Monday, May 24, 2010

Even With Planning

A few weeks ago I was on a WheelTrans bus going to work and we picked up a woman who was chatty by nature. She explained that since she became disabled she had become organized. "You can't be lackadaisical and be disabled" she said with me realizing that I typically like people who use words like 'lackadaisical'. Apparently before disability she was late for everything, now, with the 'be on the bus or bus be gone' and 'be at appointment or appointment be gone' lifestyle she has learned to get up early, get ready before, and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. 'I'm amazed at how much time there is in a day when you aren't rushing.'

For me, this is also true. Without organization, planning and foresight, life with a disability would not be survivable. Take travel. We know what we need and we take care to ensure that it happens. I book hotel rooms with disabled access. I call the hotel on the day of, several hours before arrival and double check the accessible room. This gives them time to fix something if it's been noted wrong. That way, everything is fine.

Until yesterday. We arrived at the Courtyard Marriott in Ottawa after booking an accessible room, calling to double check its availability. We arrive to be sent to a room that isn't accessible. (I think they thought we wouldn't notice.) We came back down and I was pissed. The room they sent us to was a very long way down carpeted hallways. I explained that I was upset and they explained that all the accessible rooms were taken. I had no room.

I stay here a lot when visiting family. This is 'my hotel'. I'm stunned. Eventually I get them to call hotels in Montreal to find an accessible hotel and we get in the car and drive two more hours to get to a hotel that doesn't have Internet in the room. Thereby this post isn't written and published until much later than usual.

Even meticulous planning can't trump 'I don't care service.' Even calling ahead can't trump, 'Oh, well, if you weren't crippled you could use another room' attitude. They did give me a certificate for a free stay in the future - ok, but that doesn't fix the problem.

The problem is that I had a system that worked. Planning, double checking ... it always meant that I arrived with no hassles. I can never trust that system again. I can't trust it because non-disabled people don't get what it is to have a disability, what it is to suddenly be left optionless, what it is to sit in a lobby of a hotel as people pretend to care and pretend to take action.

So, a late post and a frustrated writer.

Is there something else I can do to ensure that my travels are safe, for me. Is there something else I can do to assure myself that I'm not going to have to make a scene to get something which should be a right.

If you have answers, I have ears.


Brenda said...

Such inconvenience for a paying customer! I know I'd be royally PO'd. But it got me to thinking...sometimes a phone call just doesn't do the trick. They can be forgotten, or taken while the person is doing six other things, whatever. How about a letter instead? A pre-emptive strike, faxed or emailed, notifying in a kind and professional manner exactly what will be expected from the hotel. Having been in the business world for many years BD, I was often the recipient of such letters. "Mr. So-&-So will arrive on the 6th. He will need to be met at the airport and taken directly to his hotel. He will require two non-feather pillows...", etc., etc. When I first saw one of the letters, I thought 'how tedious!'. But I quickly learned that they served a very important purpose. For me, I knew exactly what was expected, and the letter often served as my checklist to ensure that I'd not forgotten anything. For the traveller, it gave them the peace of mind that all would be as expected when they arrived, and that if it wasn't, they knew that someone in authority had it in writing, and better have an airtight excuse as to why things weren't just 'so'. Dave, you write so well, I'm sure that a quick little form letter of this nature would be nothing for you to rattle off. But it just might go a long way to setting your mind at ease the next time you travel. Just a thought!

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Dave, I so hear you. My life is a triumph of strategy and organization, but I haven't yet found a consistent way to strategize around non-disabled people who just don't care. I find myself in this situation all the time, perhaps because my disability is mainly invisible, and perhaps because people hear the word "autism" and they think I don't have any feelings or empathy or a moral compass like a Real Person. (If they only knew how acutely I feel what everyone else feels.) It's as though they don't believe me when I say things like, "Yes, I really do mean that the loud, pounding music in the lobby should be off when I get there because otherwise, my senses get overloaded and I get sick." They don't even believe me when I say I'm not capable of lying. Go figure.

All this being said, the saving grace of my life is that I am a fiercely tenacious person and I can get good and outraged to the point that I persist until the other person has to mine levels of patience they never knew they had. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes, it turns, "Sorry, this simply isn't possible" into "Oh, just a minute, here we go..."

But sometimes, of course, I just have to mine levels of patience I never knew *I* had. Then I remember that dealing with being disabled is a spiritual discipline and I try to get right with that.

Kristin said...

I would right a letter or send an email to the local TV, radio, and newspapers near the hotel. I would detail EVERYTHING you did and the disappointing/infuriating results. Sometimes negative publicity teaches asshats the error of their ways.

I'm sorry you had to go through that Dave.

Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says -
I often tell people that having a disability requires a high level of organizational and administrative capability. Yet even when one plans and verifies - there are adventures.
I suggest that you write a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the hotel or, if it is part of a hotel chain, a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the hotel chain. Explain carefully and clearly (you certainly know how to do that) exactly what happened. Explain how the hotel personnel inconvenienced you and discriminated against you. If you really want to make an impact, you could have your legal advisor write the letter for you. It will probably improve their service to you in the future - that is, if you are forgiving enough to consider staying in that hotel ever again.

MoonDog said...

snort. what good is a free room coupon if you cant get in the door? that was a get the heck out of here and stop bothering me coupon. I can sure understand why you would be upset. I agree that a letter to upper management is in order. Even if it doesnt change anything you can feel like you did SOMETHING to try and resolve this and save many others the hassle.

lj_cox said...

I don't have any good suggestions to offer regarding a permanent solution to the problem. I do think that a quick call or email to Marriott will generate some helpful change. When we were traveling for business we stayed in Marriott properties exclusively and they were very responsive when I contacted them with problems.

Lyndsay said...

It would be an excellent plan to write to the manager, and tell them what exactly an accessible room means, and what it meant for your trip when they lied to you about having an accessible room. Because they lied to you. Not cool. If they don't own up, apologize or discuss further training their staff... well, call the newspapers and TV stations and CBC radio of course :)

Andrea S. said...

All of us who in some way have needs that differ from other people's needs experience similar barriers. I have faced this "Can't Plan Around Other People's Incompetence or Lack of Caring" barrier both as a deaf person and also as a vegan trying to get something I can eat. Back in the days when airlines used to actually feed people on their flights (I don't know about Canada, but those days seem to be basically gone for flights within the US), all vegans and vegetarians knew that they had to not only request a vegetarian meal but also call again to verify a few weeks in advance, then again a few days in advance, then again the day of, and then again speak to them when arriving at the airport. And even with all this hyper planning, things would still sometimes go wrong and a vegetarian would find themselves with nothing to eat for a full day of 10 hours of connecting flights and no time to buy anything in between. These days, of course, we all have to simply plan to bring our own meals so at least we're all equally inconvenienced.

As a deaf person, I was once a guest in the home of someone who liked to do things very spontaneously. I tend to be very spontaneous also, at least in certain specific regards like when and where I go to eat out or whatever. But the person that I (and my partner) were staying with couldn't seem to grasp that, when a deaf person is involved, certain activities simply CANNOT be done spontaneously. You PLAN for them or don't do them at all. Want to go see a play? You have to call months in advance to find out which one or two or maybe, possibly three performances out of the entire season even have sign language interpretation available -- that's assuming ANY of them do. You can't randomly walk into any performance at the last minute because most will not have interpreters. Want to see a movie in the first run theatre? Only a very few options will be available in your city. And that's assuming you're in a city major enough that ANY of the theaters offer ANY captioned movies at all. (For options in the US, check ... plug in the zip code for your nearest US city, or a city you're familiar with, and compare with results for hearing people.) If you're not fussy about movies maybe that won't matter much. But if there are specific movies you want to see, then you have to keep monitoring every week to see if THAT movie ever reaches your city at all. And then you had better hope you didn't have conflicting plans for the ONE week that movie finally arrives with captions--if it does.

It can be infuriatingly frustrating when people DON'T GET that, yes, certain things DO require extra planning when a person has a disability. And, yes, it sucks.

ivanova said...

I have zero answers, but I agree with Moon Dog. A coupon for a free stay is such a cop-out. Why would you ever want to go back there and use the coupon? They haven't done one thing to make you think the same thing won't happen again.

I do think Marriott might be sensitive to bad publicity, because they get so much of it for using prison labor and other reasons. So maybe making a big fuss and taking it all the way to the top would be effective. But why should you have to do all that just to get a hotel room?

FridaWrites said...

This kind of thing can happen when people aren't disabled too--it happened on our honeymoon. But it's far more likely to happen with disability. So many, many times more likely.

It's not fair to have to live with so much uncertainty and carelessness.

Shan said...

All I can think is "lackadisabical". Seriously. That's all I can think about.

With your help I have invented a new word. Thank you.

We could use it like this:
"Dear Sir: Usually I am quite happy with your front desk staff, but today I experienced a distinctly lackadisabical attitude towards my accessibility."


"What kind of lackadisabical place doesn't even have grab bars in the bathroom?"


"Joe, seriously, that dude is completely lackadisabical. He lets his service dog crap all over the atrium lawns."

eunice gordon said...

I haven't had the same kind of problems and indeed I have only been 'disabled' for the last 8 months, but I do understand what you mean about being organized. A friend who had just recently recovered from a broken ankle came to visit a few weeks after I broke my leg. I had to smile because he didn't come out with the usual "oh you poor dear, that must hurt so much" comment. Instead he sympathised with me by saying "you have to be SOOO organized!" and I thought, boy did you get that one right!!
Eunice (in Milan)

bread & roses said...

I'm many months late here but... uh... I'll blame it on my planning skills. Yeah.

I am glad for your equilibrium that you can take pride in your ability to plan for your disability. I experience the need for more planning as yet another layer of discrimination. I mean, my husband didn't acquire super administrative skills as some kind of "compensation" for his loss of mobility. To the contrary- his MS is giving him cognitive impairments that make it even harder for him to have a successful outing. Wheelchair + short term memory loss + not being able to recover a train of thought after interruption = many failed trips. And then he had to go and marry me, scatter-brained as all get-out. When a venue says we have to call ahead to make arrangements, that feels like discrimination and segregation to me, just like when the only way to get in is to get the cashier's attention and go in the ramp at the loading dock by the dumpster. I'm glad we can get in, but there is a residue of resentment that we have to have special skills to do it- skills that we don't necessarily have.

Well, now to find something to be grateful about. I can still comment here, 8 months later! hooray!

Happy said...

I'm even later, bread and roses, and I highly doubt you'll see this comment - but I understand completely! I am constantly overwhelmed by all the paperwork I have to deal with at a time when I often feel like my head is stuffed with cotton. I hate it!