DOJ Tables Bed Height Rules

hotelHave you ever checked into a hotel only to find that the bed in the accessible room was too high or too low for you? Well you’re not alone. Trust me, I get a lot of mail about this issue. It’s a real problem for managers and guests alike, as there are no regulations regarding bed height.

The DOJ was considering addressing the issue though. Back on July 26, 2010 they issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), asking for public input on the accessibility of equipment and removable furniture, such as beds. And boy did they get an earful, as disability organizations and advocates weighed in from across the country. Granted the DOJ never said they were going to move forward and issue regulations, however due to the input it was assumed that some preliminary rules would at least be forthcoming.

Sadly that’s not the case. In a move that surprised a number of disability advocates, the DOJ instead issued a withdrawal of the ANPR and published that decision in the December 26, 2017 issue of the Federal Register.

So what does this mean? Basically it means that the rulemaking process has ended and the DOJ is not going to consider new rules for equipment and removable furniture. According to the DOJ, they are “reevaluating” whether a regulation like this is necessary. Given that places of public accommodation must ensure access to all their goods, services and benefits, the feeling seems to be that perhaps they don’t need exact specifications.

I tend to disagree with that assessment, as bed height is a tricky issue. The problem is that there isn’t one right answer for everyone. Wheelchair-users tend to prefer lower beds for easier transfers, while slow walkers like higher models for the same reason. And unlike a toilet seat, a bed can’t be easily – and cheaply – adapted with a riser. So who is right? Both groups of travelers deserve adequate access; and let’s not forget the hoteliers who desperately need some official guidance on the ideal bed height.

I really feel we need some specific numbers, so that everyone knows what to expect. But that’s not how the DOJ feels – at least for now.

So the best advice I can offer in the interim is to call properties directly and ask about measurements if bed height is an issue for you. And perhaps some day the DOJ will circle back and revisit this issue. We can only hope.