MANDY LATIMORE takes a look at the accessible accommodation listed on the Disabled Travel website
As a travel columnist, readers contact me regularly to ask for accessible accommodation in various areas that they wish to visit. I have a list of places that I have personally visited and can recommend.
However, there are many places to which I have not been. So, usually, I scan the various websites that offer “wheelchair friendly” accommodation to see if their pictures and descriptions actually meet accessible accommodation requirements.
If it looks promising, I phone for more information. Sadly, most times, the rooms are not suitable. Research shows that only 22,7 percent of these establishments are actually accessible. This poses a problem for travellers, especially international guests who are used to more accurate websites.
Fortunately, there is a local website that is shining some light on accessible accommodation: www.disabledtravel.co.za. The website has been backed by QASA and the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD).
Karin Coetzee, the owner of this site, is an occupational therapist. She broke her leg badly during a ski holiday. She relied on a wheelchair while she recovered as she found crutches too difficult to use with her injury. This gave her a first-hand experience with the inaccessibility of buildings, bathrooms and more.
I really appreciate this website, as it does not rate the venues. Rather, it simply provides the actual facilities that are available at the establishment, including measurements and descriptions of the accessible facilities such as ramped access, bed heights and space for access to the toilet.
People with disabilities have differing needs and requirements for access. The website offers travellers the opportunity to see exactly what is present and make an informed decision whether the venue will suit their own specific needs.
She started the website in 2004 and has since evaluated more than a thousand establishments. Using a set of criteria that includes level access, possible roll-in showers, grab rails and access to a toilet, she creates a description of the entire property including the areas that are accessible. The owners can have the name of their establishment entered for a small annual fee.
However, should they not be willing to pay, she will still place the accommodation on the website with a reference number. The traveller can then contact her and she will make the reservation with the establishment at no extra cost to the traveller. (She is able to usually even get a discount.)
Sadly, although this website service offers such a valuable source of information, she is battling to keep it going. Recently, the website was on the verge of crashing with outdated software, but was saved by the generous donation of DSC Attorneys who supplied the funds for the entire website to be rewritten.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped either as the reduced income generated in the hospitality industry means that many owners cannot afford to advertise at present.
Karin, like the rest of us, has not been travelling that much, but, like me, she uses every opportunity to research and visit potentially accessible venues to take the measurements and pictures.
She is also happy for owners who feel that their facilities are accessible to contact her. She will the necessary forms and list of exact pictures required so that they can do the assessment in order to be loading onto the website.
Karin has recently put new establishments onto the list in the following towns: Durban, Yzerfontein, East London, Bloubergstrand, Port Owen (Velddrift), Umhlanga; Oudtshoorn, Villiersdorp and Kleinmond.
She has supplied the information of this lovely guest house on the Port Owen Marina in Velddrift.
Russels on the port
Description as it appears on the website.
Photographs from Russels on the Port, a guest house in Port Owen Marina in Velddrif, which can be found listed on the Disabled Travel website.
- This guest house is settled in a peaceful and tranquil location overlooking the Port Owen Marina.
- Access from the paved parking area to the private entrance of the room in an undercover corridor. Small ramp at the entrance door of the room. Outdoor patio in front of the rooms.
- Adequate space in the bedroom with access to the cupboards, no lowered hang rail. Height of the bed is 690 mm and bed can be moved to provide more space next to the bed for transfer.
- Spacious bathroom for manoeuvring of wheelchair. No bath present.
- Adequate space next to the toilet for side- ways transfer. Measurement from wall to front of toilet is 740 mm and height of toilet seat is 490 mm. Height of grab rails is 810 mm.
- Large roll-in shower with a lever tap and adjustable hand shower. Width of shower entrance is 1 140 mm and shower width is 880 mm. Height of small shower chair is 490 mm.
- Leg space of 730 mm underneath the basin with a lever tap. No mirror or shelf within reach.
- Access via a small threshold step to the lounge, dining room and outdoor patio. Steps down to access the swimming pool and garden.
In my opinion, this website is one of the best sources of information and we should all be contributing to keep it going! So, should you have an accessible holiday home, or have visited a place that is accessible, please send me the name and contact info of the establishment. I will forward it to Karin so that she can keep updating her wonderful website: www.disabledtravel.co.za. Happy Travels!
Main photo: Karin Coetzee, an occupational therapist, is the owner and founder of Disabled Travel – a local website for accessible accommodation.
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org