Having lost his sight at the age of 23, Paul Nicol has since set himself the challenge of finding as many accessible experiences as possible – from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to tandem skydiving, and has founded iCAN Experiences to encourage more people with disabilities to do the same … but one thing he hadn’t tried was a spa break … until he went to Bicester Hotel!
My first impressions of the venue were good: there are four disabled parking bays, a large tarmac car park and well maintained pathways to the hotel with no steps to overcome. As I walked into the main foyer, I could sense it was a spacious area, despite being blind. The feeling of space followed me around for the remainder of the visit and you could sense from the furnishings and fittings that this venue was all about a high quality experience! To add to this, the reception had a lowered section so you were if in a wheelchair, you weren’t left peering over the top of the reception desk trying to hold a conversation, good start!
It’s worth mentioning straight away, that throughout the buildings there are no steps to contend with, flat surfaces were everywhere – ideal for manual and electric wheelchair users! If you wanted to get to the upper floor, there was an accessible lift which had a low level control unit so wheelchair users didn’t have to struggle to reach the buttons. The hotel has four accessible rooms. The rooms are spacious, fitted with emergency cords, grab rails, low level light switches and accessible bathrooms with a shower seat with wet-room-style shower units.
All the treatment rooms are fitted with electrically operated couches (or beds to the untrained like me) which could be lowered right to the floor, ideal for those who might struggle to climb onto a waist height couch. The beds could then be adjusted in a multitude of different ways to get customers comfortable for the range of treatments available. What was great to hear was that every session is tailored to the needs of a client, so you can be assured that no matter what your disability; you will leave feeling amazing! The spa also has a sauna and steam room as well as a pool, Jacuzzi, and hydro pool – there isn’t a hoist into the water and the pool and hydro pool are quite deep and have steep steps, but if you are mobile then these were both fabulous facilities! Both the steam room and sauna are accessible for a wheelchair … Oh, whilst I remember, there was of course an accessible changing room that opened directly onto the poolside!
Swiftly onto Gray’s Lounge and Restaurant, and the Sports Bar – in all cases, furniture was easily moved to make room for a wheelchair to pull right up to the table. The lounge/ bar areas were furnished with low level tables, ideal for cracking your shins on (Which is something I do regularly!), but the dining tables in the breakfast room and restaurant are both standard height, so can be used by wheelchair users. Breakfast is self service if you are not having a cooked meal, but staff are on hand to assist and the restaurant is table service for other meals.
The whole facility was well laid out, there weren’t rabbit warren style corridors and loads of doors to contend with, and it was all flat and step free; my feeling was that a good amount of consideration had been given to the accessibility of the building and facilities within. For me, the most important thing when visiting any venue is the staff, it is difficult if not impossible to find a perfect venue in terms of accessibility, so having happy, friendly and helpful staff on hand can make a big difference to your stay. I am glad to say that Bicester Hotel had wonderful staff and should you have any problems, they will work with you to resolve them. Personally, I really liked the venue and I will most definitely be going back and taking the wife there with me!
– Take a trip to that renowned designer outlet, Bicester Village, for a little (or a lot of) retail therapy.
– Don’t be afraid to ask the staff if you need anything – they are friendly and always happy to help.
– There is a sports bar where mobile phones and laptops are persona non grata … for a total digital detox spend a little time there, but if you need a little email access for peace of mind – steer clear!
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