7 things to look for when booking an accessible hotel room

Nov 14, 2021

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As a frequent traveler that also happens to use a wheelchair, making sure that my hotel room is accessible for my needs is one of my first steps in booking any excursion.

Once I have decided on the destination and started working to secure accessible transportation in that city, I then begin the process of finding the right hotel. I mean, after all, a good night’s sleep is crucial in enjoying any getaway.

The following are several things you need to look for so that you too can secure and book that perfect wheelchair-accessible hotel room.

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Electric platform lift at building staircase
Electric platform lift at building staircase (Photo by Kyryl Gorlov/iStock

The location of a hotel is very important for anyone, especially wheelchair users. If the hotel is in the city center, you will likely be able to access the sights more quickly and easily without having to seek out accessible transportation every time you need to leave the room. Also, looking to see if the hotel is near the bus stop, train station, and/or airport could save you time so that you can enjoy more of the destination.

Related: Planning an accessible trip? These travel resources can help.

Elevator or bottom floor access

Elevator for disabled
Elevator for ground floor disabled access (Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/ iStock)

Call the hotel directly when booking your room. When you are talking with them, ask if their wheelchair-accessible room is on the bottom floor.

This is a safety feature in case of a fire or emergency evacuation or even a power outage in the hotel. You would not want to be stuck up a flight of stairs in any situation, especially if you are not able to roll outside to safety.

If the accessible room is not on the bottom floor and you are comfortable enough to stay on a higher floor, always ask the hotel if there is an elevator to access that level. Trust me, I have learned over time to never assume anything (even that a hotel with an accessible room on the 20th floor has an elevator) without asking the proper questions.

Roll-in shower and grab bars

Accessible bathroom (Photo by Bertlmann/Getty Images)

It is important to ask the hotel when calling directly if the accessible room has a roll-in shower with no step or if it has a tub.

There is a difference in a walk-in shower and a roll-in shower, so always make sure you ask if there is a step to get inside the shower or if you could roll a wheelchair inside the stall.

Roll in shower with fold-down bench and pull-under sink
Roll in shower with fold-down bench and pull-under sink (Photo by Cory Lee)

Sometimes, the workers have not been properly educated on the appropriate terms of descriptions of the room, so always be exact with your questions. If grab bars around the toilet and in the shower are needed, ask the worker directly also about this when you call ahead for booking.

Bed height and space beneath the bed for Hoyer lift access

Disabled access in hotel room
Disabled access in hotel room (Photo by Johner Images)

Lots of hotel rooms now have what is called a “platform” style bed. This is a mattress sitting on a block frame with no space beneath the mattress, as it is all attached in one piece. This does not allow any access for a Hoyer lift to be used. By calling the hotel and asking if there is enough space under the bed for a can of soda to fit underneath will let you know if a Hoyer lift can be used.

Frequently, the hotel staff won’t fully understand what a Hoyer lift is, but they will surely know if a can of soda can fit underneath the bed and if it can, most Hoyer lifts should be able to fit. If you are able to transfer yourself without a lift, asking the dimensions of the bed height would be very important. This will give you the knowledge to know if you can easily transfer from your wheelchair to the bed. After all, a safe transfer will not only give you peace of mind, but also a good night’s sleep.

Spaciousness in the room

Spacious accessible room at The Chanler at Cliff hotel (Photo by Cory Lee)

A spacious room is a necessity for wheelchair access. You need enough space to be able to maneuver your wheelchair between the furniture and still have space to turn around without bumping into objects or running over your loved one’s feet!

Luxury handicap access suite
Luxury accessible suite (Photo by Jon Lovette/Photographer’s Choice RF)

You should go on the hotel website to search for photos of the accessible room. If they are not available or do not show the bathroom, call the hotel directly. Ask the worker to email you photos of the accessible room and show details of each area. This will allow you more information by seeing if for yourself and learning more about if it will work for you and your needs.

Pool, beach, and hot tub accessibility

(Photo by WoodysPhotos/Getty Images)

Remember, the cost of the room also includes use of the hotel’s amenities. If a swimming pool or hot tub is on-site, ask the hotel if the pool and hot tub are equipped with an access lift to maneuver someone from a wheelchair to be able to access it. Depending on what is important to you, this may make or break your decision to choose this hotel. If the hotel is beachfront, ask the hotel if there is a ramp to access the beach from a beach wheelchair. You may also want to ask if there are any access mats on the sand, so that your wheelchair can roll over the sand easily without having to rent a specialized beach wheelchair with inflated tires.

Bottom Line:

These tips should help you have the best, most accessible stay possible. Remember, everyone’s needs are different, so when calling the hotel for booking, be as specific as possible and direct with your questions. This will help to ensure that your stay will not only be comfortable but also memorable for all the right reasons.

Featured photo by Johner Images/Getty Images.

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