This edition of the Reader Mailbag is focused on the limits of ADA requirements for the accessibility of hotel room beds.
Every so often, I’ll dip into the mailbag to answer questions about accessible travel from readers just like you. If you have a question you’d like answered, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
The following was sent by Nancy, a Wheelchair Travel reader from Nebraska. She wrote:
My husband is a C3-C4 quad. We travel back and forth from Nebraska to Arizona during the year. When we stop in hotels, which I have reserved in advance (asking for a handicapped accessible room with bed OPEN underneath for the Hoyer lift), some locations promise this and when we arrive the bed has a box under it!
Transfers are impossible then! Are hotels required to have certain beds OPEN underneath for a Hoyer lift? What do I need to request/ask for when I book a room?
Hotels across nearly all major brands have begun installing platform beds in guest rooms, including in accessible hotel rooms. As Nancy points out, platform bases make it impossible to roll patient transfer hoists like Hoyer lifts underneath the bed. This prevents disabled people who rely on these assistive devices from being safely transferred in and out of bed.
With no other option, some readers have resorted to sleeping on uncomfortable roll-away beds, leaving the traditional (and much more comfortable) hotel room bed unused.
Does the ADA require clear space under hotel room beds?
Unfortunately for Nancy, her husband and others like them, there is no ADA requirement for bed height or clear space under the bed. Platform beds are becoming a widespread feature of hotels across the price spectrum (from Motel 6 to The Ritz-Carlton) and I do sympathize with the difficulty that presents.
Although there is no set standard for hotels to leave clear space under a bed as a matter of course, accommodations are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for disabled guests. I’ll discuss some of those reasonable accommodations later in this article.
How to find hotels with clear space under the bed
As Nancy has discovered, a hotel’s verbal assurances of accessibility can’t be trusted. To be confident in an answer, you need two things:
- Written confirmation of the accessibility you’ve requested, such as a guarantee of the existence of clear space under the bed.
- Photographic evidence of the accessibility feature, taken recently and in response to your request or inquiry.
The ADA requires that hotels “identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms…in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs.” In the United States, hotels are thus obliged to respond to requests for this information.
There is no clear space under the bed — What options do I have?
Locating hotels with clear space for a Hoyer lift is getting more difficult — more hotels are introducing inaccessible platform beds into their room designs. Here are three things you might consider in the face of an inaccessible bed:
Requesting relocation to a more suitable property: If you received written assurances that there would be sufficient clearance under the bed for a Hoyer lift and that proves not to be the case, the property should relocate you to a nearby hotel that can accommodate your needs. It’s reasonable given the circumstance. If the property refuses, I strongly encourage you to file an ADA complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Raising a platform bed: Hotels are required to make reasonable modifications to accommodate the needs of disabled guests. One reasonable accommodation that Wheelchair Travel readers have requested is to raise the platform bed — this can be accomplished using bed risers or even cinder blocks. Because hotels likely to not have these resources onsite, I would strongly recommend that you travel with your own set of bed risers — check out this set of 8-inch bed risers from Amazon.
Bringing your own bed frame: If you’re taking a road trip and have space in your vehicle, you might consider traveling with your own portable bed frame. Amazon sells a foldable metal platform bed frame that is elevated 14 inches off the ground. Moving a mattress from the hotel’s inaccessible platform base onto your own accessible bed frame is a simple solution.
A message to hotel owners and managers about the accessibility of beds
While travelers set off on journeys for a variety of reasons, they all share one thing in common: travelers book hotel rooms to guarantee a comfortable place to relax and sleep.
The bed is placed at the center of the hotel room — it’s central to the guest experience, and it should be accessible. I understand the appeal of platform beds — they reduce costs by eliminating the need for a box spring and make cleaning more efficient. They’re in fashion, but the perceived tradeoff between these benefits and accessibility is a false one: plenty of hotels offer accessible platform beds!
Hotels at every price category can offer platform beds with clearance underneath to accommodate the accessibility needs of disabled travelers. The two hotels pictured above — one a $50/night hotel and the other a $200/night hotel, have accomplished just that! Assuring accessibility for all in this manner will improve guest satisfaction and reduce requests for reasonable accommodations. That’s a win-win situation and remarkably easy to accomplish — don’t delay, make your ADA accessible hotel rooms truly accessible and welcoming of all guests.