THE TRAVELER’S ITCH & ACCESSIBLE HOTELS
It is hard to believe that there are only a few more weeks left of summer! Many travelers have been enjoying the freedom of exploring around the world now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. One restriction that is permanent and not pandemic-related, is accessibility for people with visible and invisible disabilities. For the most part, accessible travel is widely accepted, and many accommodations are available.
When I did a search online for accessibility at hotels, I came across this quote:
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. ~Tripadvisor
Even in this quote, the assumption appears to be that accessibility refers to issues related to mobility. While this is very important, there is still a lot of progress to be made to the wide definition of accessibility. Invisible disabilities, in particular, need to be accommodated with equal importance as they are equally prohibiting.
I was impressed when I came across the online accessibility overview for the Four Seasons Hotel in New Orleans. The hotel offers mobility-accessible accommodation features as well as hearing-accessible and visual-accessible ones.
Many accessible guest rooms include a combination fire alarm speaker/visual alarm in the room and visual fire alarms in the bathrooms. The visual and audio alarms are also connected to the building’s emergency alarm system. Upon request, there are visual notification devices for incoming telephone calls and door knocks/bells including bed vibration for doorbell, fire, and telephone. TTY/TDD phones, visual/vibration alarms, and telephone amplifiers can also be requested.
Closer to home, I searched “Calgary accessibility hotels” and found a website called disabledholidays.com. I found one that listed “Hearing Facilities” – the City Break Hotel. The rest of the ones listed were either solely wheelchair accessible or you had to call the hotel directly. Deaf & Hear Alberta can offer hotels VRI OnDemand in the province. They also have a large variety of assistive hearing and emergency alarm systems like the ones the New Orleans hotel provides. The cost is minimal and being inclusive opens up yet another traveling population.
Regardless of advertising, it is wise to call ahead and get a confirmation number for an accessible room. It is also advisable to reconfirm your reservation for a guaranteed accessible room a couple of days ahead. It is essential to remind yourself that it is your right as an Albertan to receive such accommodations and not to accept the status quo. When you have a disability, booking a hotel requires extra steps and roadblocks. But it can be an opportunity to educate people in the hotel industry about how to accommodate people with disabilities. Being calm, persistent, and having a sense of humour will make this education process a positive one. Remember, you are travelling – exploring the world and meeting new people! You are experiencing life to its fullest.