I have muscular dystrophy and use a power wheelchair, so I’m always very nervous about how I’m going to use the bathroom and take a shower when I travel. I used to be able to make any “accessible” room work, but my condition is progressive and I have way less function than I used to, so I don’t have the luxury of just winging it anymore.

When I travel now, I always verify that the hotel will actually work for my needs by getting the hotel to send me pictures of their wheelchair accessible room(s). This is a giant pain in the ass (see below) and especially frustrating because we HAVE the technology to make this information easily accessible, but hotels just don’t make a habit of posting it to their websites. Until that amazing future magical fairyland time shows up, here’s my guide (with copy/paste text!) to getting those sultry pics.

Here’s what a hotel room needs to have for me to stay there comfortably (in priority order):

  • A ramp/elevator to the entrance of the hotel
  • Doors wide enough for me to fit through (minimum 32 inches)
  • Grab bars around the toilet
  • Grab bars in the shower/tub
  • Shower bench in the shower/tub
  • Access to the rest of the hotel/resort with ramp/elevators

When I travel somewhere new, I always call the hotel and ask for multiple pictures of the bathroom and room, from several angles, because places will often say they are “wheelchair accessible” but not provide any of these essential pieces of accessibility. From my experience, “accessible” can mean vastly different things to different hotels, so my goal is to get 100% confirmation — and the only way to do that is with pictures of the actual room.

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When calling hotels, here are common problems and solutions:

  1. Getting connected to a call center/reservation hotline. They are not on site, and will often not have the level of detailed information I need.
    1. Google the name of the hotel for its phone number (the phone number on the website is probably the reservation hotline)
    2. If you get a recording with options, choose the option for the front desk
    3. When you are connected with someone, confirm that you are speaking to the front desk, and if not, ask to be transferred to the front desk
  2. The hotel staff will not understand what is needed. Here’s the usual order of questions that will make it more clear:
    1. [International] May I speak with someone in English please? (Better if you can say this in the native language)
    2. Do you have any special handicap rooms for somebody using a wheelchair? (May have to explain this several times – throw in the words “handicap” & “wheelchair” as much as you can until they get the point)
    3. What is special about the room?
    4. Is there only one kind of special room?
    5. Can you take some pictures of the room with your phone and email them to me?
  3. The staff member will say they do not have pictures.
    1. Ask them if they can take some pictures with a cell phone and email them to you.
  4. The staff member will say they cannot send you pictures.
    1. Say that you have a very complex disability, and that you need pictures to know if you can safely stay in the room or not.
    2. Ask them to check with a supervisor.
    3. Ask to speak with a supervisor, and start the process all over when you are connected
  5. The staff member will say they will send you pictures, but they will forget or write down your email address incorrectly.
    1. When they finally agree to send you pictures, ask them for their email address, and email them the message below.
    2. Keep a spreadsheet of the hotel options you are considering, and for each place you call, write down the name of the person you spoke to, their email address, and the information they gave you about the wheelchair accessible rooms. Follow-up if you have not heard from them within 24 hours.
  6. This entire process is a giant pain in the ass for everyone with a disability.
    1. Post the pictures to Google & Yelp to help other people who may be searching for the same in the future, and make sure to review the place you stay at with more details on accessibility. We have to help each other out.

Here is a script to use when e-mailing the hotel:

Hi [Staff Member Name],

I will be staying at the [Hotel Name], and I have a very complex disability. I would like to reserve a handicap accessible room for someone with a disability who uses a wheelchair, and I need pictures inside of the room to know if it will work for me.

Would you please send me pictures of the special room and bathroom? I don’t need anything fancy, just pictures from any smartphone would be fine.

The most important thing is to get good pictures of the bathroom, and specifically the shower. If you have shower seats available, would you please also include pictures of those? If you do not have a shower seat or it does not work for me, I will need to bring my own or send one to you.

Please take lots of pictures from lots of different angles, so I can get a good idea of how much space there is. I have a very large (400 lb) wheelchair and I need extra space everywhere to move around.

Thank you very much for your time,
[Your Name]

Here are some examples of pictures I have received in the past from following this system:

Amin Lakhani is a Dating Coach, Public Speaker, and Comedian. You can find out more about him on his website (datingcoachonwheels.com) and follow his shenanigans on Instagram.

Feature image provided by Amin Lakhani.

Looking for an accessible hotel room? Don’t forget to read the many detailed reviews in the Hotels category of the Wheelchair Travel Blog!

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