A few months after I started using oxygen, Phil and I booked a holiday to Sussex. We found a cute cottage through a local rental company, and paid in full. However a month before the trip, after I’d emailed the owner to discuss timings for my oxygen delivery, we found ourselves embroiled in a debate about whether I could bring O2 with me. Despite doing our utmost to reassure the owner that my concentrator was safe, my canisters wouldn’t cause damage, my equipment would easily fit in. Despite arguing that it was unlawful to charge me extra, restrict the quantity of my canisters, demand I agree in writing to pay for any potential damage. Despite repeatedly mentioning the disability discrimination act… eventually the rental company asked us to cancel the booking. I wasn’t welcome with oxygen. And more shockingly, through a leaked email, I discovered that the owner had requested a change to the wording on his advertisement, to prevent “infirm” people from hiring it in future. 😦
I was stunned, aghast, appalled. And deeply saddened by the incident. It was my first experience of disability discrimination and it hurt. He wasn’t seeing me as me -Sarah, who loves chips and dogs and board games- no, all he could see was my oxygen. He was ignoring my good potential renter qualities -tidy and clean and organised- no, all he could see was my oxygen. In one swift swoop he’d erased my identity: I was just my medical condition, my mobility scooter… and my O2 canisters. It was all so wrong. So bloody wrong. I just wanted the same rights to stay at the cottage as everyone else. Equality. The law states that he cannot refuse to let me access his service, and in fact should do his best to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that I can do so. Phil and I debated who to report him to, which tourist ombudsman to tell, which MP to contact. But it was confusing; there was no simple and straight-forward course of action. In the end we let it go. At that stage we didn’t have the fight to take the battle any further. We chalked it up to experience.As a consequence of that incident, I now (nervously) mention my disability and additional needs at the time of booking anything. I hate having specific requirements that necessitate adaptations or extra help. I dislike being a pain, causing extra work, being demanding. I don’t want to be treated differently. But the truth is, as I have Pulmonary Hypertension, I can’t access and experience many places without a few “reasonable adjustments”. So I swallow my pride and request the soft chair with arms in the restaurant, and the downstairs bedroom in the hotel. I ask to be shown the route that bypasses steps to the bar, and the shortcut to the car park. I politely plead for my oxygen to be delivered before my arrival, and for a table to be reserved in the smoke-free dining room. And amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully I’ve only ever been shown kindness and smiles and helpfulness in response. People are inherently good and want to assist. 🙂 Last week we experienced the cream of the crop. Extraordinary customer service at a wonderful hotel. They not only provided a solution to a difficult situation, but went out of their way to make my world better.We’d long ago penciled a January date into our diaries, for a night away in a boutique hotel. A birthday treat from Phil’s lovely parents. Bang in the middle of our kitchen renovations, and during the darkest month; it would be well appreciated. After having such an amazing time at their sister hotel last year, we hoped to visit The Pig in the New Forest. But then during Autumn, my lungs became hyper-sensitive. Consequently, nowadays I have to avoid open fires and chimney smoke, as my lungs shrink. So I was apprehensive when I booked the hotel, as wasn’t sure if it was possible to avoid these reactors. The booking lady was wonderful and so understanding. Being January, there would indeed be roaring fireplaces dotted throughout. However she was determined to work out a way to for me to eat the restaurant food and enjoy the luxury surroundings without smoke. And she did just that. 🙂
We were upgraded. To their most expensive room! Actually it wasn’t a room… but a whole suite of rooms. As I couldn’t drink in the bar or eat in the restaurant due to their fires, thus would be confined to my room, they kindly offered us their biggest and best ‘room’ so it would still be a wonderful stay. It was awesome. Fantastic! We had our own amazing ‘Grand Designs’ wooden box in the hotel grounds. There was a living room and kitchen, a bedroom twice the size of my own, a large bathroom with heated floors, and a cosy snug. Glass panes ran the length of the hut, and overlooked our own private garden. And the interior (designed by famous designers who I’d obviously never heard of! 😛 ) was quirky and bold. Wooden walls, crazy zig zag tiles, beautiful fabrics. Antique vegetable prints, unusual glasses, cast iron lamps. An enormous bed, an enormous TV (60 inch!) and an enormous shower. Stylish chairs and puffs and couches were dotted in every room- obviously we sat in them all! And there were Pig cookies to welcome us!
The staff at The Pig were wonderful. As I was unable to eat in their restaurant, they brought dinner to our cabin. They even brought me a tasty ‘mocktail’ from the bar! And the next morning, breakfast was served on our dining table also. The Pig hotels are renowned for their delicious home-grown food, a key reason for our visit, so we were thrilled that they were able to work out a way for us to enjoy their restaurant offerings without the smoke, and in such fabulous surroundings. And yes, the meals lived up to their reputation- the porchetta was particularly delicious! 🙂
One little act of kindness can make a massive difference to another person’s world. I was nervous and slightly embarrassed about mentioning my smoke intolerance to ‘The Pig’, as knew that I needed adjustments to be able to stay. They could have taken the easy road and said no when I booked, citing that it was impossible to keep me from fires. But instead they offered to help, think outside the box, find a solution. By serving dinner and breakfast and drinks in our room, they made it possible for me to experience their restaurant food like everyone else. By upgrading us to the extravagant “Bert’s Box”, it more than made up for being unable to wander the hotel rooms. They made our trip amazing. Memorable. Those acts of kindness have made my year.I would rather be able to walk up the steps to a restaurant, sit on their hard backed chairs, eat in front of a fire. But I can’t. I’d rather not have to ask for help or adjustments or special treatment. But I have to. So when people show kindness and consideration, thoughtfulness and help. When people don’t just say no, but try to find a way around my problem… it makes a big difference to my world. It’s the difference between staying at home or going on holiday; watching TV or joining friends for a meal. Those little adaptions allow me to access the world like everyone else. Equality. And I’m incredibly thankful and grateful that there are so many good people in the world, who are happy to help.
And so many more good holiday cottage owners who happily let me bring my oxygen!