Traveling with a disability can be overwhelming, stressful, and sometimes just downright frustrating. But we at AXIS Dance Company have compiled a handy list of the top ten tips for traveling with a disability. We hope you will find this helpful, and will feel even more empowered to make the most of your hotel experience while traveling.
Tip 1: Book far enough in advance so you can talk to hotel management about your needs ahead of time and be put in touch with the accessibility coordinator of the hotel brand at which you are staying. This can be accomplished by calling the 1-800 number or contacting the brand through social media (ironically tweeting the brand is the quickest way to get an accurate reply). By tweeting, you are also helping other social media users with special needs learn more about this hotel establishment.
Tip 2: Once you have been put in touch with the right people, explain your needs in the most basic of terminology possible, as the hotel staff may not be accustomed to accessibility lingo. So it is important that you advocate for yourself and ask the following questions:
- Do the guest bathrooms contain the following: toilet and tubs with grab bars, and toilets with seats between 17-19” (43.2 – 48.3 cm) from the floor?
- Do the tubs and showers have hand-held shower hoses, insulated lavatory pipes, and faucets operable with a closed fist?
- Do you have an accessible breakfast/check in area?
Tip 3: Make sure the hotel has a room layout that will fit your needs. For example, if you need a roll in shower and have a party of two or more, you will more than likely end up with one queen bed and a sleeper sofa as a second bed. (Hotels will assume disabled people travel with one companion only and not with a family.)
Tip 4: Since the bathroom is the most important place to be accessible for you during your stay, be sure to ask the following questions to hotel staff upon check in:
- Is the entrance door at least 30 inches wide (from frame to frame)?
- Do you have a raised toilet with a seat height of 18-22 inches?
- Are there safety grab bars next to the toilet without barriers like an emergency phone in case of a fall? Are these bars equipped with a non-skid grip for safety when hands are wet?
- Does the roll in shower come with an adjustable hand held shower head?
- Does the roll in shower have a fold down bench or a shower chair? If a shower chair is used, does it have adjustable legs? What is the height of the shower chair?
- If a bath tub/shower combination is used, do you have a shower transfer bench to place in the tub? (A shower transfer bench has two legs that go inside the tub and two legs that go outside the tub. It is not a chair or a stool.) Does the shower transfer bench have adjustable legs?
- If the sink pipes are exposed underneath the sink, do these pipes have covers so legs will not be burned while using hot water?
- Are the outlets in an accessible place without having to struggle to plug in bathroom appliances or hair care tools?
Tip 5: Ask about bed accommodations and room accessories accessibility.
- Is there at least 36 inches (91.4 cm) of clear space on both sides of the bed - or, if the guest room contains two beds, between the two beds?
- Is there at least a 5 foot (1.52 m) diameter of clear turning space in guest living areas, bedrooms, and bathrooms?
- Is the height of the bed under 27 inches? (What is the height if more than 27”?) If the bed is too high, you could ask for a shorter rollaway bed. Some hotels even offer sideboards or transfers slings to move safely.
- Are the outlets and light switches in an accessible area that can be reached from the bed without the fear of falling?
- If you have a suite, ask to make sure the couch is the not more than 27 inches high. In addition, make sure the desk is barrier free for easy transfer.
Tip 6: For those with hearing impairments and/or the sight impaired, ask about the tools available in the room and hotel common areas.
- Do they contain a text telephone, close-caption decoder, and visual alarms?
- Does the hotel have raised and Braille lettering in the elevators, at guest room entrances, and on all signs designating public conference rooms, recreation areas and restrooms?
Tip 7: Ask about food or accessibility accommodations in hotel restaurants or bar areas.
- Ask if the chef is able to prepare special meals or snacks due to particular dietary restrictions or allergies. (Most hotels will ask that you call 30 days in advance to ensure the chef can prep properly.)
- Does the bar have an ADA area with lower counters for you to order drinks and spend time with friends and/or family?
- To ensure a comfortable dining experience, and minimize the risk of being bumped into, ask for a table away from the bathroom or crowded pathways.
Tip 8: Ask about pool or patio areas and their accessibility factors.
- Does the pool have a lift or barrier-free entry?
- Does the pool have an accessible bathroom within 500 ft. of the pool deck?
- Are the deck chairs accessible to transfer safely?
Tip 9: When going out on an excursion, does the hotel offer (or can they recommend) an accessible transport or car rental service?
- Some hotels will offer you a hotel van with a driver that has a lift or a pop-out seat that will allow you to transfer safely.
- If not, Budget or Enterprise rental car does offer cars equipped with hand controls or vans with lifts and pop-out seats.
Tip 10: Since you did your due diligence, have fun and explore your destination! Traveling with a disability can be difficult, but it's not impossible. All it takes is a little planning and the willingness to educate folks!