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5 Deciding Factors When Booking an Accessible Hotel

Disability will affect all of us at some point in our lives, and currently, 1 in 5 people are disabled. The collective spending power of disabled people is called the Purple Pound and is estimated at £274 billion a year. But for disabled people to be able to spend their money, businesses, including hotels, must be accessible. The key to happy, returning customers is to offer good accessibility and inclusion.

So with this in mind, here are 5 things I look for when going to an accessible hotel as a wheelchair user and what makes me want to book again.  Of course, these are just some of my most important, and there will be more/less depending on your disability.

1. Access starts online

Booking a hotel room shouldn’t be complicated, but for disabled travellers like myself, it can be a challenge. So much time is spent searching on websites looking for the best accessible hotel to meet my basic accessibility needs. And that’s before I even consider other important factors.

When I visit a hotel’s website, I want to be able to find details about the accessible room quickly. Clear and concise information with photos showing the accessible bedroom, bathroom, and facilities helps me decide whether it is suitable for my access needs.

Emma sitting in her hotel room. She is at the dining table looking at her laptop.
Emma working on her laptop in a hotel suite

Personally, the hotel’s website is the first and often the only place we will look before booking a hotel room. I will simply leave the website if I can’t find any mention of accessibility, and I won’t give that hotel my custom.

Access starts online, and there is no excuse for not having accessibility information on a business website.  

An incredible 73% of potential disabled customers experience barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visit, according to findings from The Purple Pound

2. Location & proximity to public transport

Location is an important factor when choosing a hotel and is usually based on what our intended activities are at the destination.

Personally, travelling in our wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) is more convenient and allows us to store luggage and equipment in the car easily. This is particularly important if we’re staying at an accessible hotel in the UK and going to be away for several nights with lots of luggage.

Once we arrive at the hotel, we want to be able to park as close as possible. A hotel with its own car park or nearby on-street blue badge parking is ideal and can make all the difference in whether we book that hotel or not. 

Emma in her powered wheelchair driving up the ramp of her wheelchair accessible vehicle at the hotel.
Emma parking in a hotel car park

A city centre hotel with easy walking/rolling distance to visitor attractions and public transport is also very handy. Researching accessible things to do is another huge task disabled people must do before going somewhere new.

There is often a list of local attractions on a hotel’s website, but it would be helpful for hotels to consider the mindset of someone with accessibility needs visiting that location by suggesting a few accessible attractions. This would be a nice starting base.

I’ve always found it very helpful when hotel staff are able to quickly help whenever we’ve needed to book accessible transportation to and from the hotel. I think it’s important that hotels have an up-to-date list of contact numbers for accessible taxis and general accessibility information on the city’s public transport for their disabled guests.

The hotel should also provide alternative accessible transportation for airport transfers if their airport shuttle buses cannot accommodate wheelchair users.

3. Arrival, entrance and public area access

First impressions of a hotel are important, but perhaps even more so for disabled travellers. So it’s vital to feel welcome from the get-go. Poor access upon entering as well as in and around the reception and public areas will immediately cause concern. If I can’t easily access the public areas, then what about the ‘accessible’ room. 

Level access, ramps, automatic doors, and open space to easily move around enable independence and create inclusiveness. It’s great to be able to check-in at a lowered reception desk and comfortably speak to the staff while completing paperwork such as a Personal Evacuation Plan (PEP). 

Emma is sitting at a lowered section at the hotel reception desk at Crowne Plaza Manchester.
Emma sitting at a lowered reception desk in a hotel

It’s nice when staff explain where to find different amenities in the hotel, including the bar, gym, and spa, rather than assume we can’t or don’t enjoy drinking or working out like other hotel guests.  All areas of the hotel should be accessible to everyone.

I recently stayed at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London. The hotel entrance was at street level, but once inside there were marble steps down to access the lobby, reception, restaurants and rooms.

However, we were impressed that the staircase retracts and transforms into a wheelchair lift.

Emma sitting in her wheelchair next to staircase in the Great Scotland Yard Hotel.
Top: Emma using a staircase wheelchair lift. Bottom: Emma is sitting at the bottom of the staircase.

4. Accessible hotel rooms

For most travellers, they will enter a hotel bedroom, throw down their bags, and fall onto the mattress. Disabled travellers enter and immediately scan the bedroom to check its accessibility features.

  • Is there sufficient space at the side of the bed to access it? 
  • Is the bed too low/high?
  • Is there a ceiling hoist? (Hotel Brooklyn Manchester accessible room with ceiling track hoist)
  • Space underneath the bed for a portable hoist? 
  • Space to manoeuvre – comfortable turning radius for wheelchairs.
  • Does the bathroom have a roll-in shower? Is there a wall-mounted shower seat or commode?
  • Power sockets next to the bed to power medical equipment and charge power wheelchairs?
  • Light switches and AC controls within easy reach?
Emma, a wheelchair user sitting in the wheelchair accessible liberty room at Hotel Brooklyn Manchester.
Emma in the wheelchair accessible room with ceiling track hoist at Hotel Brooklyn Manchester

Sometimes the little touches add to the overall hotel stay experience. 

  • A thoughtfully placed toilet without obstructions, e.g., a hand wash basin positioned too close that prevents safe wheelchair to toilet transfers. 
  • Enough space under the bathroom sink to allow wheelchair users to roll completely under without banging their knees or stretching too far. (Hotel sinks are a big bug-bear of mine.)
  • Are there adequate grab bars in the bathroom? 
  • A lowered mirror in the bathroom 
  • A full-length mirror in the bedroom (because disabled people like to check our appearance too.)
  • Automatic door entry system for easy access to the hotel bedroom (Corendon Vitality Hotel Amsterdam had this and it was great.)
Emma, a power wheelchair user sitting in the accessible bathroom at Hotel Brooklyn in Manchester. The large bathroom was a roll-in shower.
Emma in the wetroom at Hotel Brooklyn Manchester

5. Staff awareness 

We all go to a hotel expecting staff to be helpful and friendly, but attitude and awareness towards disability are also incredibly crucial. It makes all the difference when staff speak directly to the disabled person rather than the person we are with.

Often, it’s the staff that can add to the overall experience during a hotel stay. The service we receive is essentially the first opportunity for staff to create a great first impression and ultimately, a great lasting impression. A great first impression and great customer service will make me want to stay at that hotel again and recommend it to others.

The European Commission report found that 50% of disabled people “would travel more if they could be sure more accessible facilities were available.”. A survey by VisitBritain revealed that domestic overnight visitor spending by disabled people was £3.2 billion in 2015, likely to be much more now. This is proof that disabled people want to travel more and will if accessibility is available.

What do you look for when booking an accessible hotel? Let me know in the comments below!

You might also enjoy

Troutbeck Head Review: Our Stay in a Wheelchair Accessible Glamping Pod in the Lake District

Hotel Brooklyn Manchester Review: Wheelchair Accessible Hotel in the UK with Hoists

Exploring Scotlands East Coastline in a Wheelchair

Staybridge Suites Liverpool Review | Wheelchair Accessible Hotel Next To Albert Dock

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Emma, a wheelchair user sitting in the wheelchair accessible liberty room at Hotel Brooklyn Manchester. Text reads "Accessible Travel. 5 Deciding Factors When Booking an Accessible Hotel. www.simplyemma.co.uk"

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Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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19 Responses

  1. Hi Emma – such an important topic!
    I agree wholeheartedly to all the above with some additional needs for a solo disabled traveller.
    1) I, personally, need to specify that the bedroom is a double rather then a twin.
    2) It’s essential for me to ask about the height of the bed.
    3) I need to ask for a guaranteed effective reaction to the pulling of the emergency red cord in the bathroom (after a disastrous experience).
    At check-in, I ask to be accompanied to my room and for the member of staff to move any furniture I don’t intend to use to make more space and often to switch off a bedside light I cannot access.
    One of my bug bears is a pedal bin in the bathroom which many disabled people cannot access. Out of many hotels I have stayed in there has only been one hotel where this was given consideration. Obviously, I don’t ask about the bathroom bin when booking!
    Also, I keep an extension lead in my suitcase because, often, the socket is not close enough to the bed where I would need it.

    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss considerations when booking an accessible hotel room.

    1. Hi Laura. Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate you sharing additional needs and important factors from the perspective of a solo disabled traveller – I love that. This would be an interesting topic to explore further and I’d welcome your thoughts and input if this would be something you’d be interested in?

      That’s a great idea to have a member of staff accompany you to the room and to move any furniture you won’t use etc. An extension lead can come in super handy – 100% agree!

      Thanks again, Laura. All great tips. 🙂

  2. Hi Emma,

    thanks for covering this topic. I agree with all of your points and those of Laura above. I liked Laura’s idea of being accompnied to the room by a member of staff to check out furniture and whether anything needs to be moved or removed. This would save time at the beginning of the stay and help with settling in quicker.

    One of my bug bears is the positioning of horizontal grab rails on either side of the toilet and the placement of the basin. As Emma pointed out this can be too close or jut out too far in front of the toilet making a 180 degree pivot transfer from my wheelchair facing the toilet either impossible or quite precarious.

    The grab rails for me don’t work if too far from the loo – I’ve worked out that 28cm is my limit! Further than that and I can’t push myself up. As you can imagine I haven’t always struck it lucky on this front! Therefore, before booking my room I do ask for photos (however, be aware these can distort distances and basin proximity. Everyone has phones so if they don’t appear on the website or arn’t clear enough, staff are often happy to take some and email/whatsapp them over). I also ask them to measure the distances and height of rails. Again good customer service makes all the difference and I won’t stay at a hotel where staff can’t provide this information.

    Having had a near miss with a sliding loo seat I now always check that they are solidly attached!

    I find it useful if the hotel has knowledge of and can recommend a place that can hire out additional equipment such as bed handles, shower chairs, mobile hoists….

    Like Laura I always carry an extension lead.

    Happy accessible hotel hunting everyone.

    1. Hi Nicky. Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experience of accessible hotel rooms. I love to hear of other peoples experiences and tips as it’s a great way for us all to learn.

      Yes, I completely understand regarding grab rails. Although I don’t need them to physically push myself up, I do need grab rails to hold or lean on for balance and support so I appreciate that positioning is very important. Asking for photos is also so important before booking. I actually feature this in an older blog post I wrote about tips for booking hotel rooms – https://www.simplyemma.co.uk/simple-tips-for-booking-the-best-wheelchair-accessible-hotels/

      Oh no, the near-miss with a sliding loo seat sounds awful. I’m glad it didn’t result in being badly hurt though. I don’t blame you for checking it properly attached. I think I’m going to do the same from now on 🙂

      Thanks again, Nicky. I really appreciate you taking the time to share. Take care.

  3. As you say, it all starts online: “So much time is spent searching on websites looking for the best accessible hotel to meet my basic accessibility needs. And that’s before I even consider other important factors.”
    So if hotel owners don’t give this information on their websites (at least), they won’t get your booking!
    Great article, we have publicised it here on the Isle of Wight.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dave. Absolutely! It’s so important to have clear and concise access information on a website to allow people to have a better understanding. They can then follow up and ask any questions to confirm access, but having no mention of accessibility is not good enough. I appreciate you sharing with your community. Hope you are keeping safe and well.

  4. As a carer for a wheelchair user that is also very poorly and is prone to infections,l find that having a accessible room is also more expensive,no concessions are offered (like needed the carer 24/7)
    Having to pay extra for flexible payment,which is often £40 dearer and not being able to pay for room asap

  5. Hi Emma,
    I just started traveling again since being disabiled and am beginning a Blog of my own about the issues I’ve encountered.
    This article is so to the point and contains information all of us need to consider when traveling.
    Thanks

  6. Hi Emma ,
    I have travelled a lot since my disability got worse . I used a manual wheel chair and have been to Thailand ( My son and his family live there ) and NYC where a friend met me .
    I have had many experiences and have stories to tell about these trips . Some are now funny when I look back , My son travelled with me many times as well , and I am glad he did . We went to Cambodia for my son to renew his visa for living in Thailand , It was a nightmare at the airport . My wheelchair was extensively damaged when it came onto the collection point . It was a good job we had tied the bits together before we handed it over to the airport staff . We were flying from Thailand to the Cambodia . The plane had small seats and as soon as it touched down on landing the Cambodians and Thai people had a battle to get their luggage and get to the front of the queue , ignoring the pleas from the stewards who told them to sit in their seats until the warning light went out .

    It was total chaos . The airport staff had a wheelchair for me until I could collect mine . The guy pushed me into a small lift and told my son that he would meet us down the next level as it was small , ..As soon as he got me alone he started asking for a tip , I told him my son has got my money and he would have to ask him . My son Ian works all over the world and is used to all this .

    Eventually we got into a taxi and my son gave who he thought was the boss porter a tip to share between them .,This turned out to be a bad move – as we drove away they all started fighting and arguing about sharing what was about a fiver tip . I said never again but he just laughed and said – ” go with the flow ”.

    I have had many experiences on my travels and look forward to telling some .
    Thanks ,, Peter

  7. Hi Emma,
    I look for bed height, w/c accessible bathroom. iE toilet with grab bars, height of toilet. Roll in shower with seat. I agree with you about staff addressing w/c user properly. Does not happen to often. Love your blog. I am 60. Been in w/c since 13 yrs old. Travel has changed a bit. Quite a ways to go.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Thank you for your comment. I’m delighted you enjoy my blog and I hope you find it helpful. Happy travels to you 🙂

  8. Hi Emma, my personal bug-bear are portable ramps that are not fit for purpose. So often I’m promised access to a hotel or restaurant via a portable ramp only to find it’s far too short, therefore too steep for my powerchair. There needs to regulations relating to ramps. Just writing this gets my blood boiling!

    1. Hi Sam. Yes, that’s a great point you’ve made. There definitely needs to be better facilities such as ramps that are safe and fit for purpose.

  9. As you say, the attitude of staff is so important. My ‘go to’ in Manchester is the Travelodge i the city centre. I’ve stayed in many hotels. This is the. only one that asked what assistance I would need in to evacuate in the event of an emergency. Not only that, but on the three occasions that I’ve stayed there, they asked me every time, and documented my response.

    Also, on my first visit, after viewing the designated ‘accessible room’, they moved me to a ‘family room’ because the accessible room had a bath, but the family room a shower. They gave me the hotel direct phone number so that on future visits, I could call them in advance, and they’d allocate a family room.

    As others have said, I am another who always carries an extension lead. I’ve got one with some USB’s in it too, so I can always charge my phone next to the bed, no matter where the plug sockets are.

    My Travelodge review if anyone is interested.
    http://www.rollingwith.me/wordpress/manchester-travelodge-the-bad-the-ugly-the-good/

  10. Great article Emma and I agree with everything evryone else has said.
    I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to check how quickly someone will respond to the emergency alarm – not something I thought about, assuming it would be immediate, but having waited for an hour and a half before a cleaner reported for duty and knocked on the door to see if we were OK, only then to discover that the alarm should have rung in a different building (but didn’t) and that the accomodation block was actually unmanned!!! Doesn’t fill you with confidence
    Another issue I have found is that although the modern or newly refurbished hotels have great accessible rooms, the corridor doors are too heavy to be opened by wheelchair users or if they have a touchpad for electronic opening they often open the wrong way for wheelchair users or the pad is too close to the door

    1. Hi Jackie. Thank you for your comment. All great points you’ve mentioned and very important like you say to check the emergency alarm. How awful that you had to wait an hour and a half until someone came to check you were ok. Shocking.

      1. Hi Jackie and Emma.
        I can’t remember if I wrote about this in an earlier post….I feel it’s so important now to ask at the desk, whilst checking in, the hotel’s protocol for responding to an emergency alarm. You’d think that this would be an important feature for the reception staff to follow. But I learnt in November a couple of years ago that this is not the case. I fell in the bathroom at 3.15am in a hotel in the Cotswolds. I was very tired and hadn’t slept because of an audible alarm for the partially deaf, which hung near the bed. I’d never come across one before. It had obviously (?) been set by a previous occupant to sound off loudly and vibrate every 30 mins. Maintenance thought they’d fixed it, but no. I had to knock it off the wall and leave it outside my room – vandal, moi?
        Anyhow, I had NO response when I fell on the bathroom floor – luckily I wasn’t lying in a pool of blood! I spoke to the manager the next day – matchsticks propping my eyes open – who apologised profusely and said that extra training would be arranged ???
        I hope ALL solo travellers will check the protocol at the desk…..I’m not the first to complain of a lack of response in hotels, unfortunately.

        1. Thanks for sharing your traumatic story. Nasty thing to happen and I hope the hotel have learnt a very important lesson.

      2. Yes Jackie that is appalling. Very good idea to check if the red cord works.

        Emma, what a great article.

        My massive bugbear – actually one of many is supposedly accessible portacabins at festivals, outdoor concerts, tourist attractions etc. Shame on Brandon. Too small and only one horizontal grab rail on left of loo. I was given a VIP pass at Plymouth Hoe’s ‘One Big Summer’ outdoor concert 2 weeks ago because their Brandon portaloo was not fit for purpose. I was allowed a fast track in and out so I could use the luckily revamped public loo that gladly were not far away.
        I’m taking my 16 year old son to Nottinghill Carnival in my electric wheelchair to be with friends who have a great sound system. I’m going to email the organisers to see what type of provision there will be. Cross fingers! If no good I hope they’ll be open to suggestions …!

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