This week I have the privilege to take some time out from human interaction and have booked myself into a well-known local hotel chain just to get away from the hustle and bustle of life to recharge my batteries.
Those with disabilities (specifically physical disabilities) know the challenges we face daily when venturing out of our homes due to physical accessibility issues. For this reason, I made sure I did some homework before making a reservation to eliminate any surprises I may face on arrival at my choice of accommodation.
According to the website of the chosen hotel – under “accessibility” I found the following:-
- Accessible guest rooms have a 32-inch wide opening (I’m not a wheelchair user so this was not relevant to my particular needs) so . . . moving on . . .
- Bathroom vanity in guest rooms for disabled person height
- Bathtub grab bars
- Lowered electrical outlets
- Registration desk (with no further explanation regarding accessibility so I assumed it must be accessible?)
- Restaurants and lounges (no further explanation regarding accessibility so I assumed it must be accessible?)
- Route to accessible guest rooms is accessible
- Self-operating lifts or sloped entry
- Toilet seat in guest room for disabled persons
Based on the above, I felt comfortable enough to make a reservation as I was led to believe that my physical disability would be reasonably accommodated. On arrival, however, this is what I discovered.
- Reception/Reservation Desk – although manageable for me, would be too high for a wheelchair user (just thought I’d mention this)
- Check-in documentation: part of the check-in documentation was a document I had to complete with my contact details and sign at the end after having read the Terms and Conditions. The terms and conditions text was so tiny even with a magnifying glass and spectacles I would have battled to read it – in addition to the fact that the lighting in the Reception area was poor which would make things difficult for anybody with low vision as well. When I mentioned this to the Front of House person assisting me she just smiled sweetly (poor angel is merely an employee and felt powerless to do anything about this). I did ask for the text to be read to me but was not taken seriously. Against my better judgement I signed the document assuming the terms and conditions are “standard”.
- During the check-in process I mentioned that I would need one of the “mobility accessibility” rooms (I had mentioned this when I booked online as well). The lady kindly said she noticed (due to my crutches) that I would probably not be able to make my way upstairs to the rooms so she would see which rooms are available to assign to me. At this point I asked whether there’s no elevator in the building and she said “no”. The only access is via the stairs – in spite of the website stating “self-operating lifts or sloped entry”.
- Restaurants (lunch and dinner) – upstairs and the only access is via the stairs but room service is available (at a cost plus tip obviously). The dining room for breakfast is on the ground floor next to the Reception/Registration desk.
Back to the “mobility accessible” rooms . . .
There was no mention at any point that what is classified as “mobility accessible” rooms are two of the self-catering units (one needs to walk back out of Reception, up a sloped walkway through the parking area to the self-catering units). Only two of the self-catering units are “mobility accessible”– one has a bath only (with grab rails) but to access this unit one needs to climb 6 – 8 relatively steep concrete steps on the outside of the building to get inside. If you’re a wheelchair user or someone like me unable to climb stairs, then this one is not an option.
The only other option available (the one eventually assigned to me for the duration of my stay) was one with a level walk-in surface with a shower – not a walk-in shower though so not accessible for a wheelchair user.
I did not have a tape measure with me to measure the entrance so would assume it’s a 32-inch wide entrance as mentioned on the website? My estimation is that a standard wheelchair would be able to enter but the door is on such a tight hinge that you would need someone to keep the door open for a wheelchair user to enter. A slightly larger motorized wheelchair (depending on size) might be able to make it through the door.
The bedroom/en-suite bathroom:
- Huge double/twin beds with very little space between the bed and the wall on either side so a wheelchair user will have to access the bed from the foot end and slide all the way up to the top – and exit the bed again from the foot end of the bed.
- Access to en-suite bathroom – from the foot end of the bed, the turn into the bathroom (in my opinion) is too short so a wheelchair user would struggle. If able to manage the turn into the bathroom, the wheelchair user would have to ride straight into the bathroom facing the bathroom vanity and then not be able to close the door. To access the toilet the wheelchair user would not be able to make the turn to the right, which means the wheelchair user would not be able to have access to the toilet (even though it is claimed that the “toilet seat in guest room for disabled persons”.
- Shower in this unit – as already mentioned is not a walk-in shower (even though it’s a shower big enough for two people to shower at the same time) which means it would not be accessible to a wheelchair user.
- Bathroom vanity (in this unit) is oval and very deep which means that a wheelchair user would not be able to access the bathroom vanity (in spite of the website saying “bathroom vanity in guest rooms for disabled person height”). With an inaccessible shower and inaccessible bathroom vanity, the wheelchair user would need to be bed bathed by a carer and not be able to travel independently.
- “Lowered electrical outlets” (according to the website) – the few “lowered” outlets are so low a wheelchair user would have to fold themselves in half to be able to reach the outlet.
So . . . does this hotel “branch” pass the test of being “mobility accessible”? What do you think?