Around a fortnight ago I was lucky enough to be invited by Center Parcs to review their accessibility features. Having been there when I was 8 years old, I was interested how it had changed and how it would pan out as a disabled adult.
I was first struck by the organisation and awareness towards disability. When emailing about the arrangements I was directed straight to the access statement and talked through the adapted lodges. Those who practice and understand the 'social model' will appreciate the importance of inclusive policies from an organisation.
Kasia and I arrived in a courtesy car due to my car breaking down. Fortunately the vehicle was bigger, and bringing the hoist and shower chair was a breeze. The sudden immersion of trees and forestry was a real breath of fresh air. It had been quite a week.
The stunning lodge had two bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and three adapted bathrooms. There was even an electric bed for me! As we were tired we ordered a take away and sank a bottle of wine indoors. A perfect start.
On the second day we were booked in for a spa treatment and experience. I'd used the steam rooms and saunas back in the day of being lifted everywhere. I was a bit worried about managing now, plus I felt a bit of a tart even going near a spa treatment.
The treatment was fantastic. I stayed in my wheelchair, but reclined it backwards. The facial and scalp massage honestly sent me to another dimension. Pure ecstasy. Then after a bite to eat I headed for the spa experience.
Planning ahead I had my swimming shorts on already under my trousers. Going in the spa rooms in an electric wheelchair wasn't advisable. Luckily the staff were very helpful and lifted me onto the shower chair on wheels used for lowering people into the hydrotherapy pool. This meant I could be rolled into all the rooms and the pool. The heat was an amazing change from our winters cold. My feet were warm for the first time in ages. The pool was slightly embarrassing as the public stared as I was lowered in. The universe intervened and blasted a hardcore starer in the face with a jet of water. Jokes aside it was nice to swim again.
Unfortunately there wasn't a disabled changing area. Thinking quickly we were offered a treatment room. Without my hoist I still couldn't dry or dress properly. So I just covered my necessary parts and we rode back quickly to the lodge.
That evening my mum and step dad joined us for a lovely meal at the Forresters Inn. Then on the third day my siblings and nieces joined for a day trip of swimming and catching up. The main pool was far more equipped for disability facilities but I passed on the tropical paradise pool. On the fourth and final day I recorded the above video and headed home.
Overall Center Parcs was very geared up, prepared and open for disabled people. My experience and activities didn't even touch the full list of sports, shopping and swimming fun to be had. Therefore if you plan on visiting please research your wish list and do get in touch with them on any specific questions.
Of course, there are some things which we cannot do or that could be improved. I have fed my thoughts back and so should you. Please also remember that many activities cost extra. Therefore make sure you save up and budget for your deserved getaway.
You can find more information on Center Parcs website.