(Un)-Welcome Inn

Ordinarily, when booking a stay away, you’d expect your hotel room to be convenient and comfortable.  You won’t find either of these things here though.  You’re in the ‘Welcome Inn’, a hotel room within the Art B&B in Blackpool.  It is, in fact, an interactive art installation designed by Christopher Samuel where guests can stay and it’s specifically intended to make their visit as frustrating as possible.  The purpose of it is to allow able-bodied guests to experience some of the day to day accessibility challenges faced by disabled people.

“I knew people would find it amusing at first, but in reality, when you live like that every day it’s not funny anymore.”

Designed from Experience

The uncomfortable abode is one of 19 rooms at the Art B&B, each designed by a different artist and each with a different theme.  Christopher drew inspiration from his own experience as a wheelchair user staying in accommodation that was ill-equipped for his needs.

Three years ago, Christopher was forced to live in an unsuitable hotel room for three months due to a lack of wheelchair accessible council accommodation.

Christopher recalls: “I was technically made homeless.  I couldn’t sit at the table. I had to sleep in my wheelchair because I couldn’t use the bed. I couldn’t shut the bathroom door and I couldn’t use the toilet, so I had to use a bucket.  I couldn’t wash because the shower wasn’t accessible.”

Cold Comfort

In the ‘Welcome Inn’, the bed is higher than usual and is surrounded by a large wooden frame so guests have to scramble in and out of it.  Light switches are inconveniently placed and the bathroom door can’t fully close so there’s no privacy.  The layout is awkward and difficult to manoeuvre around.

From Unusual to Frustrating

As the unusual features of the room quickly become frustrating, able-bodied guests experience first-hand the type of barriers that many disabled people endure daily.  Michael Trainor, creative director of the Art B&B said that while the installation could at first be entertaining for guests, the novelty rapidly wears off.  .

Christopher agrees: “On the surface level, it’s quite playful and theatrical.  I knew people would find it amusing at first, but in reality, when you live like that every day it’s not funny anymore.  It’s inconvenient, it’s frustrating and it’s humiliating at times.”

Prompting Wider Discussions

The newly designed rooms are now open for business and so far, the experience seems to be effective as most occupants of the Welcome Inn have opted to not stay longer than one night.  Christopher is hopeful that as more visitors experience it and word spreads it will prompt a wider discussion around accessibility.  Unfortunately for Christopher, he hasn’t been able to see his completed project – the room is inaccessible for him in his wheelchair.

Christopher jokes: “I think it’s brilliant that I can’t see the finished ‘Welcome Inn’.  It’s perfect, this commission was perfect for me!”

For more information on the Welcome Inn or to experience it for yourself, visit Art B&B’s website.

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