Last weekend I hopped an early Sunday morning flight to Chicago to inspect a hotel for a great client. I arrived early and my room wasn’t quite ready so I decided to start on the inspection and get my work done while most guests were out having fun.
This particular hotel is located in a building well over 70 years old with limited access in a few specific areas. Outside of that, this hotel has been fully remodeled and provides an overall high-level of access — better than some 5-year-old buildings I come across.
This inspection was no different than the last 40 hotels I’ve evaluated in the last several months … so why do I bring this up?
A Pattern of Non-Compliance on “Readily Achievable” Barriers …
I’m noticing a common pattern of non-compliance in very specific areas that are considered “readily achievable” to remove within the hotel and lodging industry regardless of the lodging type or brand.
Now, most of my clients know that I prefer “Kimpton” and “Hilton” family hotels, and here’s why: they both provide a very different style, service and experience, and they both view “access for disabled” not as a mere inconvenient building code requirement but rather a must to truly accommodate all guests!
Kimpton and Hilton understand that 25% of all Americans have some type of mental or physical disability. That’s one-fourth of our customer base!
Whenever I travel — no matter the hotel chain — I always request a fully accessible mobilit roll-in shower room if not already booked by late afternoon the day of arrival.
I do this so I can evaluate my own room and get a feel for the true level of access being provided across this great country!
How accessible are these rooms for the mobility impaired? On occasion, I have the honor of meeting some of the engineering staff during my stay and, if appropriate, I will ask them questions concerning the mobility rooms, and how are they making progress on their “communication rooms”?
Too many staff members in high-level positions merely state, “Well, we are trying to decide which rooms would work best!” Or, “We have 3 portable kits if someone requests one” and “Oh … and we have 190 rooms!” Oops!
Let me pause to say I regularly have many positive experiences with house-keeping and engineering staff describing the level of care and the internal policies and procedures in place to accommodate all disabled guests. My hat is off to all of you all!
The overall level of access in the hotel and lodging industry has really improved in the last 8 years with much of the “push forward” coming in the last 3 years or so.
Grab Your FREE Checklist !
Here are some of the accessible elements that have made progress but still fall short for many! Be sure to download this checklist (it’s free and super useful).
Starting from the outside and working our way inside through the common use areas:
- A truly accessible “Off Site” path of travel connection to the public right of way. (Many don’t provide an off-site connection, and the rest have one or more portions of the route out of compliance!)
- The disabled parking stalls contain one or more accessible elements out of compliance: running slope and cross slope over 2%, length of stall and loading zone too short, parking stalls lacking proper striping layout configuration and color requirements, parking stalls either mis-signed or lacking proper signage altogether; lacking wheel stops to prevent vehicles from overhanging reduced curb ramp and walkway width under 48”.
- Curb ramps lacking altogether, lacking required slope, top landing, smooth transition from ramp to loading zone, required truncated domes (state and City specific) and top landings to walkways.
- A level walkway and door landing at main accessible entry (many hotels install auto-sliders thinking this makes the non-compliant slope issues within the walkway and door landing approach areas go away).
- Main check-in reception counter is non-compliant lacking a lowered counter at least 36” wide set at 34” max above floor surface. Some hotels provide a secondary counter or table near by that is filled with marketing material, printers or fish bowls, which are not ready for disabled use by a long shot.
- Lobby seating and lounge areas over filled with chairs, couches, decorative tables and potted plants that reduce the clear path of travel under 36”.
- Breakfast room with raised threshold at door entry, reduced strike-side clearance at door, round door knob, excessive door operating pounds of pressure and lacking required tactile and braille room I.D signage.
- Tables non-compliant that do not provide a 30” wide by 19” deep by 27” tall clear space for wheel chair user to sit and eat.
- Service counter set above 34” max or 36” max in some states with reduced clear space and excessive reach ranges to coffee, juice and soft drink dispensers, waffle makers, condiments and other food display racks.
- Proper number of compliant ADA/Accessible mobility rooms and communication rooms per overall room ratio lacking.
Here are two room ratio charts for mobility rooms and communication rooms. Keep in mind, these ratios are stand alone and cannot be combined in California and can only be combined with one or the first room being a roll-in shower room with communication features under the ADA.
Inside a typical ADA/Accessible mobility room the following barriers persist:
- Entry door lacks peep hole at 42” min and 48” max above floor surface, lacks entry door permanent room I.D tactile w/ braille sign set at 60” max on strike side of door.
- Bathroom door swings into required clear space in the bathroom or it swings out into hallway entry in the wrong direction for use once inside the room.
- Inside the bathroom, the side grab bar is not set at 54” from rear wall, phone or other obstruction mounted within 12” above side grab bar. Toilet paper dispenser is mounted either on rear wall behind toilet or on side wall well outside the 7”-9” from front rim requirement.
- Lavatory positioned in such a way that it blocks or reduces the clear space required in front of the roll-in shower or accessible tub, lacks wrapped or secured water supply and drain pipes, faucet lacks auto-sensor or lever type hardware that does not require type grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist or exhibits pedestal legs that don’t allow for wheelchair frontal approach width of 30”.
- Mirror mounted above 40” max to first viewable surface, coat hooks mounted above 48” and towel racks installed inside/ outside the tub or shower enclosure above 48”.
- Work desk with top of desk surface above 34” and/or the bottom edge lower than 27” above floor surface for knee clearance.
- A minimum 36” clear path of travel is lacking past the work desk and next to or between two beds. More furniture in most rooms than really needed.
- In room phone is placed in an area that does not allow for wheelchair user to approach and use. Too many phones in the mobility and communication rooms lack the data port for use by hearing and sight impaired.
- Curtain rods with loop handle not set at 48” max above floor surface, furniture blocking clear space to approach and use curtain rods, mini-bars and closets lack frontal approach for wheel chair guests, at least half of shelves and closet rods are set above 48”, clothes iron and ironing board mounted above 48” max and in-room safe below 15” (sitting on the ground) or above 48” (sitting on top shelf @72”).
- Roll-in shower rooms lack the required 30”x60” or 36”x60” interior dimension within the shower, wall mounted grab bars either missing or installed incorrectly, wall mounted shower head fixed way above 48” or adjustable rod handheld spray unit does not adjust down to and under 48”, fold down seats not included, or are movable seats with legs or are wall mounted but are not mounted at the correct height and or mounted in the wrong location within the shower.
Communication Rooms Are Different From Mobility Rooms.
Communication Rooms are different from the Mobility Rooms. The Communication Rooms are not required to provide mobility features such as grab bars, roll-in showers and wrapped pipes under the sink.
Here is what they are required to provide:
- A visible notification device that alerts the occupant to a knock at the door or incoming phone call.
- A telephone with a data port located within 48” of an electrical outlet for the use of a TTY device.
- The communication devices separate and are not connected to the rooms alarm system.
Don’t Lose Sight Of The Big Picture!
This may not seam like much, but this is actually so very important. The front registration check in counter must also provide the proper equipment for any hearing or sight impaired guest to communicate and gain access to all services such as room service, valet or cab service or securing reservations through the concierge.
Making sure that this is provided and working properly is a big deal and super important for all hotel and lodging facilities.
Think about this statistic: wheelchair and mobility-aid-users make up less than 14% of all physically disabled in the US.
Hearing impaired and persons with low vision or blind make up over 30% here in the US.
With 1-4 Americans suffering from some sort of physical or mental disability, it just makes sense to pay attention to this customer base.
If you are a hotel owner, manager or engineering staff and you have specific questions about your property, I welcome you to contact me directly. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.