Do you think that traveling and finding an accessible hotel room is difficult?
I have traveled throughout the last 32 years of having a disability, and extensively in the last three years - and there’s no doubt that finding an accessible hotel room that will accommodate your needs can be challenging.
Although I have encountered many obstacles when it comes to finding an accessible room, I don’t let that stop me from seeing the world. It’s a good idea to know your rights before trying to book your accessible room. I have also learned that extensive preparation can help in better outcomes when traveling.
What does the ADA say about hotels?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was written in 1990 and includes requirements for hotels. All types of disabilities are included in the ADA regulations including wheelchair users, the hearing and sight-impaired and many more. Therefore, hotels are required to have many different types of accessible rooms, depending on the size of the hotel. Check out this cool chart
from wheelchairtravel.org that shows the size of hotels and the number of different types of rooms they must have.
Despite these regulations, I have found many hotels that ignore these regulations. For example, I’ve stayed at hotels before that only offer accessible rooms with roll-in showers, when I prefer an accessible room with a bathtub. Or, sometimes the bigger suites that I want to book for my family are never accessible.
Some of these regulations were updated in 2010. Click here
to discover some of the new regulations added in.
Know your Rights
The US Department of Justice filed a case against Hilton Hotels in 2010 that as a result, created five important rules for hotels. You should know your rights when it comes to making hotels reservations.
- Allow people with disabilities to make room reservations the same ways that able-bodied people are allowed to, by telephone or online. You should be able to see all the accessible options when you are making an online reservation.
- The reservations representative should be able to describe the accessible features of the room in enough detail so that people can determine if the room will accommodate their needs.
- Hotels most hold accessible rooms for reservations for guests with disabilities until all standard rooms in that class are sold.
- Accessible rooms must be removed from the inventory as soon as it is reserved. Hotels are not allowed to overbook these rooms.
- Customers with disabilities are guaranteed to receive the specific room type they asked for. This covers amenities like an accessible room with a tub, roll-in shower, number of beds and bed type.
If you would like to read more about the agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and Hilton Worldwide Inc. click here.
Not everything that is needed to make a hotel room accessible is specifically outlined in the ADA. However, it does state that hotels are required to fulfill requests for reasonable accommodations, as long as these requests don’t place undue burden or cost on the business.
For example, the ADA does not include any regulation regarding the height of the bed. The current trend of hotel is to have beds as high as 30 inches from the floor. Yet, the optimal bed height for a wheelchair user to easily transfer is 17 inches to 19 inches from the floor. So, when beds are almost 30 inches off the ground, making transfers becomes impossible.
You can call the front desk and ask someone to come up and remove the box springs, which can help. If you use a transfer hoist you can ask for the bed to be put on risers, allowing the hoist to roll under the bed.
There also may be times when multiple pieces of furniture are blocking your access to the bed, curtains, light switches or the thermostat. It is reasonable to ask the hotel staff to remove these unnecessary pieces of furniture from the hotel room. Most hotels will happily help you make your room as accessible and comfortable as possible.
From my experience, it is a good idea to call the hotel directly, rather than going through a third party. While using a third-party service might save you a few dollars, your request for a specific accessible room might not be communicated to the hotel. Third-party booking companies also don't always know the availability of the accessible rooms and their notes may never be delivered to the hotel.
Additionally, when you use the search engine to look up the phone number for the hotel you desire, make sure you are not accidentally calling a third party booking service. These companies cleverly disguise themselves and it looks like you are calling the actual hotel. I have made this mistake more than once, so let me save you that headache of repeating my mistakes!
What if the hotel can’t accommodate your request?
If the room you reserved is unavailable, the manager will usually offer you a room at a nearby hotel, at no cost to you. This is still a huge hassle to a person with a disability because you will have to find accessible transportation to the other hotel. They should offer to pay for your transportation to the new location.
To try and avoid this situation, if you know that you are checking in late, make sure you call the hotel and let them know so they save your accessible room. Make sure you are speaking to a staff member at the hotel and not someone working off-site at the reservations center.
Can a hotel upcharge a person with a disability?
Bottom line - charging more for an accessible hotel room is illegal. The ADA states that setting a higher price for a hotel room solely based on its accessibility is disability discrimination. If you are told this by a front desk clerk, I would suggest you ask to speak with a manager. If you can’t get the manager to be reasonable, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Months ago, I reserved an accessible room with a bathtub and a king-sized bed. When I went to the front desk clerk to check in, she told me that, "Asking for an accessible room is only a request and it was not available." I explained that it was not a request and that I had called ahead to make sure they did not give away my room.
She goes on to tell me that there was an accessible suite for a higher price. I kindly explained that I would not pay a higher price for an accessible room because the hotel had given my original room to someone else. I was eventually upgraded to the accessible suite at no additional cost. Most of the time if you explain what the ADA says about accessible hotel rooms, the staff will try to accommodate you.
When you have a disability, booking a hotel requires a few extra steps and some roadblocks. But if you know your rights, it can be an opportunity to educate people in the hotel industry about how to accommodate people with disabilities.
Traveling, seeing the world and meeting new people are some of the best things in life and part of living your best life possible.