3 tips I found helpful when finding accessible hotel rooms

Advice proves handy when traveling with 3 sons with power wheelchairs

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by Betty Vertin |

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I’m a small-town girl. I love that I can get from one end of my hometown in rural Nebraska to the other in a few short minutes, that there is never traffic, and that the only time I get stuck in a crowd is if I go to the county fair. Yes, a small-town girl at heart!

After spending the past few days in Denver with three of my sons — Max, 18, Rowen, 14, and Charlie, 12, who all live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) — I’m ready to go home. Although I often enjoy my travels, that’s how I end most trips: ready to see the rest of my family and enjoy the comforts of home. It’s my refuge.

Usually, I’m desperate to get home with my sons with DMD because hotel rooms are not the ideal place to spend time caring for three power wheelchair users. It’s easier to care for the boys at home.

Additionally, hotel rooms typically don’t have the space we need for three power wheelchairs. Even hotel bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act aren’t as easy to use as our home bathrooms and aren’t always appropriate for our needs. A bench in a bathtub, for instance, is hard to use, but a roll-in shower works.

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On this trip, however, we brought a Hoyer lift to make things easier. In planning, I recognized I’d be traveling alone for the first time since I became uncomfortable lifting Rowen. He’s heavier, unable to bear as much weight during transfers, and I’m older. Thus, the Hoyer lift went along with our luggage.

I’d yet to learn how to use the lift in a hotel, however. I thought of almost every hotel bed I’d slept on and decided they usually had a platform underneath them, which wouldn’t work with the lift.

Like most times when I encountered a new caregiving task, I turned to the Duchenne moms in our community for guidance. And I was right to do so; they gave me great advice, and as a result, we experienced our most accessible hotel accommodations to date.

The community comes through for us

The advice below was simple, but I needed it and now want to share it.

1. Be specific about the type of bed you need by asking for one without a platform. If necessary, ask a hotel staff member to go to the room and make sure it doesn’t have a platform bed. (I didn’t do this part because I’m passive-aggressive, and the request intimidated me; besides, we’d booked through a third party because we were traveling for a clinical trial.) Remember that not everyone will know a Hoyer lift or how it works, which is another reason to be specific about your need.

If the hotel only has platform beds, however, ask if there’s a room with a sleeper sofa or if staff can provide a rollaway bed. The Hoyer can fit under those. That wasn’t ideal for me because, in my experience, those aren’t very comfortable, and I wanted Rowen to get good rest. But if they were the only options, I would’ve made them work.

Another option is to take bed risers. I purchased a set of four risers for about $15 in case the room wasn’t what we needed. Thankfully, I didn’t need them, and admittedly, I can’t advise how easy or difficult they would’ve been to use. But again, if they’d been the only option, I would have made them work. I’ll always travel with them now.

2. If there are rooms with a roll-in shower, ask staff to hold one of those rooms until you check in.

3. Request a suite or adjoining rooms with enough space for your chairs — in my case, for three chairs and the Hoyer lift. Of course, that much room wouldn’t be necessary if you’ve only got one wheelchair user, but it might be your preference.

That’s it; those few pieces of advice made this trip so much easier. We got adjoining rooms. One was an accessible room with a king-sized bed that wasn’t on a platform and a roll-in shower attached to a double room. That other room wasn’t accessible, but it was all I needed for my other two sons, whom I could easily help to bed.

It wasn’t perfect, but we were comfortable, and I plan to stay in these two rooms whenever we travel to Denver.

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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