This is going to be a long one.
I have a friends, family and clients who are disabled and need things in this world to be accessible or just easier to get around and make it doable for them to get out there as anybody could. I love all the experiences I get to be part of with my friends in my life. However, I am still disappointed when I can do 95% of what a hotel, amusement park, theatre, etc have to offer, and not the 5% because it is not accessible. That’s how I work, if you can’t participate and do it, I won’t either, all or nothing.
To give you some context, a client and I stayed in a Montreal hotel over the last couple nights. The room was nice and big, they upgraded us to a two bedroom suite, I was able to do all his camp laundry, we were close to downtown. Everything was perfect. I was so excited to use the heated pool, it looked nice and always gives you a re-charge. I went up to check it out first, because I know how the world is built. We were only two floors away, and then the flight of stairs. They built on the two floors later in renovations and haven’t updated it in fifteen years. The manager tells me that they built a ramp at the back of their building, and never said or promised that they were going to become accessible. Pardon me, What??? He did offer that we could swim at their sister hotel, down the big hill, four blocks away. This was all he offered.
I stayed at another hotel earlier this May, also in Montreal. They had three steps to the pool. My friend has a power chair. We begged, and advocated, I definitely pulled the manager card, which my friend was okay with. She is very quiet, so agreed to let me speak on her behalf. This is not always the case, I have friends who are very vocal and I just sit back. In the end, it was a feat, but worth it because we all got to swim. I later explained the experience to the Manager how it was that we all got to swim.
“She parked at the bottom of the stairs. I carried her up the steps, onto a wicker pool chair, A friend and I pulled the chair (it was not easy to move) across the pool deck, parked it at the edge so her toes wouldn’t catch and she told me to push her in. My friend caught her so she wouldn’t hit her head on the bottom of the pool. Then to get into the hot tub, we lifted her out of the pool, slid her across the pool deck and lifted her into the hot tub. When we did the reverse, we had to pull the chair further as the hot tub was on the other side. The chair kept getting caught on parts of the deck and would tip. Two people were needed. We were willing to do this and she was willing to let us, that is how it happened.” That manager gave us 40% off our room and he was at our beck and call for the rest of the weekend. I was later informed they rented a ramp for a group, but took it out when they left as it was rented. I suggested that they invest in their own ramp.
The only hotel I’ve stayed at in Montreal or other cities, Toronto included that have an accessible room, bathroom, access to the pool is…sorry I don’t have one. All hotels had one feature but not the other. They have all had renovations in the last ten years. Why? Why is that my friends have to give up one thing for the other? Why can’t hotels post their accessible rooms or a floor plan on their websites, so people can save themselves time and energy. If I were going somewhere with a friend and they or I were booking it, we call every hotel at least twice, to check how accessible they are, even if it is on their website. The most accessible hotels I have stayed in, are all in the states.
This is not to say that we are completely turned away, or people are not nice when these issues are brought up. It’s that nobody has to say anything at all to solve the matter. Everyone’s mentality should start to change around these issues once adopted. However, that doesn’t seem to happen. You can always tell who is training their staff and who is not.
Within my city, discrimination is subtle, changes to rules that have been adopted forever, and then surprising people at the gate with entrance fees that weren’t there before. Or lists that they are not asking anyone else to be on. There seems to be this idea that rules and changes can happen, especially if they affect a great number of people. The problem is, that people who are disabled, it can affect their physical health as they are always fighting a battle, mental health as they learn the world is less and less for them and social health as they are not able to participate due to other constraints that sometimes leave them with no money, no attendant, no wheel-trans and the list goes on and on.
This is only part one. Stay tuned