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With holidays coming up, it’s time to explore accessible accommodation options. Travelling when you’re disabled can be challenging.
Many people don’t understand what ‘accessibility’ means. That’s because accessibility is different for everyone.
But with the right information, and our handy tips and tricks, you can book your next accessible holiday with ease.
What is accessible accommodation?
Because there are so many kinds of disabilities, there are also many kinds of access needs. This can make it tricky for many disabled people to travel.
Accessibility is whether anyone can use or engage with something.
There are standard features included in most accessible rooms.
It’s not just wheelchair accessibility
When people think about accessibility, they tend to think about wheelchair accessibility.
Wheelchair access features might include things like:
- No steps to enter the building or room
- A roll-in shower with no steps or lips
- Shower seats and over-the-toilet seats
- Handrails and grab bars
- Wider doors
- Automatic doors
- Clear layouts with good spacing to move around without bumping into furniture
- Adjustable or lowered beds, countertops, and facilities that are reachable from a seated height
- Hoists for people who need assistance getting in and out of their wheelchairs
- Easy-to-access power points at waist-height on desks and bedside tables
- Elevator access
- Emergency pull cords in the bathroom.
Accessibility should also mean these things
Accessibility also needs to consider the needs of people who are blind, Deaf, intellectually disabled, neurodivergent, as well as those who have chronic illness, chronic pain and energy impairments.
These include things like:
- Signage in braille
- Labelled light switches that can be turned off from bed
- Voice-operated remotes
- Easy-to-access options for subtitles and visual descriptions
- A buzzer light inside the room that flashes to show someone is at the door (or if there is an emergency)
- Vibrating alarm clocks
- Options for different ways of communication, including sign language
- Close, undercover accessible parking (which is particularly handy for electric wheelchair users)
- Assistance with carrying baggage to and from rooms
- A step or stool for people of short stature
- Providing facilities for service animals
- Providing information in accessible formats (like braille, easy-read English, and using alt text).
It might even include comfort things like:
- Air conditioning and heating for people who struggle with temperature regulation
- A bath for people with chronic pain to soak their muscles, block-out curtains and sound-proofing for people with sensory issues
- Access to things like a fridge for food and medication
- Kettles and microwaves for filling hot water bottles and warming heat packs.
Common issues with accommodation
Because accessibility is unique to each person, there can be a lot of confusion and misinformation. Even locations that claim to be accessible often aren’t.
For example, it can be really hard to move a wheelchair around thick carpets. There can also be steep ramps that are too hard to climb in a manual chair.
For example, I’m a wheelchair user, and when at an ‘accessible’ venue, the ramp was a broken plank of wood that cracked while using it.
Another time, at a different venue, the disabled bathrooms didn’t have working plumbing. I’ve been unable to access elevators, because of steps placed in front of them.
Even when locations have access features, like elevators or hoists, it’s not uncommon for them to be out-of-order, with no prior notice given to visitors.
Many accommodation providers don’t list their accessibility information online, which can make researching an exhausting, frustrating task.
Tips for booking accessible accommodation
First, think about where you want to go, and what you need. Write it down to make sure you don’t forget something.
Then search for places online. A lot of booking platforms now have options to select accessibility features when searching.
Other helpful tips:
- Contact accommodation providers to confirm accessibility. It’s a good idea to get this in writing in case you need it later. Take note of names, dates and agreements, and bring it on your trip
- Read reviews online (and leave reviews)
- Ask for the location of your room (for example, is it close to an elevator?)
- Ask for the heights and dimensions of doorways, showers, countertops and beds
- Ask if there are sloping areas, rugs or carpet that could making movement hard
- Reconfirm your booking before you leave.
It can also be a good idea to research the area. I recently went on a holiday to Brisbane. The room was accessible, but the area around the hotel wasn’t, making it very difficult to navigate.
You can also look up nearby restaurants, shops, entertainment and healthcare options.
Get support for your holiday
It can be hard to do this on your own, so think about getting help.
You can book a travel agent. On Mable, you can book an independent support worker who can:
- Help with research, booking and confirmations
- Help you plan your holiday and pack your things
- Assist with transport
- Come with you on your holiday, so you have the support you need to enjoy your time away.
Ready to plan your holiday? Sign up for free on Mable and post a job ad or start searching for support workers in your local area.
About the author
Zoe Simmons is a disabled journalist, copywriter, speaker, author and advocate. She writes to make the world a better place. You can find out more about Zoe on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tik Tok.