Later today, I will fly from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, ending what was a 5-night vacation in Brazil’s 2nd largest city. I booked a flight & hotel vacation package through AA Vacations, where I got a round-trip flight (in premium economy) and 3 nights at the Ibis Rio de Janeiro Centro Hotel for $730. I consider that a great deal, and have had an amazing time exploring Rio!
The final two hotel nights of my 5-night trip were up to me to sort out, and I decided to split them up between the Ibis (where I was already staying) and the JW Marriott Hotel on Copacabana Beach. I booked an extra night at the Ibis for $30.39 USD including tax, and used points to cover the room at the JW Marriott, which was advertising rates of $400 per night.
I’d like to highlight two aspects of guest room accessibility in each hotel: the bed and the roll-in shower.
Bed in the Accessible Hotel Rooms
The bed in ‘Hotel A’ is a double bed measuring 25 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress, with 10 inches of clearance underneath. It was pushed against a wall and accessible only on the left side.
The bed in ‘Hotel B’ is a king size bed measuring 26 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress, with 5 inches of clearance underneath. The space between the bed and the wall on either side was 20 inches, insufficient to accommodate my wheelchair. Wheelchair access is possible only to the foot of the bed.
Roll-in Shower in the Accessible Hotel Rooms
The roll-in shower in ‘Hotel A’ featured a wall-mounted shower seat, grab bars, water controls within reach of the seat and a handheld showerhead.
The roll-in shower in ‘Hotel B’ had no built-in seat or handheld showerhead, but did have grab bars. The hotel’s only shower chair was on wheels with fixed armrests, and its seating area was a toilet seat. Due to the chair’s instability and fixed armrests, I was unable to transfer into it and could not use the shower.
Hotel A vs. Hotel B
As you can see in the photos above, ‘Hotel A’ is the more accessible one and is better suited to accommodate wheelchair users. But what may surprise you is that ‘Hotel A’ is actually the Ibis, costing $30 for the night, while ‘Hotel B’ is the JW Marriott costing $400. That’s not the difference one should expect when paying a $370 premium!
Comparing these two hotels is not an apples to apples comparison — The Ibis is a budget, limited service hotel in the central business district, while the JW Marriott is an upmarket, full service hotel in Copacabana. But we can see that expensive room rates don’t guarantee accessibility, and some brands are not committed to serving all guests equally. Accessible hotel rooms are more than grab bars attached to a wall, but that is all the effort many properties are willing to muster.
When shopping for an accessible hotel room, try not to focus only on price as an indicator of quality or accessibility. Budget hotels often offer superior accessibility at a much more attractive price.
In this age of corporate social responsibility, Marriott International must do a better job of welcoming guests of all abilities. It should be embarrassing that a wheelchair user paying $400 per night (or the rewards points equivalent) can’t take a shower in a supposedly accessible hotel room.
If you want to shower in Rio de Janeiro, save your money and book the Ibis.
Have you been disappointed by the inaccessibility of an expensive hotel?
If so, let me know in the comments below!