This time around we chose to fly out of Ottawa for the second time this year. Last March we travelled with Westjet but this time with Air Canada. I prefer Ottawa over Toronto hands down but the options out of Ottawa do not work for us most of the time. By that I mean the airplanes used are often small aircraft that does not accommodate large power chairs and/or not direct flights.
Last time we flew out of Ottawa and I parked at the airport I was able to leave a photocopy of the handicap parking permit in our vehicle and a copy at the parking office. This time I was told by the parking office that I had to leave the original permit or else I would be ticketed for leaving our vehicle there. I tried to explain we need to take the original so that we could use it in BC on our wheelchair accessible rental van. The person I dealt with was not helpful at all and told me I could leave it and then fight the ticket from the city. Ridiculous. I put the original permit back in the van because I was not about to deal with a ticket upon my return. I spoke to a city parking commissioner that was standing out front of the airport and asked her what someone was suppose to do in this situation. She told me that it was her understanding that I could leave a photocopy of the permit with a copy of our flight itinerary on the dash and we should not get a ticket that way. I don’t understand why this was such a hassle this trip. I am going to follow up with the city upon my return to find out what the actual procedure is. Surely we are not the only people to leave out of the airport with this situation.
Something new that we are trying this trip is bringing Shawn’s own commode. Everytime we have travelled we have rented one and it gets to become very costly. Not only do you pay the rental charge but also a pickup and delivery charge unless you are cruising and not spending any overnights at a hotel before and/or after your cruise. I did a ton of research about what would be the best commode to travel with. Since Shawn is 100% dependant on a commode for personal care we need something sturdy and on wheels. There are many options of portable travel commodes out there and we even have owned one in the past but they are just not sturdy for someone of Shawn’s size (225 pounds). So after trying about various options we decided to purchase an Invacare Ocean to take with us on trips. The commode breaks down into several pieces to pack in your luggage easily. It worked out great because it was all Allen keys to put together.
Upon arrival we made our way to the taxi stand since it is the law in the city that every minivan taxi has to be wheelchair accessible. The max passengers in any of these vans is 4 people plus the wheelchair user. Since we were 6 we had to get 2 separate taxis. It was not a long wait for the taxis and then we made our way to our hotel.
I booked the hotel for its location to downtown, Sky train and price. We booked a wheelchair accessible king bed room.
Pretty disappointed in the room as the roll-in shower was very narrow and the arm rest of the commode was right up again the towel bar. It was not an overly spacious room and there was a long narrow hallway from the door to the bedroom. Our view was awful and I was tempted to change hotels but this hotel I chose for affordablity and location. When you are a big family and travelling with a caregiver you have to be money conscience.
Day 1 – Granville Island. There was a nice walking path close from hotel to the area. It was a bit downhill at first to get to the walking path but very accessible. The steep hill would be tough for manual chair users but no problem for power chair users. We decided to check out the Canada Day celebrations at Granville Island but not for long because it was too crowded. We then took a taxi from Granville Island to Kitsilano Beach. The beach has a paved boardwalk and we ate at The Boardwalk Restaurant, which has an elevator to the second level and a great view.
Day 2 – Next stop on our vacation was Stanley Park horse rides. I had gone online prior and found out that the Companion fare was complimentary. The horse ride was great and Shawn was able to sit right up front with driver. The tour was about an hour and half. After the horse ride we walked about 20-25 minutes to English Bay and down to Second beach. There were paved walking paths. Second beach has a grassy area and plenty of shade. Accessible bathrooms companion ones that are separate. At night we decided to book a Harbour Boat Cruise after receiving confirmation that it would be accessible. I made sure to Ask for companion fare and we got a discount. It never hurts to ask when bringing along a support worker. I also asked to be reserved at a table on the main floor by the window. Bathrooms on the boat are tight but are accessible, there are no companion bathrooms. The dinner buffet was served on the second floor so the staff was more than happy to get a plate for Shawn if we needed them to. Overall the staff were very accommodating. The ramp getting on and off the boat was an issue but we asked for a ramp upon departure and they did have one so not sure why it was not there to begin with when we went on.
Day 3 – From the hotel we took a taxi to Olympic Village to walk around and have brunch at a nice restaurant on the water. It was a great spot to sit and relax and read or just hang out with friends. We took the accessible aquabus to Granville Island. Not all the aqua buses are accessible but just let one of the staff know you need one and they will make sure one comes quickly. We waited no more than 10 minutes. The nice thing was that because of the wheelchair they skipped all the in between stops and took us directly to Granville Island. Granville Island was still busy with crowds but not near as bad as Canada Day. We attempted the public market but we left quickly. It was extremely crowded with narrow aisles and just difficult for Shawn to drive his chair. We headed over to the Granville Island brewery tasting bar and tried several local beers instead.
Day 4 – This day we decided we wanted to walk around Gastown. Gastown has many shops and restaurants and for the most part they were accessible. We didn’t spend a lot of time here but there were walking tours that are available to book if you want to go on a ghost walk or historic tour. We headed back to Granville Island for some fresh seafood at Sandbar for dinner. The restaurant has an elevator so the patio is accessible and has a nice waterside view
Day 5 – Since we were renting an accessible van for our trip to the Okanagan I had to get a drive about 30 minutes outside the city to pick up the van. Luckily I had family to drive me since the van rental place says they deliver but apparently not when I was travelling. I sent Shawn and the kids to Science World. I was bummed I couldn’t go but time wise it just wasn’t feasible. Shawn found Science World a really interesting place and very accessible. That night we visited an Organic Japanese Restaurant that was close to hotel and it was delicious!
Day 6. – Since I had picked up the rental wheelchair van the day prior we woke up early and drove to Penticton in the Okanagan Valley. I had booked this Pentiction hotel because on their website they had a accessible roll-in shower room. However, as we have discovered time and time again the accessible room is not completely accessible. There was a lip into the shower so we were not able to roll the commode in but had to lift it in to the shower. The room also had a balcony that was completely inaccessible. Otherwise the hotel was a decent place with lots of paths around the grounds. We only went to the beachfront once since the weather was not great but there was lots of wheelchair access and accessible parking. The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting all the wineries and breweries. We found all the ones we visited accessible and very accommodating. Some wineries even had lower counters for wheelchair users.
Overall we had a great time in BC. Even though we took taxis a lot (for convenience) the sky train was very accessible. To visit Penticton you would need to have a rental as we could not find any options to get there otherwise.