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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WOW – I’ve got to speak in public!

Tomorrow, and the day after that, I have to speak in front of an audience. I say ‘have’ – I was asked and I said I would. Slightly wondering what on Earth I’ve got myself into. Am I going to be well out of my nervous depth?

Image result for wow women of the world

I am going to be part of two discussion panels at the WOW – Women of the World festival. Click the link to see the website and what it’s all about but, essentially it’s a festival celebrating and discussing all things woman – what women experience specific to their sex and gender, how perceptions of women are changing, what sort of power women have and how things that only women can physically experience, like childbirth or miscarriage, can affect both women and society as a whole and how these things are changing rapidly. Both for better and worse. It will be fascinating, to say the least, to be a part of this and also to be part of the audience for other parts. I love seeing how the way humans exist differs from culture to culture and I think I’d like to go to the festival even if I wasn’t involved in it. In the news today they are discussing how 1 girl in 10 in the UK doesn’t have access to appropriate menstrual products. How is this even the case in 2017?

I was approached by one of the lovely programmers who had read my blog, and she asked if I’d like to be involved in both the Birth Stories panel and the Disability, Women and Taking Action panel. I could’ve chosen to not take part, or even just speak at only one discussion, but both are so important to me and how my life is currently turning out that I felt like I should do both, or I’d really regret it. I’d kick myself if I was to watch someone else possibly with a disability talking about their experiences of childbirth, in the UK, and think that perhaps I could’ve added something worthwhile, or something people should hear (god that sounds knobbish).

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I don’t often partake in public displays of verbal discussion – I used to find any reason at all not to have to read aloud to the class in school, college or university, my mum had to recite the Brownie Promise* for me when I was a child because the idea of everyone looking at me while I spoke made me burst into tears. And although my partner and I will be getting married in the near future, the thought of being the centre of attention and then having to speak ACTUAL WORDS in front of a group of people gives me the heebies, and even the jeebies. I think I might get married in a cupboard. [*I’ve just watched some videos on YouTube of girls doing their Brownie Guide Promise and I’m a little freaked out at how archaic and cultish it seems!]

So tomorrow I shall be talking about my experiences of childbirth (involving my own children, I don’t quite remember my own birth). I LOVE talking, very openly about pregnancy and giving birth. That is when I’m only talking with one or two people. But maybe I won’t spontaneously combust and I will find some legible sentences from within, to talk about something that I love so much – giving birth to my own children. Giving birth as a severely physically disabled woman was always going to be a bit of a science experiment for me and I think for the medical professionals too. but it went surprisingly well compared to what I imagined it might be, so that will be my angle of discussion – The Science Experiment of a Disabled Woman Giving Birth (Star Wars font please) Hopefully, people will be able to hear me, I’m told there will be microphone technology!

On Sunday, I will be talking alongside more lovely ladies including Liz Carr (of stand-up comedy, disability activism and Silent Witness fame). We will be exploring how often it is disabled women who are left out almost entirely when it comes to the Women’s Rights Movement, and what some of the key battlegrounds are around being female and having a disability. This will involve talking about anything disabled women experience from education, healthcare, finding and sustaining a career and attitudes from people that along with millions of others, I experience on a daily basis. Something as small as a shop assistant addressing my PA instead of me is only the start of it. I think my angle for this talk will be about wanting my life with a disability to just be as easy or as difficult as if I didn’t have a disability. I don’t want to be seen as an inspirational person just because I have eaten toast for breakfast without crying about being disabled. Although come this weekend I may well be blubbing into my morning cup of tea.

I will update in due course with how successful this weekend was….. ahhh.

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