Travel and border restrictions have meant that staycations have become a bit of a staple in recent times. So when Stephanie Dower decided she’d like to spend a night in Brisbane to explore what her home city has to offer, the first person she called was Jane, her support worker. The two met through Mable, an online community that enables people with disability to connect with independent support workers they choose.
Stephanie, who is Creative Director at her own production company, requires a wheelchair for mobility and says she relies on Jane “to be my arms and legs”. They have been on a few travel adventures together since connecting on Mable.com.au in 2018.
“I’m not in a position to travel without a support worker so I really appreciate being on such friendly terms with Jane,” Stephanie explains. “She helps me with things like personal care, food prep like cutting up my meal and moving chairs out of the way, but importantly we also get along really well. We have lots of laughs together!”
As always when planning her itinerary, Stephanie researched accessibility around the places she wanted to visit. “I search online a lot to find out about public transport, public restrooms, elevator access, accessible rooms and so on. I’ve travelled domestically and internationally, and to me, Brisbane is probably the most accessible city.”
Stephanie says that while there are always things that can be improved, Brisbane’s city centre is well appointed for people with disability. She wanted to spend some time in Southbank’s cultural precinct and get there by CityCat ferry. All venue options were easily researched and provided excellent accessibility for Stephanie and her wheelchair.
The ladies’ day began by wandering through Fortitude Valley, noticing colourful graffiti art along the way, before enjoying brunch at a New Farm café.
Next was the trip to Southbank on the CityCat. The entire fleet provides space for six wheelchairs and accepts Companion Card. Stephanie and Jane travelled under the Story Bridge, around the river bend and disembarked at Southbank. They enjoyed views from 60 metres up on the Wheel of Brisbane (which features two accessible gondolas), even though it was raining at the time! Back on the ground, umbrellas in hand, there was an unmissable photo opportunity for Stephanie in front of the iconic ‘BRISBANE’ sign.
The cultural precinct – one of Stephanie’s favourite places in Brisbane – is home to the Queensland Museum which incorporates SparkLab, (formerly the Sciencentre). Stephanie and Jane had a ball reliving fun childhood memories and checking out the enormous dinosaur skeletons. Companion Card is accepted, all entrances and areas in the venue are wheelchair accessible and there are lifts located on all levels. Accessible restrooms are on Levels 0 and 2 and in Café Muse and SparkLab.
A side jaunt to West End’s eclectic shopping district with Stephanie in her wheelchair and Jane on a rented scooter resulted in a couple of cool purchases and a smoothie pit-stop to keep energy levels up. The ladies made their way back to QPAC which offers wheelchair seating and accessible toilets, to catch a show Stephanie had booked. QPAC also accepts Companion Card.
Back at the hotel, Stephanie and Jane checked in and toured their room at FV by Peppers, which Stephanie declared to be “the most accessible hotel room I’ve ever stayed in!” Among the room’s features were a roll-in shower, low height door handles and light switches, and a wheelchair-accessible stove and sink.
In the evening, the ladies enjoyed a meal of pizza, arancini and red wine in the hotel’s trendy La Costa Italian restaurant, toasting to a happily exhausting day of sightseeing and exploration.
Stephanie suggests that people with disability call venues in advance to convey their specific needs and find out if they can be accommodated. “Hotels will say they have accessible rooms,” she says, “but they won’t suit everyone’s needs so you have to be specific. Also, if you book over the phone, confirm via email so you have written proof that you booked an accessible room.”
Stephanie’s top 5 travel tips:
- Doing research beforehand gives you a sense of control.
- Call ahead to outline your specific requirements and get everything in writing.
- When away, be flexible where possible. Sometimes a change in plan can lead to exciting alternatives.
- When things don’t go to plan, a sense of humour is your best asset.
- Engage a support worker so you don’t have to miss out on things you love!
Through Mable, people with disability can connect with independent support workers who can assist in their travel goals. You can either travel to your destination with your support worker or connect with one at your destination who knows all the local highlights!
Get started at mabel.com.au