Creating a Metric to Measure Hotel Accessibility

For me and countless other people with disabilities, accessibility is the number one consideration when selecting a hotel. But accessibility encompasses much more than the design of a shower or the placement of grab bars. Ease of booking, bed height, location of power outlets, access to lighting fixtures, hotel location, transportation options and more are all factors that determine whether a hotel will satisfy my needs.

Having reviewed more than 50 hotel stays on this blog, I've accidentally built the largest collection of wheelchair accessible hotel reviews on the internet. Photographs and detailed descriptions have allowed readers to consider whether a specific property will meet their accessibility needs. But, I'd like to do more. Specifically, I want to measure hotel accessibility with a number.

The WheelchairTravel.org Hotel Accessibility Score

In developing this hotel accessibility metric, I knew that the score would need to account for and reflect the most important aspects of accessibility. Although each traveler has a unique set of priorities, I believe my system will provide added value to every reader—and show individual properties where they must improve.

The Hotel Accessibility Score considers six important areas of an accessible hotel stay: the reservations system and booking experience; ADA compliance in the en suite bathroom; accessibility in the guest room's sleeping area; access to power outlets, lighting controls and other convenience items; hotel location and transportation options, including complimentary shuttle services; and the accessibility of the hotel's public areas.

Hotels receive a score from 0 to 10 for each of the six categories. The overall score is calculated as an average of the six category scores and also ranges from 0 to 10. So, how are the scores assigned? Let's take  look...

Reservation & Booking [10 points possible]

  • Hotel's website allows customers to book ADA accessible hotel rooms. [+3 points]
  • Mobile application allows customers to book ADA accessible hotel rooms. [+1 point]
  • Website reservations system describes whether ADA accessible rooms have a bathtub or roll-in shower. [+2 points]
  • Website reservations system provides photographs and/or detailed descriptions of accessible bathroom features. [+2 points]
  • ADA accessible rooms are dispersed among all of the available room type categories (standard, deluxe, club level, suites, number and size of beds), and these rooms are bookable via the website or app. [+2 points]

ADA Compliance in Bathroom (with roll-in shower) [10 points possible]

  • Grab bars are located in the appropriate places around toilet and inside shower. [+2 points]
  • Roll-in shower contains a shower seat that is sturdy and that is fixed to/folds down from the wall. [+3 points]
  • Water controls and a handheld shower spray unit are located on the wall adjacent to the shower seat, or on the opposite wall if the shower compartment is the 36 in. by 36 in. transfer shower type. [+5 points]

Rooms with a roll-in shower that does not include the required shower seat can earn a maximum of 2 points in this part for having grab bars.

ADA Compliance in Bathroom (with bathtub) [10 points possible]

  • Grab bars are located in the appropriate places around toilet and inside the bathtub space. [+2 points]
  • Bathtub contains the ADA-required shower seat that is either built-in or which is portable and securely attaches to the bathtub. [+5 points]
  • A handheld shower spray unit is available for use in the bathtub. [+3 points]

Rooms with a bathtub that does not include the required shower seat can earn a maximum of 5 points in this part for having grab bars and a handheld showerhead.

Accessibility in Sleeping Area [10 points possible]

  • Bed height does not exceed 24 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress. [+1 point]
  • Bed height does not exceed 21 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress. [+2 points]
  • Bed height does not exceed 19 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress. [+1 point]
  • If one bed in the room, both sides are accessible to a wheelchair. If two beds in the room, adequate space to accommodate a wheelchair between the two. [+3 points]
  • There is clear floor space underneath the bed to accommodate a transfer/hoyer lift or the bed frame could be placed on bed risers provided by the guest. [+1 point]
  • There is enough space in the guest room's sleeping area to allow a wheelchair to perform a 360-degree or T-turn. [+2 points]

Power, Lighting & Convenience [10 points possible]

  • Door to the guest room is easy to open (swings with little resistance) or opens automatically. [+2 points]
  • Guest room has a master switch which controls all of the sleeping area's lighting features (with the exception of bedside lamps). [+2 points]
  • Bedside lamps/reading lights are available and feature controls that do not require the twisting of a knob. [+2 points]
  • Power outlets are available within reach of the bed (such as on top of the nightstand) and do not require moving furniture to access them. [+4 points]

Location & Transportation [10 points possible]

Due to the complexities of this part, I have decided to deduct points rather than award them in this section. Hotels thus start out with 10, and will lose points if any of the following are true. A negative total value is not possible.

  • The hotel provides complimentary shuttle service, but the shuttle is not wheelchair accessible. [-4 points]
  • The hotel operates an inaccessible shuttle service, and refused to provide (or could not provide) an alternative accommodation. [-5 points]
  • Wait time for an accessible shuttle (or an alternative service) was 10 to 20 minutes longer than what able-bodied guests would have had to wait. [-1 point]
  • Wait time for an accessible shuttle (or an alternative service) was 21 to 40 minutes longer than what able-bodied guests would have had to wait. [-3 points]
  • Wait time for an accessible shuttle (or an alternative service) was 41 minutes or more longer than what able-bodied guests would have had to wait. [-5 points]
  • There are no public transportation connections within one-quarter mile of the hotel. [-3 points]
  • A wheelchair taxi cannot be hailed without advance notice of more than one hour, or the wait for an on-demand taxi is greater than one hour. [-2 points]
  • There are no wheelchair taxis available in the city or area, or they must be reserved at lest one day in advance. [-3 points]

Accessibility of Public Areas [10 points possible]

Due to the complexities of this part, I have decided to deduct points rather than award them in this section. Hotels thus start out with 10, and will lose points if any of the following are true. A negative total value is not possible.

  • The main entrance door does not open automatically, or there is not a doorman assigned to open the manually-operated door(s). [-4 points]
  • The check-in desk does not have a lowered countertop accessible to wheelchair users. [-2 points]
  • One or more on-site restaurants are not fully accessible to wheelchair users. [-3 points]
  • Elevators in the hotel are too small to accommodate a wheelchair user and one companion with luggage. [-3 points]
  • Carpeting in the hotel's hallways offers substantial resistance to wheelchairs. [-3 points]
  • The hotel's swimming pool does not have a self-operating lift for wheelchair users. [-3 points]
  • Sidewalks throughout the property, or which connect the property to an adjacent street are not accessible via curb ramps. [-3 points]

Overall score [10 points possible]

The overall score is computed as an average of the individual category scores. An example of what the scoring table will look like in new hotel reviews is provided below:

Hotel accessibility score report and chart
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How can I improve this rating system?

What does accessibility mean to you?

I have been developing this metric over the past few weeks, but it is based on my perspective of what matters. I believe focusing on the small things, like whether the bathroom mirror is an inch too high or too low, wouldn't add a whole lot of value. So I've focused on the big things that can have a substantial impact on a hotel room's usability.

Have I missed something that matters to you? Is there an important ADA regulation that I have overlooked? Do you believe I have assigned too many (or too few) points to a particular feature? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, as they will help me to fine-tune this metric before I start to use it to rate hotels on the blog.

  • Sylvia Curbelo Longmire

    I absolutely love this. My only concern is the subjectiveness of the bed height. I need the bed to be lower so that I can transfer into it since I, like you, usually travel alone and don’t use a hoist. However, other people who do require a hoist or need companion care require a higher bed. So picking that score can get complicated depending on what the traveler’s specific

  • Denese Edsall

    This is fantastic! I do however think a score for mirror height would be helpful. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a hotel room and cannot see into the mirror at all. This is quite problematic especially when I am on a business trip and need to put make up on! I don’t think a score based on inches is necessary but maybe just something about is the mirror usable.

  • Sandra Bertsch

    Have a real problem with the height of the beds and not being able to put a lift under them. Is there a special reason that beds need to be so high. A full size bed would be easier than queen or king. Also two beds work better than a single king.

  • Linda Ross

    This is terrific. I use a bed rail that slips between mattress and box spring.
    Travelling in sweden I found the hotels don’t have a box spring. Perhaps this can be added if talking about other countries.

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