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When 'wheelchair friendly' isn't always wheelchair friendly

Booking a holiday should be a happy and stress-free experience. But what happens if the holiday you were sold is nothing like the one in the brochure? In this guest blog, former Flight Sergeant Graham Duncan tells us about his experiences with this very issue...

I joined the RAF as a telegraphist in 1973, just two weeks after my 17th birthday. Given the nature of my role, my job evolved quite significantly over the years and I vividly remember the days of using Morse code and teleprinters.

Of course, things are much more advanced now and my last posting as a Flight Sergeant was working at the Ministry of Defence in London where I belonged to Chief Information Officer Joint Communications Policy and Operations (CIO J6 Pol/Ops), helping develop military communications policy for the UK, part of my responsibilities was editing the Allied Communications Publications on behalf of the UK.

Graham Duncan

In 2006, my wife, Angie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I retired from the RAF in 2011 having completed 38 years.

As my wife's MS was advancing, I had to become her full-time carer. With my wife's ongoing condition, respite is really important to us both and when we were first offered a break with the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Disabled Holiday Trust it was well needed. We’ve enjoyed time away in Kent, France, Dorset, Scotland and most recently St Bride's in the beautiful Welsh countryside with two of our friends.

The facilities at St Brides were excellent which included a swimming pool, table tennis and billiard room. We even managed to play a game of bowls on the artificial lawn near our accommodation.

In 2013, Angie had a major MS relapse and became wheelchair bound so staying somewhere that is wheelchair friendly is paramount. There are so many hotels out there which claim to be wheelchair friendly but the DHT properties think of everything.

Simple things like gravel free car parks and ensuring the mirrors are all wheelchair height, which so many of us take for granted but it makes a huge difference to the individual.

Unfortunately, I can recall several experiences where we have stayed somewhere 'accessible' only to find on arrival that it is not and I'm sure this is a bugbear for so many others out there.

I remember one particular time where we booked an accessible room for a wedding. When we arrived, we were met with two giant steps and a bathroom which was not wide enough for a wheelchair, leaving Angie unable to bathe or use the toilet. As it turned out, the only accessible toilet was a shared bathroom, on the other side of the hotel. A totally humiliating experience.

I've already recommended the DHT scheme to others. Being able to go on holiday at a place that has been recommended for disabled people is so reassuring. The site itself and its amenities are of excellent quality. An ideal location for a stress-free holiday.

The RAF Disabled Holiday Trust offers RAF personnel, serving and retired, and their dependents with severe disabilities self-catering holidays in the UK and overseas. The facilities are specially adapted and accessible allowing families to holiday together.

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