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REVIEW: Wheelchair Accessibility at the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel

wheelchair accessible belmond place charlestonLocated at the very heart of downtown Charleston, South Carolina, in the historic district and within walking distance of all the major attractions, Belmond Charleston Place is the perfect base for a city adventure. The hotel effortlessly blends gentility and old-world charm with a leading-edge spa and innovative cuisine. This hotel is incredibly luxurious, with 434 rooms (including several that are designated as wheelchair accessible), several restaurants, an indoor pool (with a lift), fitness center, and spa. The Belmond is located 13 miles from the airport, and is very centrally located about one block away from the Charleston City Market and a DASH bus stop. Like any hotel, true wheelchair access and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance varied and wasn’t perfect in spots. However, the level of service and attention to my accessibility needs was exemplary and made for a fantastic stay. Here is my (wheelchair) accessibility review of the Belmond Charleston Place.

The Room

wheelchair accessible belmond place charlestonMy 80 year-old mother was able to travel with me to Charleston, so we stayed in an ADA accessible Premium Double room with two double beds. The room was beautifully decorated, with one nightstand between the beds, two chairs and a small table, an armoire, dresser with a TV, and a desk. The beds were sufficiently low enough for me to transfer (I would guess about 28″ high), and were on legs with enough space underneath for a portable hoist. I did not have enough space to roll to the far side of the second bed closest to the window, and I definitely couldn’t reach the curtains to open and close them. Had I been traveling alone, I would have had hotel maintenance remove the two chairs and small table from my room. Based on the level of service I experienced, I have no doubt they would have done this within minutes. There were several outlets and push-button controls for all room lights right next to the bed, which I loved.

The Bathroom

wheelchair accessible belmond place charlestonThe bathroom in my room had marble floors and walls, which looks really beautiful. There was ample space for me to maneuver between the sink, shower, and toilet. However, the grab bars that were installed weren’t true round ADA stainless steel bars. Instead, they were square and smooth towel bars. They were placed in the right places, but as a result (likely an attempt to match the bathroom’s chrome aesthetic), they were too thin, painful to hold on to, and slippery. This was even more so in the shower, where there was no fold-down bench. Within minutes of requesting a shower chair at the concierge desk, one was brought to my room. However, it dd not offer the safety and stability that a fold-down bench would, especially combined with the very slippery marble shower floor. The hand-held shower head and water controls were easily reachable because of where I placed the shower chair. The sink was easy to roll under, there was a good amount of counter space, and there was an adjustable makeup mirror next to the main mirror.

Public Areas

wheelchair accessible belmond place charlestonThe public areas of the Belmond Charleston Place are absolutely stunning in their elegance, from the double curving staircases and chandelier in the lobby to the indoor infinity pool next to the terrace bar. Possibly my favorite thing about this hotel is that they have a movable pool lift. They keep it in a corner of the pool area, but you just have to let someone in the spa know that you need it. Within a few minutes they can roll it to the edge of the gorgeous pool so you can get in. The restaurants are all accessible, as are the café, stores, and fitness center. I did not explore the spa, but I have a feeling they would work to accommodate wheelchair users. There is easy access to Market Street with two ramps on either side of the sidewalk circle. My only complaint about the public areas is the bathrooms on the lobby level and conference/ballroom level on the second floor. The women’s accessible toilet on the lobby level has a non-ADA narrow door to enter, and only one grab bar behind the toilet (I couldn’t use it). The women’s toilet on the second level had grab bars in better spots, but the width of the doorway to enter the stall was too narrow.

Parking

You have the option to use the valet, or if you have an accessible van like me, self-park in the garage right next to the hotel. The garage is both for the general public and hotel guests. The great news is that with your handicapped license plate or placard, you can park there for free during your entire stay. You just have to write your license or placard number, state, and name on your parking garage ticket each time you exit. The not-so-great news is that the garage doesn’t have enough accessible parking spaces, and the ones they do have are too narrow (i.e. not ADA compliant. In some cases, the edge of the space is up against a rail, so someone on that side of the car isn’t getting out that way. In one case, I had to take up two non-accessible spaces on the top floor so I could deploy my ramp. However, that was a small price to pay to save the $20 daily parking fee.

Summary

Despite the few accessibility issues here and there, I truly enjoyed my stay (and so did my mom!) at the Belmond Charleston Place. Most importantly, I brought up the ADA deficiencies to the manager, and he was truly and sincerely concerned and interested in fixing them as soon as possible. My main priorities for a hotel stay are having the ability to sleep comfortably, use the toilet, and shower safely. While the showering part was a bit of touch-and-go, I managed. I would recommend this hotel to wheelchair users with the notice that you will have a shower chair instead of a bench until they get installed, and that the grab bars are not standard (you may want to wrap a washcloth for comfort). The location is perfect, the decor and furnishings are 5-star, and the service is top notch. If you run into any accessibility issues during your stay, I have no doubt that the staff and management will do whatever they can to make sure you’re comfortable.

Disclaimer: I visited Charleston, SC as a guest of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. As such, I was provided with a complimentary two-night stay at the Belmond Charleston Place. This is an unbiased and honest review, and I discussed the accessibility concerns I would be mentioning here with the hotel management prior to publication.

*****

Are you ready to book a luxurious stay at the Belmond Charleston Place in historic Charleston, South Carolina? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel and we’ll get started!

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