Looking Forward to a More Accessible Future

Work underway at The Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village

Work underway at The Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village

I’ve been writing about accessible travel for over 20 years now, and I can honestly say that I’ve see a lot of improvements since I first started. Years ago it was hard to find an accessible room at all, and now many hotels have pool lifts. Yes, I know there is always room for improvement, but I’m pleased at the direction that the hospitality industry is moving.

And after spending three months on the road and looking at scores of properties for my next book, I’ve also noticed a trend towards more accessible design. Not exactly universal design, but it just seems that hotels are beginning to take the needs of more people into account when they design their spaces. I’ll just call it usable design.

OK, not every property for sure, but a few did stand out to me.

Take the Holiday Inn in Cody, for example. They just redesigned their property and their new public spaces feature a more open floor plan. Granted this is just good design, but it also makes it easier for wheelchair-users to get around, as there are fewer obstacles, turns and people in their way.

Additionally, they got rid of all their bathtubs, and replaced them with low-step showers. I realize that these won’t work for full-time wheelchair-users, but they are ideal for folks who can’t step into a bathtub, but don’t really need an accessible room. That way they can leave the accessible rooms for people that do need them.

The Best Western Ivy Inn & Suites in Cody also got rid of their bathtubs, and replaced them with low-step showers. I’m starting to like this trend. Not only are low-step showers safer than bathtubs, but they are usable for so many more people.

So I see these steps heading us in a more accessible direction.

I also noticed a bevy of access improvements in Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks on my trip.

Xanterra Properties now has a nice accessible Red Bus, for folks who can’t ride in the historic model; and Yellowstone boasts a new accessible visitor center at Old Faithful Geyser. And while I was there, construction workers were busily putting the finishing touches on a new ramped entrance to the Lake House Restaurant in Grant Village. And down in Grand Teton, the improvements at Jenny Lake include a nice accessible lakeshore trail.

So I know we still have a long way to go, but I do like the direction we are headed access-wise. And I look forward to one day in the future when universal design is the norm, and we don’t even have to think about access.

I believe it is a possibility in my lifetime.