Helping Your Business Achieve True Accessibility
One of the biggest challenges for disabled travelers is finding accessible hotel accommodations and public spaces, like restaurants, stores, and tourist sites that meet our special needs. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides many guidelines for public accommodations with regards to handicap accessibility, it does not (and cannot) place business managers, architects, and designers in the shoes of those who patronize their spaces.
For example, a hotel room may meet all ADA legal guidelines but still be inconvenient at best or impossible at worst for a disabled guest to use. The biggest example of this is the new trend of placing very high platform beds in hotel rooms. Most hotel chains do not use lower or adjustable beds in accessible rooms. As such, it is impossible for many disabled travelers (such as myself) to get into an elevated bed without assistance, which is difficult at best if they are traveling alone. There is also no ADA requirement to ensure there is enough space around a bed for a person in a wheelchair to access and enter/exit a bed comfortably. I have also seen accessible bathrooms in restaurants that have soap and paper towel dispensers placed so high that it requires a wheelchair user to stand up (if that’s even possible) to reach them—all while water is running up their arms.
Educating Business Owners/Managers
The main cause of these issues, in my opinion, is the lack of knowledge about real needs of disabled travelers among hospitality sector executives and managers. While many hotel and restaurant chains employ ADA Compliance Officers, this is nowhere near the same as having a person in a wheelchair or scooter or other mobility device actually walk managers and designers through a property’s handicap accessible rooms, bathrooms, and public spaces to provide real feedback on a business’s true level of accessibility. Listening and watching an individual in a mobility device go through a hotel room or restaurant or store and demonstrate how they use every accessory and amenity and squeeze through every space is the closest staff can get to the disabled experience without being in a wheelchair themselves—an initiative that I would also highly encourage.
A Sound Investment
Of course, bringing in an accessibility consultant to evaluate a business is not a legal requirement. However, it is an invaluable option from a marketing perspective. Over 18 million Americans use some sort of mobility device to get around, and that number is growing as a larger proportion of Americans ages. Finding truly accessible accommodations for disabled travelers can be very challenging, and glowing reviews on travel websites like TripAdvisor with regards to a business’s efforts to satisfy disabled clientele could potentially be a public relations coup. An accessibility consultant can also help point out potential lapses in ADA compliance* that can help hospitality management prevent costly and embarrassing litigation.
As an accessibility consultant, I would be very pleased to speak with your company’s representative with regards to services I can provide, including staff training and property walk/roll-throughs. If you have any questions or would like more information about me or my services, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
*I am not a certified or trained ADA compliance inspector. My services are designed to help hospitality managers make their properties more comfortable and convenient (i.e. usable) for wheelchair users. Potential ADA violations that I point out should be followed up with an ADA inspector.