The Locked-In Traveler
(Wheelchair Traveling Journals)
The search for accommodations
There are a few aspects to consider when looking for places to stay during a trip. Accessibility is number one on our list, of course. Some hotels promote themselves for being wheelchair friendly, but they are far from it. The elevators are too small, hallways and doorways are too narrow, or there are steps. All features that do not work for someone who cannot move at all.
I love old character buildings, but it is mainly those hotels that have these kinds of problems. Therefore, I must settle for modern structures that are made to be accessible. Finding places like this is not too difficult. There are plenty. The only problem is that these hotels are not the most affordable ones. Especially considering the factor that we must pay for two rooms because when we travel, we must pay for the fare and accommodations of the assistants/caregivers.
The combination of budget-friendly, wheelchair accessible, and beautiful place, and an excellent location is hard to come by. Most of the time, it takes some compromising to enjoy the trip.
A couple of years ago we booked a trip for my birthday. I found this charming old building with beautifully decorated rooms. Their ad said that they were handicap friendly. However, I still emailed to check if it was as accessible as they said. They answered that they have an entrance with a ramp and that their elevator was wide enough for the wheelchair to fit in.
Upon arrival at the airport, we had to wait half an hour on the handicap taxi. An old white van, but at least it had a ramp and straps to hold the chair. The taxi took us to the hotel and dropped us off in the parking place at the back. We got out of it, and we looked up to a twenty steps staircase that leads unto the entrance of the hotel.
The bellhop told us that we should use the basement entrance; from there we can take the elevator to the reception and the rooms. He took us to a sixty-degree angle seven-step staircase with a wooden plank on it. That is excessively steep, no way can someone lower a wheelchair down that plank without falling over. Henning asked the bellhop to take away the “ramp”, and he lowered me down the staircase one-step at the time. He had to take me up and down these steps for the rest of our stay at this enchanting wheelchair friendly hotel.
As a disabled person, you cannot be spontaneous. Everything must be well planned. We cannot just go wherever. First, we must see if it is a secure place for a wheelchair, preferably no high hills. Old beautiful cities are most of the time too difficult because they usually have old wobbly streets. That is just as hard on the one in the chair like the one pushing it.
(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)