I just had this website brought to my attention – it looks really positive but maybe I’m being dense but I can’t actually find any concrete examples of places to go or how to find, for example, wheelchair accessible beaches. What do others think?
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.
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!
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!