According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) approximately 5.5 million people in the U.S. use wheelchairs. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, in part, to ensure traveling and other common aspects of life are available to more Americans, including those in wheelchairs.

The best hospitality companies go far beyond accommodating guests who require wheelchair access. They create spaces that are attractive, comfortable, intuitive, and delightful.

A website that focuses on wheelchair travelers recently listed out some common problems they face when staying in hotels:

  • Only one bed in accessible rooms
  • Poor-quality shower seats
  • Inaccessible beds
  • Too much furniture to move around easily.

Most of these issues can be solved by partnering with a hospitality furnishings, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) company that has an in-depth knowledge of ADA guidelines and local codes, along with a complete understanding of what all types of guests expect today.

The ADA and State and Local Codes and Selecting Appropriate Furniture

Hoteliers need to have a complete understanding of the ADA regulations for accommodating people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities. The guidelines were initially developed in 2010 and became effective on March 15, 2012. The regulations cover all aspects of the hospitality property experience, from parking lots and entrances to signage and electronics and, perhaps most importantly, room features and furnishings.

In addition, hotels must meet local and state codes and coordinate them with the ADA regulations. These codes can vary significantly, so it can be challenging to stay on top of them, especially for multi-unit chains doing business in different parts of the country.

Accessible Furnishings Must be a Top Priority

All hotel guests, including those in wheelchairs, must be able to use different types  of furnishings, including beds, vanities, wardrobes, seating, and desks in hotel rooms, along with tables, chairs, and other items in shared spaces.

Making these items accessible to everyone requires designing or selecting pieces that suit people in wheelchairs. This means making accessible hotel furniture a high priority in the facility design process, not an afterthought.

While state and local codes vary when it comes to accessibility, here are some aspects of guest rooms that commonly require special consideration:

  • Beds: The ADA does not have specific bed design guidelines. However, they must be fully accessible and usable by people with disabilities and meet general non-discrimination rules. The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund offers some guidance:
    • The distance between the floor and the top of the mattress should be 20 to 23 inches
    • Frames must be easily removable so the bed can be lowered
    • Adjustable bed legs or risers should be available
    • A ceiling transfer lift should be included in at least one accessible room.
  • Vanities: Use the following guidance to ensure vanities and sinks are accessible to all hotel guests:
    • Eliminate under-sink cabinets unless they include seated knee space.
    • Sinks should be no more than 34 inches high (at the rim) and allow for 27 inches of knee clearance when accessed from the front.
    • Vanities should be sturdy enough to handle the weight of anyone who leans on them.
    • Fully accessible storage space must be available for linens and personal items.
    • All drawers should be low and be able to pull out fully.
    • Ideally, vanities should be height-adjustable so they can accommodate anyone. While a relatively costly feature, adjustability delivers the ideal guest experience for people in wheelchairs and could be worth the investment.
  • Desks: Here are some minimum desk dimensions that will allow people of all sizes in wheelchairs to use them comfortably.
    • 30-inch-wide leg space
    • 19-inch-deep leg space
    • 27-inch-high clearance.
  • Wardrobes: Wardrobes can be challenging for people in wheelchairs to access and use. Here are some things to consider to ensure they’re fully functional.
    • Shallow wardrobes (those that are less than 48 inches wide by 30 inches deep) won’t allow wheelchairs to enter. They must be approached from its side. Because of this, any obstruction that keeps the chair away from the wardrobe can be no more than 10 inches. Clothing rods or shelves can’t be higher than 48 inches.
    • Deep wardrobes (larger than 48 inches wide by 30 inches deep) allow full wheelchair entry. However, they must provide a five-foot turning space to prevent wheelchair users from getting trapped.

This general guidance can help ensure guest rooms are accessible and comfortable for people depending on wheelchairs. Contact The Stroud Group’s experts for additional insights on making their experiences even more comfortable and delightful.