Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009

I must admit the past several days have been tough both from a physical standpoint as well as an emotional one. Last weekend on Saturday afternoon I slipped while transferring from one seat to another luckily it was a controlled fall I was able to control my decent and where I would land. Still it takes a lot out of you relying on a modified bath lift to raise me up to be capable of transferring is no easy task.

Sunday not having recovered completely I was coaxed into going to our godchild's birth day, apparently ramps were available and everything was set, how could I say no. Of course on our way there it began to rain accompanied by thunder and lightning a real doozy, the ramps may have worked in dry weather unfortunately they were totally inappropriate, there is no way in hell I could have made it up the wet slippery icline so I decided to stay in the Van. Luckily our visit was short my godchild came to see me to give me a hug which I appreciated very much. After apologizing profusely for something which was basically out of their control we returned stopping to buy a few things and eating at Harveys before eading home. Deep down I knew I should not have gone and I expected nothing less than what I received which was disappointment a sense of helplessness feelings I can definitely do without especially when I can avoid them. It's bad enough sitting in a restaurant while you're spouse spoon feeds you, talk about a feeling of uselessness.

Sunday evening I managed to fall again yet this time it was not a controlled fall I really don't remember a time when I fell as hard as I did. I was standing trying to wash myself with a washcloth and all of a sudden my legs gave out and I fell big-time, let me assure you there was absolutely no control over that fall.
Bruises on my back, my arm leg and head from having smashed into the wall guaranteed that I would spend the next day very quietly doing nothing. And that is what I did yesterday absolutely nothing just trying to recuperate.

I hate this disease with a passion I hate the way it robs you slowly yet surely eating away at whatever bodily functions you have remaining. In some way I guess I'm fortunate since my cognitive faculties have not been affected and my eyesight is for the most part in great shape. So I can see myself slip away and I can appreciate why it is happening now isn't that a comforting thought. Someday a cure will be found and everything will be nice and rosy. Yeah Right in the meantime I'll try to hang on as long as I can.

Along the way I get to listen to all these people who have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis who swear up and down that this disease will not get them and that they will overcome it! As if I didn't want to.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Speaking with one of my friends last weekend I realized that not everyone with a disability is aware of the following services/programs available to disabled individuals. Granted you have to register yet the time spent is definitely worthwhile. To visit the sites please copy and paste the links to your address bar. .

Access 2
Two programs exist which can save you money when you are going to see a movie or making travel plans. In the case of seeing a movie it's pretty simple, participating theaters allow you free access the person accompanying you is required to pay the regular rate. I believe the card costs $20 yet you recuperate the cost of the card on your second visit, definitely worthwhile.
PS: Clicking on any link will allow you to select french forms

Easter Seals "travel card"
Travel we've taken Canada's Via train service from Ottawa to Toronto return trip for two people at a ridiculous price again I believe the person with a disability travels free while the person accompanying the individual is required to pay the regular rate.
In addition our experience has in the past always resulted in being bumped to first class which includes meals, drinks etc.
Well worth it believe me if memory serves me correctly our trip to Toronto return was less than $100

As a person with a disability who utilizes these programs I would like to say thank you to all the organizations involved in making these available for us.
Thank you

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Throughout the years one of the many things I've come to accept from having progressive MS is to realize I must rely on others for many trivial tasks, it would be difficult for me to itemize all of them yet there are hundreds. One certainty it humbles you as becomming more and more dependent on others you cannot help but feel a sense of helplessness your pride well it initially takes quite a beating. A few years ago I would try and do everything by myself today if someone offers a helping hand I gladly accept and have no qualms about it however occasionally I tackle an obstacle which should be left for someone more capable yet I strive and strive to achieve my goal being very persistent rarely do I not accomplish what I set out to do however I end up suffering with the physical consequences of my actions.
Oddly enough I still feel a sense of pride even if the tasks are minimal in nature.

Yesterday was a great day my brother came over and took me out for lunch! We do not see each other that often, recently retired he lives in the Toronto area spending part of the winter in Florida, it was nice to get together.
We went out for some food at a new Thi restaurant walking distance from our condo. You would think that I could escape from MS for a few moments at least long enough to enjoy lunch however MS ensures that nothing is easy, even when you want MS to hide its ugly head simple things ensure that you never forget its presence. We arrive at the restaurant, someone is parked on the ramp which gives access to the sidewalk and entrance to the restaurant. No big deal my brother finds the owner in one of the stores who excuses herself and moves her vehicle. Granted proper signage would probably help in this situation, there is nothing to indicate the presence of a ramp.
Personally my thoughts are if you need a sign telling you not to park on a ramp you've left your brain bucket at home with your brain in it. Alone I would have had to wait until that person exited the store before listening to their apology in this instance I was lucky as I was not alone. Problem is we had not even entered the restaurant and already MS had shown its ugly head.

I ordered spring rolls as an appetizer and a chicken dish for the main course. The spring rolls were delicious yet their texture made them difficult to cut with a butter knife luckily my brother noticed the difficulty I was having and offered to cut them for me. Years ago things like that would have driven me up the wall today they simply come part and parcel with my inability to accomplish some of the most simplest tasks, the chicken was fantastic a bit spicy for my taste yet still very good I will definitely return with Denise.

On another note next week I should receive a call to schedule an appointment so that my seatbelt on my power wheelchair can be changed to one which has been crash tested. Currently when I attach the seat belt it does not fit securely upon my hips, replacing the existing belt with the newer one should finalize the modifications to my vehicle and chair this over one a half years after receiving the vehicle. Needless to say I will be glad when it's all over.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Saw my neurologist today, as suspected the appointment lasted less than 15 minutes basically consisting of a review of the medications I am taking, sometimes I get the feeling they let you recite the name of the medication the dosage and frequency not only to ensure your taking them correctly yet it's a great cognitive test don't you think?
Spoke to him regarding the falls I took in the bathroom the x-rays my family doctor sent me for and the Doppler examination of my left leg which turned up nothing as I suspected except for some bruising, everything else was fine.
We discussed the disease progression how I felt it was pretty stable yet my spouse had commented on my progression she can see the difference probably because I didn't want to see it, don't want to see cause it ain't happening.

We talked about the Van and how I enjoyed it, the flu vaccine which he deems imperative this year and finally our trip to Vegas in September. Oh he gave me a prescription for a belt to hold my legs together when I sit then we said goodbye and rescheduled for January.

After that I figured I deserved a late breakfast had a Western omelette in the restaurant at the mall then I came home. The weather today is absolutely beautiful I hope it holds out for the weekend.

Have a great one and take good care

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

I have an appointment with my neurologist on Friday, don't know what we will talk about? It's not as if they had anything new to offer its the same old same old. One good aspect of my appointments I'm usually in and out in a matter of minutes 15 at the most. I'm also fortunate to have a doctor who values his patients time as much as his own which is extremely rare I don't think he's ever been late.

I'm not even taking the Van for the appointment I will rely on paratransit instead. For one thing taking the driver's seat out of the van is a bit of a chore for Denise they're predicting rain that day and finally I really don't want to deal with the hassles. With the bus they come pick me up drop me off bring me back at a cost which is probably less than what my gas consumption would be.

Denise purchased two tickets for us to see the Glenn Miller big band orchestra at the national arts center this evening.
It was a nice surprise and I'm really looking forward to the show I don't know if it's because I played the trumpet for so long yet for me nothing comes close to a 15 piece orchestra playing big band music. I'm certain I'll end up buying a few CDs which will be great.

Lately it seems the least amount of effort tires me, so many simple things frustrate me on a daily basis that it doesn't take long for me to reach a point where my only comfortable position is lying back in my chair. Everything it seems is simply getting harder, which may be due to normal progression of the disease yet it still sucks big time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

I received the following letter from the Niagara Falls Hilton Hotel, in my opinion they satisfied my needs in that they responded favorably to my criticism. My previous posts will remain as I believe they apply to any travels you may envision. If you require modified facilities be certain they exist prior to your arrival.
In some cases speaking with the reception may not be adequate if you can get it from the horses mouth i.e. someone who recently stayed there you will be much further ahead.

Would I recommend the Hilton? You bet based on their customer service alone.

July 9, 2009

Dear Mr. Halashyn:
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to contact Hilton Guest Assistance regarding your experiences from your June 29-July 1, 2009 stay at the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview.

On behalf of the staff and management of the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience due to the lack of accessible facilities in your initial and final guest room 3101. As you are most likely aware room 3101 is not an accessible room. With the addition of our new Tower, we have added an entire floor of accessible guestrooms which have accessible hardware and feature roll-in showers.

Unfortunately, I cannot change the events of your stay, and I realize that an apology after the fact is measure too little too late. None-the-less, as a gesture of our sincere commitment to providing the highest level of guest satisfaction and hospitality, I have applied a credit of
"let me just say that credit was fair and to my satisfaction"

Conversely, it was very gratifying to hear that Jennifer was able to provide your with “exemplary customer service that went above and beyond attempting to satisfy my [your] needs”. This is truly the level of hospitality for which we strive, and the pride in service that you should expect from a Hilton Hotel. I have taken the liberty of sharing your comments with the staff and management of the Front Desk so that they too may share in the rewards of their hard work and dedication.

Thank you again for taking the time to advise us of the concerns you experienced during your stay. Helpful feedback such as yours is another important way for us to constantly monitor and improve the level of service that we provide to all of our guests. Should your travels bring you back to the Niagara Falls area sometime in the near future, I would hope that you would consider giving the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview another try. The staff and management would welcome an opportunity to prove that we can provide the highest level of hospitality and guest satisfaction.



Friday, July 10, 2009

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, in the majority of cases letters sent to customers appear pre-written scripted if you will, they give you the sense that voicing your concern was in essence a futile exercise.
Your response confirmed my concerns were taken seriously and for that I thank you. I would also like to thank you for sharing my comments regarding the excellent customer service to your staff, we always hear of the negative feedback yet rarely do we receive positive feedback, rarer still are organizations which share the feedback with their employees. This comment alone proved to me that you had read and understood my concerns, you are correct that apologies after the fact do nothing to facilitate our two night stay at your establishment however your response not to mention your generous credit towards our stay makes a huge difference in my opinion of your beautiful hotel.

Please let me know when you expect the accessible rooms to be ready, I can guarantee that we will revisit your location in the future. Having lived in Georgetown for many years and now in Québec I realize how beautiful the Niagara region is and could certainly find the time to revisit. After all there are so many vineyards to visit!

Have a great day
Michael Halashyn

PS: I understand your computer system does not allow you to visit external sites such as blogs. Be assured that the excellent customer service I received from your organization will be reflected on my blog.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

At the very least I'm receiving e-mails, they are working on it? Don't know what they could be working on its quite easy actually, you either have or you do not have rooms for the mobility impaired. If you plan on making them available you should be working on construction plans. As for my trip, been back home now for a bit and have no plans to revisit in the near future.

I found these in my old archives of our trip to Québec city to celebrate the city's 400th anniversary. If I'm not mistaken the city was named the most accessible?

This is a so-called adapted room from the same hotel chain, at least in this instance they made a feeble attempt by raising the toilet making transfers easier yet I can't help but get a kick from their decision to install the grab bar behind the toilet.

Difficult to imagine how one would use it to assist in standing unless you were forced to sit sideways and yes that's how I had to use it for the time we were there. There were plenty of grab bars in the bathtub however one would have to step over the edge in order to shower or at least have a seat to bathe using a handheld shower, the seats were unavailable.

As for shaving you had a choice of losing your knees since the counter was so low or doing without for a few days. They say a picture is worth 1000 words I will let you be the judge.

On the other hand there are some fantastic hotel rooms that go above and beyond what I would expect. Here are a few photographs of a five-star hotel we recently spent a week at.

As you can see I have not quite mastered the art of positioning photographs within the blog so you'll have to excuse me yet be assured I'm working on it. Now the pictures above represent a five star fully adapted hotel room with all the amenities one would desire, not only is there a wheel in shower there is also a nice soaker tub with proper toilet and a grab bar. At the bed there is a ceiling track for someone requiring a lift, the track extends to the toilet and the shower making this the most accommodating room I've ever been in. I am however a perfectionist and tend to pick out small things which could be improved upon in virtually anything I see, in this instance management were thoughtful in placing a phone next to the facilities help would only be a call away. It's difficult to see since the picture is so small yet if you place your mouse on the picture and left click it will enlarge enabling you to see it quite clearly.
It's unlikely you would utilize the phone to replace a paper roll or bring you an extra towel in essence you would require it if you fell which unfortunately would place the handset out of reach being on the floor not able to stand. I still have to give them five stars for the effort I mean come on now how picky does one have to be.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 1, 2009 Letter to Hilton

July 1, 2009 Without Prejudice

To whom it may concern,

Having just arrived home from a two night stay at your location in Niagara Falls Ontario I had to voice my concern relating to the lack of facilities for mobility impaired guests even though I was assured rooms for the mobility impaired were available when making my reservations .
Our customer service contact's first name was Jennifer, although she was a recent hire she provided us with exemplary customer service that went above and beyond attempting to satisfy my needs. You should strive to have employees of this caliber in all functions, on the other hand your responsibility should also rest providing your employees with the knowledge and tools necessary to meet your customers needs. Your staff should know before hand which rooms meet a particular customer's requirements without having to go back and forth to the manager and have them provide room numbers obviously pulled out of a hat in the hopes that one will satisfy the customer, at one point my wife and I felt like a yo yo.

Our reservations first started with room 804 which quite evidently did not suit anyone who was wheelchair bound, this followed with a visit to a room on the seventh floor, the 13th floor and then finely the 31st floor room 3101 to be exact. While this room offered a spectacular view of the falls it fell far short from meeting our requirements.

This year I stayed at your establishment in Toronto, Montréal and now Niagara Falls.
The Toronto location was ideal and well-suited for someone with mobility impairments. The shower was a wheel in type with a bench, the toilet had a number of grab bars located as defined by the Ontario disabilities act , for some reason I expected the same level of service from your other locations however
Québec city left a bit to be desired, our visit to Niagara did not even come close to meeting our expectations.

Before MS forced me into retirement ensuring customer satisfaction for our customers was one of my major responsibilities this is why you are receiving this e-mail, as you probably know 90% of dissatisfied customers simply walk away and take their business elsewhere without voicing their concern. Look at it as a way of improving your service since you are receiving honest unbiased feedback from one of your customers.
I can send you pictures of what was deemed suitable for mobility impaired patrons yet these would only confirm that there were no grab bars of any kind at any location and that the shower was suitable for someone who could stand and walk, I wish I could.

I will be posting my experience on my blog I will be writing a letter voicing my dissatisfaction to the Canadian MS society including the Ontario Gov. general. I cannot believe that an establishment such as the Hilton would knowingly misrepresent its facilities to potential guests. Quite simply if you require the services of an ergo therapist, a physiotherapist or even someone familiar with the Ontario Disabilities Act I am certain they would be more than pleased to assist you in making minor modifications to your existing layout which would at least designate some of your rooms as truly accessible. I am certain you can understand why I would not be able to recommend the Hilton as suitable for individuals such as myself.

You can be certain I will include you in the documentation I forward to the parties mentioned and even provide you with an opportunity to visit my blog to view the so-called accessible rooms.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement, while the view was spectacular it did nothing to meet my needs.


Michael Halashyn

107-515 La Gappe
Gatineau, Quebec
J8T 8R8

Hilton in Niagara Falls comes up short offering services for mobility impaired guests.

Without Prejudice

We had planned a trip to visit the Niagara Falls area at the end of June and decided to make our reservations at the Hilton after all I always felt it was the best.
One of the many disadvantages of being disabled begins with reservations, virtually all hotels or entertainment venues require you to contact them directly to reserve accessible rooms or in the case of concerts reservations are made by calling the hotel. The rooms suitable for mobility impaired guests are almost never noted on their websites. This raises another concern in that you cannot make your reservations online and in most cases you lose any incentives or price reductions which may apply. Case in point my wife and I traveled with another couple who were able to take advantage of discounts we were unable to attain. In the end we lost out and ended up paying more than our friends.
Before we left I contacted the hotel that is the Niagara Falls Hilton in Niagara Falls and confirmed the availability of rooms accommodating mobility impaired guests. After being on hold for a bit the person confirmed that rooms were available thus I made the necessary reservations. As I mentioned previously the cost was a bit more than our friends yet when you are wheelchair-bound you cannot take the chance so you accept it and pay the extra cost.
I explained our ordeal in detail with the letter that follows, after visiting several rooms it was either five or six I've forgotten it became apparent that this hotel offered no rooms for the mobility impaired. We settled on a suite located on the 39th floor providing a spectacular view of the Canadian falls. That was great the only problem was that I had to do without a shower for two days and using the toilet facilities proved to be quite a challenge as a matter of fact we left the hotel to use the facilities at another location which were adapted.

For me the answer is quite simple if you do not have rooms suited for mobility impaired guests say so at the beginning thereby saving everyone a lot of grief and negative feedback which will give a heads up to anyone thinking of booking at this hotel if they require mobility modified rooms. As I said the room on the 39th floor was spectacular yet in all honesty I would've settled for something on the first floor facing the rear of the building if it had only been modified to suit my needs.

I sent the following letter to the Hilton and have yet to receive a response which shows me how much they care about customer service. Not all Hiltons are the same as I've had terrific service and suitable modified accommodations at the Hilton in downtown Toronto, the Hilton in Québec city at least made an attempt yet it fell a bit short of providing excellent accommodations however I was told of their limitations when I made the booking which made all the difference as I knew what I was getting into. The Niagara Falls Hilton said nothing other than yes we have rooms for the disabled. That is my bone of contention I've included a few photo graphs so you can see what they consider adapted? I wish I could have them spend a week in a wheelchair having to stay in one of their rooms.

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