This edition of the Reader Mailbag is focused on a hotel room security feature that could lead to unexpected frustration for disabled guests.

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

The following was sent by Rhoda, a Wheelchair Travel reader. She wrote:

I was visiting family in another state but they didn’t have a room for me to stay in – so they got me a motel room. I use a walker and can’t get up from the floor if I fall. When I was in the room I put that extra chain lock on the door because I didn’t want anyone breaking into the room. 

As I was getting ready for bed I was at the wash stand and somehow gently fell on my “butt.” I knew I was not hurt and tried to get up by hanging onto the table but slipped again. I couldn’t find anything stable enough for me to use to push or pull myself up to a standing position. I was too far from the motel room telephone to call the desk but luckily I had my cell phone. I didn’t know the motel name or phone number, so I called my brother and he provided it.

I called the front desk and told them the problem. The chain lock was on the door but I couldn’t reach it and dislodge it. They came to the door and ultimately got in by taking the lock off the wall (unscrewing it) and were able to open the door. They were nice about it even though I had created such a “mess.”

My brother came over and we talked about it. When he left I locked the door but didn’t put the chain lock on. The next day I begged my brother to find me a place to sleep in his home where I would have others around me instead of being in the room by myself.

I decided I would never stay in a motel room by myself but will always travel with a companion if I have to be somewhere overnight on my journey.

Chain locks (and more recently, door latches) are a standard feature in many hotel rooms across the country and world. The added security prevents break-ins and offers guests an added layer of security, particularly in roadside motels without interior corridors. Many guests rely on chain locks for peace of mind, and I highly recommend using them — at the very least, they prevent cleaning staff from entering one’s room at an inopportune time!

Although it took some time for hotel staff to disassemble the chain lock and enter Rhoda’s room, guests should rest assured that in an emergency where time is of the essence, fire department resources would be dispatched to ensure rapid entry. Police offers, firemen and paramedics work collaboratively to ensure emergencies are treated as just that — emergencies.

Rhoda’s forethought to carry her cell phone at all times — even on a short trip to the bathroom — enabled her to call for help quickly. Her decision to travel with a companion in the future is a wise one, as it will reduce the risk of similar situations and ensure her safety. I wish Rhoda all the best in her future travel journeys!

Do you use the chain lock in your hotel room? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!

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