Tuesday, August 11, 2009

10 Tips for Finding Wheelchair-Accessible Lodging

~ Although it’s been well over a decade since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, wheelchair-users and slow walkers still have problems finding accessible lodging. In fact, according to a 2005 Harris Interactive survey, 60% of disabled travellers experienced problems with their overnight lodging choices.

“Finding an accessible room would be an easy task if every accessible room had the same standard features,” explains Candy Harrington, author of 101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. “But that’s not the way it works in real life. In reality, two properties located right next door to one another may have vastly different accessibility standards, so travellers need to ask the right questions in order to get a room that suits their needs.”

In the end, a little advance planning mixed with a healthy dose of self advocacy goes a long way towards finding the appropriate room. Here are Harrington’s tips for accomplishing that task.

  • Never just ask for an “accessible” or an “ADA compliant” room. Instead, describe the access features you need.
  • In Europe, if you need a room with an accessible bathroom, ask for an adapted room. An accessible room only features a barrier-free path of travel; however an adapted room also contains an adapted shower and toilet.
  • Make sure and ask about the availability of elevators, especially in small European properties. It’s not unusual for a property to have an accessible room that can only be accessed by a stairway.
  • If you need a roll-in shower, ask for one. This is not a standard feature in all accessible or even adapted rooms. Specify your needs.
  • Always call the property directly, rather than calling the central reservation number.
  • Bed height is not regulated under the ADA, so make sure and ask for measurements. Many properties are replacing their standard mattresses with high pillow top and luxury models.
  • Avoid yes or no questions. For example, ask the clerk to describe the bathroom, rather than just asking if the bathroom is accessible.
  • Ask the reservation agent to fax you a floor plan of the accessible room. This will give you the dimensions of the room, but remember that access can vary depending on the placement of furniture.
  • If you have difficulty determining if a room will suit your needs, ask to speak to somebody who has recently been in the room. Employees in the housekeeping or engineering departments usually have a good knowledge of access features of the individual rooms.
  • Remember to ask the reservation agent if the accessible room can be blocked for you. If the answer is “no” or “sometimes”, then find another hotel. Remember, even the most accessible room in the world won’t work for you, if that room isn’t available when you arrive.

Finally, always trust your instincts. If a reservation agent hems and haws, gives ambiguous answers or sounds inept, call back and talk to another reservation agent or call a different property. When in doubt, always go with your gut.

101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers is published by Demos Publishing and is available from your favourite bookstore or on-line at www.101AccessibleVacations.com. Visit Candy Harrington’s Barrier Free Travels blog at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com for more helpful access tips, news, resources and information for disabled travellers.

Image courtesy of Orlando Fun Tickets…

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