I love traveling. Seeing new things and experiencing adventures are extremely motivating to me. My brain seems to light up. Over the last several years I have had many adventures. Unfortunately I have had a few adventures in my own hotel rooms along the way! Accessible hotel rooms should be comfortable and consistent but this isn’t always the case. It’s true that usually all it takes is a call to the front desk to get some help, but it would be nice if rooms shared some important characteristics.
Here are the top ten things I want in an accessible hotel room.
1. A door that doesn’t feel like it weighs 300 lbs.
Having to push a suitcase through a heavy door after a long trip is not my idea of a warm welcome. I much prefer light doors that swing and stay open on their own, than those that close heavily with a closer device. I often find that when checking out from a hotel room I have to do an acrobatic maneuver to get my rolling suitcase out the door while holding the door open for my chair.
2. A bed that’s within 3 inches of the height of a typical wheelchair and whose mattress won’t capture me like a venus fly trap
I’ve noticed several hotel chains like to have these “majestic” beds that are only a few inches short of the ceiling. I have less-than-optimal arm strength and I suspect that many wheelchair users cannot easily transfer up into some of these beds. Also, beds that are too low can cause a problem as well. Transferring up from a low mattress into my chair after a long night’s sleep can be difficult too.
Beds that are too soft (e.g. are memory foam) are impossible for me to move around in without help. Rolling over is enough of a chore when my elbows simply sink into the mattress. Also when it comes time to sit up, if I push onto the mattress and my hands simply get sucked into a foam handprint, I can’t get out of bed. Sure these types of beds might be comfortable to sleep in but I don’t want to be stuck in bed until the maids find me!
3. Elevators that don’t require your key card to operate
Swiping a key card in an elevator is a huge pain in my ass when I stay at a hotel, especially when I have luggage or something on my lap. I’m all for security but when it’s the illusion of security that these types of procedures create, I just get frustrated. If someone wants to get up in the elevator they can, key card or not. Trust me, when I’ve had difficulty swiping my card I’ve often been taken on a ride up until someone helps me.
4. A roll-in shower that has a bench and the bench isn’t 5 feet away from the shower head and controls
I just stayed at a hotel with a roll-in shower that did not have an affixed shower bench. Yes, the hotel had plastic shower benches but the presumption that a wheelchair user is going to drive their day-to-day chair into the shower or be towing a shower chair on a ten hour flight to Hawaii is ridiculous. Also, if the hotel is going to provide a shower chair it certainly needs to be adjustable.
And when you put the bench in, can it please be within arm’s reach of the shower head or at least the controls? Many times I have seen a nice roll-in shower where the bench is on the left, the shower head is on the right, and there’s 5 or 6 feet in between! I do not have Go-Go-Gadget Arms!
5. A roll-in shower where the adjustable shower head is not stationed at the top of the adjustable bar by default
Without fail, housekeeping staff will put the shower head at the topmost part of the sliding bar such that I can barely reach it, if at all. Then if I can reach it, I usually can’t loosen the part that lets it slide easily so I have to shimmy the shower head down the pole through a series of dozens of back and forth motions that just looks obscene after a while. Then of course the shower head starts dripping the “leftover” water on you. It’s not nice.
6. Two beds
On more than one occasion I have been traveling with a non-intimate friend and the accessible room only had one bed! The only configuration that satisfies the possibility that both guests will share a bed or that they might not is a two-bed room.
7. Beds that are not affixed to the wall and/or night stands that can be easily moved
When a night stand is right next to the bed, I cannot back my wheelchair up far enough to transfer my butt onto the bed right where it needs to be in order to lay down. If the bed can be pushed, I can at least angle it away from the night stand. But often the beds are attached to the wall or the headboard that is attached to the wall. There are also occasions when there’s not enough room between the wall and the bed on the left side where I need to get in. A bed that can move would be nice in this situation.
8. Remote controls for everything
Furniture is usually in the way of either the thermostat or the curtains or both. Sometimes the curtain and shade controls are out of reach. Occasionally the thermostat is too high on the wall. I’ve stayed in rooms where these were controlled by remotes and it was heaven.
9. A desk I can roll under
Short desks or desks with a thick top layer of drawers usually do me no good. If I can’t roll my chair under the desk, I can’t work comfortably. There are also times when there’s no place to put the chair that’s at the desk when I arrive since I don’t need it.
10. Lots of outlets, especially near the bed
I usually have to charge my wheelchair at night. I know other people that have CPAP machines and other medical devices that require a power source near the bed. I usually find myself unplugging the alarm clock or the bedside lamp or stringing my charger across the room in order to reach the power sources.
Overall I realize that not everyone’s needs are the same, but many of the things I mentioned are helpful to anyone with a disability who uses a wheelchair. Some of the things I come across are just completely illogical and were probably not approved by someone with a disability.
I usually leave feedback at a hotel when something could be made easier. Please take the time to do so next time you have a suggestion when you’re out traveling!