So… this week I was away again and had to stay in yet another hotel, and sadly even after asking all the right questions and them telling me it is wheelchair accessible, it actually wasn’t.
This is the story of my life. For years I have had to travel all over Australia for work and I travel all over the world for pleasure. I could not begin to tell you the amount of times I turn up to a hotel and there are accessibility issues..probably more often then the places actually being accessible.
I am constantly faced with things such as, being unable to get into my room independently, or have a shower, leave my room or the actual hotel premises by myself so I can go for a walk or get food to eat, go to common areas such as reception to pay my bill, or to access the restaurant or to simply be able to reach the kettle, cups, glasses or the wine! Cause god forbid people in wheelchairs drink! (Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t drink at all!! 😝)
So why do I continue to travel do you ask if this is what I am constantly facing? Partly because I can’t sit still and I like to not let challenges defeat me and I like to keep reaching higher. I also hope by all my travelling, I am slowly changing the perceptions about people with disability travelling, particularly people using wheelchairs. Some of these assumptions are: that people who use wheelchairs could not possibly travel alone, or that people in wheelchairs can not possibly be travelling with anyone other then their carer or their family, as they don’t have friends or partners. If you are in a wheelchair you couldn’t possibly have a relationship, or have sex, but you do have carers!! You think I am kidding? I could not tell you the amount of times I have heard people surprised that the person I am travelling with is my friend, and that they aren’t actually caring for me, and even though they may not care about helping me out, I don’t actually want help, as when the environment is accessible I am independent.
If someone using a wheelchair requires the help from a carer then absolutely there is nothing wrong with that, but if I don’t need the help why should I settle for having to have to help, especially when it could be a work colleague I am travelling with. I like to feel equal and if someone is helping me access the shower or help me into my room for Example, all of a sudden I don’t feel quite so equal.
The amount of times people question if I need to use the bathroom even if I am staying at a place for days on end. What do they think I use? A bucket? Do they think I sleep, shower and toilet on my chair??
This latest stay there was a step to get into my hotel room, which luckily I am strong enough to pull myself up, but even though I can get myself up the step, I couldn’t open the door as the swipe was too high and then if I wanted to leave my room, I could bunny hop down the step but then could not reach the door handle to close the door behind me. There was no shower chair in the bathroom and when I requested it, they gave me a shower chair with half the legs. I must say the guy was really lovely though and went and bought me a shower chair. The next morning when I went to make a cup of coffee, I realised I could not reach the kettle or the cups. And that night when I was going to dinner with my friend I could not actually get out of the hotel premises without getting help. Doesn’t sound much??? But I guess I realised I keep putting myself through this over and over again in the hope that places will change so the next person has a better experience. I also get so frustrated that I know I am really fit and agile and if I struggle; what it must be like for others! And then I laugh… like seriously laugh at how people can think not wanting to get into a place independently or being able to shower, pee or eat is important and a basic everyday thing!!
Whilst I often laugh i also remember that I have lived life without a disability and until I had one I didn’t realise what was needed. It’s hard to get angry at people when they just have never experienced it or don’t know anyone who has a disability. And it’s always interesting when I see the little light bulbs go off in peoples heads when they realise ahh… that is not actually accessible.
People don’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand accessibility, or know what it means for someone living with a disability. But… please remember just like me- we know what it means to have access. So just ask and don’t assume!!
Keep following my journey….