In the absence of a worldwide – or even Europe-wide – code of standards, it can be a complete gamble for a wheelchair-user when booking hotel rooms. Often the access rooms are simply ‘wheelchair friendly’ i.e. the door is wide enough to get through and there may be a few grab rails in the bathroom for good measure.
Just this week, I booked a disabled room at the Premier Inn in Brighton. Luckily, I checked the facilities afterwards – just on a hunch – and learned that there is no shower bench. Just ‘ample room’, grab rails and a low bath. When I questioned how a paraplegic was supposed to get in and out of the bath, I was told that the rooms “have all gone through disabled access groups”. This room has been approved by disabled access professionals who have clearly mastered the art of levitation. Possibly too niche a group to be determining what is suitable for the wider population?
We are following this up with the accessibility coordinator at Premier Inn and then possibly via Whitbread HQ. Watch this space to see how it develops. I really don’t have the time to follow this up every time we encounter a problem, though.
Why can’t all hotels just follow the US standards, hard-fought, through the Americans with Disability Act?
One of the stipulations there is: “Identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs.” This is the LEAST that hotels should be doing. As an example, we were pretty impressed with this document available from the Thistle Hotel in Brighton.
The most common problem we face at hotels is the failure to provide adequate seating in the bath tub or roll-in shower area. They cost about £140! Much, much less than the price of our planned stay at the Premier Inn. If I were the manager of the Premier Inn in Brighton and I’d had an email from me, complaining about this ridiculous situation, I would have said: “You are not coming here until October, we have plenty of time to purchase a shower bench, which will be a fantastic investment for other guests who may have special needs too.” The manager was very professional and very polite but did not take this initiative, sadly. **(See update below)** So we cancelled the booking and have now opted for the MyHotel which has a shower seat in the wet room.
I could rant for much longer about the poor facilities in other Brighton hotels (including the Holiday Inn which is normally our go-to chain for reliability of suitable adaptations and provision of a shower transfer bench!) but life is short. Stuff to do, innit.
** Update: I have discovered that the manager of the Brighton Premier Inn has in fact enquired about benches with the accessibility co-ordinator. Everything they buy must be from an approved supplier and authorised by our head office, especially around disabled access rooms. “This particular issue of seats have never come across before in this hotel and if my head office is happy for us to purchase some, then it would not be a problem (they would in this case recommend us a particular brand and supplier).” Looking hopeful!