Booking hotels is always one of the most difficult parts of vacationing. Among other factors, you must consider location, price, amenities – and you have to find all of this information online, because chances are you’ve never been to where you’re headed before. As a wheelchair user, it’s important to put extra time and consideration into this process, because we have different and unique needs when it comes to finding accommodation.
For instance, for all of us with an electric wheelchair you will want to ensure that you have proper converters handy to be able to charge your electric wheelchair if you are traveling to Europe from the United States as an example.
When I travel, it’s not enough to simply do research and book a hotel based off of what I see online, because the word “accessible” can be interpreted in too many different ways. So, what should a wheelchair user do when booking a hotel? Here’s a simple guide:
Step 1: Browse Options Online
I know, I know – I just said that it’s not enough to simply research a hotel online… but this is still the best way to begin the process. Sites like HotelsCombined, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and more are excellent sources to find hotels in your desired location, compare prices and look up amenities. They often have great deals, too!
During this step, you can create a list of possible options, but before you get clicker-happy and hit that “Book” button, it’s quite likely that you’ll need more details… which brings us to Step 2.
Step 2: Call the Hotel
If you’re unsure about anything you see online, or just to confirm what you do see, it’s imperative to actually call the hotel and speak to a representative. One time, for example, I called a hotel in Germany to make sure that they were wheelchair accessible. They told me that they were, but when I asked more questions, it became apparent that their only real accessible feature was an elevator!
This is the perfect example of how the word “accessible” can mean so many different things to different people. So, to discover what “accessible” means to the hotel you’re interested in, as well as to confirm the presence of any features you see online, it’s always a good idea to call… which brings us to Step 3.
Step 3: Ask Specific Questions About Accessibility
While each wheelchair user has different requirements and preferences, below are some questions to possibly ask when you’re on the phone with a hotel:
1. What accessible features does your hotel have?
If it doesn’t specify online, it’s always good to find out what a hotel means when they say that they’re “accessible.” You’ll probably want to ask more specific questions about some of these features (we’ll cover more of those below), but first you should get a general lay of the land – ramps, elevators, handicapped parking, and any other features they mention are good to know about.
2. What accessible features do rooms have?
Again, this may be specified online, but it’s a good idea to tally up and confirm the features each hotel offers. If you’re not satisfied with the answers you receive, or seek additional information, consider some of the specific questions below.
3. Does the room have a roll-in shower?
Remember my example above? Not all hotels that say they’re “accessible” will actually have features that many wheelchair users need in order to be able to function properly. This is why it’s essential to ask specifically if the shower is a roll-in one or a bath tub.
4. Are there grab bars located around the toilet and shower?
While grab bars are usually included in the definition of an “accessible room,” you can never be too sure, especially if you’re traveling to another country and you don’t know much about their accessibility rules and regulations. Thus, it’s always good to check about grab bars, and make sure that you ask if they’re provided near both the toilet and the shower.
5. Is a shower chair provided? If so, what type?
Even hotels that boast roll-in showers don’t always have shower chairs… and even hotels with shower chairs won’t always have the type you need or prefer. This is probably one of the most important questions on the list, because what good is a roll-in shower with grab bars if you’re still not actually able to sit in a shower chair and use it?
6. How much space is under the bed?
In this case, it’s good to ask for a specific measurement in inches or centimeters. I usually bring a hoyer lift with me when I travel – a device that helps me get out of my wheelchair and into bed, and vice-versa. It must be able to slide under the bed, so I always make a point of asking for a precise measurement before booking a room.
7. Are the accessible rooms located on the first floor?
It’s best to be prepared for any situation. Elevators are obviously fantastic, but if the accessible room is a penthouse – or even just a couple floors from the ground – that won’t help wheelchair users in the case of a fire. Because of this, you always want to make sure that the accessible rooms are located on the ground floor.
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Step 4: Ask for Photos of the Room
If you’re worried about the setup or how spacious the room is, it’s a good idea to ask for photos of the hotel’s accessible room. After double-checking that it’s right for you, you’ll feel even more confident when you decide to make a reservation!
So, what are the questions you like to ask before booking a hotel?