Feb 9, 2024
Accessible Hotels, Please?
Despite Unite 2 Fight Paralysis being laser focused on getting curative therapies to our SCI community, it’s important to acknowledge that accessibility concerns often interfere with our ability to pursue our mission. Case in point: the conference hotels for our annual symposium.
Every year at our annual symposium, no matter what hotel we choose for our conference, we run into the same problem: too few accessible rooms.
And when I say ‘too few’ that is being nice. The average is eight to ten ADA rooms per hotel. That is an abysmal average. When you consider that we draw 40 or more attendees with spinal cord injuries to our conference each year - which includes many of our own board and staff - we are left to find several nearby hotels in order to provide access for our community.
(Above: U2FP’s Quinn Brett gets a piggyback from a friend during a recent hotel visit. Her wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the bathroom entryway.)
Even the word, ‘accessible,’ is a bit of a misnomer. Of those eight to ten ADA rooms, usually only half will have roll-in showers. Additionally, many of the supposedly accessible rooms don’t provide adequate clearance for larger wheelchairs. And even when you can get between the wall and your bed, you may encounter what U2FP’s Jake Beckstrom refers to as ‘tall ass beds.’ These are beds where the mattress is a foot or more above the standard height, making it very difficult to transfer from a manual chair. Finally, most hotel beds have a solid base that doesn’t allow for a hoyer lift to be placed under the bed.
And so, each year we try to help our attendees anticipate and navigate these barriers, always knowing that we’ll fall short because these spaces were never designed with us in mind.
Last year, at our symposium in Minneapolis, we decided to start doing something about this problem. We wrote a letter to our conference hotel, asking that they increase the number of accessible rooms the next time they renovate. We collected signatures from our attendees in a show of solidarity. You can still sign the letter, even if you weren’t at this past year’s Symposium.
You can also download the letter and modify it for your purposes the next time you, or the organization you represent, stays at a hotel. Then add your name to our letter that will be sent to this past year’s conference hotel.
We know that one letter delivered to one hotel won’t fix this problem. Most hotels don’t seem to know that this is a problem. They are simply complying with the low legal standard of existing laws (or the hotel was built before the standards existed). Here are the ADA Design Requirements for Hotels.
But what if we all started signing and dropping off these letters every time we stayed in a hotel? What if all the SCI organizations we all belong to and support started using this letter, or one similar to it, every time they held an event at a hotel?
PS - Don’t forget to mark your calendars for this year’s symposium in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27, 2024. We’ll be announcing our conference hotel location later this month, so stay tuned!