>Accessibility at Center Parcs Part 1 – The Villa

>I spent last weekend (Friday – Monday) at Center Parcs, Longleat Forest.  I’ve been to Center Parcs loads of times but it had been about 12 years since I last went to Longleat.  Center Parcs are great at access.  They don’t get it all right and there were some very obvious frustrations and places where I thought they could do better. They provide some very detailed accessibility information (in a series of PDFs) on their website and I thought I would blog (with photos) about how I found it.  I’m splitting this into more than one entry for length.

We stayed in a 2 bedroom “Comfort Plus” villa.  This is where the first problem came into being.  We booked a 2 bedroom villa as 2 of us were going to go. When we got given our villa number we looked on the accessibility statement and saw it was 3 bedroom.  So we assumed it was a free upgrade, because these things happen when you’re disabled!  And my friend called Center Parcs and added her mum to our booking.  We arrived to find our villa was, indeed, a two bedroom villa.  I spoke to two different people about this. One of them (on the phone) blatantly didn’t believe what I was saying but the other (in person) said that some of the villas had originally been unadapted and had bedrooms taken out to make adapted bathrooms and that was what had happened here and they’d missed it on the website.  I’m not convinced I believed them mostly because I thought the location of the adapted bathroom would have been strange for a bedroom!  It wasn’t a problem for us, luckily, because as we’d booked a 2 bedroom villa what we had was all we were entitled too.  I was assured, however, that they will fix the mistake on the website.

Outside of the adapted villas there is a disabled parking space and you get a lovely neon orange sign to go with your blue badge so you can keep your car onsite.  So that along with the ID sticker they give everyone makes for a positively colourful dashboard.  Normally people must move their cars to the car park, the only exceptions being people staying in adapted villas and anyone staying in an unadapted villa where the driver is the disabled person (this did cause some confusion when we first arrived as the person checking us in didn’t realise that if your in an adapted villa it doesn’t matter who the disabled person is or who the driver is).  Unfortunately one of the lights outside our villa was broken so there was a mobile lighting gantry and it had been put in the disabled space.  A source of much amusement when I called security and told them and asked them to move it. At that time it wasn’t working anyway.  So the tech guys came and fixed the light and didn’t move it.  Eventually it was decided it couldn’t be moved as light was more important but said basically find a spot and leave it, we know.  Everyone was very apologetic about it and they really kept us informed.

The adapted villas have a regular bathroom and an adapted one.  This was part of the reason I wasn’t convinced the villa had ever been “normal”, the regular bathroom didn’t have a loo!  I don’t think I could have got my chair in the regular bathroom, it was tiny.

Shower set up.  Those arm rests attached to the seat (one on which is covered by my flannel) are all there were for grab rails by the shower.  The position of the seat along the wall was adjustable but if you could adjust the height of it we couldn’t figure it out!  I can’t stand up straight but we think I’m around five foot three, five foot four height wise and my feet couldn’t touch the ground on that seat.

Shelf thing on the right of the shower seat as you sat on it. Useful for putting stuff on and also moveable I think.

Sink set up.  The position and I think height were adjustable which led to some middle of the night amusement when people were half asleep and forgot it moved (I think you should be able to adjust it so it only moves when you want it to but it wasn’t set like that).  The area was well lit with a light each side of the mirror.  Unfortunately the mirror was a little bit too high for me in my wheelchair.  I think you can just see the top of my head in this photo.  Good job I didn’t want to do my make up whilst we were away!  I’d have liked one of the shelf things like in the shower by the sink for putting my toothbrush etc on.

The loo.  One drop down grab rail each side, height adjustable.  Given the way they were on the wall they were in their lowest position here.

Overall this was a very functional bathroom and I managed well with it. Probably one of the better adapted bathrooms I’ve seen in a holiday place and with loads of space.  The loo and sink are next to each other and then there is a big space before the shower meaning you have lots of room to turn, manoeuvre and for carers to assist..  It was clean, the door was a sliding one so didn’t take up space (although it was heavy and didn’t have a lock).  There was a red cord but it was tied up.  The alarm only sounded within the villa however (which is fine in my opinion) so I left it tied up on the grounds I could shout if I needed something.  I would have liked a few more grab rails, especially in the shower area as the lack of them meant I needed help transferring in and out of the shower when I don’t normally.  It was lacking a privacy curtain but what disabled  bathroom isn’t?!  My only tiny complaint I’ve not covered is the fact there were complimentary toiletries in the regular bathroom but not in the adapted one.  Crips like freebies too!

I didn’t take pictures of the hall but it was huge.  Plenty of room in there to get round and also if you only use a chair outdoors you could easily leave it there fully set up and not have it be in the way.

The kitchen I could get my wheelchair in but it wasn’t adapted at all so it’s a good job we ate out mostly!  I did just about manage to make toast one morning but someone had to reach plate and cup down for me.  Both the fridge and freezer were accessible.  There wasn’t room to turn but the kitchen is small and I could have reached all sides without moving (and at once probably!).  You wouldn’t get more than one person in there if one was a wheelchair user!

The dining area/table, kitchen and lounge are all open plan.  There was room to get my wheelchair round the lounge but only just.  The sofa was very very comfy and lovely but low and a pain to get up of off.  I ended up having to roll off the sofa onto the floor and then crawl to my wheelchair to get up.  There is a high back more supportive chair in the bedroom which you could move but it would be a very tight fit in the lounge!

Very low wall mounted TV in the lounge.  We didn’t watch any TV really but it didn’t feel comfortable watching it there, it was a bit low!  I suspect all the villas have their TVs there as there was a hole in the unit below it with a DVD player in it.  But I can’t help feeling that’s a stupid place in a wheelchair accessible villa.  With the TV one side and the coffee table the over it was tight and I did knock it once or twice.

Two pictures of the accessible bedroom, both taken from the door.  The top shows the electric bed (this was a twin room with one electric bed) and gives a rough idea of how much space.  The second shows the high back chair, wardrobe and part of the other bed and basically is just to give more of an idea of space.  You could easily have two wheelchair users staying in that room and fit two carers assisting in at the same time (although not to sleep, obviously!) there is absolutely buckets of space in there.  You would, obviously, have to fight over the electric bed though!

The other bedroom in the villa is a double and isn’t accessible as such.  You could just about get a wheelchair in there (although I didn’t try) but you’d not get round.

Overall I was pleased with the accessibility of the villa although you certainly couldn’t manage there in an all disabled group if you were all (or the majority) wheelchair users.

>When Persistence Pays Off

>This is a bit of a follow on to my Advocacy Tips post and is cross posted to Disability Voices

One of the tips I gave in that post was to be persistent.  The example I gave was one of my local supermarkets.  My chair would only go through the wide aisle checkout and it was often closed when I visited.  The staff would open it when I asked but they had a bad attitude towards doing so and made me uncomfortable.  As a result I didn’t go there often and had actually decided I wouldn’t shop there again.

I had personally made something like six complaints to them, mostly verbally but I’d also written to head office at least twice.  My sister had also been so infuriated the last time I had problems there that they got letters of complaint from both of us about that.  And none of the responses I got were of any use.  A lot of them actually seemed like they were designed to “shut me up”.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a text saying that they’d redone all the checkouts in there and they were all wide aisle ones now.  My Dad took me up there for some shopping this evening.  And I could have got my chair through any of the checkouts.  I was tempted to try that but I didn’t.  It was a really great sight.  And once again, I have the same thing everyone else does in this town – a choice of where to shop (I won’t go there all the time because it’s further away but I will be able to go there again!).

I’d love to think that they’ve done this just because of my complaints but I’m not naive enough to do so – and I know I’m not the only person whose had those problems.  But it’s a definite example of why complaining, campaigning and advocacy are so important.  And what happens when your persistent – because it really can pay off.

>A Bordering on TMI Update Type Post

>Being that it’s over a week since I wrote a “proper” catch up type blog entry I thought I better see what I could do about that right now.  This entry contains items which fall under the category of TMI – you have been warned!

The goals I wrote about a few weeks ago are… OK but kinda stalled.  My TV license is renewed, I’ve e-mailed or called or spoken to on facebook chat most of my friends I wanted to catch up with but not all.  I have looked briefly into changing my ISP but need to do more for that really.  I haven’t even started my shawl I want to knit.  And the no coke and no chocolate thing went really well. /sarcasm. I gave it up Sunday afternoon and was back on it Tuesday lunch time.  Yeah.  Need to work on that one a bit harder!  Although I am pleased that the Monday was a terrible day and I was really upset about something that happened and I felt ill from the lack of my treats but I still stayed strong.  Working on my emotional therefore I eat link is probably more important.

I went to the doctors last Tuesday to get my prescription renewed.  It was actually only my fluoxetine that needed doing but she’s done both.  My baclofen dose is now written differently so I get more each time I get a script and I can take it up to four times a day instead of the twice I was taking it.  I need to read up on that a little because I’ve got a feeling it works on building up to get the full effect so taking an extra here and there on bad days may not be the best way to do things.  Anyway I’ve been taking three a day since then.

There was some discussion when I last went that I might have polycystic ovaries.  Which is a wonderful condition which little is known about I believe.  I am assuming she means PCOS but since then I’ve done some reading which suggests it’s possible to have the syndrome without the cysts or the cysts without the syndrome.  Basically I’ve been skipping periods and then having really long heavy ones and then getting another period really soon (too soon) after the last one and lather, rinse, repeat, basically.

For example I had a period mid October.  Didn’t get one again until 1st Jan which lasted until the 14th and then got it again on the 31st. That lasted my usual five days only which I was relieved about.  I must admit that I was beginning to get concerned that I could end up anaemic.  And yes, I do know that this is TMI for a lot of people but 1) I believe in sharing because it could help others (or me) and 2) I find it useful to have this noted down for my records.

Anyway she said the hormone levels I had done in August weren’t particularly worrying (she used a different phrasing but that’s what she meant) – I was concerned about their validity as I got a period two days after they were drawn but she didn’t seem concerned about that.  There was some discussion about ways that we could treat it (i.e. regulate my hormones) which would be difficult as I can’t take the pill – if you took a list of possible side effects and contraindications of the pill you could cross out contraindications and retitle it “reasons Emma can’t take the pill” I have that many of the contraindications.

The suggestion was Noreisterone for so many days between certain days in my cycle each month to make me bleed.  But in my situation she prefers a wait and see approach and to see if my losing any weight makes a difference in the situation as she thinks my weight is probably what’s caused the polycystic ovaries.  That makes sense to me as it treats the probable underlying cause as opposed to just the symptoms (screwy periods mostly).

So I’m to see the nurse again on Tuesday to chat about my weight progress (I set that up before I saw the dr) and then I’m going to be getting on with this with a vengeance again.  My Dr did comment that I look a lot better than the last time she saw me and also that I look slimmer too. She also commented that I’m sitting better in my wheelchair which is interesting. Plus on the same day my sister commented that my tummy looked smaller.  Progress!

I’ve played on my Wii everyday apart from one since I got it – I use it for exercise and I really think that’s got a lot to do with my current success.  I do wish that I had my scales back already though – so frustrated that they broke and I’ve not heard from them (returned for repair or replacement due to the warranty).  But it’s not been long enough really to chase it yet.

The games I have are Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Just Dance and Samba de Amigo.  I play the Sports Resort and Just Dance the most really and Samba de Amigo is probably the one I play the least.  That’s hard. It kills my arms.  Fun though.

I’m going to be doing some accessibility and/or disability awareness type work with my housing association it seems.  In fact I met with my housing officer on Friday and we spent half an hour walking around the estate I live on so I could show her areas where access isn’t great.  I think the fact I nearly came out of my chair going down a slope at one point (a part I don’t go to usually) really highlighted the fact that a better ramp is needed there!  Plus she asked about things I hadn’t considered too.  There are two more things I’ve been asked if I’ll do (but not arranged) and a few more possibilities so that’s good.  I won’t go into how that came about because it’s not all resolved but I’ll just say that it seems like good things come to those who complain!

I think that’s probably about it for now

>101 in 1001 – Item 96…


Visit the Ashmolean

…has been completed!

If this entry was not a 101 in 1001 completed item entry it would have the alternate title of Cripple-locks and the Three Lifts.

So, yesterday was the Eleventh Month meet up (NaNoWriMo group).  Only we were supposed to meet in Waterstones as Borders is gone.  And we couldn’t get any seats.  Well, I had my own but no one else was that organised.  Mostly it was just me and Steve, one of the others popped in briefly but couldn’t stay and we never found the other person who was coming.  After a long while hanging around to see if we could find tables or other people who are part of the group we gave up.

And I figured as the Ashmolean is really close, free and something I’ve been wanting to do for ages I’d go there.  Steve said he’d come with.  First thing we thought we’d do is pop down to the cafe for a drink.  So we got in a lift.  One of those stupidly shaped ones but thats not really relevant.  Pressed to go down and it took us up.  And the door opened part way. Then shut.  Then opened part way.  Then the rest of the way. Then closed part way. And, well you get the picture it did that for a few minutes and I was getting a little freaked out.  A couple who were waiting for the lift went and found a member of staff and eventually the doors openned completely and I got out of the lift just as said staff member came.  Who said it had been doing that all day.  So, naturally I asked why they hadn’t got some form of “out of order” or “this lift is fucked and tempramental but it does sort of work” sign on it. Apparently that is because it was kind of working.

Yeah.  This is a plan that works really well until it doesn’t and you have to get 18 stone of cripple, their 14 stone powerchair and their friend out of a broken lift.  I have treated them to an e-mail expressing the flaws of this plan and asking for their comments.

So we had a long mooch around the floor we ended up on and it was really interesting, I enjoyed  it.  I’d like to go back and have a longer visit and see the floors we didn’t go on.  There was a lot of pottery and ceramics and some coins.  The Ashmolean is a museum of Art and Archaology so there was loads of stuff from the far east and from times BC etc.

A lot of that stuff is very impressive.  Intricate silver swords and crosses and other things.  I find it interesting because it’s so hard to make that stuff and they didn’t have any tool or machines to help them like we did now.  But then it was probably also easier for people to do so at those times then it is to make handmade replicas now because we’re used to having those machines and tools to help and do the work for us and at the time they were made they weren’t so it probably wasn’t so much of a steep learning curve.  I can’t help feeling that as much as we’ve gain technologically and improved our quality of life and also length of life a lot has been lost in terms of ability and skill because of that technology.

Then we came to the second of the three lifts they have.  That took us down but not to the coffee shop, to a bit with a dark education centre, some stairs and some loos (but not a disabled one). So we called the lift whcih took an extremely long time (minutes) to come and was full of people so we couldn’t get in.  We had to wait four times for it to come with room for us to get in.  And we had to wait several minutes each time.  It got to the point that Steve asked, in all seriousness, if he should go for help.  And commented that he was glad he wasn’t in a wheelchair as it’s time consuming.  Eventually we got out of there but not before the song lyric “I’ve gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing I ever do.” began to go round in my head.  We must have been down there waiting for the lift at least 20 minutes, it was a surreal experience.

Wandered around on the ground floor for a while and then found the third lift.  And that one was just right.

Still didn’t manage to get a drink though; there were no free tables in the cafe.  On the lower ground near the cafe there’s a section on reading and writing.  I’d like to have a good look at it but by the time we found it I was tired and I was just done.  So one for another time.  Another time when I know exactly which of the lifts I’ll be using.

>Me. I Did That.

>Yesterday I went somewhere and saw they had made changes to their access.  Changes because I had asked for them and suggested what they could be.  Changes which were made extremely quickly (I suggested them Thursday evening).  I was looking at them thinking “I did this.  Me.”

Knowing I achieved something and that I was the one to make a difference is a wonderful feeling.


>The snow means I haven’t left the house since I walked home as it was falling Tuesday night.  And there is no chance in hell that I’m getting out of the house tomorrow either.  Realistically at the moment I can’t see Sunday being a day out either but who knows for definite.

I was supposed to go see the nurse on Thursday; that got rescheduled to Tuesday but the pessimist in me now sees it getting rescheduled AGAIN.

The “I’ve been stuck in the house for three days with no end in sight blues” AKA Cabin Fever has just struck within the last hour or so.  I’ve actually done much better than I did last February when I was stuck in the house for four days straight (I think) and was a sobbing tearful mess by the end of day two – Thank you PROZAC!!  Of course it helps that I twigged on this was likely to happen so was able to get a good stock up of food and what have you.  Supplies were just beginning to run low tonight but would have been OK for a few days for me but my Mum called and said she was heading to the supermarket so she got me some bits as well.

I think actually other people having had to do things like get my prescription and do my shopping is the bit I find hardest.  I’m too independent for my own good sometimes.

Good news is that a courier made it to my front door this afternoon and I’m now the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii.  And even though I’ve not left the house in days I still managed to spend an absolute fortune this morning on theatre tickets… most of which will be paid for by others but it’s still all on my switch card for now.

>What looking for access information can mean


I think I’ve mentioned in passing that there have been a lot of access issues and niggles and such like lately. Which takes a lot of energy and can be very upsetting at times. Monday night was one of those days when they all got on top of me.
One thing these issues have made me realise is just how many people aren’t really aware of everything involved so I thought I would share one story. It’s actually the one that was easiest resolved and had less agonising over than any of the other things I’ve experienced lately. Also it has the happiest result.

I’ve been invited out in a few weeks to a place I’ve never been before. I asked the person organising it about the access who told me it “looked ok to them.” which was a bit vague for my liking, particularly as they don’t have the best track record for organising things which are accessible.

And I know that several people who are going with us had been before some years ago. So I asked one of them. Who said from memory the inside was fine but that she thought it was gravel up to the door which would be difficult with my chair.
Then I tried to track down an e-mail address but could only find a phone number. I prefer to ask access questions via e-mail because some places are good and will be truthful. But many others don’t necessarily give the full picture even when asking pointed questions; instead they give the answer they think you want to hear. E-mails provide proof which can be used when you go somewhere, find it’s not as expected, and then complain about the fact they are lying scum. So I reluctantly abandoned the search for an e-mail. The person I spoke to said all was fine. But had a very strong accent and the combination of my having difficulty understanding them and getting the opinion they weren’t clear what I was asking (as I had to repeat several times) I was left feeling it would be OK but not 100% convinced I’d been told correctly.
I mentioned it to the person who’d told me about the gravel. and I was happy to leave it and to go to the meal but a bit frustrated by the difficulties so not looking forward to it as much as I would otherwise
Today she brought in her (very swish) digital camera. On the screen of which she had pictures of the entry to the venue she’d taken the other day (having gone that way especially). How nice was that?! I don’t think anyone has especially brought me photos of access before.
It’s been changed since she last went a few years ago. And my chair should be fine with it.
I’m really pleased that it’s all fine for me to go. I feel the photo standard may have to be the new gold standard of access information I get from places and people.
And I’m totally envious of her camera.

>It’s Tuesday

>And on Tuesday’s I update this blog for the Healthy You Challenge. I’ve been putting this off all day in the hope of finding a better mood in which to do it but I guess it isn’t going to happen.

I am having one of those days where being disabled is hard. I don’t have them often (thankfully) but they do happen sometimes. I could do without them if I’m honest. The short version is I had a go at doing something I don’t usually on Sunday and struggled but managed… and put my back out in the process. There’s also been a couple of other niggly issues. Nothing major just all at once…
And after a great week with drinking water each day (and loads of it), making healthier choices and getting some exercise. My inability to stand properly on the scales (due to being unable to stand unsupporting) kicked in and I have no visible signs of progress other than knowing I did well and the vague idea that in a few weeks I’ll be seeing it as I can almost see it now,
Good things:
Cutting down on snacking
Really upping my water intake
Drinking less Coke as a result.
Three days when I didn’t eat chocolate at all.
Putting aside a chocolate muffin because it didn’t taste as nice as usual (chewy, yuck).
I’ve gotten exercise.
No missed meds
Baclofen has kicked in and I am transferring easier with less arm involvement
I’m on a lower dose than is considered therapeutic (was slowly upping it as my GP ordered but I don’t think I will any more).
Have paid off a chunk of my overdraft

>The Problem with Pubs

>The problem with the pubs around here I have found is the access. And in the last two weeks that’s led to some interesting happenings.

I went to one pub the week before last for drinks with the creative writers. There were only three of us there and it was fun. It was only the second time I’ve been there; the main entrance doesn’t have access but last year (I think) it was refurbished and there is now access through a side gate into the garden bit and then ramped access into the pub. They have a disabled loo and it’s all good.
(side note: the lack of the disabled loo is the reason I don’t go to the majority of the pubs in this godforsaken town)
So anyway I walked down there and called the guy I was meeting, he came and let me in. A bit later we were joiined by the third creative writer, K, who lives spitting distance from me. We stayed about an hour or so and called it quits. K and I go out into the garden and a pub staff member lets us out (bizarrely using his lighter to see the latch on the gate rather than putting a light on), shutting it behind us.
But there’s a problem – theres a car parked blocking my access (not in a space just randomly parked). There’s also a van parked blocking part of the way. Can’t go back into the pub, the gate is bolted. Can’t go out the car park. Officially trapped.
K went into the pub and found “the only person behind the bar not wearing uniform” aka the landlady and gave her the registration number – she went round and found the driver who came and moved her car.
The landlady then said that the problem was actually the van – where it was parked was where she usually parked her car and she always does so in a way that no one else can fit in but “chairs” can still get round. She’d been trying to get hold of the van driver all day but no luck (it’s right opposite the station, I suspect that might be why). I made some comment about did they not answer the phone and she said “oh”
Fast forward to last Thursday. I was just thinking about dinner when my friend E called and said her husband was gonna be late home did I fancy going for tea? And I was all “I’ll see you at the pub in 40 minutes”
We went to a different pub to the one mentioned above. If you read my previous blog you might remember that this specific one was my favourite most visited pub. Until the closed for refurbishment and reopened with less access than before. What was a completely level pub now has half of it raised with step only access. That was back in May and I’d not been back since. I did however write a letter of complaint to the brewary and got a response saying a ramp would be done as soon as possible.
No ramp. I did wonder if they might have got a moveable one so when E was at the bar getting food (we were sat right by it) I asked the guy if they had a ramp for the step. I was perfectly calm and nice although E had just been telling him how horrible i was and how I’d murder her if she got me a drink with ice in it (!)
Anyway he said that no they don’t have a ramp. And he actually looked scared as he said it. We both noticed it.
My only comment was “oh that’s interesting” but I think the brewary will get another letter – because I was really impressed with their response to my complaint. What doesn’t impress me is how different our definitions of “as soon as possible” are.
Or how difficult it is to go to a decent pub for a drink in this place without having stupid access issues and niggles.
My medication really means I can’t (or shouldn’t) get properly drunk. But the facilities in which to do so would be very nice!

>Wheeling around Town

>I went shopping with my sister earlier. Just in town here but I needed a few big things which I couldn’t carry home on my powerchair. Originally I had thought she may need to take a list and go alone but she said my chair would fit in as well (and it did) so I went too.

Won’t bore you with the list of what I bought other than two bottles of very cheap Jose Cuervo Margarita and a magazine it was pretty much all boring house stuff – dull but necessary.
I did manage to wheel my manual chair for the entire time we were in town. The only help I had was to get into the newest of our shops (which is in a brand new never before used unit and when they prepped the shop they chose where to put the door and knocked some bricks out to do so) as when they did the door for it for some reason they didn’t manage to do completely flat access – it’s not a full blown proper step but its not flat level access that I can without help.
In one part of town there is a ramp and some steps up. I call the ramp “The Amazing Never Ending Ramp” because to be suitable for wheelchair users they need be no more than 1:12 and this one is 1:24 with several flat bits where steps intercept. It makes for a very easy wheel but a very very very long ramp that winds round and zigzags loads. I remember when I went up it the first time wondering just how many more sections there could possibly be.,
What is absolutely stupid however is the fact you have this amazing really easy ramp and then come out at the bottom of a really steep hill with a stupid camber. Right at the top of that ramp its really sharp for a short while before becoming still steep but much more managable. Someone didn’t think that through quite fully me thinks! My arms felt like they were burning and halfway up that sharp bit I thought I couldn’t do it. I could barely move at all each time I pushed my wheels and it was horrible.
Sophie however was all “I did a half marathon, you can do this.” – and I did!
I’m really pleased. And also kinda sore!