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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Autumn 2023

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Recognising our MSWA volunteers | Horst Bemmerl: Reaching new heights | MSWA Albany turns one! | Anne and Doug's travel adventures


OUR STORIES ANNE AND DOUG’S ADVENTURES: YOUR ACCESSIBILITY TRAVEL GUIDE Taking time out of your busy schedule to travel, explore new sights and unwind is an important experience everyone should have access to. For those in our community with mobility and other accessibility issues, the process of finding suitable accommodation can be much more daunting, in what should be a stress-free experience. Travelling is a passion for MSWA Client Doug Ward and his wife and carer Anne, who have made it their mission to get away as often as possible. In fact, it was while on holiday in Lancelin, staying with a friend who also happened to be a doctor, that Doug’s MS journey first began. “We were in the pub, as you do, we were walking back and I was dragging my right leg as though I had been injured,” Doug explained. “He (the doctor) said ‘so what are we going to do about this?” After being referred for an MRI of his lower back, then entire spine, Doug was sent to a neurologist. “We saw the neurologist and he said ‘welcome to the MS Club’,” Doug said. Years on, Doug is no longer receiving treatment for his progressive MS, as the medication he previously accessed is no longer available. “So we decided, ‘right, what we will do is get going while we can’,” Anne said. In their travels, they have uncovered some incredible, fully accessible stays which can accommodate Doug in his electric wheelchair and their traveling hoist. However, they have also come across providers who don’t quite hit the mark. “Sometimes ‘wheelchair accessible’ just means the ramp at the front door,” Anne said. “But my main tip is to ring. I don’t book online; I just ring the places and say ‘this is what I need’, because sometimes even with photos on the website, you are not quite sure. It’s a fair way to go to find out it is not going to work.” Doug and Anne’s recommended checklist: How wide are the doorways? Is the toilet located in the bathroom? How wide is the bathroom? Do you have a shower chair, and does it have a back? How high is the bed off the ground? (If you require a hoist) Are there ramps to enter the room? Are the other facilities in the accommodation (reception, restaurant, BBQ areas) wheelchair accessible? Anne said providing feedback was important to educate accommodation providers on what people living with mobility issues really need. “Just a few weeks ago, we had spoken to someone about taller beds and the owner came by later that day to let us know he already had it on order,” she said. “They took action very quickly because they want to be the ones with the best accommodation.” “Everyone has always been really, really good with feedback and there have been places we haven’t had to do it at all.” One such location is the Stirling Estate Chalets, owned and operated by Greg Norton. As “I just don’t do anything that is inaccessible, because I want to get access to it myself as well,” Greg said. “That was my purpose, then it was just a matter of getting down, getting dirty and building it.” Greg encouraged all accommodation providers to “think outside the box” and ensure the entire building is accessible, not just the room. “It’s also about getting into the reception, the restaurants, bar areas or recreation areas,” he said. “It always seems in a wheelchair you have to manoeuvre around the whole building to find the one door which will let you in.” Greg said it is all about making sure all people can be included. Doug Ward on holiday in Dongara. a wheelchair user, Greg has a Stirling Estate Chalets. “There is always someone with personal investment in making his some kind of disability in the family “Everyone can do everything – accommodation inclusive. unit. Here, the whole family can head to the playground, see the “I knew what I was doing when it came to building accommodation for people in wheelchairs.” come to this place and no one is at a loss to be able to access anything,” he said. animals around, they don’t have to feel left behind because they can’t get on the path.” Anne and Doug’s Top Five WA Stays (in no particular order) Friendship House Albany There are two units at Emu Point and the one at the back is specifically made for people with wheelchairs and mobility problems. It is unbelievable, it has an overhead hoist, hospital bed and a bathroom bigger than some shops! Brilliant. Nannup Tiger Cottages Nannup Really rustic property at the back of Nannup. We went in winter and had the best ‘stop’ time. We did some reading, driving around and the owner used to bring us big drums of fruit and vegetables and would come past to makes sure we had plenty of wood. Stirling Estate Chalets Stirling Estate (5 minutes from Capel) It is all off grid and it is the most beautiful place. Absolutely gorgeous. The chalets are big enough to sleep 10 people, but we just had the room we wanted. If you are in a wheelchair and wanted to have a celebration, there is heaps of room and a lovely outdoor area. Jurien Bay Tourist Park Jurien Bay BIG4 Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park It’s only two to three minutes to the coffee shop, Dongara the beach and the IGA, so very accessible. You We have done Dongara several times, could lock your car up and not use it all week. we love Dongara. 28 29