Wheelchair users forced to abandon UK summer holiday plans, says Muscular Dystrophy UK
Many major tourist destinations, must-see sights and visitor hot spots are off limits to disabled travellers because many hotels, including some big hotel chains, don’t have sufficient accessible provision to hoists to meet their needs. These are the shocking findings of a new investigation by Trailblazers, a network of young disabled people and their supporters which is part of Muscular Dystrophy UK and which surveyed over 100 people between 17 July and 14 August 2017.
The main findings of the survey found that:
• 8 in 10 (almost 80%) of young disabled people have been unable to go on holiday in the past five years because of the lack of hoist facilities in hotels.
• Over 35% of those surveyed show that young disabled people don’t go anywhere overnight because of the lack of hoists.
• There are only 18 known hotels in the UK with ceiling hoists available for use free of charge according to one trusted website used by many disabled people.
The investigation found that many disabled users were forced to abandon their summer holiday plans and stay at home. It found that access to hoists in hotels which are a basic requirement for wheelchair users, either ceiling hoists or hoists for hire, is at best scarce and in many cases not available.
Hoists are a basic requirement which allows disabled users to transfer out of their wheelchair into bed or the bathroom when they cannot independently transfer. The complications when organising a holiday to ensure accessibility to hoists means planning can be stressful and lead to anxiety and uncertainty. What should be a pleasant break turns into an insurmountable chore. It is also a big problem for disabled users when having to travel for work, whether that be overnight stays or just a few days.
Moreover this is bad for business for the hotel industry as the collective spending power of disabled people has been estimated at £249bn to the economy.
The Trailblazers investigation also included a mystery shopping exercise (on 9 August, 2017) which found that only one hotel out of 20 was able to offer a free hoist for those who needed it. Other problems included:
• Many hotel staff not knowing what a hoist was used for
• One hotel when asked if they had a hoist for transferring from wheelchair to bed was unsure if they did, but said they had a hoist for use at the swimming pool
• One major hotel chain recommending to wheelchair users to bring their own hoist but admitting their beds were unsuitable for use with a portable hoist
Lucy Watts is a member of Trailblazers from Essex and a wheelchair user since 2008. She has a muscle-wasting condition and can’t safely transfer so has to be hoisted. She said:
“I haven’t stayed away from home since losing the ability to transfer and I’ve been unable to stay overnight purely because of the hoist issue. Hotels having hoists would mean I’d be able to take trips away. I’d be able to attend more conferences – many of which require an overnight stay – which would open up more doors in terms of my voluntary work.
“Having faced multiple issues with hotels, I’ve been put off staying overnight – even if we rented a hoist, I haven’t had the confidence to take the risk of not knowing whether the place will be accessible. However, if I knew every hotel had a fully accessible room with available hoist, I would definitely have the courage to branch out and do overnight trips.
“Disabled people face enough barriers in life. We shouldn’t be prevented from enjoying trips away because hotels won’t always make the effort to be fully accessible and inclusive.”
Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:
“These figures are truly disappointing as it means many disabled people are not able to visit some of our most popular destinations. Muscular Dystrophy UK believes there are some immediate steps the tourist industry and government could take to improve provision.
“The tourist industry should provide staff training with disabled people so that their staff know what a hoist is and are aware of their policy regarding helping disabled people get a hoist for their stay. Government could provide increased funding so businesses can access funds to install hoists in hotel rooms. And local authorities could provide financial and planning advice or permission to ensure that access is at the centre of all major renovations and new buildings.
“If these measures were implemented immediately it would greatly increase access to hotels for wheelchair uses wishing to travel”
About Muscular Dystrophy UK
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity for 70,000 children and adults living with muscle-wasting conditions. We provide vital information, advice and support to help people live as independently as possible. We accelerate progress in research and drive the campaign for access to emerging treatments.
About muscle-wasting conditions
Muscle-wasting conditions cause muscles to weaken and waste over time, leading to increasingly severe disability. Some affect the heart and muscles vital for breathing, cutting lives short.
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Wheelchair users forced to abandon UK summer holiday plans, says Muscular Dystrophy UK - 17 Aug 2017
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