hotel in Southampton to discover that their idea of access was a bath with handles and seat in it. No good for me as I cannot walk at all so getting in would be impossible.
Another issue that I have is pretty much all of the hotels that I have been to do not have a shower chair on wheels. They either have a flip down seat (which is sometimes just a flimsy bit of plastic on the wall) or just a chair. This can be difficult as I’m used to getting up with a standing hoist, going in the shower chair and wheeling back in position. It can also be problematic for my carers because I obviously don’t have the hoist then they have the added trouble of getting me on the shower chair. I needed to come up with a simple solution.
We encountered a similar problem on holiday last summer when we discovered that our villa did not have a shower chair. There was a wheel in shower with a wet room but a plastic chair. Our quick fix was to put towels under the chair and drag it. However that did not feel safe at all and I was sure that my weight would break the legs. In the local town, a shop was selling sun beds and there was one on wheels, which we thought might do the job. It did for the rest of the week but I knew that a proper portable shower chair would need to be brought when I got home.
After looking into portable shower chairs, it became apparent that a solution would not come cheap as the equipment I was looking at cot between £500-£1000.I soon realised that I did not really need a portable shower chair, just a portable manual chair that I would be able to take in the shower. I looked again online and found one for £80, which I brought. This has helped on various occasions because when a hotel does not have a proper flip down seat, the chair can be quickly assembled for me to use. After my shower, it does not take too long to dry and then packs away into a bag.
It would be great if hotels had shower chairs and standing hoists but sometimes, you have to do things a bit differently to the norm. Travelling is about stepping outside your comfort zone and that’s no different for disabled people.