Thinking the worst was behind us we took the lobby elevator up to our room. We were under the impression the room would be ADA compliant but upon entering it was obvious that their idea of ADA compliant differed greatly from what a disabled person would say. While there were faults in the main room, it was the bathroom that truly got my attention as Pam pointed out the laundry list of problems. Instead of a roll-in shower the bathroom was equipped with a bath tub which is impossible for Pam to use, the mirror above the sink was 2’ above Pam’s head preventing her from being able to use the mirror; the back of the sink could not be reached which made it difficult to use the faucet and fixtures and the towels and toilet paper were also out of reach since no shelves were low enough for a person in a wheelchair to access. I stood next to Pam as we surveyed the hotel bathroom and wondered how anyone could consider this OK for a wheelchair user.
Needless to say another call was placed to the manager requesting a new room be found. As with our luck on this trip all the other rooms with roll-in showers were occupied though he did anticipate a room becoming available the next morning. Though apologetic it was obvious by the manager’s tone that Pam’s requests were starting to annoy the staff as if she were acting like a diva by expecting to have a room that would allow her to function. It appeared that those running the hotel were more put off by having to help Pam than treating her like any other guests who find their room inadequate for their needs.
During the night I was able to see firsthand how difficult it was for Pam to maneuver around the room. There wasn’t enough room in between the beds for her to wheel up to the edge and life herself up onto the bed. Every move involved constant engineering of the furniture and her chair to make it possible. I was struck by the extraordinary amount of energy it took for Pam to do very ordinary things. Though she was quite used to having to improvise in order to get around I couldn’t help but wonder why she should have to, especially when a hotel advertises that they are ADA compliant.
Despite the setbacks we ended up getting a good night’s rest and woke the next morning eager to find out where our new room would be. We called the lobby and spoke to the manager who regretted to inform us that the room they expected to be vacated was not. What was worse is we came to find out that one of the couples staying in the room with a roll-in shower was actually able-bodied.
We informed the manager that if we were unable to get a room in which Pam could bathe and function, then we would have to find another hotel that was truly compliant. He asked that we wait for an hour and we agreed. Apparently they offered the able bodied couple an upgrade to another room and they vacated the room. So we were moved into the room that afternoon. This room was far more spacious and had a roll-in shower in a large bathroom just for Pam. The mirror was too high as were the towels, extra toilet paper, hair dryer, tissues beyond reach, etc. So Pam had me bring a luggage rack with a small suitcase on it. We put everything she needed on it. We had to call for a chair for the shower, but the room was considerably better. A victory at last.
Pam stayed calm throughout the lobby ordeal (see Part 1) and she certainly didn’t let the room disappointment rouse her anger. As she told me before, none of this was new to her and it was really just another day in the life of a wheelchair user. In fact she told me that she had only stayed in one hotel in all her years of traveling that was truly compliant and thoughtful in every aspect of the facility, rooms, etc. I had never thought about the impact of able bodied people designing ADA compliant rooms. You would think there would be all kinds of information and suggestions on what was needed to make a room truly functional for people in wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Come back next week to hear about how Pam managed to change the route to/from the street to the lobby.