Sadly, while there are plenty of wheelchair-friendly accommodation options, and facilities for those hard of sight or hearing, the staycation options for those with additional accessibility needs are still limited. Looking at the map of Changing Places facilities, for instance, there is a distinct lack of provision as you head up the west coast and on to the Western Isles.
Callander Youth Project has provided holiday accommodation in the heart of Scotland since we purchased the old Bridgend Hotel in Callander in 2012. Over the years, we have used the 18-bed venue and function room as an opportunity to provide hospitality training and valuable work experience for local young people, opening the door to future employment in the sector.
Building on the existing accommodation, we also opened four luxury glamping pods last summer which, perhaps most importantly, includes a fully accessible unit offering uninterrupted views of Ben Ledi. It comes complete with a ‘Y’ shaped hoist, and changing places-style bathroom, including a wet and dry toilet, height-adjustable sink, safe sleeping space and other amenities that we know can make a real difference to people coming to stay. Our aim was to try and deliver a ‘home away from home’ to give families the opportunity to relax and unwind, without worrying about whether the accommodation facilities will meet their needs.
As with everything we do, the pod has also provided a new learning opportunity and has taught our young people about some of the extra things they might need to consider for guests with accessibility needs.
The eco-friendly pod has fast become our pride and joy. There is nothing better than receiving positive feedback from families who haven’t been able to go on holiday before. One family told us that it was the first time their child had been able to wash his own hands and spent the entire weekend playing in the height-adjustable sink, doing something so simple that we all take for granted.
It has also been a steep learning curve, however, and we were grateful to have an existing relationship with the local Boccia team – a ball game similar to boules popular with wheelchair users – who were using our function room for training and could help us map out the layout and offer guidance on what to include. It was a first for both the building company and bathroom and kitchen fitter, which hopefully means they will be able to undertake similar projects in the future.
Naturally, the development of the pod involved significant time and investment. With support from Social Investment Scotland, who provided a £144,000 loan to help with the project, we have been able to keep the rental costs as low as possible for families who visit.
So far, we have been inundated with bookings, and it makes us wonder why there aren’t more accessible places to stay and experience Scotland’s great outdoors. It might be that people don’t know where to begin, or they don’t have the necessary funding, but we hope that our glamping pod will show others in the industry what’s possible and improve access for disabled people and their families to experience the very many benefits of holidaying in Scotland.
Patricia Kent, manager of Callander Youth Project