Accessible travelling and staying at Travelodge

*Disclaimer – I’m aware that many Travelodge hotels are being refurbished and updated to improve their style and facilities. However I have stayed at the Oswestry Travelodge hotel several times over the last few years and it doesn’t appear to have had any sort of makeover, yet.

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I’m not expecting rose gold taps and feather pillows, I’m just expecting a clean, accessible room which I can move around easily in, with my partner and my children.

Booking a Travelodge stay online (and this applies to Premier Inn hotels too) you select the destination, the dates, the number of guests and the room you require. Quite simple it should be!

Not when you’re a wheelchair user who is also a parent! If you select an accessible room, AND you have a child/children with you, no such room exists for your needs. You can either book an accessible room OR a family room. Apparently people with disabilities don’t have children.

So I book an accessible room, as those requirements take priority incase they give us a room up 3 flights of stairs or something. I do not add that I have children staying, which I’m sure goes against their fire regulations but that is not my fault. We bring our toddler along and his travel cot fits in the corner of the room. We were even able to select an option to add a domestic pet, as our whippet Jackson also came along. So I could bring my pet dog (not an assistance dog) but not my child! Luckily my grandparents live nearby and our daughters could stay at their house. It’s easier for us to stay at a hotel down the road as it has the access we need, privacy and an accessible bathroom.

OR DOES IT?

When I think of an accessible hotel room I assume it will have a wet room type shower and accessible sink and toilet. Not here. Many older Travelodge hotels have a bath in their ‘accessible’ bathrooms. A bath which, when you sit in it, has a massive grab rail along the wall which sticks into your side meaning you have to sit leaning to the outside edge of the bath whilst washing. Comfy!

The room is almost big enough, but with my wheelchair taking up a large proportion of the available floor space, there is little room for me to sit on the floor to get dressed.

The beds are twin beds, usually placed separately unless you request for them to be put together. Because of course disabled people don’t have partners, silly! Luckily my partner hooked the beds together, though one hook didn’t work so if you lean on the gap you might slowly disappear between the beds like I almost did a couple of times.

Did I mention there was only 1 set of towels? Tom looked great with the tiny bath mat towel wrapped round him though.

So to sum it up, no facilities will suit everyone with differing needs. But a wetroom and a room with space to move around is a start. And disabled people have partners. And children. So why do we have to pretend to be childless single people when booking a hotel room?!

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Those pesky disabled people

I really am on the countdown now. Theoretically I have 5 weeks of pregnancy left, as I hit the 35 week mark yesterday. But considering I’ve never reached a due date with either previous pregnancy, I’m expecting it’ll be a few days short of the 40 week mark. I’m well aware there’s a 5 week ‘guessing period’ of due-datedness from 37 weeks to 42 weeks, ish. So I’m thinking I’ll start a sweepstake? So far in labour history I’ve got a 38+4 and a 39+3. Therefore I’m officially predicting my own baby’s gestation to be aboooout… 37+6… I don’t know why but I just think it might happen slightly earlier, or maybe that is just wishful, begging, desperate thinking as I’m SO uncomfortable.

Nothing fits. I even hate leggings and no one hates wearing leggings.

In the past few weeks I’ve had my first few belly measurements and they are consistently above average size, but still within the normal range. I’ve had blood taken again – which actually went swimmingly for a change because everything is swollen and I feel like I have Hulk-like veins. I don’t, but compared to how they normally cower within the depths of my skin so no medical professional can access them, it’s quite a treat. 

What else? Oh yes. We got engaged!  

Tom and I went down to Cornwall for our anniversary and shipped the children off to granny’s on the way (first time I’ve been away from them over a night or more, seriously!) and stayed in a hotel. It was brilliant, and very relaxing despite some completely inaccessible areas but we just worked things out ourselves, as we have a habit of doing. Tom carried me up and down spiral staircases to the posh swimming pool with staff watching, wondering what on earth we were thinking. We’re not stupid. We couldn’t NOT go swimming, child-free! 

 

There were no accessible changing rooms either so we improvised by sneaking into the empty gym so I could change into my swimsuit top. Well actually, the changing rooms were pretty accessible but it was a toss-up between Tom coming into the ladies’ room and risk getting shouted at, as all men are obviously predators, or me having to go in the men’s and watch other, hairier men changing or dare I say it, ‘flossing’. Neither filled me with ease so I opted for the sneaky gym-change. I guess a disabled person needing access, and then a place to change just doesn’t come into consideration when they refurbished this old hotel building. 

Challenges aside, it was lovely to stay in a hotel and just be us, without small children asking for breakfast at 5.52am for a couple of days. My mum had that pleasure. We even took a drive-yourself boat trip in the bay. Again, we faced challenges with this before we’d even gotten in the boat, with the operators of the boat-hire saying they were concerned for my safety.  (We’re always being irresponsible and risking our lives). It transpires that their concern was more that I  might try and sue them… Apparently they “had one the same, before”, who tried to claim against them after they hired the boat, even though nothing went wrong. It never gets old you know, being referred to as ‘one of them’, those vicious disabled people. What are we like, passionately waving copies of the Equality Act around and sueing people left, right and indeed centre. 

See look, I survived the trip. And I’m pretty sure Tom was quite comfortable with me being in control of the boat, just look at his calm face. In the evening following the boat ride, I decided I might be in labour- I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I’ve had throughout all pregnancies but these were every two minutes and getting quite uncomfortable and slightly painful. We finished our restaurant meal and went back to our apartment and after sitting in bed for a while the pains eased off. Tom then decided he’d quite like to marry me, and conveniently he had a ring in his pocket and so the evening got a lot less stressful! Although before that moment Tom was imagining having to propose in the labour ward of the nearest hospital. 

It was the best weekend. 

So as far as birth preparations go, I’ve washed babygrows, bought some, but not all things for my hospital bag, and discussed a few birth plans with my midwife. It’s mostly a waiting game now.

It’s all getting very near…

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How to retain a disabled stereotype.

There are many stereotypes and ignorant assumptions that I’ve been subjected to over the years. Some, I guess, can be positive and quite nice to hear. Then there are some which never fail to antagonise and rile me. And because I am genuine disabled person, and therefore it is the only thing I’m allowed to talk about, I thought I’d go through some of these delightful assumptions.

1. Don’t have a job. You are disabled. Don’t be so greedy, pick one, not both.
This week I was filling in an online questionnaire and was genuinely baffled by this conundrum:

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Which selection do I pick? If I correctly identify myself as employed (shh, don’t tell the fundamentalists) then am I being a disabled deviant? Am I going to get dragged back to my house and given a jigsaw puzzle to complete?

2. Don’t have children.

3. Don’t even have sex, or a partner. You’re not going to reproduce anyway, so if you must engage in anything in the boudoir, it must only be of the freaky sordid fetish kind, nothing normal.

Aside from this, the only partner you’re allowed is a carer. Just ask Premier Inn.

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Silly Billy! You can’t have a disabled family room! Whose children would you steal? You might scare someone into thinking you have offspring.

4. Take up a hobby. Painting with your toes or something will suffice. Nothing mainstream.

5. Talking of mainstream, step away from the local comprehensive school. No associating with normals. You surely didn’t have an ordinary education did you?

6. Don’t be tempted to step (I mean roll, apologies) into a children’s clothing aisle alone. You’ll confuse the locals.

7. For convenience in conversation with passers-by, you need to acquire your disability in an accident. Usually a car accident or bungee jumping blip will do. Don’t try and claim that you inherited your condition, or were born with a defect or something. It just won’t work.

8. Visually impaired or deaf? Please use a wheelchair to inform people of your disability. Easy peasy.

9. Don’t answer questions for yourself in restaurants or theatres. Gesture impatiently towards your partner (carer), or friend (carer) or sibling (b*tch) to answer for you. It’ll save the awkward confusion when ‘Hi I’m Denise, how can I help’ is wondering who to address when she asks if you’d like to sit on a chair or remain in your wheelchair.

10. Don’t be tempted to initiate your first sip of drink in a restaurant. It is your drink, indeed, but the waiter might want to adjust your straw a few times to his own specifications before you proceed.

11. Don’t worry if you can’t access certain levels or areas in a high street clothes shop. Charity shops are ALWAYS accessible. Fact. Problem solved.

12. Be willing to disclose your entire personal life, home life, morning routines, maybe even your weekly shopping list, to anyone who asks. It might be handy to rehearse some answers. It would be just rude to ‘prefer not to’ detail how you go to the toilet.

And finally 13. Don’t have a personality. Don’t need one. Just unnecessary. You’ve defined yourself by having a disability.

Good luck with that.

Footnote. Just re-read number 3 and realised my mum reads this blog. My GRAN reads this blog. Help.

@shopgirlygm