Wednesday 18 July 2007

Top hotel rolls into wheelchair row after €50m revamp

A LEADING hotel reopened a matter of weeks ago - but already has been plunged into a row over wheelchair access.

The landmark Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoaghire has been accused of having inadequate wheelchair facilities, despite having gone through a €50m programme of refurbishment.

A 57-year-old local man has described how he severe difficulty navigating his electric wheelchair in one of the hotels two disabled toilets.

John Proud, from Sandycove, south Dublin, criticised the new wheelchair toilet as "virtually impossible" to navigate.

He claimed he needed assistance getting to the facilities, banging his €8,000 wheelchair in the process.

However, the hotel has countered that the facilities are fully within the required guidelines and have been checked to requirements.

Mr Proud, a 40-year member of the Irish Wheelchair Association, visited the hotel for a drink with a friend but became agitated when he found it difficult to use the facilities.

"There is a big L-bend in it and two doors which make it virtually impossible to navigate. You try and get through one door and the other one closes behind it," said Mr Proud.

"I did get into the toilet but I had to have complete assistance and even then, the chair took a bashing which I was upset about.

"The point is that the toilet was so small that I couldn't turn the chair and I couldn't open the door.

"My wheelchair has a very large airhorn on it and I used that to get attention. It was impossible. I am absolutely fed up with it. I expect new hotels to have all the amenities."

Prior to its refit, the hotel had excellent wheelchair bathrooms, he said.

Mr Proud has been in a wheelchair for over two years. He had been in a wheelchair 33 years ago before he got a double hip operation which allowed him to walk.

The Royal Marine Hotel was opened with a flourish some weeks ago, boasting over 120 new bedrooms, LCD televisions in all rooms and a new ballroom.

However, general manager Martin Mangan said that the hotel was happy that the toilets were accessible and that Mr Proud had been able to fit in with "ample room".

"All of the disabled toilets are checked against specifications and all codes were adhered to. He was able to navigate around the bathroom," said Mr Mangan.

The hotel has 11 disabled bedrooms and two separate disabled bathrooms, according to Mr Mangan, who said that he had taken Mr Proud's comments "on board".

Shane Hickey
Irish Independent

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