The six mistakes to avoid when booking an accessible room
Finding somewhere to stay to suit guests with mobility issues is not always easy — these are the common pitfalls to swerve
About one in six people in the UK live with some sort of disability, while the spending power of disabled people and their household is estimated to be worth more than £274 billion a year, according to the disabled charity Purple. While hotels trumpet their glossy new spas and bars online, they often bury important information about accessibility — if they offer it at all — and rarely provide anything like the detail required to make an informed decision. In more than 15 years as Travel Doctor, I am asked constantly for advice on things including step-free wet rooms and ground-floor rooms; details that really shouldn’t be so hard to find.
I hear that this lack of transparency is a key factor in putting people off trying to travel at all. Many of us will need help finding the right holiday, whether we’re booking for ourselves for the first time, or for someone else. These are the most common mistakes to avoid when booking an accessible room.
Make sure there’s accessible parking
Hotels can have fabulous adapted bedrooms but that’s of little use if you can’t reach the property in the first place. Are there wider parking bays and level access so guests can safely get out of a car and unpack a mobility aid? The route from the car park to the hotel should have no steps and be well lit; you’re looking for simple and effortless wide entry and exit, with no surprises.
Booking a small and cluttered room
Over-furnished hotel rooms are a nightmare because they impede wheelchair movement or make it easier to trip. They need to be spacious and clutter-free and there should always be enough space on one side of the mattress to make the transfer from chair to bed. Check whether it’s possible to move furniture around. Is the bed height adjustable? Are there low-handled wardrobes? The floor should ideally be hardwood (or at least have short pile carpet). Are there electric curtains that can be operated from bedside panels?
Not checking whether the bathroom has steps
Hotels sometimes advertise “walk-in” showers as an accessible feature, but fail to mention there’s a sizeable step into the shower, which can be a deal-breaker. The best accessible bathrooms are flat-access wet rooms, have sufficient turning space for a wheelchair, wheel-in showers with benches or seats, low-level wash basins, loos with higher seats, several grab rails, slip-free surfaces and emergency pull-cords or buttons.
At Great Scotland Yard, hotel rooms are simple and clutter-free
Booking a dark room with little signage
Guests with visual or cognitive impairments should check whether there’s a good contrast between the floor, walls and ceilings, along with signage, switches and sockets and door handles. Plugs should be more or less at waist height. Guests with hearing loss or visual impairments may need wireless vibrating pillows or portable alarms that activate when fire alarms sound.
Not checking the room is confirmed
Good accessible rooms are in such demand that you need confirmation that your booking isn’t based on “availability”. If it is, there’s the awful possibility that you could be shunted to a standard room and have your stay ruined.
Not browsing the access gallery — if one exists
A quick and easy way for hotels to improve accessibility is to provide an access gallery, a virtual guide showing images of access and potential obstacles. It saves endless phone calls to people who don’t understand accessibility for multiple impairments, because it’s not just about wheelchair access. The Brooklyn hotels in Leicester and Manchester have them, for instance.
Where can I find more information on accessible hotels?
The Blue Badge Access Awards celebrate the hotels and venues that have a design-led approach to accessibility; the website lists award-winners past and present across the UK (bluebadgeaccessawards.com). Disabled Holidays is the UK’s largest accessible holiday specialist and guarantees accessible accommodation (disabledholidays.com). For detailed reviews try Euan’s Guide — it was set up by Euan MacDonald, who uses a powerchair, and his sister Kiki, after Euan was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (euansguide.com). Fiona Jarvis’s Blue Badge Style Guide highlights stylish properties across the UK (bluebadgestyle.com).
Which UK hotels would you recommend?
Hotels with accessible rooms generally list facilities online, but for granular detail you should always contact them directly to discuss your needs before you book.
Nine of the best accessible hotels
1. Hotel Brooklyn, Manchester
If only all hotels were like this. The Brooklyn is part of Bespoke Hotels – whose president Robin Sheppard is passionate about accessibility — which has been designed with accessibility in mind. Eighteen Liberty rooms suit a range of requirements and come with wide-access wet rooms with support rails and shower seats (which can be removed if not required), lowered furniture and fully slip-resistant surfaces. Several have hoists and a waterproof wheelchair and visual alarms are available. Around the hotel there are ramps, wide corridors, rails, raised number buttons and seating areas at different heights, while online you’ll find a full explanation of every area and feature, from acoustics and lighting to distance from lifts (room-only doubles from £130; bespokehotels.com). A sister property in Leicester has 18 similar rooms (bespokehotels.com).
2. The Telegraph, Coventry
This repurposed newspaper building in the centre of the city also belongs to Bespoke Hotels and has two types of “freedom room”: wheelchair accessible (with a large en suite shower room with roll-in shower, accessible toilet and basin, support rails and shower seat and slip-resistant floor tiles) and ambulant, with supportive grab rails and shower seat in the bathroom (room-only doubles from £68; bespokehotels.com).
This swish five-star hotel around the corner from Trafalgar Square has 11 accessible rooms with smart, super-sized wet rooms with good natural light, rain showers and all manner of grab rails to ensure guests feel secure on a shower seat. There’s a nifty Sesame wheelchair lift from the hotel entrance down to the reception area (room-only doubles from £446; hyatt.com). Full review here.
4. Marsham Court, Bournemouth
A great seaside bolt hole with five accessible rooms with electric, height-adjustable beds and removable ceiling hoists. The two on the first floor are also dog friendly and one has a connecting standard double/twin-bedded room for a carer or additional family members. The wet rooms do not have ceiling tracks and hoists, but there is a Changing Places shower and loo on the ground floor, which is available 24 hours a day. There’s also a sensory room for those with processing difficulties (room-only doubles from £125; marshamcourthotel.co.uk).
5. Premier Inn, nationwide
The 800-strong hotel group is hot on accessibility and inclusivity and while most properties have adapted rooms, each hotel differs in its offering. North Yorkshire’s Bridlington Seafront, for example, a pebble’s throw from the beach, has accessible rooms with wet rooms including a level-access shower room with high-powered shower, conveniently placed shower controls, a folding seat and wider doors. The no-frills ZIP by Premier Inn hotels all have accessible ground-floor rooms (room-only doubles from £48; premierinn.com).
6. The Londoner, London
This glamorous hotel in Leicester Square has 18 accessible rooms with wet-room showers (two have hoist tracks). Unusually, they all have great views, too. Each floor has wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and there’s a Changing Places room (large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, two adult carers and a suitably sized and adjustable changing bench) in the Odeon cinema that’s part of the development (room-only doubles from £450; thelondoner.com).
7. Norton House Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh
A Victorian mansion in leafy grounds a 20-minute drive from the city centre, Norton House has four accessible rooms with walk-in showers and furniture that can be rearranged on request. Deafgard alarms are also available. Entry to the spa is via a lift, massage couches in treatment rooms can be hydraulically lowered to wheelchair height, and a hoist is available for the swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool (B&B doubles from £167; handpickedhotels.co.uk).
8. Revitalise, Lancashire and Essex
This charity’s purpose-built centres in Southport and Chigwell host residential holidays with 24-hour nursing care and excursions available. All rooms have wheel-in showers and there are also two separate bathrooms for assisted bathing with hoists and bariatric equipment, as well as Arjo accessible baths (from £849 for a three-night package; revitalise.org.uk).
9. St Michael’s Resort, Falmouth
This relaxed, seaside-chic resort and health club in Cornwall, with knockout views across gardens to Gyllyngvase Beach, has three accessible rooms and level access to its restaurants and bars (room-only doubles from £189; stmichaelsresort.com).
What other accessible hotels would you recommend? Have you had trouble booking the right hotel? Let us know in the comments below