Accessibility doesn’t always mean accessible

Moving Forward Series

by

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Frank. A. Clark.

My husband, David, my youngest child and I have driven almost six hours from Houston. David is driving my wheelchair accessible van while I sit next to him up front.  We are on our way to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a getaway.

We are staying at The Hotel Pelham, which is located only one block off the French Quarter. As the van sits beside the front entrance of the hotel, we realize their version of valet parking is not the same as ours.  The van is taking up the entire road once we’ve released the ramp.  There is no one to meet us outside.  David has just run inside to ask for a concierge.  He returns to the van telling me he has to actually park the vehicle himself on the side of the street opposite of the hotel’s entrance.  And that someone will move the van to a nearby parking garage, which will cost us $38.00 a day.  I knew the cost when I booked the hotel so I wasn’t surprised.

My son, James, and I go inside the hotel while David brings in our bags. The lobby appears to be very clean and almost museum like with ornate gold-framed oil paintings of some of the city’s finest citizens and leaders from bygone eras.   I immediately love it.  The hotel as it exists today opened its doors in 1994 and was renovated in 2013.  However, the building itself has occupied that spot since1847.

We make our way down the hallway and ascend to the third floor via the elevator.  As we exit our room is immediately to our right.  It’s obvious that this side of the hotel has been recently updated with fresh paint and modern décor.

We can see that there is only one other room to our left on this floor.  I am instantly reminded of the conversation I had with the clerk on the phone when booking our accommodation. She said we would have our own private entrance to their executive suites.

So far, I have not encountered any obstacles from entering the hotel, all the way up to our suite.

As we open the door the space is clean, with old dark hard wood floors with double beds.

Opposite them are a small kitchenette and a very old, quaint fireplace.    It may be a renovated room but the architecture, which include 10’ windows and 15’ ceilings, still reflect just how old this building is.  I fall deeper in love with where we are staying.

As I check out the bathroom I realize it is not accessible at all.  I do remember the hotel saying otherwise when I had called to book our accommodation.  However, from what I can see the two safety bars by the commode are why they might feel this is in fact a handicapped accessible bathroom.  Unfortunately, it is not the same as a bathroom equipped for a wheelchair used by a disabled/handicapped person.   So, what do we do?  After calling the front desk my suscipicions are confirmed.  This is the only room they have for me.

Well, I am not leaving. I can’t. The accommodation is already paid for.  So, I make a decision that I will just have to make it work.  I’ll have to seek assistance from my husband to help lift me and place me in the shower.  I can at least get a hold of a chair that fits inside.  Needless to say, the bathroom is a very tight in space.  So, it will take some finesse on David’s part in order to get me in there without running me into something.

Luckily, this is not my first time traveling to somewhere and staying at a hotel that isn’t really equipped for me.  However, all those trips became mini adventures for me. They served as opportunities for me to challenge myself just a little more.  In doing so, I found that my independence was progression.

So, after discussing the situation with my husband, we chose to tackle the showering at night.  That way, during the day I could focus on enjoying the fact that we don’t have to really drive anywhere.  We are so close to the French Quarter that we are freely roaming around from one shop to another, as well as all the divine eateries.

Yes. I could complain about the bathroom, but I choose to focus on all the positives.  At the end of our stay as we drive back home I relish in the memories of being an adventurous tourist for almost a week, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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