While traveling, a hotel room functions as a home-away-from-home for showering, resting, eating, and more. A suitable hotel room is integral to a relaxing, enjoyable travel experience, but the unpredictable nature of hotel room accessibility can often upset even the best laid plans. My partner and I regularly encounter these difficulties. He uses an electric wheelchair, meaning we need accessible hotel rooms that meet or exceed all mobility-related accessibility standards. As his able-bodied travel companion, I try my best to make the experience smooth and stress-free by being proactive. I put this responsibility on myself not because he cannot navigate it himself, but he deals with the burden of an inaccessible world daily, and if I can shoulder that load for him once in a while, I’m more than happy to do so.
After years of trial and error, I have learned the following tips for easing the process of finding a mobility accessible hotel room:
Communicating with your travel partner
Before selecting a hotel or embarking on a trip, be sure to have an open conversation with your travel partner. What accessibility features do they require? What features would be great to have, but aren’t imperative? How much detail are they comfortable for you to share with hotel staff? Asking these questions ahead of time not only gives you the information needed to select a hotel, but can help your travel partner feel heard.
Choosing a hotel
This may come as a surprise to some, but the best hotels in terms of mobility accessibility are often the cheapest. Red Roof Inn, Motel 6, and similar chain hotels have become our go-to while traveling. Generally, the bathrooms provide plenty of space for transferring and the roll-in showers are spacious. The rooms are rarely overcrowded with furniture that makes an otherwise wide aisle too narrow for a wheelchair. You can always call ahead to ask about room specifications, but be wary. Each room may differ from the next due to the varying types of accessible rooms (ones with communication devices and visual doorbells rather than a roll-in shower, for example) so be sure to specify exactly what you need. For better or worse, no accessible room is the same as another.
Checking out the room
Before unloading the car, I always check in at the front desk and ask to see the room. Based on the conversation you had with your travel partner, you will know what features to watch for in the room. Does the toilet have enough room beside it to transfer from a chair? Are there shelves above the toilet someone could hit their head on while transferring? Does the room have a bathtub or a roll-in shower? Is the bed low enough and have enough room beside it to transfer? By examining the room beforehand, we avoid the frustration of unloading the car just to repack it again if the room isn’t suitable. Sometimes, we go through multiple hotels before finding one with a room that will work for us.
Working with staff members
Depending on the issue, hotel staff may be able to help you make the room appropriately accessible. I often ask to have extra pieces of furniture removed to create larger aisles. In one extreme situation, staff even offered to take the door of its hinges to make the doorway wide enough. If the assigned room doesn’t work, you can always ask to see others or simply find a different hotel. Be sure to remain respectful and polite throughout your interactions with staff. Inaccessibility can be immensely frustrating, but maintaining a calm demeanor can ease tension and educate staff on accessibility.
We still run into difficulties while traveling, but experience has made us better equipped to handle them. I hope my tips can help other travel companions confidently navigate hotel accessibility.