Tips for Finding an Accessible Hotel
Getting accurate information about the accessibility of a hotel can be a little tricky and sometimes frustrating. In the last five years I have talked to hundreds of people about accessibility at their hotels and from these calls I have developed a strategy that works fairly well.
Most people don't intentionally give you bad information. It happens because they don't understand what it is you are asking or they don't understand the importance of their answers. In an effort to be helpful they sometimes tell you what they think you want to hear.
First, always talk directly to the property. Central reservations services for hotel chains have limited information in their systems. They have never even seen the hotel, nor are they even in the city you will be visiting. Therefore, contacting the hotel directly is must. When contacting the hotel tell them that you need to talk to someone who can give you some details about their rooms equipped for guests with disabilities. When you get someone on the line the first question to ask is, "Have you been in these rooms?" If the answer is no ask to speak to someone who has. From this point on avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no. For instance instead of asking do you have roll-in showers, ask them to tell you about the bathrooms. This will give you a real good idea how familiar they are with the rooms.
If you have trouble getting the information you need, ask to speak with the head of engineering. These people usually know a great deal about the rooms. Often they were even involved in the design and construction of the accessible rooms. Another good source of accurate information is the head of housekeeping. You become very familiar with a room after cleaning it a few times.
If all else fails ask for the general manager. Tell him you would like to stay at his hotel but, you can't get the information you need about their accessibility. If they don't know the answers they usually will find out for you.
A word of caution never assume anything, I once talked to a hotel owner about her accessible rooms. She gave me information about the rooms in great detail including the width of the doors. I could tell that great care had been taken in designing these rooms and I was convinced that the rooms were accessible. I than asked about the entrance of the hotel and was told that it only had four or five steps. So by not taking anything for granted when doing your research you can avoid unpleasant surprises when you arrive.
Once you determine that the hotel will suit your needs, reserve the room with a credit card so the room will be held for your arrival. Confirm that the reservation is guaranteeing an accessible room not just a room with a request for an accessible room. It also is a good idea to reconfirm your reservations a day or two before your arrival.
That brings me to a situation that does not arise as often as it use to, but can cause great anxiety when it happens. That is arriving at your hotel and being told that the accessible room you reserved is not available. The first thing you need to know is that it's not your problem, it's the hotels problem. It is their responsibility to find you another suitable accessible room, even if they have to put you up at the Ritz. However, you will more then likely have to point that out to them and make them take ownership of the problem. I usually start something like this, "Gee that's too bad, where are you putting us up for the night." Tip - Before going too far with this ask to speak to a manager or supervisor as desk clerks generally lack the authority to do much in these situations. Just keep your cool, be persistent and the situation generally will get resolved.
Here is another situation where knowing your rights can be helpful. Many hotels offer free airport shuttle to their guests. Many of these shuttles are not accessible, which they are often not required to be. However, the hotel is required to provide wheelchair users with alternate accessible transportation at no charge. What often happens when you ask if their shuttle is accessible, they will respond "I'm sorry our shuttle is not accessible." Your next question should be is "What alternative arrangements has the hotel made." This is another one of those situations that if you aren't getting the right answers, ask to speak to a manager or supervisor.
If you like to take road trips and not make reservations along the way, here are some tips that might make save you some headaches.
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