Wheelchair accessibility at hotels varies greatly–by hotel chain, brands within chains, hotels within brands, state-to-state, city-to-city, country-to-country, age of property. And the list continues. This variability is frustrating–a seemingly slight change is often the difference between a room working…or not. And scrambling to find another hotel at the last minute or after a long day is a nightmare, and one that may not have a good ending (e.g., all other hotels are sold out). Thus, finding wheelchair accessible hotels is a top priority for the planning process.
And this process is made better by booking as early as possible! Each hotel only has a few wheelchair accessible rooms. You need to book as far in advance as possible so you have the best chance of those rooms being available.
- Find all Likely Accessible Hotels in the Desired Area
- Investigate Wheelchair Accessibility of the Hotels
- Contact the Hotel to Confirm Wheelchair Accessibility
- Repeat Process if Unsuccessful in Finding Wheelchair Accessible Hotels
1) Find all Likely Accessible Hotels in the Desired Area
My first step for finding wheelchair accessible hotels is to determine the area in which I want to stay. This gives me a geographic boundary to make the searching more feasible and targeted. I then search for hotels within that boundary.
I typically do this by exploring http://www.google.com/maps, zoom in on my desired location, and then search for “hotels” nearby (highlighted below in left screenshot). This will display hotel locations in the area, and I can then further filter by price, dates, number of people staying, etc.
If the Google Maps search provides too many results, I will also go to the major hotel chain websites (e.g., Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Radisson) and search each of their websites for hotels near my desired location. This may help focus the search results to hotel chains are likely to provide an experience similar to their properties in America. But note that this method eliminates independent chains or hotels, and may miss experiencing local hotels that provide more accessibility. Searching is always a balancing act between casting too wide of a net to be useful and narrowing too much at the exclusion of good options.
2) Investigate Wheelchair Accessibility of the Hotels
Now that I have a list or map view of the hotel options, I narrow it down based on factors such as price and distance from the desired sites or transit stops. I also often give a slight preference toward hotel chains that I know work best for me, and prioritize them. For example, Hilton chains tend to work better for me–their bed heights are typically around 22-24″ with larger roll-in showers, whereas I have encountered high beds at Marriott and IHG chains, and low beds at Hyatt. That said, each property is different–e.g., I have had great experiences at J.W. Marriott, InterContinental, and Hyatt Place hotels. And each person’s needs are different–other chains may work better for you. In any event, these initial preferences are a starting point to help focus my search.
Once I have several good options, I then visit the hotels’ websites to review their accessibility information. Websites are getting better at providing photos, describing access in and around the building, and features of the rooms. I also peruse www.tripadvisor.com to look at other guests’ photos of the rooms and common areas–many of the photos happen to capture useful wheelchair accessibility information, even if not the focus of the photo. And, OF COURSE, you should check out SCOOTY’s repository of review hotels.
I then try to find availability for a wheelchair accessible room that meets my needs (e.g., roll-in shower). If available, I will book a refundable room so I can hold the room while I confirm accessibility. I may even hold a room at a few different hotels while I go through the accessibility confirmation process to increase the chances that I have a reservation that will work at the end of the process. This process only takes a few days, and I cancel the other reservations as promptly as possible (of course).
Tip: If there is a hotel I like but the website does not show that a wheelchair accessible room is available (or not one with a roll-in shower), I will still contact the hotel to see if there is availability. There is often some availability, or the hotel can provide additional information about other potential options (e.g., suites, non-accessible rooms that may still work for short visits). Hotel websites are getting better and are pretty reliable for confirming availability of a wheelchair accessible room, but they are not as reliable for confirming the unavailability of wheelchair accessible rooms.
3) Contact the Hotel to Confirm Wheelchair Accessibility
Finally, the most foolproof way to confirm accessibility is to contact the hotels in advance about basic accessibility questions:
- Is there a ramp/elevator to get into the building?
- Will my scooter fit in the elevator (and provide them with the dimensions of my scooter)?
- What is the bed height?
- What kind of pool lift is there?
- Do you offer a wheelchair accessible shuttle to/from the airport? If they offer a non-accessible shuttle, do they offer to pay for wheelchair accessible taxis when you need them (as an accommodation for their not offering an accessible shuttle)?
- Do they know a good/reliable wheelchair accessible taxi company? Can they assist in arranging for pick-up/drop-off services with a wheelchair accessible taxi?
- Are you close to a public transit station?
- Do you offer digital room keys? If so, what apps or accounts do I need to install on my phone to access the digital key?
European hotels are typically more responsive, but all hotels are getting better at responding and providing that information.
Tip: Phone calls are faster, but I like e-mail so I have a written record of the conversation. This helps me keep each hotel’s response straight–I typically contact multiple hotels at the same time, and thus it is easy to confuse them if I am relying on my memory/contemporaneous notes. The e-mail also helps motivate the hotel to assist in finding a solution if something goes wrong–there may not be a solution to a problem, but a written record of them saying it would work is a good reason for them to help try to find one. It also shows that you did your due diligence in advance and could not have done anything more.
4) Repeat Process if Unsuccessful in Finding Wheelchair Accessible Hotels
Finding wheelchair accessible hotels can take multiple attempts of searching. If I can’t find a hotel near my preferred area (or for my preferred budget), I will look for hotels near wheelchair accessible public transportation routes that service my desired area. This way I still have easy access to my preferred location, but can widen my wheelchair accessible hotel search.
I will also check back with hotels every few weeks to see if any wheelchair accessible rooms have become available. Rooms may become available for several reasons, such as someone cancelling a reservation or a hotel opening more rooms due to capacity demand. I try to do the checks several times when I am planning the trip so I can reserve at least one good option. But I also check back with my desired hotels at common cancellation periods (e.g,. 7 days, 3 days, and 1 day before arrival).
Tip: This is also a great way to ensure you obtain the cheapest rate. You either confirm that the rate you booked remained the cheapest, or you can contact the hotel and ask for the cheaper rate. Worst case scenario is you book the new rate and then cancel your old reservation.