Monthly Archives: September 2013

EU regulations, airports in Europe, and Copenhagen Airport specifically.

This might be of interest to you, even though it is 6 years-old.


Bring Your Own Shower Seat

As regards to bathing facilities when traveling, I stated in an earlier post: There are four things that I need in order to be able to shower:

  • A roll-in shower, or a bathtub that is low enough to facilitate a transfer.
  • Something solid to sit on.
  • A detachable shower head (on a hose).
  • Grab bars, properly placed in order for me to steady myself during the transfer and as I shower.

I covered the grab-bar solution in that post, and I would consider it the responsibility of the wheelchair traveler to ascertain (by phone!)that the hotel/lodge/resort/etc has a roll in shower or tub, and hopefully their shower head will be on a hose, but I have found through experience that counting on any lodging to provide the wheelchair traveler with proper seating is an iffy proposition at best. Experience has taught me to bring my own seating. Even if I don’t need it, it’s well worth the little bit of space that it takes up in our luggage to have a guaranteed seat for the shower, and I would advise anyone else who cannot stand unassisted to do the same.

Almost every hotel in the US that we have stayed in has provided proper seating, but “proper” can be a little sketchy, even with the ADA . A wheelchair traveler in Europe can be a little less certain that there will be proper seating provided, although the majority of the hotels we have stayed in have fulfilled this need adequately. It’s the minority that I am talking about here, both in the US and abroad that have caused me to adopt a policy of always bringing my own seat, just in case. And there have been several cases where I was very glad that I had.

On more than one instance the seat has been nothing more than a 10-inch square of plastic that folds down in the shower. Even though they’ve been sturdy and capable of supporting my weight, the small surface area of the seat made getting cleaned up a nerve-wracking, back-firmly-pressed-to-the-wall endeavor.

In other instances, the “seat” will be a sunken bench that hooks over the sides of the bathtub, with a good ten-inch drop from the height of my wheelchair seat to the level of the bench. I can’t do a ten-inch hoist back into my chair unassisted, and having to be assisted out of the tub is not the sort of accessible experience that I am hoping for when we travel.

There can be numerous other obstacles that won’t be apparent until the wheelchair traveler actually sees the seat , such as armrests that block a safe transfer or missing rubber feet which cause the seat to slide around dangerously, so even with reassurances from the hotel staff (“Oh yes, we have a shower bench”), it’s a good idea to have your own, just for back up.

The first personal shower seat I got was a folding shower bench. I have never used it because:

A. It’s too wide to fit in our tub, so it’s probably too wide to fit in many hotel tubs.
B. It didn’t fold down flat enough. Even folded as flat as it goes, it takes up a quarter of the depth of our luggage.

So I looked around and found a nice little shower stool with extendable legs that easily detach and re-attach to the stool so that the whole thing lies flat in the bottom of our bag. It’s a little wobbly fully extended, but it’s sturdy and with grab bars close by it’s safe enough for me to relax and enjoy my shower. Plus, it will fit into any tub or shower, and I can count on it being there since I bring it with me wherever we go.

Suitable shower seat

This is the model that I got. I would give it a good recommendation. Use at your own risk. I have no affiliation nor connection with this company in any way.


Oh, BTW…

If you hover your cursor over any of the photos in this blog and get the little finger icon, you can click on it and get the full sized photo.


What happens when “Access” isn’t clearly defined.

ufas

Wheelchair Ramp

This photo was taken in Cancun Mexico, photographer  unknown.


The ADA and UFAS (Unified Federal Accessibility Standards)

When I broke my back in 1986, people were helpful, and flying was still possible, but it wasn’t until 1990, when the US Government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act that meeting the needs– travel and otherwise– of disabled Americans became law.

All of that was well and good, but it only took about a year for people to realize that while guaranteeing the rights of the disabled was a good idea, nobody really had any idea what “Access” actually meant.

So (and this is one of those rare times when a committee actually produced something useful), the people in charge of figuring out how to implement the ADA got together and created a legal definition of “Disabled Access”. And they got it right.

The EU would do well to adopt this same code instead of spending time in endless conferences, talking about how to make disabled access uniform across the globe, including the idea that they need to get the USA on board. I am not a chest-thumping patriot, but in this case America got it right.

This is handy to have, the PDF for UFAS.


Important information regarding EU and Disabled Access.

Important information regarding EU regulations and Disabled Access


EU Prorities : SNAFU*

Image

Dublin at night

A few years ago I bought a little MP3 player. I bought it for a number of reasons, one of them being the ability to drown out annoying sounds, such as screaming toddlers and other people’s asinine phone conversations while using public transportation.

I was really happy with the product when I first got it; it was affordable, compact and very user friendly as regards loading and playing my music on the device. Unfortunately, it wasn’t any good for drowning out annoying sounds, as even at full volume I could still hear screaming toddlers and asinine phone conversations over the sound of my music. I was really disappointed, and left a negative review online, which prompted another customer to reply with instructions that enabled me to fix the problem.

What I was told was that the European Union has set restrictions on the volume that EU citizens are allowed on their MP3 players and since I had purchased the player within the jurisdiction of the EU, my MP3 player would only play as loudly as the EU permits. What I needed to do in order to get my MP3 player to play as loudly as I chose was to rest it to “Factory Settings” and then when prompted to choose “Region”, choose either North America or Rest of the World from a selection of “North America/Europe/Rest of the World”. I followed the instructions and it worked. My MP3 player now plays loudly enough to drown out all unwanted sounds. Maybe even loud enough to damage my hearing, if I so choose.

Yay, problem solved!

So how does this relate to wheelchair travel? Let me explain…

In 2008, we traveled to Dublin, Ireland for a few days. Ireland is a member of the European Union. We booked a disabled room at the Radisson. We’ve had good experiences at Radisson hotels with their disabled access room, and we’ve found that most chains have comparable facilities between the individual establishments.

The first thing I always do when we get to our room is to check the bathroom to see if I am going to have any problems taking a shower. The bathroom looked good in our room, except that the door opened toward the door of the room instead of swinging open to the room itself, and there wasn’t enough room for me to get into the bathroom unless I opened the door of our room, went outside into the hall, turned around and then approached the bathroom from the front door.

It’s a little difficult to explain, but visualize yourself in your hotel bathroom, facing out. A normal hotel bathroom door will open facing the room, and what you see is your hotel room. In this case, what I saw with the bathroom door open was the door to the room. This meant rolling out into that little space, and then trying to get the door closed in order to get past it into the room.

There wasn’t enough space to do that. Their carpenter had hung the door backwards.

I immediately went down and calmly explained the problem to the front desk, and a very polite member of staff took me upstairs to see if their other accessible room might be suitable. It wasn’t. The bathroom door was just the same as it was in our room, and in fact, the staff member even showed me several standard rooms and they all had the same problem. I asked the manager if they might be able to get a carpenter out to fix the problem while we were staying there (I used to be a carpenter when I was able-bodied, and I know from experience that hanging a door is only about a half hour job), and she expressed some pessimism that it could be done at all, since it was a “structural issue”.

When we checked out, we requested at least a partial refund. Radisson hotels operate with a policy of issuing a 100% refund if you’re unhappy with any elements of your stay and they are unable to fix the problem. I was definitely not happy with the fact that I had to roll out into the hall with nothing but a towel on my lap (I have to get undressed in bed ) every time I took a shower. The manager again stated that the problem was structural and thus beyond their control to correct, and so we left it at that.

Not really. I don’t give up that easy, and so I started digging around in order to find the EU designation of a wheelchair accessible room, as I was certain that one requirement would be sufficient space for someone in a wheelchair to get into and out of the bathroom without having to actually leave the hotel room itself

Guess what. There is no actual definition of “wheelchair/disabled access” according to the European Union. I know this because I chased it on the phone all the way up to EU Headquarters in Brussels, and was told (with sincere apologies) that “No, we are very sorry, but there is no legal definition at this time for disabled access according to EU regulations”.

What this means is that the folks that make up regulations for the European Union have managed to decide how loud my MP3 player can be, but they haven’t managed to get around to legally defining Disabled Access.

What THAT means, is that there is no legal obligation for a hotel in any country within the Eurpean Union to make any adjustments whatsoever to a room in order for them to be able to advertise it as “accessible”, nor is there any legal recourse for a disabled guest to pursue if the hotel has not made the necessary alterations to a room that they have designated “accessible”. Luckily for us gimps, and with thanks to the hotels that do offer accessible rooms in Europe, “Disabled Access” rooms are usually reasonably accessible, and with only a few exceptions I’ve been able to take a shower in every hotel we’ve been to.

A post script: Like I said, I don’t give up easily, and so I thought that if the EU didn’t have a legal definition of Accessible, maybe the Republic of Ireland would have it. I did some digging around, and discovered that while there aren’t any Irish laws pertaining to Disabled Access in particular, Irish Fire Code does require that there be 90 centimeters (about 36 inches) of clearance in the sort of door layout that I described. In other words, with the bathroom door open in our room, I should have had 36 inches of space in order to allow the door to open with me in between it and the front door.

I know that there wasn’t anywhere near this amount of clearance, as my chair is only 25 inches wide, from outside of handrail to outside of handrail. So I wrote and sent a snail mail to the manager of the Radisson in Dublin who had refused the refund, and I sent a hard copy to the district manager and even one to the owner of the Radisson chain himself, explaining that as they were, their rooms were in violation of Irish fire code, and that I had not had legal access to the bathroom according to Irish fire code.

A week later, we got a full refund.

I don’t know if they ever got around to rehanging the doors at the Radisson Blu in Dublin (it’s this one) , so I can’t tell you if you’d have any better luck with the doors than I did. I guess it would be worth a call if you’re planning on a trip to Dublin, because other than the problem with the door, we had a lovely stay there.

One more thing. I just did a little checking since starting this post to see if maybe the EU has gotten around to defining “Disabled Access” in the seven years since I spoke with the woman in Brussels, and apparently the answer to that is still “No”.

Lots of talk, but according to this newsletter, they were still just talking about it in 2012.

*Situation Normal, All Fucked Up


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