Hotels, disability and the "A" word

Isn’t booking a hotel a dream nowadays! You just go online to one of the hotel agency websites, enter the place where you want to stay and enter your proposed arrival and leaving dates. You then get a list of hotels in that area with vacancies on your intended dates, and lists of available rooms with prices. And you make your choice. A doddle, isn’t it!

Well, perhaps if you just want a bog-standard room. Not if there is a disabled person involved. Rooms with disabled facilities do not seem to feature on these agency sites.

You can try putting something like “hotels with disabled facilities” into a search engine. This usually brings you up to a special web page on one of those same agency websites - a page telling you how marvellous many of its hotels are nowadays with extensive facilities for the disabled - as indeed many hotels are. But when it comes to searching it is back to the same standard system which seems to give no choice of disabled-friendly rooms.

So it is back to the old-fashioned way - phoning round some hotels.

So where do you find these hotels and their phone numbers? Don’t expect to get this from a web site without a bit of searching around. The expectation is that since you are on-line, you will book on-line and have no need to phone. When you do find a phone number it is likely to be a central reservations number at some location remote from the hotel.

When you do get as far as speaking to someone on the phone, beware of the “A” word (which I have avoided so far in this post).

It’s “Accessible”.

It is a popular jargon word overused by the media and society in general. It simply means that it offers some unspecified facility for the disabled. It may not get you what you want. Be more specific.

We recently needed to make two hotel reservations, one for a one-night stay in Bournemouth and one for three nights in Manchester. In each case we required a room with a walk-in shower for my wife.

We arrived at the Bournemouth hotel and were given the room key. The room did have wide doors and support rails alongside the WC. But the shower was just a fitting over the bath - not suitable for my wife, who can’t clamber into a bath to take a shower. We returned to reception (having used the room just for a quick change of clothing for an event that evening), and said we could not accept that room; could they provide a room with a walk-in shower? We were told the hotel did not have such rooms, so we said we were unable to stay. In fairness to the hotel, we were fully refunded without quibble. I said to the receptionist, “I’m sorry this has not worked out; there seems to have been some loss of communication about the type of room we needed.” The receptionist said that an accessible room had been requested. We left the evening event earlier than planned and drove home that night rather than face the hassle of trying to find a hotel with a walk-in shower on spec.

There lies the problem. Even if one is specific to the person one speaks to, the message is passed from person to person and becomes debased. So “walk-in” is translated to the less-specific “Accessible”, and the specific requirement is overlooked.

Fortunately in Manchester things worked better. We had stayed in the hotel previously and knew that walk-in showers were available. We actually got a wet room, with a well-designed sloping floor.

Central reservations can be helpful in some circumstances, but it would be so nice if one could have the option to speak to a real person at reception at the actual hotel; these people know best what is going on. As it is, if we have a specific question we are put on hold while central reservations makes an enquiry - and then there is lack of certainty whether messages have been passed back and forth correctly.

How can one find hotels and their local phone numbers in a particular area? is very good for smaller hotels and businesses, because it works by phone numbers, not websites, but it sometimes misses larger hotels which advertise no local numbers, only central reservations numbers. Even if you do find a telephone number which is obviously local, there is no guarantee you will speak to local reception. Select the option for reservations and you may be connected to a central reservations service without knowing, even if the name of the local hotel is announced.

Altogether, booking a hotel for a disabled person is a bit of a time-consuming hassle and lacks certainty of getting something entirely suitable. My advice is be specific in requirements and avoid jargon like “Accessible”.

Does anyone else have any tips on how to select hotels with disabled-friendly rooms, or how to avoid dealing through the distant central reservations?

Hi Denis … a very valid and interesting post.

Short of an Internet search … HOTELS WITH DISABLED PERSON FACILITIES … add the manor to narrow the field … and investigate
further , little else to suggest.

In the UK , we lag behind many of the North American hotels which have virtual tours on their web sites.

This is why I strongly prefer to stay in cottages. I hate having to ring up a hotel and find out about their accessibility policy and procedure. Here in Britain, you can easily find a nice cottage that is priced decently instead.

It’s a tedious and thankless task: there’s no way to just select a hotel (or any other accommodation), you have to first find and read the Access Statement on their website, if I can’t find one, I go elsewhere, once you’ve read the Access Statement, if it doesn’t sound suitable you will then have to communicate your concerns by phone or email.

…and if you think it’s difficult now, just wait until your wife needs a hoist for transfers.

Got a bit more time now: you have to refine how you search for these things, google is not as search friendly as it used to be, it no longer seems to respond well to putting things in quotes so you have to use the plus sign for words that you want included in results (look up Boolean search) - i.e. disabled accommodation +Bournemouth +wetroom - this will still bring up results without a wetroom (don’t ask me why google includes them in the results), but the first few links should be good, and if you read the quick summary on the initial search page you will notice that after the first few results, wetroom is struck through, so those places don’t include that,

The search function on Google maps is another resource, for some reason this can often bring up more pertinent results than the main google search engine.

Thanks for your thoughts, Ayjay. It does seem, as you have found, that a Boolean search is little better than a simple one. The way search engines work is by trying to find the best match using all the component words. When that search is exhausted, they bring up results with one component word missing, and so on. The reason for this is to give you the best possible range of results. Sometimes a result based on not all the component words can give a useful lead to further research.

It seems that a web site that can specify booking of disabled-friendly rooms does not yet exist. Search engines can return only web pages that do exist.

Recently I came across details of the Calvert Trust, on the edge of Exmoor. If it hadn’t been raining so much I was intending to visit them when M and I were in the area recently. They apparently have fully accessible accommodation.
I often use Sykes Holidays for self catering, they also have disabled friendly accommodation. Lots of photos, sometimes videos, of the places they are responsible for, so you can work out for yourself it if really is accessible.

Hello Denis,

Recently we used a website called Good Access Guide, to find an accessible place to stay. My partner had a stroke in February and it was our first trip away for a few nights to see how we coped.

We stayed on a farm in Somerset, they had a set of purpose built rooms with wet rooms large enough to accommodate wheelchairs. No baths to clamber over as he cannot safely get into and out of a bath. Flat access into the rooms and into the breakfast room.

The guide covers the UK. We were impressed, this is our first foray really into a world we did not inhabit until this year.

Thank you, Bowlingbun, for your suggestions. I have checked these. The Calvert Trust operates throughout Britain, not just Exmoor. It runs activity centres for the disabled. Sykes Holidays seems to be mainly self-catering holiday cottages.

I’m not sure these options would have been an alternative to our ill-fated attempt to stay at Bournemouth (which would have been a one-night to attend a party) or our more-successful trip to Manchester (essentially a business trip). However these are great ideas for possible future stays. We’ll be going abroad again next year on a holiday at various places and including a cruise. However these are becoming hard work for both myself and my wife and it may be the last such holiday. Activity holidays or self-catering cottages sound well worth considering for future “staycations”.

Thank you Seasalt-and-Rainbows for telling us about the Good Access Guide, which I have also checked. At last - an agency that has lots of information about all types of disabled-friendly accommodation! This could well be very useful for future trips away. Let us hope that this is the start of something big.

You’re welcome Denis. We found it via the Stroke Association’s very useful information booklets. We’re yet to book another trip, but it will be our go to.

As you mention cruises, we had a cruise booked in April, which we unfortunately had to cancel. For someone with limited mobility, loss of function in one arm, severe fatigue and wheelchair use over distances, how easy is it to go on a cruise? It’s kind of been suggested to us that it would be an ideal holiday for someone disabled, although mostly by people with no real experience of disability. Well meaning and I wouldn’t knock them for trying to be helpful, but no-one really gets it unless they’re in it.

Not as bad as you think. We went on a family cruise earlier this year. I personally loved every minute. Once we were aboard the ship it was not so bad. My son is a full time wheelchair user.
Wheeling him up and down to the room and around the ship was fairly easy. However making sure he was not left out at meals was somewhat trickier. We had to move chairs. I booked a large sea facing room with a balcony. It was worth the cost.

Thank you, I feel reassured, time to go off and do some research with the cruise companies!

Points of view over cruises vary, depending on the condition of the caree.

The upside:
Once you have joined the ship, you unpack your belongings in the stateroom and there they stay till the end of the cruise. You visit lots of far-flung places without the hassle of needing to pack, unpack and repack your suitcases as you move from place to place. We once did a cruise from Southampton to St Petersburg and back, visiting many places en route. That can’t be bad.

The downside
If your caree needs a wheelchair you are going to spend a great deal of time pushing them around. Along narrow corridors, manoeuvring round vacuum cleaners, rubbish sacks, cleaners’ trolleys and other things that get parked in corridors. Over bumps, through self-closing doors to deck, manoeuvring through crowds in the pool area. Last cruise our stateroom was at the stern but of course most of the activity, theatre, crow’s nest, was at the bow. So I was pushing the length of the ship each day. And these cruise ships are big, and they seem to keep making them bigger.

And then there are the lifts - essential to move even just one deck level with a wheelchair. Cruise ship lifts seem to be of a kind. Not really big enough, doors that close almost as soon as they have opened and heavily used. By the end of the cruise I am usually longing for a day without wheelchair pushing and lifts all day long. I made some general comments on lifts on my former post:

Excursions on shore bring their own problems. Gangways can be steep, though the crew are usually very helpful towards disabled people. If the ship cannot dock and tender access must be employed, this brings additional problems. Not all coaches have disabled-friendly platforms. Last cruise we took a step-stool, lashed to the back of the wheelchair, to ease access to coaches with high first steps.

So it is down to what type of disability the caree has. If the caree can walk reasonably well, most of these downsides do not exist.

We are due to go on another cruise next year but considering alternative types of holiday for the future. Disabled-friendly activity centres and holiday cottages sound and attractive alternative. There are still parts of the UK that neither of us has visited yet! I’m grateful for the suggestions within this thread, thank you.

Thanks Denis, for your advice on cruises. My partner mobilises with a stick, but distances are a problem and he does use a wheelchair sometimes. The only way to find out is to do it!