Hotel booking sites

Why is it that some hotel booking sites let you filter the choices for accessibility and others don’t? Trivago let you filter for details such as whether you want a hairdryer or ironing board but not if the place needs to be wheelchair accessible – mad!

Hotels.com do much better: there is a filter category for accessibility features including accessible parking and Braille signage. Shame they use the phrase ‘handicapped parking’ but well done them for having the filter.

Sawday’s lets you filter for wheelchair accessibility and/or limited mobility, which seems sensible.

Laterooms don’t have any kind of accessibility features in their filter nor do Expedia, while Booking.com have one filter for ‘facilities for disabled guests’ which is better than nothing.

Why on earth don’t they all have the filters? What do other people think?

Temple Newsam, Leeds

Park and gardens Temple Newsam

There is loads to visit here including the house, the rare breeds farm and the grounds with their lake, hothouses and in spring, spectacular rhododendrons. The grounds are free although there is a charge for the house and farm.  The house was built in the C16th and was the birthplace of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ husband. The farm nearly always seems to have cute baby animals and the buildings and displays are interesting too. The grounds are really extensive and a lot of it can be explored in the all-terrain scooters you can borrow – they are the most solid scooters I have used. The first time we went the ground was really soggy but it was no trouble (there are perfectly good tarmac paths but they were blocked in places as they were setting up for an event). The only thing to watch is that they are the sort of scooters that go faster downhill and also there are a few places, around the farm for example, where the cobbles are a bit rough.  You park in the carpark nearest the house and the scooters are usually ready for you by the hut, but they will bring them over to the car and show you how to use them. This was the first place I ever used a scooter and was so glad a friend persuaded me as there is no way I could have visited the grounds otherwise and I hadn’t seen them for years! There is really good information at this link about all the access issues. The number to ring to book is 0113 336 7560 – ring Mon-Thur, it doesn’t seem to be staffed on Fridays.

http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Temple-Newsam.aspx

Wheelmap.org

While researching this summer’s holiday, I found a website that marks on a map accessible places such as restaurants, transport links, toilets, shops etc – you can choose the categories you want the map to show. You can zoom in and out and click on the places marked – they are red, orange or green depending on their accessibility although most places are grey because the site doesn’t have information on them; presumably this will improve with time. Clicking on the places marked sometimes leads to more information, sometimes not but you could always google the places once you have found them. I also looked at York that I am familiar with and it seemed to be accurate. It would also be useful for people with kids’ buggies. Worth checking out, then and hopefully the site will only get better.

http://wheelmap.org/en/

Book Pillow

What a shame, the Book Pillow is no more – they have discontinued production. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market as far as I can see, although there are similar things for i-pads and e-readers, but they don’t look as good.

 

This isn’t exactly an accessibility thing but I think lots of people would find a book pillow useful! They are really light and both prop your book and help keep it open. Highly recommended!

 

The Brocket Arms, Hertfordshire

We stayed one night at The Brocket Arms last year after flying into Heathrow from Spain before heading back up north the next day. The pub took some finding in the lanes round about but once there, we were pleased we’d chosen it as it was peaceful and relaxing. The exterior of the pub and the accommodation (in converted outbuildings across from the pub) are charming and the room had been refurbished to be charming too – it still had some old-fashioned fittings but generally was very nicely decorated and furnished; shame someone hadn’t cleaned the loo properly but otherwise fine. I think it would be wheelchair accessible but I can’t quite remember so it would be worth checking. You could park right outside on the gravel carpark. The distance from room to pub is about ten yards.
The pub is ‘olde-worlde’ with wooden beams, a mixture of furniture etc. We ate there in the evening: pub fayre, but done well (there were specials available but we didn’t realise until afterwards so I don’t know what we missed!). Breakfast was mixed – good coffee and cooked element, toast OK, juice poor and plastic jam – very odd as they sell jars of fabulous local jam which would have been a vast improvement! At least we were able to bring some away with us to enjoy at home! The staff were very helpful and pleasant and on the whole I would recommend this place although as of course everyone has different accessibility needs, so worth checking in advance.

http://www.brocketarms.com/

Middlethorpe Hall, York

We recently had a team ‘away day’ event here in the Barlow room. The website describes it as having access ramps and disabled facilities, but doesn’t mention the gutter which you need to negotiate before you reach the ramp! I was nervous of scooting over the gutter (my scooter is not really designed for rough terrain!) and got off and had colleagues move the scooter over it the first time but braved it after that and it was OK just rather a jolt. I’m not sure how users of self-propelled wheelchairs would find it. The carpark is at some distance but there is no problem about being dropped at the door. Once inside, it is a lovely venue, very well-appointed and with one of the poshest accessible loos ever!

We had lunch in the main house, which despite being a historic house, had a ramp up to the entrance to avoid the steps, although there was another gutter to negotiate, then staff had placed ramps over two short flights of stairs – rather steep but manageable and the staff were very helpful. Scooting around indoors was fine but the lavatories are on the floor below and although there is a lift, a staff member felt my scooter would not fit in. So, it was back to the Barlow room before we had a guided tour of the lovely gardens – flagstones and gravel paths and short grass with just one step which might be avoidable if you went a different route.

It was a lovely experience – lunch was fabulous! – but I’m not sure I would recommend this place if you were looking for a truly accessible venue.

http://www.middlethorpe.com/meeting-rooms/

Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

We stayed one night here before our flight to Spain last year in what was supposed to be an accessible room – it did have grab rails and emergency call buttons so was obviously supposed to be a disabled-friendly room but it had an over-bath shower which wasn’t very helpful. I contacted the company and they have apologised and said they do have rooms with walk-in showers, so I wish we had asked to change rooms! As we were just there one night, we decided to stay there and make the best of it. Other features such as a low swiveling arm chair made it un-userfriendly too. It would be so easy to get it right, you would think such a huge company would try a bit harder. The food in the restaurant was patchy (I think I chose better than my companions!), breakfast was good the disabled parking spaces were very near the entrance and staff were friendly so a perfectly good place to stop before catching a flight, in fact we’re staying there again this year so I’ll report back on whether we get a more easy-to-use room!

Luggie Scooter

I keep mentioning my scooter – it’s a Luggie and has various good and bad points. It’s very nippy – it can turn in a very small space so is great indoors and copes remarkably well outdoors on gravel, for example, but is better on smoother surfaces. You can take it on aeroplanes, either on board or in the hold. We had a bit of a rigmarole with one airline who couldn’t decide if the battery should be looked after by us or them, but it was fine in the end. Assembly seems complicated at first but gets easier with practice! It folds up to no bigger than a small suitcase.

On the minus side, the website says it is very light but it is too heavy for me to lift. It is not terribly robust – given that it is designed to be lifted in and out of car boots, we’ve had bits fall off on occasion which gets rather expensive! On the whole I’m pleased with it but they don’t seem to do it in yellow anymore!

http://www.luggiescooters.com/range/product/luggie-folding-mobility-scooter