Booking a hotel is one of the most stressful parts of planning a trip. There are many factors to consider including cost, amenities and location. It is even more challenging for wheelchair users who have to evaluate each hotel thoroughly to ensure it meets their unique needs. While it can be simple to find some of this information online, hotel descriptions lack crucial details. So don’t just book those hotel rooms which claim to be wheelchair or handicap accessible. Instead, follow these steps for successfully booking wheelchair accessible hotels.
Step 1: Determine Your Needs
Hotels offering accessible accommodation will not necessarily meet the needs of each guest. There are no accessibility standards among hotels, leaving it up to the discretion of each individual property. Before booking, jot down a detailed list of your needs and preferences in your wheelchair accessible hotel room. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you need space for a lift under your bed?
- Would you rather a roll-in shower or bathtub?
- Do you want any specific amenities such as room service or a restaurant?
- Will you need a parking space or is public transportation close by?
- Will you need an accessible shuttle or wheelchair accessible taxi?
Step 2: Narrow Down Your Options Online
Begin your research online. Use the filters on websites such as booking.com, oyster.com or tripadvisor.com and search for wheelchair or handicap accessible hotels. From here, you should get an idea about which hotels are suited to your wants and needs. You may also want to check reviews left by other guests to read more about their experiences. Make a shortlist of options and proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Call the Hotel Directly
Contacting the hotel directly when booking wheelchair accessible hotel rooms is essential. When you call, you will want to confirm what you have read online before making your reservation. Ask for detailed information about the accessible features in the guestrooms and in the hotel itself because each hotel will have its own interpretation of the term “wheelchair accessible”. Which brings you to Step 4.
Step 4: Ask Questions
Not everyone who uses a wheelchair has the same requirements. Always be direct and explain your needs clearly. During your phone call, you will also want to ask some of the following questions listed below.
Questions related to common areas:
- Is there designated handicap accessible parking at the hotel?
- Are there ramps or a lift at the main entrance?
- Are there ramps within the common areas of the hotel?
- Is the breakfast room barrier-free?
- Do the doors open automatically?
- Is the elevator wheelchair accessible?
- What facilities are wheelchair accessible? If there is a pool are there stairs or a lift?
Questions about the rooms:
- Are the wheelchair accessible rooms located on the ground floor of the hotel?
- Are there any stairs to enter the room or inside the room itself?
- Is hanging space in the closet at wheelchair height?
- Are the doorways widened?
- Are there lever type door handles?
- Is there enough space to maneuver around the room and the bathroom?
- Are the light switches, power outlets, safes, hairdryers, etc. at wheelchair height?
- Is there room on both sides of the bed to transfer from a wheelchair?
- What is the height between the floor and the bed?
- Is there space under the bed for a lift?
- What is the height of the mattress itself?
Questions about the bathrooms:
- Is there a roll-in-shower or a bathtub?
- Is the showerhead handheld?
- Does the shower have a chair? Does it wheel-in or is it wall mounted?
- Is there a back to the shower chair?
- Are grab-bars installed in the bathroom and shower area?
- Is there space to transfer from a wheelchair onto the toilet?
- Are there grab-bars next to the toilet? What side are they on?
- Is the toilet raised?
- Is there room beneath the sink for a wheelchair?
Questions about the location:
- Where is the closest wheelchair repair shop?
- What health services available nearby?
- How close is the hotel to shops and restaurants
Tips for calling:
- Call the hotel directly rather than a third-party booking service.
- Speak with someone who can provide details about wheelchair accessible rooms.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Ask for detailed descriptions.
- Take notes about your conversation. Include the name of the hotel representative who you spoke to as well as the date, and the time of your call. Have these with you at check-in.
- Confirm that you have a room guaranteed at check-in, not just a request for a wheelchair or handicap accessible room if available.
Step 5: Ask for a Photo of the Hotel Room and Bathroom
If you’re still a little worried about whether or not the hotel will meet your needs, ask for photos of the accessible room. You can also check comparison websites such as booking.com or TripAdvisor for photos of the hotel and its facilities. Once you have a visual representation of the hotel you will feel more assured when you decide to make your reservation.
Step 6: Booking & Confirmation
Once you’re confident that the hotel meets your needs, reserve the room. Have the hotel send you a confirmation email noting all the details discussed. Have this available with you at check-in in case problems arise.
Step 7: Before Your Departure
Once you’ve reserved your room, you will want to reconfirm your booking a couple of days ahead. Give the hotel a quick call and make sure they have your reservation listed properly in their computer.
Additional Tips for Successfully Booking Wheelchair Accessible Hotel Rooms
Stay with large, established hotel chains
The bigger hotel chains will likely be your best option. They have policies for accessibility in place and often abide by strict guidelines. These properties tend to be renovated more often and often feature more updated technology. Bigger chains also have customer service representatives who can help you if any problems should arise.
Stay at newly built hotels
In most countries, newly built public properties must adhere to wheelchair accessible building specifications. Older hotels often lack space to move around. If there is are elevators, they may not be suitable for wheelchairs.
Book directly with the hotel
Hotel comparison websites are great for research, but when it comes to booking wheelchair accessible hotel rooms, it should always be done directly. This will help guarantee your wheelchair accessible reservation.
Be Prepared Should the Following Problems Arise:
The hotel has no accessible rooms available when you check-in
Whether there was a problem with your reservation or your room was given to another guest in error, the hotel is responsible to find you a suitable accessible room. Even if that means sending your business elsewhere.
The free hotel shuttle or taxi is not accessible
The hotel is required to provide free alternate transportation that is wheelchair accessible.
There isn’t enough space to maneuver around the furniture
If you can’t get around your room, don’t be hesitate to ask for maintenance to remove any unnecessary furniture.
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