Looking at accommodation has been encouraging for one of the more challenging trips, the Himalayan adventure! Much more we can work with than initial research suggested – there may not be much choice but we should be able to string together a very workable route without compromising our needs.
That said, it can be SO much harder than is necessary to find out whether accommodation is suitable. Sometimes all that’s needed is to say “yes, we have a lift” and provide room pictures for a guest to judge. A frustration is knowing that those filling in the online forms for hotel websites will know if they have level access, or how many steps, or if they have especially tiny lifts.
Investigating stopovers in Abu Dhabi, I was incredibly encouraged to find that of 117 hotels on Booking.com, 103 specifically listed themselves as having facilities for disabled guests, a feature that appears highlighted right on the initial search pages. Yes, it’s a city of new builds, but to even make the information available is something I do not take for granted. I quite often travel to London and can spend hours trawling through hotel photos online, looking for hints of a lift or grand staircase.
Sometimes I think people are scared of getting it wrong, but it can seem unwelcoming not to be considered, and when proprietors say “sorry, no wheelchair access” I really want to know if it’s a question of no level access, bathroom doors being too narrow… things that people with variable disabilities might be able to work around. I recently spoke to someone who arrived at an “accessible” apartment to find that although entry was easy, the bathroom doors were prohibitively narrow – something that had obviously not occurred to the agency.
Give us the info, and trust that your clients can help you out – if you say “please get in touch to discuss your needs” it goes a long way towards engaging lots of us who might otherwise overlook your hotel.
For those with hotels or B&Bs that cannot be made wheelchair friendly, there may be some measures that can be taken to increase accessibility for the elderly and those with some chronic illnesses or restrictions. My suggestion would be to be aware of your environment, first of all, and be prepared to answer questions about the space within your establishment, door widths, number and size of steps to various areas, the type of sanitaryware in your bathrooms (is the shower over the bath? Is the bath floor at the same level as the room floor?) and the height of your toilet and beds.
Obviously a permanent, wheelchair-friendly space is desirable, but if that’s not possible a few simple and cheap additions to your store cupboard could transform a ground floor room from inaccessible to accessible for someone like me, who can usually walk but need help to get around. Check your local safety regulations, but if you wanted to make a room accessible to me, you could look into getting a toilet frame to provide support around the toilet, bolt-on bed rails for support getting in and out of bed (which can go on either side) and making sure that there are places to put things down at a raised level, such as shelves or toiletry racks in the shower, a movable freestanding towel rack and a bedside table near a power outlet.
I’m hopeful that in time an awareness of access needs leads to wider accessibility, but in the meantime, knowledge is power! What would make a hotel accessible to you?