A boring trip to the zoo

Quinns asked to go to the zoo to see the giraffes. Not a big ask for his seventh birthday but there were two big problems. As far as I was aware there is no Changing Places toilet at the zoo. Generally we like to go places where we are certain they have the facilities we need which is absolutely fine as a strategy. But if we don’t ever go to places that don’t have them there’s never any pressure to install them. So we decided to take the risk and make sure to ask about the facilities raising a little awareness while we were at it.

The second issue is our car is no longer good for travelling any distance. We’re currently awaiting delivery of our WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle). Although we ordered it a couple of months ago we will be lucky if it arrives before the end of the year.

After researching public transport we planned our day to take the Citylink bus. Before paying for our four seats I was asked if we needed a wheelchair space. We did and I booked it for both directions at no extra cost. Simple.

So far so good but I will admit I was intrigued about how they would get Quinns’ wheelchair on a coach! I was also extremely nervous about whether the day would run smoothly or not because there were so many variables and given our past experiences it seemed like a fairly ambitious plan.

When the big day arrived, I told the bus driver I had booked the wheelchair space. We had to wait till everyone else boarded because she ‘would need to do all the shenanigans with the steps’. The shenanigans turned out to be a quick button press which turned the steps into a lift to take Quinns and his wheelchair into the coach where they were secured in the front seat.

Quinns being lowered to the ground in his wheelchair on a lift attached to a coach.

He had the best view out of the front of the bus the whole way to the zoo where we repeated the process of getting him off to an amazed group of onlookers.

Quinns smiling as he sits in his wheelchair at the front of the coach

On arrival at the zoo the first thing to do was find out about the facilities. After my usual conversation about how accessible toilets are not sufficient for our needs I found out there is a Changing Place toilet in the planning just not opened yet. We were offered the use of the medical room and given the number to call for access.

We had been before so were well aware of the giant hill the zoo is built on. I was impressed with the accessibility map we were given which pointed out the steps and showed us where the steepest slopes were allowing us to plan our route. We had the option to use the accessibility vehicle to get to the top of the hill but in our wisdom we chose to make our own way there. Something I think we regretted a little when it drove past us as we struggled up a steep incline.

However between the three of us we made it. We even managed to time our visit to the giraffes when they had been brought inside to eat so we had a perfect view. Some of the enclosures on the way up made it really difficult for Quinns to see but there were also plenty of lower or glass viewing points for him so he didn’t miss out on too much.

Quinns & Big Sister have a chat while looking through glass screens at the penguins in their enclosure

Once we had seen all the animals we had a quick lunch. Then all too soon, and without having a chance to try out the accessible roundabout in one of the play parks, it was time to head out to catch the coach home. Which was as uneventful as the first time.

Despite my concerns and readiness for some sort of fight or difficulty the day was pretty peaceful. Thankfully our risk with going somewhere without a Changing Place Toilet paid off on this occasion but it would have been so much easier to know it was available for us. Hopefully the plan for one will soon be a reality.

All in all the day was a success and Quinns went to bed that night a very tired but also very happy little boy.

Quinns and Big Sister pose smiling beside a #GiraffeAboutTown at the entrance to Edinburgh zoo

To boldy go…

Close up of Quinns' tired but happy face. He holds a red curly straw up in his right hand.

With Covid restrictions and several bouts of illness this winter it’s been a while since Quinns has made it to a party. I’m tired from having recently had Covid but I’ve also been watching and reading a lot that’s made me want to speak out more about our experiences so here’s a little glimpse at the emotions that went into one birthday party at a trampoline park.

I’m grateful he’s got friends and has been been invited to the party. I’m thankful that restrictions have lifted and he’s well enough to go. I’m hopeful it’ll go well knowing I have friends ready for action.

I’m delighted at the squeals of excitement that ‘Quinns is here‘. I’m proud of Big Sister supporting her brother on the trampoline. She enjoyed the responsibility and loved chatting to all his friends. I’m relieved it’s not me up there scaring them all away!

I’m sad, angry and disappointed but accepting that I had to change him on a toilet floor. No-one should have to but it’s our reality without a Changing Place toilet. I’m exhilarated by freeing a red emergency cord and adorning it with a Euan’s Guide card.

I’m happy there’s a lift to get him to the party room. Quinns enjoyed the ride while I’m relieved we didn’t get stuck! I’m disappointed there’s not enough space or flexibility for his wheelchair to fit under the table allowing him a space at the table.

I’m happy to see his excited face when he’s given tomato ketchup with his meal. Even happier to see his full on excitement when the amazing birthday cake is brought out and we all sing happy birthday to his friend.

I love that he dipped into his party bag with another friend before proudly holding his red curly straw all the way home.

Thanks for a brilliant party!

“To boldly go where all others have gone before” #ThenBarbaraMetAlan