Seven Ways to Improve Your Vacation Rental's Accessibility
The aging population in the Western World has spurred many to think about how the trend provides opportunities for financial gain by serving this critical market. Hospitality companies have also noticed the trend and have begun to weigh in on how to best serve older patrons. In the hotel and apartment rental industry, it is both a responsibility and a financial necessity to better serve not only seniors, but all those with disabilities. A few small details that add convenience and safety for a guest with special needs can add value to your property and a fresh market segment.
It goes without saying that the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as an EU Resolution both offer minimum requirements for accessibility. The hospitality industry as a whole has a long history of helping to make the experience better for all of their guests. But here are seven things that can ensure your property goes above and beyond for guests with disabilities or mobility issues.
1. An Adapted Toilet
Toilet height plays a role in accessibility. At least one toilet per room or apartment should be between 40‐45cm high to help guests who may have more trouble sitting down or standing up.
2. Folding Safety Rails
Many properties are fitted with assist rails on the wall adjacent to the toilet or in the shower. But for guests with a lateral mobility problems, such as stroke victims or those with cerebral palsy, a collapsible rail on the opposite side of the toilet or shower can make the situation easy for a guest as opposed to just good enough.
3. Door Width
For patrons in a wheel chair, doors need to be at least 72cm wide in order to allow a standard wheelchair to pass through. That goes not only for the doorway to the room, but also any inner doors such as to a separate bedroom or bathroom. It might not be a bad idea to check as those doors are often forgotten.
4. Pathway Safety
Pathway safety is related to door width, but trickier in that it can be hindered by the human factor. Although a room may have originally been set up with adequate pathways for a wheelchair, prior guests and housekeeping staff sometimes move furniture for convenience leaving inadequate space for a wheelchair or walker to pass uninhibited.
Bonus: Loose rugs may make for a nice accent, but create a falling hazard for guests using a cane or who have an uneven gait. It's as simple as making a note to housekeeping to remove the accessory if requested by a guest.
5. A Doorless Tub/Shower
Glass shower doors look nice and contain water well, but create a problem for guests who have trouble stepping over things or those using a transfer seat. Doors also make it difficult for a care‐giver to help in the bathing process without getting in the shower themselves. To go a step further, many guests haul a portable transfer seat with them to travel. The knowledge that a seat will be waiting at the front desk is a dream come true for those who often pay for a checked bag just to carry safety aids.
6. A Hand‐held Shower Head
In addition to a portable transfer seat, many of these same guests travel with a wrench and a hand‐held shower head. A static stream of water is fine for most guests, but for someone who can't move or turn around, a combination hand‐held shower head is an inexpensive upgrade that makes all the difference in a disabled guest’s experience.
7. A Standard Bed Height
In many places the fashion today is for high, thick mattresses on elevated frames, creating both a comfort and safety challenge for the less mobile. At least one room should have a standard height bed.
One final suggestion is virtually cost‐free but can pay big dividends:
Just Ask How You Can Help!
In the age of automatic checkout, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" is often the final interaction the front desk has with a guest. Guests with accessibility needs will often ask about accommodations, but staff may not know much beyond the fact that a property meets the set standards. Training staff to ask the question, "Is there anything specific that will help your room better meet your needs?" might make the difference between a mediocre review and a five star review later on. Any of the items on this list can make that happen.
These are a few things that really make a difference for guests with mobility issues. As the traveling public continues to age, those in the hospitality industry will adapt to suit the needs of these patrons. It's what they do best. But these few steps can make your property a truly accessible space.
Author: Sean Reynolds