After check-in, we were led to our rooms. I held my breath as we opened the door. I’ve been stuck with a lot of crappy handicapped accessible rooms in the past (mostly in greater New York City), rooms that I didn't even have space to turn around in. My initial reaction was one of relief. The room was spacious and welcoming: flat screen TV, four poster bed, stocked bar (complimentary). There was a sliding glass door to the ground level, private patio. Nice.
Then we looked in the bathroom. Damn.
The sink was designed so that I couldn't pull under it in my wheelchair. The toilet was very low (disabled folks like high toilets). There were no grab bars to assist with transferring to the toilet at all. The bathtub/shower was an oval shaped garden style, very tall on the outside and very deep on the inside. The only grab bar in the shower was at the far end such that I couldn't even reach it. Per my request at the time of booking, they had provided a shower seat.
We studied the situation, scratched our heads, and couldn't come up with a shower transfer strategy that didn’t involve a high risk of me falling and getting hurt, and getting hurt was not on any of my vacation to-do lists.
I visited the front desk and asked to speak with a manager. As was the case during our entire stay, everyone was very pleasant and appeared to be genuinely interested in solving our problem. The poor room design was not their fault. We were asked to make due with our room for the night, and in the morning, after everyone had checked-in the previous evening, we would be able to see what other rooms were available.
Since I hadn't showered yet that day, having woken up at 3:00 on a Sunday morning to catch our early flight, I wanted to shower before dinner. I pulled out my slide rule (not really) and we came up with a plan. I would lean my head over into the tub such that Kim could give me a shampoo. I would then sit on the shower seat, outside the shower, and Kim could give me the equivalent of a sponge bath. It wasn’t ideal, but we managed. In the process, I discovered that I very much like sponge baths. I informed Kim that this was how I would be cleaned henceforth, even when we returned to our accessible home. I can't repeat what she told me.
The next morning we met a member of the hospitality management team, Christina, who would become our personal concierge, of sorts, for the rest of the week. Christina admitted that the resort was woefully negligent in providing real handicapped accessible rooms. She wanted to show us a smaller room that had a traditional bathtub/shower. I had earlier indicated that I could probably manage getting into and out of a traditional bathtub with a shower chair in it.
When we entered the alternate hotel room we noticed that it was definitely smaller, although manageable. But alas, the entrance to the bathroom was too narrow for me to even get the iBot in. It was the only room that she knew of that might be better than what we already had. We were disappointed, and headed back to our hotel room, resigned to making it work somehow.
Later that day, Monday, we bumped into Christina again and she introduced us to her boss, Angella. Angella also apologized for the shortcomings of the room, and told me about how she wanted to compensate us. In this all-inclusive resort not everything was included. The most high-end restaurant sat at the end of a pier and cost $140 per couple to dine. Angella let us know that she had made reservations for the six of us on Thursday night at 8:00, on the house, a $420 value. She also indicated that she would give us a couple of complimentary night’s stay.
Just to be clear, we didn't go into this adventure confident that the accommodations would be completely accessible, and our enjoyment of the vacation was not contingent upon that. Granted, the bathroom was a huge disappointment. But, due to our creativity, a good attitude on the part of both us and the local management, and a great team by my side, we didn't allow these issues to negatively impact our enjoyment of the vacation.
So, how many sponge baths have I received since returning home? What do you think?
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