September, 2010


30
Sep 10

Byron Bay Rainforest Resort

Byron Bay Rainforest Resort – originally known as ‘The Wheel Resort’ – is somewhere I had long wanted to stay, but never had the opportunity. At last, a driving holiday to Queensland, to experience the ‘Worlds’ on the Gold Coast, provided that opportunity. We stayed 10 days, and enjoyed our visit immensely.

There are nine self-contained cottages set in the seclusion of 35 acres of remnant coastal rainforest, 3km from Byron Bay and only 300 metres from the ocean. Three are one-bedroom cottages and six are studios. We stayed in two different one-bedrooms and one studio. The one-bedroom cottages are certainly my preference. The extra space, and being able to put all of our gear somewhere out of the way made a big difference.

Interestingly, the cabins are all different, with quite different standards of access, though all have wide doorways, no steps, handrails in the bathroom and several cottages have lowered kitchen benches.

Owner and host, Murray Carter, tells me that the cottages were built over a period of time and some have been renovated since, which explains the variation. Murray is happy to discuss a guest’s specific needs and locate them in the best cottage for them if possible. My vote would go to cottage 8 as the most accessible, and I would ask for it again when next we return.

Cottage 8 has well positioned rails for both the shower and toilet. The shower head can be set high or low, which is a great idea. I was able to transfer to the toilet, back to my chair and onto the shower chair unassisted, which is a big achievement. The kitchen faces the same design challenges of every accessible kitchen (storage v bench usability) but in my view gets it right. And while the benches are high, because you can wheel under them, they can be used to cook or wash up. The floor is cork which is great when I drop things – they bounce rather than break!

I found cottage 2 the least accessible of the three we stayed in. In the bathroom, the rails were too short and the sink too high to use. The mirror was also too high for shaving. The shower can only be set at one height (too high) or hand held. We also stayed in cottage 6, which was in between in terms of access. My advice is to book early and talk to Murray before you arrive to ensure you get the cottage most suited to your needs.

One word of warning. The water in the bathrooms is HOT. Start with the cold and add some hot water, not the other way around.

The whole place has a very relaxed tone. Well behaved dogs are welcome. All the staff were friendly and very helpful – especially Murray who has owned the resort since 1995. We found him to be always around and very attentive, but he seems to implicitly understand some guests like to spend time alone. When we arrived (quite late at night) we expected to find everything shut up for the night, and a key left for us. Amazingly, he was there waiting, and helped us with our luggage and to get settled – a huge bonus. When we needed to move cabins, he moved all of our gear – without us even asking.

The grounds have excellent, smooth, clear paths leading between cabins, and decent dirt tracks to the beach and deep into the bush. Though a relatively busy road is nearby, the place is very quiet – sheltered by large stands of native trees. The resort property consists mainly of wetlands with extensive stands of large Melaleucas, stands of Bottlebrush, Banksias and littoral rainforest. There’s also a variety of birdlife.

The swimming pool is a special feature; a lovely 20m pool with gentle ramp and a sturdy rail. This is the first time I’ve seen a resort pool with such an entry. To me, hoists just add indignity to entering a pool. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never used a hoist in a calm, relaxed fashion. It’s a physical process. If more pools had ramps, I’m sure I’d swim more often. Unfortunately, the days we spent in Byron coincided with the coldest weather SE Australia has had in years. Pools in Byron Bay don’t normally need heating (and this one isn’t heated), but during our 10 day stay, I wish it had been.

There’s also a pleasant and very warm spa, which has a hoist. The Cabana, attached to the pool, is a good place to relax, play pool or cards, read a book, cook a group meal, or sit by the fire in winter. I could imagine if you were travelling with a group and occupying several cottages, this would be an excellent meeting point.

Next door to the resort (a short wheel along a pleasant bush track) there is an excellent little shop/grocer where you can buy general supplies, a few delicacies and fresh fruit and veggies. If it sold good coffee, it would be perfect! The nearest coffee is in Byron – a drive.

There are shared free laundry facilities and free WiFi.

Murray is careful not to raise expectations that his resort is any kind of haven for people with disabilities. He knows well that everyone’s needs are different. And of course there are things I would change about each cottage we stayed in. But overall, Byron Bay Rainforest Resort is a wonderfully peaceful and very accessible retreat where you can relax and revitalize. We found it hard to leave!


30
Sep 10

Wheelchair access to new Waratah trains in NSW

There’s some controversy today over the boarding procedures for the new Waratah trains, to be delivered to RailCorp in NSW starting in late 2010.

Wheelchair-users will have to flash cards to board trains

  • Wheelchair-users forced to wave cards
  • They will have to wait at end of platforms
  • Move slammed as “embarrassing”

A RAIL operator wants commuters in wheelchairs to wave a “high-visibility” card to warn train guards they need a boarding ramp.

Disability groups are outraged that wheelchair-bound passengers in Sydney will now have to wait towards the end of the train platform – without shelter or safety lighting – in a so-called BAZ area (boarding assistant zone).

Read the full news.com.au article here.

I note that much of the criticism stems from the proposal for ‘wheelchair bound’ passengers to carry a flag or card to alert station staff or guards to their need to board. Personally, I’m not overly bothered by that. Because I don’t speak, I already carry a series of tags around my neck, stating where I want to go and what train I want to catch. Another (and one that is universally recognised by staff) is no big deal for me.

However… I also see that the new Waratah trains will have the guard in the rear cabin of the train. To me, that seems a major error. Currently, at most stations, wheelchair users are assisted to board by the station staff, not the guard. You need to go to the platform office and bang on the door to get attention and they bring out the ramp. Most platform offices are located (sensibly) in the middle of the platform. And guards are located in the middle cabin. That makes it a very short wheel from the office to the train. But now, we will have to alert the staff, and then push our way back down the full length of the platform to the guard’s cabin. On a busy platform, with many people rushing to board, this is going to be slow, hazardous and impractical.

I suspect what will happen is that wheelchair users will be asked to wait for the next train if times are tight or we will continue boarding in the middle carriage, far distant from the guard. Neither is a good option. Being distant from the guard increases the chance of being left on the train when your stop comes, and if you are not near the guard’s cabin, it’s very hard to alert them to the problem. Security too, is better near the guard’s cabin.

The end of 2010 is fast approaching. This needs some quick attention.


6
Sep 10

There’s life after driving

Today marks four years since I stopped driving. It’s something that happens to everyone, eventually. In my case, the time came sooner than I would have liked, but later than it should have.

Because my condition progressed quite slowly, driving was initially no problem. But as my legs became less useful, driving became harder. When my voice started failing, I wondered how I would deal with the police, if I was ever pulled over. Or how I would deal with an accident, even if it wasn’t my fault. But I kept driving.

I realised I had started driving more and more slowly, hugging the left lane, and resting my foot on the brake pedal in preparation for any red lights. But I was still driving.

My GP recommended a driving assessment, which I undertook, and passed, scoring 7 out of 10 – not bad for a guy who couldn’t use his legs. And I kept driving.

One evening, on the way home from work in the half light of dusk, I saw in my peripheral vision a child – no older than two – dash out of a street-side shop, between two parked cars and onto the road in front of me. Her desperate father was no more than a metre behind; stooped low and running, his arms outstretched as he willed her to stop. I froze. I didn’t swerve or touch the brakes. I expected an impact but it didn’t come. How I missed her I’ll never really know. I saw in my mirror that the car behind me swerved and braked violently. I assume she hadn’t quite reached my path and that saved her.

I pulled over, shaking uncontrollably. After about 40 minutes I had regained enough composure to drive slowly home. Amazingly, inexplicably, I kept driving.

Perhaps a week later I was listening to ABC morning radio and one caller was former NSW Children’s Court magistrate Barbara Holborow. She explained that she had given up driving as she no longer felt she was safe. She reasoned that while she probably could have retained her license for a bit longer, she could never have lived with herself if she had killed or injured someone, and that the modest inconvenience was a small price to pay for peace of mind.

When I arrived home that evening, perhaps my wife could see something had changed. As she helped me from the car, she asked ‘how much longer do you want to keep doing this?’ I answered ‘No more. That’s enough’ and that was the last day I drove.

I developed a relationship with a couple of taxi drivers who drove a premium wheelchair accessible taxi. They arranged that I could SMS my bookings to them, and offered a brilliant service. After a visit to my GP, The NSW State Government provided me with vouchers under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme, a wonderful program that provides people with permanent disabilities with half price taxi fares. My employer generously offered to pay the remainder of my travel to work.

Later, after I moved to a powerchair, I learned to catch the train, and now use this method of public transport whenever I can. I know the trains are a pain for some, but for me, they’re brilliant. The station staff at my regular stations now know me and call ahead to the platform to make sure the train dwells long enough for me to get on.

Of course, there are things you miss when you don’t drive. I used to love long drives on country roads. And the convenience of course. The burden, also, on my wife, who is now our family’s only driver, is significant.

One thing that amazed me, after I stopped driving, was how many people — friends, family, work colleagues, even my doctors — said to me how much of a relief it was to them that I had stopped. They had been desperately worried whenever I ventured out. Why didn’t anyone say anything? Maybe they all figured it was for someone else to do. Or feared my reaction. Or perhaps they felt I was sensible enough to know when the time was right. Well, I wasn’t. I’m honestly not sure what I would have done if someone had sat me down and said it was time to stop, but I sincerely hope I’d have listened. I now know, if I knew someone in my situation, or even an elderly relative or friend I was concerned about, I’d certainly say something.

I’ve learnt there is life after driving.


6
Sep 10

My life as a nursing skills video

When you’re in a foreign city, and away from your own customised home, it’s almost inevitable you surrender a bit of independence. Doubly so if you need to engage an agency nurse to help out with the essentials of life.

On this trip, the hotel was superb (more on this later) so I really only needed the nurse to help with dressing and getting in and out of bed. But that’s an almost impossible ask for a nurse trained to look after sick people. No matter how I tried to explain that I could clean my teeth or squirt my shaving cream without assistance, it fell on deaf ears. She was here to help, and help she would. No matter what I wanted.

I should have guessed what was to come when, on the first night, the nurse arrived with a bag of tricks that included plastic sheets and a bed pan. Everything had a procedure – from drying between my toes with a hair dryer, to the method of putting her rubber gloves on before I was showered. My muscles, especially in the mornings, move slowly, so when I was instructed to move – ‘stand please’, ‘sit please’, roll to the left please’, ‘lean forward please’ I often didn’t react sufficiently quickly and the instruction was repeated, slightly more loudly this time. I was greeted each morning with the question ‘did you have a bowel movement yesterday?’ Each time this question was asked, I simply shook my head in wonderment, and ignored the question. This proved to be a poor choice of actions. On the last day, my nurse arrived with laxatives!

Now, I don’t mean to belittle all of her assistance – some of it was essential. And all was provided professionally and I’m sure highly skilfully. I’m just genuinely puzzled about how to get the level of assistance you need – somewhere between going it alone and feeling like you are in intensive care.  It can make the difference between a pleasant trip, and checking your dignity in at reception.


Seo PackagesBlog Comment ServicesGov Backlinks