On my soapbox one more time
April 1, 2013
(Part Three of a three-part blog entry)
At about this time last year, I wrote an op/ed piece that was printed in a local newspaper (Trip to Jefferson County courthouse with MS an unpleasant one), in which I told about the problems I encountered because of my inability to walk long distances or stand for long periods of time. Well, here I go again: I’ve climbed back up on my virtual soapbox to blog about people who work in the customer service business and provide them with some suggestions to help them better serve customers with disabilities.
Part One of this post, published Feb. 20, addressed my concerns involving restaurant staff members who seat people with disabilities. Part Two, published Feb. 27, examined a lack of sensitivity among managers and employees of big-box stores who are responsible for maintaining the store’s motorized shopping carts for people with disabilities. And, Part Three — this post — focuses on ways that hotel and motel staffers can better serve guests who have a disability.
PART THREE: GOING OUT OF TOWN
Travel can be difficult for people with disabilities. Most hotels and motels have handicapped accessible rooms, but not all handicapped rooms are alike. For example, some of them have wide doorways that accommodate wheelchairs, while others have grab bars in the restroom, and still others have both. It is important for you to match the handicapped features of a hotel or motel room to the accommodations you need.
Here are three things to remember when reserving a handicapped room:
1. Make your room reservation as soon as possible. Some hotels and motels have a limited number of handicapped rooms. A few do not have any handicapped rooms.
2. Make your reservation by telephone and speak with a real live person. If you make a reservation online, you probably won’t be able to ask questions about the features of a handicapped room. (However, a few hotel and motel websites describe the features of a handicapped room, or, better yet, have a virtual tour of one of their handicapped rooms.)
3. Ask the reservations clerk enough questions to ensure that the room incorporates all of the accommodations you need.
Sounds easy enough. But I learned my lesson the hard way a few months ago when I reserved a room that did not have the accommodations I needed. When I made the reservation, I asked for a handicapped accessible room, but I didn’t ask about the specific handicapped features of the room.
When I checked in, I realized that the reservation clerk had assumed incorrectly that I would be using a wheelchair. The room was located on a long walkway with rooms on only one side, and I counted 19 rooms between mine and the front desk. The meeting rooms were even farther away. After I made the long walk from my room to a meeting room and back, I knew that I needed a room closer to the hotel’s facilities.
I called the desk and was given a room much nearer to the rest of the hotel. Even though the room was not considered handicapped accessible, it met my needs. (I was fortunate that another room was available.) I know now that I could have avoided this inconvenience if I had inquired about the location and accommodations of the room before I reserved it.
It also would have been helpful if the desk clerk had noticed I was using a cane and had taken the initiative to ask me if I would have a problem walking the distance to the room.
I suggest that the management of lodging establishments provide their employees with additional training to ensure they can meet the needs of travelers with disabilities.