Holiday Travel Series Part 2: Checking In

In the last post, I provided lots of tips to help people with disabilities plan and travel by air. I hope that you found it informative and helpful! Now, let’s turn to what happens once you land: checking in to your hotel.

I never knew that “handicap accessible” or “wheelchair accessible” had so many different definitions until I started to try to reserve a hotel room. I didn’t think that being able to take a shower would be a “bonus” when staying in a hotel, but often that has turned out to be the case. There are still some measures that can be taken to ensure that you understand what type of accommodations hotels offer for us. Here are some tips to follow when booking a room.

  • Call the hotel directly. While a toll free number might seem like the easy route, often the person you are speaking with is not at the actual hotel where you want to reserve a room. When you call the hotel directly, you can get better answers as to what type of rooms they have available.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Does the room have a tub or a roll-in shower? If it’s a tub, do they have a bench to transfer on to? If it’s a roll-in shower, do they have a shower chair there?
  • Be very direct in seeking the answers to your questions. Many times I have found that the people with the best answers were in the housekeeping department. You can also ask them to check the room out and give you a call back.
  • Remind them that just like every other paying customer, all you want is to be able to sleep in a bed, use a bathroom, and take a shower. This should not seem like expecting too much, right?
  • If you need transportation from the airport, ask if they have a free shuttle. Once they tell you that they do, then ask the important question: Is it accessible? The answers will vary. I can tell you it really is like a flip of the coin! But if it is not accessible, ask them how they can help you. They should realize that they need to make arrangements for you, and usually they are helpful. I have had some experiences where they have arranged for a cab and paid for it, and some where they link up with an accessible shuttle from somewhere else. Again, all you are expecting is the same things that they offer to all of their customers.

OK, so now that you were successful in reserving a room that should meet your needs, here are some things to look for upon arrival.

  • I usually head straight for the bathroom to make sure it is what I was expecting and that it will work. Sometimes they might put you in a different room than you had requested, and there is no point settling in until you know it will work.
  • Look for the shower chair, if you need one. If it is not there, just ask them to bring it up to the room.
  • If I am staying by myself, I also look to see that I can reach the hand-held shower unit. Often it is too high, and it is easier to ask someone to lower it now than when you are ready to shower!
  • Look to see that the phone and/or alarm clock are on the side of the bed that you will be sleeping and within reach. If not, ask someone to move them over for you.
  • Remember that the hotel staff wants to make your stay enjoyable, so don’t feel like you are bugging them. They are happy to help with these little things that are very important to those of us with special needs!
  • The last area to be aware of is these super high beds that are popping up in hotels these days. When I look at them, I often think that an able-bodied person would need a step ladder to get into them! So how can I be expected to access them?If your room has a high bed, ask them to lower it. They can take it off of the frame and bring it down to a more functional height without too much effort. Don’t struggle to get in to bed and risk your safety! After all, remember that you are paying for this room!

I have found the staff at most hotels to be very helpful and accommodating. Often, they go out of their way to help, and, when they do, be sure to thank them for their efforts. Everyone likes to be told they are appreciated. They are in the service industry, so when they do good work, it is our responsibility to recognize them accordingly.

I also would suggest that when you find a particular hotel chain or local hotel that works for you, stick with them! I tend to travel to Dallas several times a year, and by staying in the same hotel, I can tell them which room I want to stay in, remind them to lower the bed before I get there, and arrange for an accessible taxi.

I hope that these tips will be helpful to you as you make hotel reservations. Oh, one thing I forgot to tell you: just in case things don’t work out with the shower, try washing your hair in the sink. I have often resorted to that rather than sacrificing my safety in the shower. If all else fails, I always bring a baseball hat along!

Happy travels!

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