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Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,487 posts
66 reviews
Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation


Accessibility is not standardized in the hotel industry and can be easily interpreted in different ways by hotel employees. Rather than look for “wheelchair friendly” hotels in the forums, have your criteria and needs ready and deal with the hotel directly. Often hotel websites will show that they have accessible rooms, but their definitions may differ widely and they may not be designed to meet your needs. At this point, you call directly.

Some things to ask a hotel:

Common areas:

1. designated handicap parking with a priority location in the parking lot.

2. step free access (level or ramped) and/or lift access to main entrance.

3. automated door opening.

4. ground level/lobby level accessible washroom.

5. elevator to above ground accessible accommodation.

6. level or ramped access to public areas.


1. wider entry and bathroom doorways – external 80 cm, internal 75 cm. Easy to open?

2. mid-height light switches and power outlets

3. lever type door handles

4. maneuvering space on each side of the bed – 90 cm

5. roll in shower

6. wheeled shower chair and/or wall mounted shower seat

7. grab bars in bathroom

8. raised toilet

9. lower hanging space in closet


1. proximity to markets, pubs, restaurants ... up to 500 m distant.

2. proximity to health services.


1. Call hotel directly.

2. Keep notes: names, dates, times, topics, what’s agreed and confirmation numbers. Take these notes and print outs with you on your vacation.

3. Ask to talk to someone who is familiar with handicap rooms because they have been in them.

4. Ask questions that will elicit information rather than a yes or a no.

- Describe ...

- Tell me about ...

5. Check that you have a credit card GUARANTEE for an accessible room and a confirmation number. Not just a REQUEST for an accessible room if available at the time of check in.

6. Reconfirm your reservation for a guaranteed accessible room a couple of days ahead.

7. When you arrive, check out the room before you check in.

8. Again, take your notes and print outs with you on your vacation.

More tips:

Be prepared, in the unlikely event that:

1. the hotel does not have the accessible room available for you when you arrive. The hotel will need to find you an accessible room, even in another hotel. (See #6 just above) “Where will you put us up for the night?”

2. the complimentary hotel shuttle may not be accessible. The hotel will need to accommodate the service in some other way. “How will you provide alternate shuttle service for us?”

Be cool, be persistent, use a sense of humour and your vacation will be much more a pleasure than a nightmare.

Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
12,789 posts
27 reviews
1. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Hi there.

Interesting start - but I can see where each person's checklist in what to ask about is going to vary, but this would be a good starting off point. Also the laws of the country may come into play in what the hotel is expected to do, etc.

Also I noticed the checklist appears to be focused on those with mobility disabilities - options for people with other forms of disability would be nice to include in an overall checklist.


Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,487 posts
66 reviews
2. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Thanks for your comments Noah. Yes, "accessibility" generally means mobility issues that require some physical modifications of a hotel room. When you say "other forms of disabilities" what do you have in mind? Needs will definitely vary and this list is meant to be a reference guide for people to take from as they need. And you are right, hotels in a given country are often not required by law to meet standards in terms of accessible properties. Even in Canada, with standards that are quite high regarding mobility issues, a hotel can design an accessible room the way they want to.

My hope is to provide a checklist of some things to keep in mind when booking a room. A hotel that says their room is accessible just because they have installed grab bars in the bathroom really doesn't have an accessible room. And a guest can be in for a rude surprise if their only question has been "Is the room accessible?"

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
1,175 posts
19 reviews
3. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

I think most people these days know enough not to rely on advertised “accessibility” and are more proactive than in the past. Visit http://www.disabledtravelers.com/ to see a good resource. In relation to TripAdvisor, I see your list as more of a guide for the abled to access the appropriateness of a facility for disabled guests – should TA add such a tool.

One thing not on your list is the bathroom sink arrangement. In most of the establishments I visited you can’t wheel under the counter and the sink taps are too far to reach from the side. If you can’t stand, the shower (or maybe the tub) is the only option to simply wash your hands. Pack hand wipes!

Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
12,789 posts
27 reviews
4. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation


By other forms of disabilities that might benefit from accommodation, I mean:

- folks with Visual impairment

- folks with hearing impairment

- folks with cognitive impairment

- folks of short stature

Folks with visual impairment might benefit from having a phone that beeps to indicate a message waiting, instead of with a flashing light, braille labels for switches and a verbal or audio description of the room by staff upon checking in. Or a braille or recorded "guest services" guide and room service menu.

Folks with a hearing impairment might benefit from a visual door knock indicator, awareness of the staff of a hearing impaired person is in the room so a phone call may not be the best way to contact them. Alternate ways of contacting staff for services or ordering room service can be worked out.

Folks with cognitive impairment benefit from the staff being aware of the situation and a plan on what to do if that person appears to need assistance.

Little people may benefit from a well placed step stool, or simply having amenities placed within reach instead of on tall shelves.

Simple awareness of the staff of specific situations can go a long way in preventing misunderstandings, lost business and not to mention law suits. We aren't all traveling in North America where accessibility is often much easier to come by than some other parts of the world.

Auckland Central...
3 posts
5. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Hi folks,

This is a very useful forum.

Most of us who have a disability or live with people who have a disability pretty soon get to know what does and does not work in terms of accommodation, access and suitability related to our particular needs. Before our daughter came along we made a lot of assumptions (presumptions) about "special needs". Unless one is directly affected, one simply won't know. Hence a lot of hoteliers thinking they are providing a useful service that may in fact be limited.

Thus there is a primary responsibility on we, the users, to ensure providers of accommodation have facilities that are suitable.

However, I do believe that any building or room that is accessible (in its widest sense) to disabled users will be accessible to ALL users. Wheel-in, wet-area shower/bathroom arrangements could be put in all new hotels, if not all new hotel rooms. Older buildings can allow for upgrades to match. I do think we the disabled community needs to be even more pro-active in informing architects and designers to look not just at the regulations but the variety of user needs as mentioned by some of your correspondents.

For example, ALL light switches and power points could be set lower, say at thigh height (OK, yes, whose thigh?) rather than adult elbow height or at the ankle setting. Things are improving generally and we are grateful that people keep up the fight. But caveat emptor is always a good motto to live by when booking accommodation.

Thanks for the opportunity to join the form.

John C

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
68,487 posts
66 reviews
6. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Caveat emptor, exactly. Asking specific questions can make such a difference to your hotel room stay.

Noah ~ those are excellent ideas. I hope someone with knowledge in those areas will pick up the ball. You say "simple awareness of the staff" would help. Very true. Unfortunately the staff who take your reservation request have likely never been in the room and, generally, are able bodied.

Thanks so much for your comments, everyone.

Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
248 posts
37 reviews
7. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Great ideas! I agree with Noah that there should be similar lists for other disabilities. I'd love to see this as a wiki like thing where different people could edit the list to add the things they have learned to ask for (yes, seavale) - which would help people new to this. I'd hate to see this get lost in the shuffle in the forums.Is there somewhere we can put it that will allow community editing?

By the way - my additions to the list

1a) - how many disabled parking spots are there....and the distance to the main entrance (or disability entrance)

1b) what options are there (if any) if all the spots are full? This one comes from trying to stop at a major attraction with 2 whole spots near the building and more located more than 500ft away. Great in a wheelchair, not so good on canes or walker.

West Grey, Canada
Destination Expert
for Toronto
Level Contributor
84,423 posts
103 reviews
8. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

"simple awareness of the staff"


While waiting for my wife at the doctor’s today, I read a great article about accessibility issues, and how business owners “think” they’ve done things right.

One example was where a restaurant had redone the bathroom to make it wheelchair accessible, but the bathroom was located in the basement, which required you to take the stairs.

Another example was where the restaurant had a wheelchair accessible bathroom on the same floor, but stacked all their extra chairs in the hallway making it too narrow for a wheelchair to get through.

Sorry...it was a long wait and I looked at a number of magazines. I don’t recall what magazine it was, or I would post the name of which magazine the article was in.

Best Regards

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
1,175 posts
19 reviews
9. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation

Setati – as to 1b) … my wife claims that the only reason she keeps me around is so that I can drop her off and pick her up at the door when all the spots are filled. Around here, that means that she rarely sees the actual parking spot I finally end up in.

Edited: 14 January 2011, 21:42
Auckland Central...
3 posts
10. Re: Accessibility Checklist for Hotel Accommodation


This is great. So often my daughter has been at bars/restaurants/clubs where spare chairs are stacked not just in the corridor but in the "disabled" toilet. Complaints always bring apologies but next week, it's back the way it was. I was in an internet cafe today and there was a large disabled toilet but no access between the desks bolted to the floor, and a step up to the shop anyway. You what ... ?

As to car parks ... I have started to take digital pix of cars illegally parked and on the occassions the drivers have seen me doing this I tell them I am e-mailing the pic, with their registration plate visible, to the City Council parking office. Boy does that get a response.

The other frequent event is being told by illegal parkers "I'm only here for a couple of minutes". I was so mad with one truckie who clearly didn't give a flying twopenny's worth, I parked across his rear end, lifted my daughter from the vehicle to her wheelchair and told him "Sorry, we're going to be at least an hour." And we left. He was still there whe we got back. Not happy. I hope he learnt his lesson.

A wiki-style list of good and useless hotels would be great. Can TA help or do we do this ourselves?


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