Recently we stayed in a handicapped accessible hotel room. Although we were in the company of a hearing impaired person, we got the room quite by accident. However, it was a very enlightening ‘accident’.
The room was relatively new construction in a new tower of this particular hotel/resort. As such, the room itself was well appointed with stylish details.
Availability of New Technology
In this all handicaps accessible room, there was a feature called Room Valet that is specially designed for hearing impaired people. You can select from a list of options, including a bed alarm via a bed shaker, strobe alert for the phone ringing or the door as well as other choices. For a deaf person traveling alone, this feature could be a lifesaver. We have personally stayed in many rooms in which there were no strobe lights in case of fire.
This room had all the expected accommodations required under new construction, such as strobe lights for emergency alarms and braille markings on the room numbers and elevators. It also had a roll-in shower and plenty of room in the bathroom for transferring on and off the commode from a wheelchair.
There also were handicapped modifications present that you would expect, such as grab bars in the bathroom, lever handles on all doors and faucets, a wheelchair accessible bathroom with wide doorways, high toilet, pull under sink and desk area, thermostat at reachable height, light switches that were reachable, and storage bins for clothes at accessible points. If you were a wheelchair bound senior or hearing impaired person these modifications would be a welcome respite on your travels.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
There were several good features that show great thought for the needs of capable people requiring modifications. As with any new idea, there are areas that cause some head shaking and this room was no exception.
- While it contained this wonderful Room Valet, the phone had no way to amplify so if you were notified via an alarm that your phone was ringing, you would be unable to hear anything when answering the call.
- It was great to have strobe notification of an emergency such as fire, but there was no documented strategy (or at least instructions we could find) for a wheelchair bound person/senior to be evacuated from the twelfth floor or any high floor when the elevator was out of service for fire.
- Also, while there was ample space to get into the shower, there was no assistive device, such as a bench, to help get showered without putting the whole wheelchair inside under the water if you were a senior unsteady on your feet.
- The closet was adapted with a lowered shelf and hangers at wheelchair level, but once I put my jacket inside, there was little room for anything else. Perhaps one shirt and one pair of pants could fit in the slim closet but no one traveling with you (the room had two queen sized beds) could use it.
- The Room Valet also had no instructions for use. Therefore, a senior would have difficulty, as in fact did I, figuring out how to use it. Also, only one bed had the bed shaker which was not stated anywhere, so whether or not you were awakened would be the luck of the draw if you chose the right bed.
- The room configuration did well to have adequate space for a wheelchair to maneuver to the seating area but would be a tight fit to get between the two beds and still have room to transfer in and out of bed.
- There were two full length mirrors, one in the bathroom and one in the entry hall. This would be helpful if your senior was in a wheelchair but the lights were not overhead on either. The closest light was within a few feet and, especially in the dark entry hallway, they did not provide enough task lighting to put on makeup or do any grooming especially for a senior with reduced vision.
Businesses have come a long way trying to meet the needs of all customers but still need to consider how well the accommodations do or don’t work. Consumers can and should provide feedback to further improve access for all.
We would love to hear your travel experiences and the accommodations you found most helpful for your senior loved one.