Although it’s now been over a quarter-century since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, wheelchair-users and slow walkers sometimes still have problems finding accessible lodging. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a little advance planning mixed with a healthy dose of self advocacy goes a long way towards finding an accessible room that meets your needs. Here are a few tips to help you out.
- 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 models.
- Avoid yes or no questions. For example, ask the clerk to describe the bathroom, rather than just asking if the bathroom is accessible.
- If you have some doubt as to the accessibility of the room, ask the manager to snap a few photos of the areas in question and e-mail them to you. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
- 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. 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.