Traveling and Entertainment with a Disability Can Be Very Frustrating if Unprepared
Caregiver travelers beware: If a hotel advertises that a room is disability accessible, they probably mean that it has handrails in the bathroom. Traveling and entertainment with a disability are not for the faint of heart. Information received in advance of arrival may be less than accurate. Although handrails are very useful, they alone do not make a room accessible! They are limited in the help they provide someone who needs assistance with transferring from a wheelchair to a toilet. Therefore, if you attempt to book a reservation somewhere and need a specific accommodation, ask to speak to a person rather than complete an automated reservation.
Once you book the accommodation, follow up directly with the hotel to confirm they receive your specific request. Confirm your arrangements by email with the specific hotel talking to guest services. Get a name! If something is wrong with the arrangement upon arrival, you want to know who knows the details to help resolve the issue.
Follow-Up on Status
Communication among staff in reservations for large hotel chains is not always stellar. I also recommend that you check the status of your arrangement a day or two before you leave for your trip to confirm that nothing has changed and the equipment arrangements remain available. Be prepared to start over in making your arrangements happen. Forward them the confirmation email as a reminder of the approved arrangements.
Be prepared to deal with the following challenges when out in public. Hopefully, the restaurant you choose to enjoy will not have these issues, but if you go prepared to address them in advance, you can often avoid them happening.
- Narrow aisles between tables.
- A step-up to sit in booth seating areas.
- Access to salad bar requires stepping down to a lower level
- Someone in a wheelchair cannot reach utensils at the salad bar.
- A wheelchair sits in the aisle at the end of the table, with customers bumping into it as they pass by.
- The wheelchair does not fit under the table.
- Someone in a wheelchair cannot open doors to the bathroom.
- There is no unisex or family bathroom where an opposite-sex assistant can help quadriplegic go to the bathroom.
- Crossing the street during the rain is another fun experience. Storm drains are usually empty below curb access ramps. During any rainstorm, the curb access is inaccessible for a power chair. For efficient access to occur, street curbs should be located directly across from one another. If they were, the person could effectively and safely cross the street quickly. All too often, unfortunately, the access ramps do not line up.
- Perhaps one of the greatest frustrations is playing “find the disability entrance.” You arrive at the front of the building, and there’s a sign with a picture that reads “disability entrance.” The arrow points toward the back of the building.
- Unisex dressing rooms are large enough for an opposite-sex family member to assist with changing clothes.
The above list gives you an idea of some of the many challenges those who use wheelchairs to get around every day must face. Most of them are frustrating though usable. I guess that’s my point. Accommodations are available, but they are not easy to use. Most companies provide what is required and not a dollar more. They place the accommodation in a difficult-to-find location, and most of the time, rarely upgrade it once installed. We decided that take-out orders worked best, and internet shopping was a gift from God. Both provide access to all the resources we need while reducing the risk of infection and the frustration of dealing with accessibility.