I went to Las Vegas… Again

As I’m writing this, it’s been about a week since I’ve come back from Las Vegas. I love Vegas. I was there for four exciting days. The days were filled with scorching heat, shopping, dining, and trying, unsuccessfully, my hand at gambling.

I booked the trip a few days prior to leaving for Italy. If you’re reading this blog for the first time you can read about some of the tours I went on here.

We flew with Westjet and stayed at Bellagio. Rather surprisingly, my wheelchair suffered no damage at all during either of the flights. I was getting used to going to baggage services after every flight. Things are looking up.

Continue reading

Wheelchair Accessibility in Rome

Whether or not you go on a guided tour, there is so much to do, see, and eat in Rome. If you use a wheelchair, like myself, then getting around Rome can present some challenges. In this post, I will discuss some obstacles you might meet throughout the city, different transportation methods, accessibility throughout the places I visited, and things I learned along the way. If you’d like to read about some of the accessible tours I went on in Italy, check out Part One here. Continue reading

Tours Made Accessible for Wheelchair Users with Rome and Italy – Part One

I knew that since I’ve been studying Ancient Rome for the last three years at university that I wanted to pack in as much as I could during my eighteen days in Italy, because it will probably be a while before I visit there again.

The majority of my stay was spent in Rome with day trips to Ancient Ostia, Tivoli, Pompeii and Florence. There is so much to do and see there that the eighteen days flew by much faster than I wanted. I booked nine tours with the company Rome and Italy, and even though I died from the heat and sometimes got a bit cranky, I loved every single one of them. Here’s a list of the tours I went on:

  • Roman Forum and Colosseum
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Villa of the Quintilii
  • Villa Adriana (in Tivoli, close to Rome)
  • Pompeii
  • Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
  • Appian Way (opted out of a tour guide for this one), and
  • Castel Sant’Angelo

Continue reading

Hotel Artemide – A Wheelchair Accessible Hotel in Rome

Let me start by saying this hotel is just fantastic. I was a little worried at first that I might encounter some physical barriers when I reached the hotel, but that wasn’t the case at all; everything was nearly perfect. I stayed at Hotel Artemide for seventeen nights; a long stay, but well worth it. The hotel is in a great location on Via Nazionale and is in within walking/rolling distance of a lot of big attractions. Nearby is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baths of Diocletian, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the National Roman Museum (Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme), the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, and lots of shops and restaurants.

I’ll begin by describing the wheelchair accessible facilities of this hotel; starting with the entrance, the elevators, the rooftop restaurant: Ambrosia, the room itself, and the welcoming staff. There is a spa in the hotel, but because I didn’t use it I am not sure if it is accessible.

The Entrance

When I was searching for pictures of the front entrance of the hotel it looked as if the street and entrance blended into each other seamlessly; however, when I reached the hotel I noticed that there was a small lip, maybe about an inch or so high.

image

My wheelchair managed to climb it easily enough, once I had the front wheels on, I just slightly reversed and accelerated a little and I was in business.

image

Elevators

Many elevators that I encountered in Italy are on the smaller side compared to Canada; and that also is true for this hotel. However, my chair did fit in both of their elevators. They have a third elevator, but that one is probably an original from the time when the hotel was built in the late 19th century. It is still in good working order, and is pretty neat, but is far too narrow for the width of my chair.

First, so you can determine if your wheelchair will fit, I’ll give you the measurements of my wheelchair. The width from the back wheels is 25.5 inches. My tray and driving stick protrude out a bit farther than the wheels, increasing the width to 29.5 inches. The length, including the foot rests is 43 inches.

My wheelchair did fit in the door of the main elevator, but with little room to spare.

image
The inside of the elevator is slightly larger and once I was in two of my friends could squeeze in, but it was close quarters.

The other elevator leads up to their rooftop restaurant, Ambrosia. That elevator is the same in width, but a bit shorter in length. I had about 1 inch to spare. If your wheelchair is longer and you really want to go check out Ambrosia you could always, if possible, take off your foot plates and that will give you an extra couple inches. It is really nice up there.

IMG_0596

And so is the view.

IMG_0607

There is a large step to gain access to the rooftop patio of Ambrosia, but when we asked if they had a ramp of some sort, they were quick to find it and lay it out for me. It remained there for the duration of my stay, which was nice.

IMG_0599

The Wheelchair Accessible Room

When I made the booking I requested a room with a roll-in shower and Hotel Artemide delivered. I also made some unusual requests of them. One was that if I could bring in a rented hospital bed (from www.specialneedsitalia.com) because I was worried that the legs of the lift that I also rented (from www.romeanditaly.com) would not pass through under the bed. Lots of hotel beds have a solid base which makes this impossible, unless they can rig the bed up on some strong support blocks made of wood or something, but that almost seems more complicated. The lift came with a sling, but I brought my own and used it in the room and used theirs for the tours.

Once we arrived at the hotel after the delay at the airport (Wheelchair Accessibility at Fiumicino Airport in Rome) we had to wait a short while for the room to finish being set up, but as soon as it was, everything was perfectly arranged. The hospital bed was there, fitted with the hotels bedding, the lift was parked by the bed, and the shower chair was ready to go in the bathroom. In order to get the bed to fit, the staff removed one of their beds and replaced it with the rented one.

IMG_2213

The sink was plenty high enough for me to drive under.

IMG_2205

IMG_2207

The room has a second bathroom featuring a bathtub, which is good for the person that you’ll be sharing your room with.

IMG_2216

 

The room was large enough for me to move around comfortably without worrying about bumping into furniture. I had no trouble passing through the door of the room because it is a couple inches wider than that of the elevator.

The Hotel Staff

All of the staff at this hotel are excellent and they will do their best to make your stay perfect. On your behalf they can book tours, arrange transportation, and probably more if you ask.

Breakfast is complimentary and they have a large selection of yummy food to choose from. They even gave me a delicious fruit cake on my birthday.

IMG_1852

I really loved staying here, especially after a hot day of touring around. It was nice to come back and relax for a little while and then go exploring again.

Stick around for my next post about all the tours I went on with the company Rome and Italy.

Wheelchair Accessibility at Fiumicino Airport in Rome

I’ve always wondered, if it happened, how I would get off one of those planes that doesn’t line up next to the bridge of the airport and only has stairs leading down to the Tarmac. Landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, I found out how it was done. I’m not sure exactly what it’s called, but there was this large box-like vehicle that drove right up to the plane and the airport staff wheeled me into it using one of their narrow aisle wheelchairs, transferred me to my wheelchair, and then it drove a short distance, lowered to the ground, and I was immediately ushered into an accessible van, and led to the airport’s entrance.

I flew with Air Canada and I should note that they did not use a slider sheet or a lift to transfer me from the airplane seat to the narrower chair that fits through the aisles, but instead one person lifted me under the arms and the other under the legs, which is always a bit awkward but it works.

The staff at Fiumicino, part of the ADR Assistance team, are really great. When I arrived in Rome, two people helped me from the point of getting off the plane up to finding my waiting ride, at no extra cost. Upon leaving Rome, ADR staff helped me again from check-in to boarding the plane.

While I was in that box-like vehicle (if you know what it’s called, let me know) I noticed that one of my foot pedals had become bent out of shape; at first, I thought it could be righted with a little effort, but no, it was really twisted. I should have taken them off and brought them aboard with me like I was thinking, but in the end I thought, no, they’re really sturdy, they’ll be fine. I’ve learned my lesson. Nothing else at the time was damaged because I lowered the armrests to their base, removed the driving stick and tilt switch, and seat cushion. One broken foot pedal was an inconvenience, but not the worst thing that could have happened.

Once we were inside the airport, the two ADR staff showed me and my travelling companions where to get our luggage and then led us to baggage services where I made a claim for the damage on my chair which took about an hour. Later, I was put in contact with a company called Scoot Around who then tried to find another company to repair the damages, but unfortunately, they could not find a company in Italy that deals with Quickie wheelchairs. So, I relied on the one good foot pedal for the duration of my trip.

On the return flight, I had to go to baggage services again because a bit more damage was done to my chair. I don’t get too nonplussed about these things because after flying enough times my expectations are rather low with regards to how my chair will be handled (it is very heavy, so there’s that) and in my experience, most airlines are prepared to pay for any damage and will try to send someone to fix it during your holiday if they can.

That about sums up my experiences at the airport this time around. My next post will discuss the awesome hotel that I stayed at in Rome.

How I planned my wheelchair accessible trip to Italy

Fairly soon, I’ll be making my way to Italy, my first trip overseas, and I am beyond excited. It took an immense amount of planning; I preferred to do all the research on my own and did not use a travel agent for any part of the trip. I did consider using one, but I felt more comfortable knowing that I would have direct contact with the people offering me their services and that I would be aware of every detail in case one of my needs was over-looked. You could consult a travel agent if you wanted to, but there are not that many that are specialized for disabled (I don’t like that word) travellers. Sage Traveling might be an option though; they deal with accessible travel in Europe. It’s your choice.

I began planning my trip halfway through Reading Week, when I should have been doing just that, reading and completing assignments, but procrastination was at work again. I recommend planning your overseas trip at least nine months to a year ahead, especially if you anticipate going during a busy season. That’s what I should have done; it would have saved me some trouble.

The search for the perfect hotel

The first task I set myself was finding a wheelchair accessible hotel in Rome; headquarters for the duration of my stay. I started by Googling “Rome wheelchair accessible hotel” (very scientific), and once I had a comprehensive list of those that might be, I began calling them. I soon found out though that since I do not speak Italian that they all preferred to handle any inquiries by email. So then I began emailing them to find out 1) if they did indeed have wheelchair accessible rooms and that the rest of the hotel was accessible as well; and 2) if they had availability for the dates I wanted. The good thing about the email process was that their answers were very prompt; however, some hotels had rooms that were accessible, but there were steps at the entrance of the hotel; or it was fully accessible, but they didn’t have the availability I wanted. On the fourth day of calling and sending emails I finally had some luck; I won’t name the hotel until after my trip, but they had the right availability with accessible facilities, including a roll-in shower.

Something to watch out for when booking your trip to Italy is to inquire if the hotel has an elevator and what are its dimensions. Some elevators can be quite narrow and might not fit a wider chair.

Another reason it took some time to make a reservation at the right hotel was because I needed to find out if there was enough clearance under the bed for the legs of a lift to pass through. Many hotel beds have a solid base that doesn’t allow for this. So then after looking at lots of pictures of hotel rooms online and talking/emailing hotel staff and finding out that the base was generally solid, I began to ask the same hotels and more if I could bring a hospital bed that I would rent from a local company; the response was at first hesitation, and then a firm no. That is, thankfully, until I found someone in the right mood at the right time who was more than willing to accommodate my needs.

Medical equipment

After making a reservation at a hotel, the next step was to find a hospital bed to rent. That was easy enough and only took a simple search on Google. Here are two that I contacted:
www.vincal.it
The entire website is written in Italian, but on their contact (contatti) page there’s a list of email addresses to choose from. They rent hospital beds and other equipment.

www.specialneedsitalia.com
Their website is in English and I ended up renting one piece of equipment from them. I’ll let you know how it went after my trip.

http://www.romeanditaly.com
This company does everything and they seem really great. In addition to renting from Special Needs Italia, I also rented some medical equipment from Rome and Italy; they have both manual and power wheelchairs, scooters, shower chairs, and lifts available for rent. They have a variety of accessible accommodation available, though, as I haven’t used any of the accommodation myself I can’t say much about it, except ask them a question on their contact page. They offer a slew of accessible tours; and with their Wheely Trekky, which is a unique sort of wheelchair that is adapted for sites that would otherwise be inaccessible for wheelchair users; if you choose to use the Wheely Trekky there will be two assistants there included with the cost of using it, who will help push you around. They can bring a lift to transfer you if you need one. They have tour guides available for each place you might want to visit, but you can opt out of a guide for some places if you want. I’ll have a tour guide for most places, but I chose not to have one for the Borghese Museum, Appian Way, and Trajan’s Markets. It can be pricey, but they do offer accessible transportation for tours and to and from the airport, and probably other places if you ask.
I’ve booked many upcoming tours and tickets with this company including visits to the Colosseum, Ancient Ostia, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, Baths of Caracalla, Pompeii, and a few more. Like I said, they are a very friendly and accommodating company; and I expect that I’ll have some fantastic experiences. #notsponsored #iwish

Adapters and Transformers
I am not an expert on the technical side of things, but I do know that the electricity runs differently in Italy. I believe their sockets have three holes in a row. With that in mind, I bought a few of the appropriate adapters. You can buy them from almost any electronic store. I bought some from the Source and some from Amazon. I also needed to buy a transformer to use when charging my wheelchair. It’s called a Power Bright Voltage Transformer 1000W. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/aw/d/B000MX564U/ref=mp_s_a_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1466895856&sr=8-9&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=power+bright+voltage+transformer
It might have been on sale when I bought it because the price has now doubled. Here’s a link that helped me figure out what I needed: http://www.miusa.org/resource/tipsheet/electricityconversion

I think that just about covers everything. I’ll let you know how everything went when I get back.

Bye for now!