What resources do you use to find accessible properties?
I use some of the same resources as my readers — the internet, travel magazines and word of mouth. I also get a lot of referrals from public relations firms, innkeepers and property managers. And then of course there’s that all important reader feedback. Truthfully I’m always on the lookout for new accessible properties to cover.
What access criteria did you use to determine if a property made the cut?
I didn’t really have a checklist, as my readers have a wide range of access needs. I put a lot of emphasis on bathrooms while looking at properties though. They could have either a roll-in shower or a tub/shower combo, but they had to be accessible. I rejected a few shower configurations that didn’t have room for transfers, and some that just lacked adequate floor space. I included bathrooms with a wide range of toilet configurations, but I included a detailed access description and lots of photographs, so there’s absolutely no doubt about the setup There of course had to be an accessible entrance, but I was a little more liberal on accessible parking. I included properties that didn’t have striped accessible parking, but had spaces reserved for a specific room, with plenty of room for an accessible van. And of course there had to be decent access to the public areas, and plenty of room to navigate a wheelchair in the guest room. I also took the attitude of the proprietor into account, because who wants to stay someplace where you don’t feel welcome?
How long did it take you to research this book?
To be honest it took several years, and a number of cross country trips. Then of course when it came time to write the book I had to fact check the information, and over that time a few properties had closed. So I refined my list and added a few more properties, with an eye for business owners who were in it for the long run. It was a very time consuming process, but one that had to be done to insure accuracy.
Did you visit all of the properties that you included?
Yes, that’s why it was so research intensive. I believe that you shouldn’t write about a property that you haven’t personally visited. My readers depend on my access report — not a second hand access report from a press release or a resident manager. And some properties I had to visit more than once because of the logistics of seeing the accessible rooms.
Did you visit any properties that you just couldn’t cover?
Oh, most certainly. Without mentioning any names (because I don’t want to give any publicity to properties that are sorely lacking in the access department), there was one property that was so decrepit, dirty and dated, there was no way I could ever recommend it to my readers. And to add insult to injury I came away from that place with a collection of painful bug bites.
Then there was the property that claimed to have an accessible bathroom, but when I arrived I found that their definition of accessible meant that they had removable toilet and tub grab bars. To make matters worse, they didn’t know how to install them, so they just left them in a pile on the bathroom floor. There also wasn’t an accessible pathway from the cabin to the dining area, and no arrangements for in-cabin dining could be made. I can’t imagine how even a slow walker would be comfortable there.
And finally there was one beautiful little inn that had a pretty accessible bathroom, but there just wasn’t room to navigate a wheelchair in the bedroom — and that was after they removed two large chairs. Additionally, the main entrance wasn’t accessible, and although the room had a door that opened on to the lawn, the pathway access was somewhat lacking.
You always have a funny story or two about your travels. Did you encounter any humorous situations while researching this book?
There was an incident at Mt. Lassen that still makes Charles and me chuckle. We were sitting outside of our cabin enjoying Mother Nature, including a number of frisky squirrels. They kept us entertained for quite some time with their antics. Of course since we were in the middle of nowhere we left the cabin door open. When we turned back to look at one little guy hopping around on our front porch, we noticed that unlike the other squirrels he was pretty bold. Then, before you could blink an eye, he ran into our cabin. Charles and I both looked at each other, then scrambled up to the cabin to evict our unwanted visitor. Charles had to chase him around quite a bit before he got the hint. They both emerged after a few minutes, looking a little disheveled. Suffice it to say that we kept our door closed after that.
What sets this book apart from other lodging guidebooks?
Well of course it includes accessible properties, but like in all of my work, I don’t just say something is accessible, I describe the access. That way my readers can determine if the property will work for them. Additionally, I included my take on the personality of the property, as well as who it will and won’t work for access-wise. And last but not least, I also listed accessible attractions, sites and trails that are close to the property.
Did you discover anything new access-wise?
I’m always finding new access features, and I’m glad that creative people keep inventing them. For example, last year at the Hotel deLuxe in Portland, I saw a new type of built-in bath bench. Typically accessible tub/shower combinations either have a portable shower chair or a fold-down bath bench that is perpendicular to the tub edge. This hotel had 2 fold-down bath benches; one that was parallel to the tub and one that was perpendicular to the tub. With this setup guests have a choice of which one to use; and since everybody transfers differently, this solves a multitude of access problems. I just think it’s a great idea to have two benches, and I’m happy that the hotel decided to go in that direction.
Do you have a favorite property? Why do you like it so much?
Well, I like all the properties I included in the book, but if I have to choose one, then I’ll pick the property that’s on the cover — Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone. They did a great job with access, but I really love the upscale features of the cabin. They call it cabineering, but it’s something akin to glamping. The cabins come with a small kitchenette, so you can even cook your own meals there. And it’s located just a stones throw from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. I’ve visited the property twice, and I intend to go back again. It really is a favorite of mine.
It’s been over two decades since the passage of the ADA, but I expect you still find things that aren’t accessible. What’s the most common access mistake you routinely encounter?
One of the most common things I see is the absence of a shower chair in guest rooms that have a tub/shower combination. Sometimes they have one, but they just can’t find it; and other times they didn’t know they were suppose to have one. I had one innkeeper tell me, “Well my contractor put in an accessible bathtub, but he didn’t tell me that I needed a shower chair.” Pathway access is another common issue, and in most cases that’s easy to fix by moving or removing a few pieces of furniture. And then there’s the one-to-two-inch threshold lips. Some people just don’t understand that it’s an obstacle for many people; and the fix is pretty easy and inexpensive. But all in all, access is much better today that it was just 10 years ago, probably because more and more wheelchair-users and slow walkers are traveling now.
Do you think that attitudes in the hospitality industry have changed over the years? Did you experience any bad attitudes from managers or innkeepers while you were researching this book?
Generally speaking I’ve had a pretty positive response from the hospitality industry regarding access. Some managers are even excited about their access upgrades, like more accessible rooms, pool and spa lifts and even accessible shuttles around large properties. Of course there are always a few bad apples, like the innkeeper who told me that if people wanted to get into her lobby badly enough they would make it happen. I guess she expected them to crawl up the eight stairs to her front door. But then again, that property wasn’t included in my book.
Do you plan a second edition of this book as you will most likely discover new accessible properties?
At the moment, no I don’t plan a second edition, but you never know what will happen. I do plan to keep covering accessible properties in Emerging Horizons, and I may even add a few new discoveries to the book’s website.
So what’s next for you?
Well, we’re coming up on my busy travel season, so I expect to be on the road a lot in the next four months. Project wise I plan to add to my accessible national park guidebooks, keep up Emerging Horizons, and do some preliminary work on a new nuts-and-bolts title.