The one thing I love more than anything; is to travel. Travel is my true love and passion. Having a holiday is supposed to be relaxing and fun. Not for many who have a disability. A recent trip to Noosa for a wedding was easy for everyone else to attend. For me, it is a little more complicated.
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Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast, answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I had Cerebral Palsy and every week I'll answer any question that you have about disability. No question is off-limits. Any question is on the table and this week it's a cracker, as always. Without any further ado, let's get into it.
[00:00:38] This week I had a question for Milli. Milli asked me,
Milli [00:00:42] Peta, what's the one thing you wish would change in and around your disability?
Peta [00:00:49] For me, this question is a very clear answer. I wish the tourism industry would change, and I have to warn you, this will not be the only episode that I talk about the tourism industry in the future.
[00:01:04] I recently went to a wedding in beautiful Noosa, Queensland, Australia. It's already been postponed once because of covid, so we were all very excited to be able to go up and I know it's a huge privilege that 'us' Australians are able to travel at the moment. So I was super excited but also nervous. The reason why I was nervous is it's really hard for me to travel.
[00:01:33] First of all, I don't get to go in my normal wheelchair, I have to go into a travel wheelchair.
My travel wheelchair is super light it's only 22 kilos and it folds up like a pram. Whereas my normal wheelchair is like 80 kilos and does not fold up and is very bulky and hard to transport. While my travel wheelchair is electric, it doesn't do many of the flash things that my wheelchair does day-to-day. What annoyed me the most while on this trip is the fact that it doesn't elevate, it doesn't go up. I'm so used to going up to my mates' eye level that watching them all bend down to try and talk to me while everybody's trying to dance on the dance floor was a real pain in the arse.
[00:02:24] How how do you get someone like me to the airport in the first place? No, I can't get a taxi. There's no way no no turn up on time and no, I don't have access to Uber's because they're not accessible. So how do I get to the airport? My Mum and Dad drive me.
[00:03:12] Because of Covid the long term car park was shut. Great. Where the hell do we put the car? We had to put it in a really, really, really, really expensive car park. For the two weeks, the parking was over a thousand dollars. I know, crazy, but where else were we going to put the car at such short notice? All the other car parks were shut. Clearly, nobody else was going on a holiday that couldn't use a taxi or an Uber.
[00:03:43] So what happens to me when you check-in at an airport? Well, I have to speak to a physical person. They have to check me in physically. I can't use the screens that many of you guys do independently. So we normally have to wait in a queue. And I look like such a diva going on holidays. I have lots and lots of luggage. But no, it's not me trying to be Mariah Carey with all my outfits in matching shoes. It's just all my equipment with my disability. We check all the equipment in and we explain that I can't transfer out of the wheelchair.
[00:04:22] What do you do when you can't transfer yourself out of a wheelchair to be able to get into the seat of the aeroplane? No, the wheelchair cannot go on the aeroplane. It has to go in the cargo. There's no space for me to sit in my wheelchair. If there was oh, my God, that would solve so many of my issues. There is a fantastic invention that I believe only Qantas Airlines have, and it's called an Eagle Hoist, my dad actually took some quick vision and bear in mind, he's 75, so it's probably not that great but it'll give you an idea of what the Eagle Hoist looks like.
[00:05:02] We've gone down to the gate. They put a hoist strap around me and they put me on the Eagle Hoist. My wheelchair then gets removed and my dad pulls my wheelchair apart and tapes it up, ready for it to go in the cargo. While he's doing that, the aircrew push me on the Eagle Hoist down the aisle of the aeroplane and put me in my seat on the aeroplane.
[00:05:31] Let me just explain why this Eagle Hoist is so important. It determines whether I can actually get on the plane, but because to my knowledge, only Qantas had them, we couldn't fly to where we wanted to fly because Qantas doesn't fly to Mooloolaba. They only fly to Brisbane.
[00:05:51] Also, I can't drink on an aeroplane. I don't just mean alcohol, I mean at all. Why? The Eagle Hoist doesn't stay on the plane, it stays at the terminal. So once you take off, I have no way of getting to the bathroom. I hang on the whole time I'm on a flight. Not only that, I can't go to the bathroom at Melbourne Airport. They don't have a Changing Places toilet. I'm very thankful that the Brisbane airport has Changing Places toilet. There will be no way that I would be able to hang on from the time I left, my mum and dad's house, drove to the airport, found a car park, checked in, waited for the flight, got on the flight with the Eagle Hoist that takes ages, waited for everybody else to get on the plane, take off, fly to Brisbane, get out in Brisbane, find the car, drive to Noosa, and then finally go to the toilet after you check into the hotel. No way. Absolutely no way. So I'm very, very thankful for the Brisbane Changing Places toilet, and I intend to campaign to get one in Melbourne. Even let's be honest, two would be amazing in Melbourne, one in the international and one in the domestic.
[00:07:13] Not only that, I'm not allowed to go on a plane alone. I sort of understand this, like if the plane were to crash, there's no one to then assist me to get off the plane, the air hostess [cabincrew] isn't liable to get me off the plane. But like the plane crashes, I don't think I'm going to be getting off anyway. I'm not allowed to go on a plane, whether I go to Sydney from Melbourne or I go from Melbourne to London. I'm not allowed on a plane by myself. I can't find any services for me to hire someone to come on a plane with me. When I ask an airport or an airline, they have no suggestions of anyone to come and help me to go on the actual plane. There is no business, to my knowledge, anywhere that help to get on and get off on the plane. So I can't physically go anywhere unless I have my parents with me. And I wonder why I'm single.
[00:08:15] So let me just recap, we had to fly through Brisbane to get to Noosa because there isn't a toilet in Melbourne I can use and I can't hang on. And there is in Brisbane. There isn't a toilet in Mooloolaba I can use and there isn't an Eagle Hoist in Mooloolaba that I can use either. So we had to fly through Brisbane.
[00:08:37] In Brisbane, Hertz car rental has converted cars. No other companies, to my knowledge, have converted cars just Hertz. No, there aren't any available on the Sunshine Coast, so that was another reason why we had to fly via Brisbane. Someone previous to our rental had run over the seat belt stalk. Dad didn't realise this when he finally put the seat belt in and the seat belt was stuck. Like stuck!
So lots of panicked conversations about how the hell they're going to get me out of the car later. And is it safe to drive all the way to Noosa? Lots of officials from Hertz and not only that, I was so pissed off by this stage. The first guy that we spoke to, the mechanic, was like,
Mechanic [00:09:27] Oh, no, it's fine. We'll just fix it when you bring it back.
Peta [00:09:30] No, sorry. You're not expecting me to sit in a car without a proper seatbelt. Are you?
[00:09:38] I don't think he quite expected someone with a disability to have a voice, but he ran into me, so he learnt very quickly.
[00:09:47] What made me more and more pissed off was the fact that I found out that Hertz and now I'm no longer planning on getting any more converted cars in their fleet. They're phasing them out because it's too difficult for them to maintain that service.
[00:10:04] So we get to the hotel and it's a great wheelchair accessible room. I took a few videos, but I'll basically explain what makes a wheelchair accessible room. So it means wider doorways, a bigger bathroom with handrails. It means what's called a roll-in shower.
So there's no hub in the bottom of the shower, it's just a level floor the whole way through. And there's normally a shower seat that's bolted to the wall that allows me to sit in the shower. There's a handheld shower and also the sink has knee clearance so I can use the sink in the bathroom. The bedroom, to be honest, could be a little bit more accessible, but it's fine.
[00:10:49] The reason I say that is, there's carpet. So we use something called a Portable Hoist and I'll get to that in a minute. But when we use a portable hoist, it's really hard to push over a carpet. So it would have been better if the whole apartment had been tiled rather than have carpet in the bedroom. The bed was quite low to the ground and we couldn't push the portable hoist directly underneath the base of the bed. So that was tricky too. They didn't really think about making the kitchen accessible, but I could at least open the fridge and make a coffee and that's good enough for me. The other great detail that the hotel had was the fact that they had a little ramp out onto the balcony. That was great. I can't tell you how many places I've stayed at paid for a balcony and then the balcony isn't accessible, in the accessible room. It was one of the first times in my life where the disabled accessible room had a view. Because the wedding was postponed, we thought it was going to be in 2020, so we went up in 2019 to check out the accessibility and in the place we stayed previously, which is a very well known hotel chain, the disabled room overlooked the car park and the bins. I guess they assume that they're never going to get filled and they just a requirement, but it was really lovely to stay in the Sea Haven Hotel and actually have a view of the ocean.
[00:12:30] The portable hoist enables me to go to the toilet, use the shower and go to bed. The only problem with the portable hoist is you have to have somebody on the other side to push you to move around the room. So I have absolutely no independence when I go on holidays. It is so hard to go from being an independent person that lives independently away from family to needing your parents to help you go to the bathroom again at almost 31.
[00:13:06] So it's probably no surprise to you that my absolute dream job would be going around the world and fitting out disabled, accessible rooms that are truly accessible. Like, wouldn't it be amazing if they had hoists in them, just like I have at home? It would mean true independence and I could actually have a holiday without having to ask to pee or have a shower or go to bed.
[00:13:31] I almost forgot. So something else happened. I was in bed almost asleep, and the fire alarm goes off. Holy moly. And this just is another reason why they should be hoists because I had to lie in bed and wait for my parents to come and get me. They had to put the straps on me. I had to get on the hoist as quickly as I could and then get in my wheelchair. And then, of course, what happens? You aren't meant to go in lifts if there's a fire. So I and my Mum waited in my apartment, had all the windows open just in case I had to be chucked off the balcony. No, not really, but almost. My Dad went down to see whether it was an actual fire. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and I know I would just sit in the stairwell, but the idea of being left in a stairwell and waiting for the firemen to come and get me freaks me out. Independence is key. Come on, guys, if I could get up and out of bed quickly without having to wait for my (whispers under breath) 70 something periods, that would be amazing. It's not just maintaining independence. It's a safety issue.
[00:14:50] There are a lot of solutions that I have in mind that could make it a whole lot easier for someone like me to travel. I should be able to go on holidays just like everyone else. I should have the right to use the bathroom if I want to. I should be able to go on a balcony if I pay for it. I should have the right to have a view in an accessible room and not overlook the bins. I feel like getting accessible vehicles and accessible transport should be easier. Why isn't there a Changing Places, toilet in all international airports? In all domestic airports or all public places for that matter?
[00:15:37] So Milli I hope that answered your question. The one thing that I wish would change in regards to my disability is how hard it is to travel.
[00:15:53] Thanks so much for listening this week. If you'd like to answer a question, that's always you can do it by my Instagram @petahooke or @icantstandpodcast via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, all via my website www.icantstandpodcast.com. Also, if you could please write and review the podcast, I would really appreciate it. Thanks so much. Until next week. Have a good one.