Finding the perfect place to go away on a holiday, or a short overnight break, can be tricky for anyone. It is even more tricky when you have health issues or disabilities.
My husband and I decided that we wanted to go away to the Suffolk coast for a couple of days. We had been hoping to go away for months, but the timing had never been right, and we also wanted to avoid booking something during the school holidays as things would be quieter. So, finally we had a week that seemed to work and we thought… let’s do it!
And we both started looking for an appropriate place to stay in.
At first we looked just at hotel rooms. We had to rule out many because they weren’t big enough for my walker to move around in, especially the bathroom.
Then, my husband found a brilliant guest house attached to a hotel. It wasn’t fully accessible, but we could make it work as the only stairs were just a few leading into the bungalow. My husband could help me up those. From there, it had a separate bedroom, full kitchen, and a deck and private garden area that lead onto the beach. The price was right too.
We realised that with my gastroparesis, having a kitchen was really the best plan as I would struggle to eat out because my food choices are incredibly limited. This way, I could make sure I could eat my foods and we could avoid awkward dinners out with only my husband eating.
So, we eagerly tried to book the bungalow… picturing a lovely couple days relaxing with the scent of the sea in the air.
Tried being the word here. We got an email back saying that just before our booking came through, an agent had booked it and it was therefore no longer available.
Okay… let’s look again for another place! And look we did.
It turns out that there is very little accessible accommodation in Suffolk, with kitchens. We found one farm in the area that catered to disabled people. Most hotels did not have anything appropriate, and AirBnB did not even have an option to filter for accessibility.
Some of the lettings that I found that were advertised for disabled people were for longer term lets, so whilst those do exist, they do exclude people like me who have mobility issues and might also need a kitchen for other reasons as well (outside of simply just wanting one for a few days).
Outside of those, there were just shockingly few options. If you wanted to be in a more specific area for your holiday, then you would be very much out of luck as in a region of many square miles and hundreds of non-accessible options, to have ~10 accessible places is sad.
The UK is an old country and that space here is at a premium. That means that properties are often going to have stairs and that rooms might be small. I also understand that disabled people are in the minority in the population and it is expensive to make changes for a small minority of people.
That being said, we are still people. We are people that deserve to go out in public. We are people that travel and want to go out and do things. And we cannot do this unless society helps us out.
When there are hundreds of options for people who don’t have mobility issues, but only a few for you… you can’t help but feel pushed out of society. As if making accommodations for your disabilities is too much work, or too expensive, so why bother?
Bothering means that we are included. That we have a place to stay… and so that we have options too. That’s why it’s important to bother.
My High Street is another example. Because many of the buildings are old, they have steps leading into them. That automatically means I can’t get into them. Other shops are too crowded and small to navigate my rollator walker around, or have doors that are too large and heavy for me to open whilst maintaining my balance.
Another example was a local pub I went to a couple months ago. There was a part of the dining area that was easily accessible, however to get around the rest of the pub, you needed to go up and down steps. Unfortunately, this also included the bathroom! So, the pub was really not very accessible at all.
After a lot of looking, my husband found an appropriate holiday let for us to book for a couple days. I’m looking forward to going away for a little getaway, however I still am frustrated that it took so much effort to find something, when hundreds of other options exist for people without mobility issues.
We, as a society, need to do better for disabled people. We need to make accessibility a priority and come up with creative solutions to create a more inclusive world.