Section 4.5


Have you ever looked forward to a fabulous meal at a great restaurant, dressed in your best clothes, and fought your way onto the bus, or endured a heart-stopping cab ride, only to find that your destination is located up a flight of stairs? Sometimes it is not a lack of access but a lack of information that will make your journey difficult. Taking a few minutes to call ahead can solve problems and save lots of time. Be specific when asking questions; many people's idea of “accessible” may be very different from yours. Do not be surprised if you are told a restaurant is accessible even if it occupies the upper floor of a building without an elevator. If a destination you have been told is accessible turns out to be inaccessible, ask to speak with the manager. Tell the manager that “accessible” means an environment in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), and that your inability to use the facility probably indicates the establishment needs to improve its access measures. (Appendix A contains more information about the ADA).

Travel Planning Tips

Part of the appeal of going to new places is the fun of exploring the unknown. Though you may think advance reconnaissance is cheating and dull, it is usually worthwhile to obtain basic access information about the site to avoid disappointments. You don’t want to arrive at a wedding, dressed in nice clothing, only to find you must cross a muddy path to get to the reception. Nor would it be amusing to arrive at a hotel and discover the “accessible guest room” has a shower stall sized to accommodate slender children but not you and your shower chair. Make a practice of calling ahead and talking to friends or acquaintances who have been there before.

Consider asking the following questions:

  • What kinds of obstacles will you face en route to your destination?
  • Is there an elevator or stairs?
  • Do the curbs have ramps?
  • Will someone be there to help you across the lawn that’s been transformed into a snow field?
  • Is the route all indoors, or is a portion outdoors?
  • Are there ramps or elevators leading to different levels of the destination?
  • Are the elevators working?
  • Are there signs to indicate the location of elevators and ramps?
  • The internet gives you a brand new tool in accessibility reconnaissance – mapping sites provide a “birds eye” view that can be invaluable as a picture is worth a thousand words!

Hotel Rooms

  • Is there a wheelchair accessible room? If the room is not accessible, how wide is the door leading into the room and into the bathroom?
  • What floor is it on? Is there an elevator?
  • What kind of knobs, handles, or latches do the doors have?
  • Can you move furniture out of the way to make the room more accessible? If you do move furniture, let the housekeeping staff know that you don’t want it put back in place each morning. You may also be able to arrange for the actual removal of unneeded furniture from the room.
  • Can you move the bed to position your wheelchair next to it for transfers? Some hotel beds have immovable pedestals.
  • Can you reach the temperature controls and drapery cords or will you need assistance?
  • Is the telephone within easy reach from the bed?
  • Is the TV remote control moveable or is it attached to the nightstand? If it is attached, it may be out of reach.

If your hotel room poses access problems, try brainstorming solutions with the management. For example, ask them to wrap a towel around exposed hot water pipes under sinks so you do not burn yourself, or ask maintenance to remove the bathroom door if the door itself is making the opening too narrow for your wheelchair.

Bathrooms and Restrooms

  • Is the restroom on the same floor as the meeting room, or reception that you are trying to get to?
  • How large is the clear-space inside of the restroom or bathroom? Is there enough space for you to turn around and get back out?
  • Does the bathroom or restroom door swing into the clear-space inside the room making it impossible to get to the tub, shower or toilet?
  • Can the door on a toilet stall be opened in a single swinging motion with a proper handle that you can operate with your level of hand function?
  • How wide is the doorway into the toilet stall?
  • Does the doorway into the toilet stall block the clear-space needed to maneuver inside or outside of the stall? Is there a grab-bar inside for you to perform a transfer if needed?
  • If the bathroom has a bathtub, does it have the clear-space adjacent to it so you can transfer into the tub and does it have grab rails needed for you to make the transfer?
  • Is there a shower chair available? Most hotels have shower chairs available for your use upon request.
  • If you will be transferring into a bathtub or onto a shower chair you should sit on a waterproof pressure relief cushion if you normally use a pressure relief cushion in your wheelchair. Gel cushions and small strap on cushions are available that will provide pressure relief when sitting on the edge of a bathtub, in a bathtub or on a shower bench.
  • Bath towels are often high up on a shelf over the toilet. Are the towels placed within reach?