Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 – Accessible Lodging

As we prepared for two trips – a family wedding in October and, a few months later, attendance at a cultural event – I found it necessary to make accessible lodging arrangements.

I solicited the help of a travel agent for the second trip, knowing that hotels would be crowded and costly, and hoping she would have some “professional sway” to make sure we got what we needed. (Big thanks to Nona of Divine Destination Weddings, who specializes in all aspects of travel!)

For the wedding, however, I chose to trust my instincts and follow the suggestions of Candy Harrington as shared in her presentation to the Northern California Chapter of the National MS Society in May 2014.

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Accessible room, Hampton Inn, Corona, CA

(I wrote about Candy’s books, blog and credentials in June of this year. For a refresher, check here.)

My go-to resource for accessible travel is Candy’s book, Barrier-Free Travel (Third Edition), which contains current ADA requirements, recommendations on how to ask for specific needs, and many helpful suggestions. I highly recommend this book for any traveler.

Since most of the family would be staying at the Hampton Inn, at Candy’s recommendation I called the property directly rather than going through an 800-number reservations desk.

Because Carrieanna needed a room with a roll-in shower, I wanted the reservations clerk on-site to describe the accessibility. It was important to me to confirm that the shower was truly roll-in, without a lip or small step to get into the shower. Otherwise, it’s really a “walk-in shower.”

Candy suggests that if the reservations clerk cannot describe the accessibility to your satisfaction, it’s best to ask to speak to someone in housekeeping. They clean the rooms, and they would have firsthand knowledge of the accessibility features. (This is one example of the many helpful suggestions in the book.)

Being told that the shower was roll-in, I asked the clerk to block the room (rather than “confirm” it). That way, there should be no possibility that the room would be given to someone else. (Another of Candy’s very helpful suggestions.)

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

“Roll-in shower” at Hampton Inn, Corona

(As the photo shows, there was a small barrier on the floor – which Carrieanna removed during her stay. So technically this was not a “roll-in” shower, but we were able to adjust.)

Another important consideration in an accessible room is the bed height. If it’s too low it’s difficult for Carrieanna to get into and out of. Earlier this year we stayed in a hotel in Miami where this was a problem. Although the room had been remodeled for ADA accessibility, the beds were very low – as shown in the photo below.

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Lower bed height presented a challenge for Carrieanna

Unfortunately, bed height is not covered by ADA regulations, and there is no standard; they could be as low as 18 inches or as high as 36 inches.

Although we neglected to measure the bed height at the Hampton Inn, our “sit-on-it” test confirmed that the bed in Carrieanna’s room was of a height that was comfortable for her use.

Other features we greatly appreciated in her suite-like room at the Hampton Inn were: Lowered clothing rods in the closet,

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Easy-to-reach clothing rods

easy-to-use roll-up sinks in both the bathroom and the kitchenette area,

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Open area under the bathroom sink provided easy access for a wheelchair user.

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Easy access in the kitchenette.

and plenty of space within the room so that she could easily maneuver in her wheelchair.

We had similar good fortune last year when we spent a few days in a WorldMark by Wyndham facility in the Mission Valley area of San Diego.

Expert Travel Advice, Part 2 - Lodging

Lowered clothing rod in closet, good bed height. (WorldMark, Mission Valley, CA)

Carrieanna noted that the only challenge she had the WorldMark facility was the slightly thicker carpet in the hallways which made wheeling herself a bit more of a challenge. (Fortunately, she’s got great upper body strength and an “I can do it” attitude.)

We greatly appreciated the accessible accommodations in these two hotels. In a future post, I’ll talk about the challenges of finding accessible lodging that works for Carrieanna, and share some not-so-great lodging experiences.

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