After my experiences last week, and getting no response from the Minister for Tourism and Discover Ireland, as well as just a tentative acknowledgement of email receipt from Failte Ireland, I may as well post the contents of the email. I have the feeling that this issue will be put on the long finger.
Shame on me, if I do nothing and someone else has their trip spoiled. Failte Ireland have acknowledged receipt of my email on Monday 9/7/12 but nothing more since then. Read for yourself and hopefully it will galvanise some more emails and keep the pressure on until this issue is sorted out.
To whom it concerns,
Their web site boasts their accessibility and they told me over the phone that the shower had plenty of bars to hold onto. When I arrived down there on Friday, I found out that this was not the case. The only bars they were at overhead level, suitable only for people who could stand, and there was no bar beside the shower chair.
As a wheelchair user I always plan my weekends away fairly scrupulously over the internet, researching the accessibility features. I bring my own assistant with me. I had booked the ***ts ***ntry Hotel for Friday 6th July.
The manager was very apologetic, and said that they had just had a group of disabled people in, and they had no issue, but my response was that they must have been able to stand or else they were non- verbal.
The reason I am contacting you is that this hotel has been approved by Failte Ireland. Whoever examines these and approves them is doing a great disservice. They are obviously not wheelchair users.
I went to Donegal the next day. In the Discover Ireland offices, I was very clear about my accommodation needs. The receptionist phoned up the K*** Hotel and specified all the provisions I need for the shower, especially.
When we got there at ten pm not only was there a step to the shower, but there was an enclosed cabinet, with a small sliding door. There were no bars beside the shower chair. Even the pull down bar beside the toilet was probably a foot away, and was only on one side, whereas it certainly would have been better to have two, one on each side.
The next morning I was able to meet with the owner of the K**s Hotel, V***y **e. A lely woman that was very embarrassed by the whole situation. They too had been approved by Failte Ireland.
Whatever standards you are operating by, is just completely unsatisfactory. I’m not directing any anger at the hotels because they were approved by your organisation. This is a very dangerous situation.
Its too late to wait until someone has a serious accident. The changes needed were quite small and doable. But to approve these low standards, and then to publicise them in your brochures and internet, gives false confidence.
So I had to go un-showered. The people in both hotels were very understanding money-wise, but this issue is not just about me. I have got to be concerned about the people that come after me, and will they fall into the same predicament.
I would like to recommend myself and my assistant to do the job of checking rooms for accessibility. Obviously whoever the person you have checking them with these low standards is not a wheelchair user, and is certainly not an asset to Failte Ireland.
I will be sending a copy of this e-mail to Discover Ireland and the Minister for Tourism. Something has to be done about this immediately. I have videos of both hotel bathrooms, but there is a bigger issue.
How many hotels around Ireland are similarly inaccessible to a person that uses a wheelchair that cannot stand. The internet will be the first point of call, for foreign and Irish people with disabilities. To give an accessiblity approval, when the reality turns out to be so different, is both dangerous and unacceptable.
I know that “disabled access” covers a multitude of disabilities ,but surely there has to be a minimum standard. I use a manual wheelchair, and had the added advantage of having someone to assist me, but I absolutely could not risk his health and safety. Why are the standards of accessibility in the hotels so different, when they can all hide behind a suspect Failte Ireland approval?
I hope to get a prompt response, and that this matter will be dealt with soon.
So I am just saying to anyone with a mobility issue, just to be aware of this current crazy situation. All your time spent trawling through web sites and brochures may ultimately result in a ruined holiday and a waste of your money! I hope to have better news soon.