The first thing we thought about when planning THE TRIP was finding a wheelchair-accessible place to stay on Long Island.
I love my Mom, but having three extra people in her house would not be a clever thing to do.
We thought about renting a room in a house, but couldn’t find a place accessible for me that was also kid-friendly.
Now. I like staying in hotels. I especially like staying in hotels rooms with bathrooms I can take a shower in.
So, we needed an ensuite family room with a roll-in shower. Because I’m disabled and a mother. And since we were staying for a full two weeks, expense was also a factor. And P.S. Neil couldn’t drive while were there. Because we all wanted to enjoy the holiday.
So a moderately-priced, accessible, family room within walking distance of cool things to do.
In the midst of our search, Mom phoned and said she’d booked us an accessible room at Danfords, close to her house and in the middle of Port Jeff, where I spent a bunch of time as a kid.
As for my kid, the hotel was next to the beach and a playground which Isla enjoyed very much.
The last time we were in New York, we had a night at Danfords as part of a Groupon deal, and thought it would be cool to be able to spend more time there.
Before that one night two years ago, Danfords was only a place to have brunch when I was a kid, and nobody I knew actually stayed there.
Now I know why.
Like I said, Mom booked it for us as a surprise. And what a surprise it was.
Now, when I book hotels I know there’s a difference between fully accessible and accessible with assistance.
Mom was really happy when she booked us the accessible room, with a roll-in shower to boot.
I had day dreams about getting up and going out for bagels and then heading back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the day. Y’know, like everyone else.
Our flight was delayed on the runway for what seemed like two hours. When we finally took off Neil and Isla fell asleep, but I stayed awake. For the whole trip. As is customary, when we landed, we were the last to disembark.
I walked to my own chair using the back of the airplane seats.
‘Isla, wait for me, please,’ I said as Isla skipped ahead.
‘Tyler, wait for Mom’, said one of the flight crew.
In case you’re wondering, she isn’t rude. She didn’t stop because that’s not her name.
Going through Customs has changed for me. In the past I’ve gotten a ‘Welcome Home’ with my passport stamp. This time the chat was, ‘So you live there now?’ It was bittersweet in a way I’m still trying to get people to understand.
We found Mom and then we found her car. Neil put Isla’s USA-grade car-seat in the back and we drove off. First stop was a gas station. For snacks. Isla chose Bugles. Which we get here, too. I was kinda disappointed.
We found Danfords without Siri. Because Mom doesn’t have a mobile/cell phone. Moving on.
I stayed in the car with Mom and Isla while Neil went to check-in. He came out with a map. Basically the hotel is a bunch of buildings put together. Except they aren’t really together.
Our ‘accessible’ room was up a bunch of stairs with no lift/elevator. We turned to each other and I saw someone chasing after us. There had been a mix up and we trooped into reception to sort it out.
Because we were staying so long they upgraded us to a room with a sea-view. Which was nice. Except we actually needed the accessible room that Mom booked. And when I rocked up using an actual wheelchair I think they actually shit themselves. Issue was, the upgrade that nobody asked for cancelled our original booking. And the room that we originally booked had someone else in it.
They scrambled to find us another room they thought was ‘big enough’. The room could be the size of Texas, but if I can’t get into the bathroom, extra fluffy pillows mean not a lot.
When I saw the room they suggested, I thought the bathroom was doable. I could grab the corner of the shower and turn around and sit down. Until I tried to do it.
Now. For me, I’ve never been in chronic pain. I know enough people who deal with chronic pain to know that I don’t have it.
However. Sometimes, when I am super-tired, like after a long flight for example, my body stops working. And it stops working in a way that other people’s bodies may not.
Every time I move in a new situation, I have to think about how the transfer from A to B is gonna happen. On a normal day when I’ve had sleep I can do things without much difficulty.
After a flight and stress and all that stuff, if A is my chair and B is a toilet without grab rails somewhere in there, I can’t do it. In order to move a certain way, sometimes I have to tell myself to move. Out loud. I tried to use the bathroom with no grab rails. I needed to twist and sit down. I stood up, and said, ‘Move’ and I couldn’t.
I actually wondered if I could give myself the same peptalk every day and it would work.
The thing is this. I shouldn’t have to. If things aren’t as accessible as they could be I usually develop workarounds. But there weren’t any. And I booked the accessible room because I needed it.
So we went back downstairs. They said that the room I was in was all they had, because the original booking was cancelled in deference to the upgrade. Which no one asked for.
And the room we booked was now being used by someone else.
‘Does that someone else need the facilities in that room?’ I asked.
I should mention I had to ask from my position downstairs. The reception desk was up two steps. I felt like I was in the orchestra pit at the opera.
And it did get a little operatic. There were some jet lagged tears and some f-bombs.
Another thing is this. In another life, before I had Isla, accessible travel was my day job, and my night job, and my home-life, too. But it’s different when you have to advocate for yourself. Just to be able to go to the toilet and take a shower.
After hours of travel, with the added stress of a family holiday that you’d like to go really well, but might finish before it started. Because I was ready to get back on a plane, and we hadn’t even unpacked.
We didn’t get back on a plane. The next day, we moved into another room, where we stayed for four days until the accessible room of our original booking became available.
I took a shower. The detachable shower hose didn’t reach the marble platform I had to sit on at the back of the stall. But I guess you can’t have everything.
And then there was that time we kinda got married again. They were setting up for a wedding and the aisle was rolled out in front of the only accessible entrance to our room. I tested out the aisle for the bride. Congrats to the happy couple.
I did manage to get out and y’know actually enjoy THE TRIP and the hotel did knock 500 bucks off the bill. Thanks, Danfords.
And yes, we would stay there again, but I would suggest a ramp up to the reception desk. And replace your nice marble bathroom floors with a non-slip option.