One of our brothers in Christ, Howard Guetherman, shared his experiences staying in an “accessible” hotel room during a recent trip. Although he doesn’t require an accessible room, he was told it was the only room available and so he took it. As a member of our group, he was interested in what the room had to offer, and even more interested in what the room didn’t offer. He thought this might make an interesting topic for us to discuss as a group, and perhaps an area for us to work on as well.
Howard’s room was good in some ways - room at the sink, around the toilet, and around the bed for a wheelchair to navigate, ample grab bars - and bad in others, only a bathtub and no roll-in shower (fine for people who can transfer to a shower stool if one is available), and a fixed shower at the “normal” height with no hand-held shower. Howard’s biggest concern, however, is one that is rarely addressed: the room was on the third floor. When he spoke with the clerk at front desk and asked about plans to evacuate a disabled guest from the third floor in case of fire or other emergency, he was met with a chuckle and a suggestion that the person call the front desk to ask for help. There was no guarantee that someone would be at the front desk to answer the phone. When the clerk realized Howard was serious about his question, and his suggestion that the accessible rooms be moved to the first floor, the clerk stopped smiling.
What are your experiences with accessible rooms? What are your thoughts about safety? Personally, I have always asked for a room on a higher floor because I have trouble sleeping, and the soundproofing is so poor in most hotels that I prefer a room where I don’t hear the footsteps and other noises of the people above me. I realize it’s a dangerous choice, however.
Very few rooms are ideal as far as accessibility is concerned. Often the front of the sink is blocked off, so you can’t roll up in your chair, or the sink is so far back you wind up spitting onto counter. Often you can’t see your reflection in the mirror over the sink. Usually the coffeemaker or microwave is too high to use. Floor space is often tight, and I find having a convenient outlet for my power wheelchair a challenge. Many rooms are now putting in a lower peephole and a lower closet rod, for which I thank them. But thermostats and curtain pulls many times are still too high.
I’ve often thought it would be a great job to stay in accessible hotel rooms and give the management an assessment, to let them know what worked and what didn’t. The only standards I’ve found for accessible rooms* concern the bathroom facilities (bathtub with grab bars, transfer seat, or roll-in shower) and communications (visual alarms and notification devices).
So what are your thoughts, your experiences? Could we engage the hotel and motel chains in effecting positive changes in their accommodations? Could we start smaller, with the independents? Could we start even smaller, with a “report card” we leave at the desk when we check out after a stay? Or do we just let things be? How about a “Golden Rule” Award Card we leave at properties that are doing a good job? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
We thank you, Lord, that unlike Mary and Joseph, there is room at the inn. The room may not always be a good fit, but it is there, a roof over our heads as we travel in your world. Help us to be grateful for what we find, and to help make it better for those who follow. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
*Correction - I found the ADA Checklist for New Lodging Facilities, which is quite thorough, but most of us are dealing with existing properties.