Is This Really an Accessible Room?


A low-step shower in a standard — not accessible — hotel room

Thanks to modern technology it’s now possible to share your travel photos with friends and family with just a few swipes and a tap or two. And I absolutely love seeing those smiling faces enjoying cruises, beaches and  luxury resorts. But lately I’ve also been seeing another kind of travel post – it usually features a photo of an obviously inaccessible room, with the caption “Really? This is an accessible room?”

And the truth is, well, maybe it isn’t.

I’ve looked at thousands of accessible rooms over my career, and I’ve seen just about every kind of access faux-paus you can imagine; however I’ve also had more than a few managers take me to view a supposed “accessible room” only to discover that it wasn’t. So how does that happen? According to many a red-faced hotel manager, “Somehow the rooms type was entered into the computer incorrectly.”

And although this seems like a minor computer error, it can wreck havoc on travelers who need an accessible room. Think about it for a minute. You reserve an accessible room, and because the inaccessible room is coded wrong that’s the room you get. Even worse, when you open the door and discover the lack of access and report it to the front desk, the clerk continues to insist that you ARE in an accessible room. Why? Because the computer says so. And believe me, it’s darn near impossible to convince a rank-and-file employee that the computer is wrong.

And although access features can and do vary from property to property, there are a few clues that you may have been incorrectly assigned to a standard room, rather than an accessible room (at least in the US). Here are a few tip-offs.

  • Look around in the bathroom. Although access features may vary in the shower or tub, check out the toilet area. Are there grab bars by the toilet? If not, you may well be in a standard room, as that’s one access feature that is seldom missed.


  • Is the roll-in shower really a low step shower? Many hotels have replaced their tub/shower combinations with low-step showers in their standard rooms. Look inside the shower – if the only access feature you see is a set of grab bars, then you may be in a standard room. In this day and age even standard rooms have shower grab bars for safety, so that by itself doesn’t really indicate you are in an accessible room.


  • It’s also important to note that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessible rooms can have either a roll-in shower or a tub/shower combination. In fact properties that have 50 or fewer rooms are not even required to have an accessible room with a roll-in shower. That said, if your tub/shower combination only has grab bars, and does not include a hand-held showerhead and some type of shower bench, you may be in a standard room.


  • Next, look out in the hallway. Do you see any rooms marked with the wheelchair pictogram? Are there any that have two peepholes? These are sure signs of an accessible room. If some rooms have them, but your room lacks them, it may be a sign that you are in a standard room.

Of course if your room is listed incorrectly in the inventory you won’t get much satisfaction from the front desk. You will have to go higher. Ask to speak to the manager. Ask the manager what features their wheelchair-accessible rooms have. Tell him that you are supposedly in a wheelchair-accessible room, but your room does not have those features. Then show him photos of the room.

And then perhaps suggest that this room was entered into the inventory incorrectly.

Chances are if this is the case, the manager will find you another room – one that is truly accessible. Of course there’s always the chance that there won’t be any accessible rooms available; in which case you should ask to be accommodated at a nearby property. After all, you did book an accessible room, and the mistake wasn’t your fault.

Granted this is a time consuming – and somewhat frustrating — process, so go ahead and ask to be compensated for your time and trouble in the form of points or maybe even a free night. In the end, managers want happy customers, so don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you feel you deserve.