What Do We Call Them?


I got an interesting question from a PR person last week.

“Can you tell me if the term ’accessible room’, is used internationally (outside the US)? A colleague in the UK informed me that they use the term ’disabled room’. I’m trying to figure out how to refer to these rooms, as I’m writing copy for some marketing materials to be used by a hotel chain and I want to target all English speaking travelers (including those in the UK, Europe and the US). What should I call these facilities?”

Actually I get this question a lot; usually when I’m looking a property and the PR person kind of stutters and stammers and then asks, “Is that the right term?”

To be honest, I don’t really think anything is used internationally. Even in the US we have several names for the same thing (not all good descriptions but certainly well-used). We have accessible rooms, ADA compliant rooms and barrier-free facilities. Yes, in the UK they do use the term ’disabled rooms’ or ’disabled facilities’, but ’barrier-free’ is also becoming popular.

However on the Continent they have ’accessible rooms’ and ’adapted rooms’ which are not the same thing. An accessible room is one which has adequate pathway access for a wheelchair; while an adapted room has an adapted bathroom which may include features like a raised toilet or a roll-in shower (also called a continental shower, a wheel-in shower or a no-hob shower). You will not find any bathroom adaptations in an accessible room in Continental Europe.

And if you really want to throw a wrench into the works, the little blue wheelchair pictogram (the international symbol for access) has different meanings around the world too.

Personally I like the term ’barrier-free’ coupled with the wheelchair pictogram. Barrier-free is the new modern up-and-coming term. I also think ’wheelchair-accessible’ is pretty descriptive. People will know what you are talking about even if they don’t use a wheelchair (maybe they use a walker or a cane) but still need the features of that type of a room.

As you can see, there isn’t a simple answer here. Language can be a pretty complicated thing!! It’s amazing the power that a few words have.