When I first set up Access YYT, I think Karen/Round Da Bay Inn was one of my first followers. And as I continued to post accessibility tips and advice on my accounts, I began to notice a trend. Basically everything I shared as suggestions to make a business and their social media presence more accessible was promptly followed by Round Da Bay Inn. If I said that businesses and public figures should use image descriptions for any photos they share across their social media platforms, Karen was doing it probably the next day. If I made a suggestion about how to make something in a hotel room more accessible, Karen was getting the plan in place to do it the next day. I started talking with her regularly about accessibility and disability rights. This inn that I had never been to in a community I had never heard of (I’m notoriously bad at Newfoundland geography) was quickly becoming my favourite Newfoundland business and – this might sound cheesy – a beacon of hope for the future of accessibility in this province. I thought, if we could get other local business owners to be half as excited and passionate as Karen & Chris when it comes to making everything as accessible as possible, that would be a game changer for disabled residents of Newfoundland and tourists alike.
I think my favourite thing about Karen and Chris is that their hearts are really in it. They want everyone to be able to have the same experiences, regardless of ability. And they mean it when they say that. Things might not be perfect immediately when it comes to accessibility, it can and will always be a work in progress as more suggestions are made and more experiences from the lens of different disabilities are brought into the mix, but they aren’t afraid to get started immediately and make changes when changes need to be made.
Last year I wrote a thread on twitter about how exhausting it has been trying to advocate for accessibility in Newfoundland. I talked about all of the businesses who either ignore my reasonable requests or tell me they will make changes and then never do. I talked about the people who have reached out to me for help and then, after putting hours of my time into helping them, did nothing with it. I said how discouraging it has been for me. And then Karen messaged me and told me that her and Chris wanted myself and my bubble (my husband and friends) to come stay at the inn for a relaxing weekend to thank me for the hard work I’ve been putting in to my advocacy. I told her I would be thrilled to visit, and that while there I could stay in their wheelchair accessible suite and give any suggestions for improvements that I could think of. She reassured me that she wanted it to be a vacation for me, but neither one of us can pass up an opportunity to work on improving accessibility.
So I went to Round Da Bay Inn with my bubble and stayed in their accessible suite which is called Big Land Lodge. It was a beautiful hotel room with a queen bed, a single bed, a kitchenette and a large washroom with many accessibility features. The day before I arrived, Chris had a new ramp built leading from the parking space directly to the deck for the accessible room. There was already a ramp at the front of the building that leads there, but they thought it would be even more convenient to have a smaller one on the side. They also told me that they had spent the day before calling around to every local business they could think of to ask detailed questions about their accessibility, because they were finalizing a Wheelchair Accessible Guide to Bonavista Peninsula which was waiting for me on a shelf in the room when we arrived. It’s those little things that really show me that they are listening and they are good allies.
Something that I’ve mentioned many times on my Access YYT account and that Round Da Bay Inn does such a good job of is that accessibility honestly differs for everyone depending on their disability, so the best thing you can do is be completely transparent about the accessibility features you have and the things that could be considered barriers, and to prominently display that info so disabled people don’t have to search it out. That way someone can decide for themselves if that place is the right fit for them. Ideally, businesses will still do everything they can to be as accessible to as many people as possible, as Karen and Chris do, but that transparency is still important.
So with that being said, here are the accessibility features for Round Da Bay Inn and their accessible suite Big Land Lodge:
– There is a parking space for the suite directly to the side of it with a ramp leading to the deck.
– The door to the suite is 32 inches wide, so it might not fit a wider wheelchair. My wheelchair fit but I can see other wider chairs having issue.
– There is a very small ramp from the deck up to the door and there was a small lip that was a bit tricky to get over as I came into the door. They are already working on something to remedy this.
– The interior has lots of space to wheel around.
– Both the queen bed and the single bed are lower than the beds in the other rooms to make it easier to transfer from a chair to the bed, and there was lots of space between the beds for a chair.
– There were outlets in the base of the lamp on the table between the beds so they were easily accessible.
– The table was a bit low for my wheelchair to wheel underneath while eating our room service meals but they have already switched that out with a better one.
– The kitchenette has a mini fridge which is accessible from a wheelchair, as well as a counter and sink that you can wheel under for better access.
– The closet is easy to get to and there is a rod up higher and one down lower for a wheelchair user to be able to hang up their clothes.
– The washroom is large enough to fit a wheelchair but there is limited space directly next to the toilet so if you need to transfer you’d have to do it with your chair in front of the toilet, but the grab bars are in place for that. The bathroom counter is accessible and the mirror is at a good height for a wheelchair. The tub is lower than usual so it’s less of a tripping hazard to step in, has grab bars, a removable shower head which they can have removed for you before you arrive if you can’t reach it when it’s placed in the holder, and they have a transfer bench, other grab bars, raised toilet seats, a magnifying mirror, and a shower stool available should you need it.
– The main area of the inn has a restaurant, gift shop & art gallery, accessible public washrooms with adult change tables, and a main check in/out desk with a portion lowered for wheelchair users. Their front door was heavy and I had trouble getting in over the lip in the door, but these are issues they are already working on improving as well.
– Due to the restaurant and main area being closed because of Covid-19, you can order room service from their restaurant menu and it will be delivered to your door on a tray. They have a wide variety of meals on their menu and can work with you to make something that meets any dietary restrictions.
– As previously mentioned they have a guide on the shelf in Big Land Lodge with accessible places to eat or visit, and because transparency is so important, they provide the accessibility details below each venue listing.
Karen and Chris are amazing people and I had such a wonderful, welcoming weekend at Round Da Bay Inn. I highly recommend staying there, whether you need an accessible suite or not. If you do need the accessible suite, I recommend touching base with them when you book your stay to ensure they can provide you with everything you need to have a comfortable, accessible stay. They are also very open to any suggestions that can help improve the accessibility of their inn. I’m heading back there in August for another weekend and will be sure to post more about my stay and some accessible things to do in the area.