Earlier this year, Marriott International announced plans to remove bottled shampoo, conditioner and body wash from 450 hotels in North America, with plans to expand to 1,500 properties by January 2019. The small bottles of toiletries are being replaced with large wall-mounted dispensers. The company has hailed the move as “a win-win from a sustainability perspective, operational perspective, and financial perspective.”
For a 140-room hotel, Marriott expects the initiative will keep an average of 250 lbs. of plastic, or 23,000 bottles, out of the landfill each year. Indeed, it is a step in the right direction for the environment, but the company’s key motivation is obviously financial. Depending on their size, individual hotels could save thousands of dollars each year with the change.
Unfortunately, what’s good for the hotel industry’s bottom line isn’t always good for guests with disabilities. Multiple hotel brands have used wall-mounted soap dispensers for years, including Aloft, Four Points by Sheraton and Home2 Suites by Hilton. In nearly every case, little (if any) thought was given to the placement of dispensers in ADA accessible hotel rooms.
Few hotel rooms for the disabled comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, bringing uncertainty to every stay. In addition to contending with showers that lack required features (like wall-mounted seats and grab bars), guests with disabilities must also dispense soaps from containers that are difficult or impossible to reach.
Marriott’s move is now bringing wall-mounted toiletries to a larger number of hotels, including its Courtyard brand. The roll-in shower pictured above was ADA compliant in design, but the body wash, shampoo and conditioner were out of reach—several feet forward of the shower seat.
Due to the great diversity in our physical abilities, some guests will benefit from appropriately placed soap dispensers, while others may not be able to use them. The limited hand control, strength or dexterity that many people with disabilities have means that one size will not fit all.
And, while hotels’ parent corporations promise that properties will maintain a small stock of individually bottled toiletries for guests who need them, that has not been my experience. None of the hotels pictured above were able to fulfill my request for bottled shampoo. One hotel did bring me a plastic cup filled with bath soap, however. This should be an easy problem to fix.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and probably a hundred times more in the future—the travel industry needs to consult with the disability community and experts in the field of accessible travel to ensure that products and services are able to be enjoyed by all. My door is always open!