Why accessible advertising needs to match reality
When we’re travelling we all want time to rest and relax after sight-seeing, just like Wat Po’s famous Reclining Buddha in the Thai capital Bangkok. Looks comfy, doesn’t he?
If you’re visiting the city, by the way, please make the effort to go to Wat Po, the Buddha is amazing.
And as the temple is just behind the Grand Palace go see that too. (Just remember to keep your shoulders and legs covered please, you won’t be allowed in otherwise) There’s the Emerald Buddha to see carved out of a single block of stone – the most important Buddhist site in the country.
Right now (December 2016) Thailand is still mourning the loss of King Bhumiphol, so the area around the Grand Palace is particularly busy with mourners paying their respects, even more of a reason to take it easy.
I booked in to the Intercontinental Bangkok, where I last stayed when the Red Shirt protestors were camped out at the Ratchaprasong intersection next to the hotel in 2010.
The hotel is right in the centre of the high-end tourist district. There’s a Hilton next door, a Grand Hyatt and a Renaissance opposite and plenty of shopping at the Central World Mall and many others within a few minutes.
After arrival I had a very quick catch up with some old Al Jazeera colleagues and then checked in. I was looking forward to my room. I wouldn’t be able to use the bath tub (complete with rubber duck for company 😦 ) but I like the hotel.
But here is where my problems began. The disabled friendly room didn’t fit the billing.
A distinct lack of…. drum roll…. appropriate railings.
There was a marble lip at the entrance to the bathroom too, so the only way in was backwards in reverse. I could tell the ‘accessible’ room had been converted from a regular room, by simply removing the bath tub. An empty space does not an accessible room make. Grrrr
But not all was lost. Enter my two super heroes:
A while later on Facebook I posted:
Before and After
Not sure what I would, or even could, have done without those two ladies. They went out of their way to make my stay safe and secure.
Room sorted, now, how to do a quick drive around the city.
The hotel found a man with a van, and one hydraulic lift later with no traumatic transfers in and out of a taxi necessary, I was set to go.
Now this driver only spoke Thai, which was a bit of a problem when I wanted to ask him: Please turn on the aircon at the back, I’m about to die of heat exhaustion.
Thank God for WhatsApp and a three-way conversation between me, Pat and the driver.
But I felt rather foolish about 20 minutes later when, with the aircon now set to Arctic, I had to tell Pat I was about to die from hypothermia, and could she ask the driver turn the air-con down.
Frost bite averted, I headed back to the hotel to warm up 🙂
You can book this service on +66 901981040 or through Siamraj rental but have a Thai speaker handy to help fix the details of your trip.
Or there is Amnaj Transport on +66 89 150 2000
After my trip I did email the hotel manager to express my thanks for the assistance I received, and offer to give some detailed recommendations about how to make his hotel more accessible. I have yet to receive a reply.
I’ll be blogging later about the value of the disabled dollar, and how places are missing out by not helping people like me out, but out of all the hotels I’ve tried this year just TWO have been truly accessible when I checked in.
I went to Bangkok to visit an old friend Andrew, who is also disabled, to find out how he finds the city to live in.
His comment to me: Imagine a place where they build giant precipice to foil the disabled.
An update after the Christmas holiday. Have a wonderful time wherever you are celebrating. I’m in Bali. (More Misadventures with my wheelchair from there to come.)