When accommodation is made accessible – feels like home

When you stay at a place that is so perfect for people with spinal injuries; you start to wonder why other places find even the smallest concepts so hard to change, or whether I’ll ever see more places following this innovative and adaptive path??

There are times in life where I feel like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and that I don’t have to try so hard just to do the basic every day things. This is one of those times. I woke up every morning listening to the ocean waves, smelling the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful sight of the sun rising over the ocean. For 12 nights I stayed at Sargood on Collaroy which is the first purpose built spinal resort in Australia located on Collaroy Beach Northern Beaches. This place was amazing, I felt so relaxed while there, participated in some amazing sports and adaptive adventures and made some life long friends; who may be experiencing some of the same struggles in life I am, but yet are as active and wanting to reach high like I do. Needless to say I have fallen in love with this place!!

Being in a wheelchair for almost 23 years I have never stayed anywhere, where almost everything meant no physical effort on my part. Sometimes I forget that the simple things in life are often taken for granted and can be an added challenge or effort for myself, but also for many others with a spinal injury.

The simple things that made Sargood so easy and accessible were automatic doors, kettles that tilt, a completely wheelchair accessible gym, 3 dining room tables at different heights to enable people using different height wheelchairs to get under, a pool table with a gap underneath for wheelchair space, kitchen bench tops being able to be adjusted in height, gaps under the stove to give easier and safer access, accessible recreation equipment for outdoor adventure and the most exciting and innovative concept that could make so many more lives more independent and freer; the use of an IPad. This IPad controlled everything in the bedrooms including opening the door, answering intercom, turning the TV on, adjust air conditioning, opening and closing blinds, turning lights on and off. This was particularly useful for people who may have limited mobility but would then be able to still do things if they were stuck in bed. This really brought a smile to my face as this shows how such a simple thing could in turn help someone be so much more independent and not have to rely on human help as much.

If you asked me 20 years ago would I have ever thought this place existed, I would of laughed. A place like this would of been institutionalised and in the middle of nowhere so they could not see us, in fear they would catch something; sounds funny, but it’s reality. I admit I had some reservations about staying at Sargood as I wasn’t sure how it would be, but those reservations quickly left, after I saw the place and how it did not look sterile or clinical, and the staff (too many to name) were amazing and just treated me as ME!

I also fell in love with doing all of the recreation adventures especially the outdoor ones which never would of been possible if it wasn’t for the staff, particularly Jacob, Wade and Bree. I tried Kayaking, standing golf, archery, fishing, 4WD wheelchair bush and beach bashing, dancing and virtual reality. Using the 4WD wheelchair known as X8 Extreme to get over sand by myself for the first time in over 23 years the excitement I had in doing this was unbelievable, being able to do burn outs with this beast of a machine and get up and down steps and dirt was beyond exciting while also being safe at all times. I went fishing for the first time, played standing golf, went kayaking over choppy waters and in over 23 years I could ride using a Batec attached to the front of the wheelchair (shown in above picture) next to someone on a push bike and keep up with them. Tears were in my eyes when this happened. Actually, I had tears a number of times as I had a lot of firsts while staying at Sargood and it was all possible because of awesome attitudes of people.

I saw how life can be harder for many others, my lovely friend Jayne told me the story of the first time she had a hoist put into her place and was able to get onto the lounge for the first time, and her 3 children proceeded to fight over who would sit next to her. Such a small thing but the pain and excitement she had while telling me her story, I could relate too and feel. There were people I was staying with that had only been in a chair for short periods of time including 2 months, 11 months and 7 years and through this I was taken back to the beginning of my wheelchair years and it always came back to, that we would all be okay if we kept reaching higher and with the right places and attitudes of people in our lives anything really can be achieved and the impossible that we live everyday can suddenly be made possible!

Keep following my journey to hear more adventures at Sargood when I was out doing the recreation adaptive activities that you can see in the above photos…