In the next installment of our of blog series, EaRN volunteer Colin discusses his experiences of planning a holiday as a wheelchair user.
As a 60 year old wheelchair user who enjoys travelling and making ones’ own arrangements, as much as I enjoyed travelling with my family I wanted to go away myself and do what I wanted when I wanted without having to negotiate with family. In the 80’s (RADAR) now called Disability Rights UK published a book where accommodation was listed 1 to 5 star as in access, step free, wheelchair accessible toilet, step free shower access and hiring of equipment.
They also listed commercial companies and accommodation that provided support. My first independent holiday was with a company called Across and I went to Switzerland and East Germany with this company, once I received conformation that my support needs could be accommodated I then had to find out departure and arrival time and if it was possible to connect with flight and train options, all this just for a holiday but if you want to be in control then it is worth it.
While my trips to East Germany and Switzerland were an experience everything was organized and I had no independence as I I had to take my wheelchair and be pushed everywhere.
My next independent trip was to Heerlen in the Netherlands. I liaised with the hotel what my support needs were and once they verified that they could provide it was able to provide the support needs that I received from family but go where I wanted to when I wanted to. I then checked with the airline that they were able to transfer me from my wheelchair to airline seat and vice versa. I was able to fly to Amsterdam then get a train to Heerlen, arrange to be met at the station and taken to hotel where I was able to hire a right handed electric chair. This gave me the independence to do day trips to different parts of the Netherlands.
Make sure you use the toilet before boarding the plane as plane toilets are totally inaccessible.
I then discovered a company in Gloucester who provided accessible accommodation, 24/7 support and hiring of equipment. I went to visit the company with a P.A. went over all my specifications and they told me they could accommodate my needs in Majorca and Tenerife, I went myself and thoroughly appreciated that all my needs were catered for, the only drawback was you had to specify what time you wanted support.
I then decided to take a P.A. on holiday, that way my support needs were known and I had greater flexibility about support.