Budget Ibis Hotel, Valenciennes – Accessibility Review

This is an extended version of my TripAdvisor review. I had reviewed this hotel in terms of accessibility with the following in mind:

  • Wheelchair Access: limited
  • Physical Access: single floor / good
  • Disabled Parking: Excellent
  • Sensory: Adjustable lighting / No temperature control / some read noise / linen (plain cotton) / ambient noise – low / reception (strong smell of sandlewood)

Lovely clean room which looked well maintained & had a bath! (Something sorely missed when we’ve travelled before). Fab idea to have one of the kids beds above the double as this saves on room and our youngest was very happy with having her own nightlight. The beds are basic & sturdy (read ‘hard’) which suited me well, but Mr Softie husband wondered if mattress had been optional…

An image of the ground floor family room with a double bed, single bed, & bunk bed width ways over the double bed

Rooms were on the ground floor which meant that you could park right outside the room (lots of disabled bays & plenty of space to get out).

Panoramic image of car parking spaces & entry doors with disabled parking & ramp to doors

The room had a patio door at the back leading to a little patio area & grass, which despite being very close to the motorway, was peaceful and very welcome after hours in a car! The area itself is fenced off which allowed the kids to stretch their legs (with other children doing similar) & us a safe place to store our bikes just outside the door & give us a little more room.

WiFi is included in the price of the room which was very welcome and was a decent speed for general browsing.

Lady at reception was very helpful and took pity on us after our dreadful attempt at chatting in French (I forget words in English, so perhaps a road trip where I attempted to speak French, German, & English was maybe aiming a tad high!). There’s an accessible toilet in reception.

Breakfast was a buffet with coffee, croissant, yoghurt etc. Everything was fresh & very nice. My only issue was using the brilliantly installed wheelchair lift to get to the breakfast bar… which was locked & no one had a key! This was easily solved by sending the family up to the breakfast bar & sitting in the lower table area. This is a potential issue had I been travelling alone.

Wheelchair lift in reception

Getting to reception in a wheelchair is difficult (there is a 2″ step to get onto the ramp which was too steep for me to propel myself manual chair up myself ). Once in reception, there is a lowered desk, although the card machine doesn’t reach it.
Image of tamp to reception with step up get to ramp

There is no resturant on site & if you’re travelling on a Sunday there is very little available. An “emergency” McDonald’s is located 4km up the motorway (about 10 minutes). Usually, there is a resturant available at the neighbouring Novatel.

We booked a stopover here for a family room clearly stating that one person was a wheelchair user at the time of booking. On arrival, we were told that room layouts were either wheelchair accessible for 2 people, or family rooms. As I need physical help from my husband during the night, we couldn’t make use of the suggestion to book 2 separate rooms, so stuck with the family room.

There is a clearly signed wheelchair access route to the rooms from the car park, however this also contains a 1″ lip in order to get up to the walkway. The doors were wide enough to push my manual wheelchair through if my husband helped lift me over the raised frame, and aside from not being able to close the bathroom door & there being no grab handles (remember that this was not billed as the accessible room), the hard floors and clean layout meant that I could scoot about in my chair with relative ease. For those with anything bigger than an active user chair, this wouldn’t be an option.

Overall, it was perfectly pleasant as a stopover with our only grumble being the mildly terrifying ramps & the assumption that a family wouldn’t require an accessible room.

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That Time I decided not to leave the house again (or Accessible My Arse)

I had a training course to attend today for work. I’d been looking forward to this as it meant going back to school to do coding. Heaven.

The plan was that Mr Geek would take the day off work and come with me as my assistant in case I had difficulty. (We envisioned this as me not being able to get on a bus, or getting lost, or getting faint and needing help).

What I forgot is that today is Thursday. And Thursdays don’t like me.

We left the house at 7.15am to drive the 30 minute journey to Hassocks station as it is more accessible than our local one which has stairs all over. 30 minutes… nope. 60 minutes. I’m now running late which doesn’t work for me at the best of times. But once we were on the train it would be fine!

Hasocks station ticket guy:  have you booked assistance?  … no, despite using the route planners to highlight we needed a stepless journey, there was no indication that we needed to warn people in advance that we were travelling. Someone didn’t learn from her trip to Ireland that I can’t just be spontaneous now. I was already a bit sensitive about being late, so wasn’t bowled over by being singled out as making his day more difficult. But they got the ramp out and I wheeled into a middle section of the carriage.

Now, a bit worried that we’d miss registration, I emailed venue to let them know we’d be late. All would be fine.

As we pulled up at Haywards Heath to change for our London train, Mr Geek had to call the guard for me (how do you do that from inside the train on your own? ). For future solo journeys, may I suggest a flag on a stick?

Getting off the train was fine, but up onto the Gatwick Express was a different thing entirely. I got stuck on the ramp going up as the train was much higher. Mr Geek had to push me up. This is the kind of thing having a power chair was meant to avoid!

Gatwick express actually has bus style seats for wheelchairs so you’re not put in with the bikes which is nice, but unless you have a slimline chair, good luck getting through the doors!

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Trying to get off at Victoria was verging on hilarious. To get out, you need to tackle a right hand turn the width of the chair, then a narrow passage and doorway out. Now, when you have a turning circle of a small country and the spacial awareness of a bull in a china shop, that’s not a fun task. After a three million point turn and getting very flustered I emerged from the train. Now even later. Bugger.

Step 4 of 5 was to get a London Bus to Covent Garden. The No 24 London Bus had an automatic ramp that just popped out which was great because there was no fuss getting on! I have yet to work out how you get onto a bus and back into the official space whilst people fuss around you and before the bus pulls away. I ended up facing forwards & figured that if I get thrown forwards, I at least have a soft thing to smack into 😉

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(Note that time… we left the house at 7.15, my course started at 10am. Lesson learnt here is that travelling by chair requires at very least 50% extra time for getting stuck, people faffing with ramps, and wheelchair accessible trains with a tiny right turn that touched the wheels of my chair on both sides – no hope of you have a self propelled manual chair).

By this point, being jostled about on trains and busses is causing enough pain to make me feel sick. Handbag full of drugs at the ready!

I’m late for my course, I’m in pain & I’m not wholly sure how to get my chair off of the bus. It turns out that rush “hour” in London ought to be referred to Trading Standards. Our top speed was slower than my chair! It took us 45 minutes to do 2 1/2 miles!

So 4 hours to get here. And now it’s raining. Ffs.

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Final step was a 10 minute “walk” which involved me grumbling about Mr Geek having told me that the weather was ‘mild’. I was cold, wet, and eye level to every cigarette in London. Btw – umbrellas are a wonderful invention,  but if you put them in front of your face, the angry woman in the wheelchair you’re walking into is going to tut at you. And flinch because that thing is pointy!

Having emailed a month in advance to double check that the venue was accessible, my Thursday just continued. The training itself was on the 1st floor (woop! Lift) & we arrived just in time for coffee. The one and only accessible loo was downstairs, so off I trundled. Then realised that the lovely wide doored accessible loo was behind two narrow wooden doors. No prizes for guessing who smacked her hand on the doorframe.

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Just before lunch, the trainer called a member of staff to explain how to get up to lunch. She arrived and explained that the dining hall was up on the 2nd floor but there were stairs, so could I leave the chair at the bottom and walk up? …. That’s sort of not how the wheelchair thing works? Ok, yes if I’d had my crutches I could’ve gone a few metres, but not up stairs & not in my current state. We gave up and went out to the cafes along the road.

Back down in the lift with more attempts at reversing out without hitting the stairs that were placed conveniently at the door of the lift. It was 1pm and I was ready for bed (and still really cold).

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Whilst I got stuck in to some afternoon object instantiation with what little brain power I had left, Mr Geek went out to the shops in search of something to keep me warm and dry and returned with a lovely woolen shawl & an emergency poncho. No there are no photos, you’ll just have to take my word for it that I looked hot. Or at least slightly less cold.

Getting on the train back at Victoria was  much easier and we were helped into the wheelchair bay where we found this:

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Super helpful! Especially as when it fell over a lovely lady chucked it out of her way towards my knees. (Can you see the lovely shawl? It really is lovely ). So still absolutely freezing, exhausted, and more and more palpitations, I vented to the world on a blog post!

What have we learnt from this?

Public transport is terrifying

London is moreso (people / cars/ noise / lack of drop kerbs )

People kicking my wheels or tip wheels drives me to a state of irritation that mirrors Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

I’m basically useless without Mr Geek

Mr Geek is deathly accurate with an umbrella if you get too close to me

I can push myself to keep going for hours longer than I think is my limit.

I will pay for this tomorrow.

One day I’d like to write a positive blog on disability and access and generally falling apart, because even I’m bored of my incessant whining. That day will not be today.