A message to everyone in the hospitality and tourism industry in NL:
One of the hardest parts of planning any vacation when you’re a wheelchair user is actually being able to trust that the place you’re booking your accommodations with is as accessible as it claims to be. A lot of places list themselves as “wheelchair accessible” but upon further investigation there are obvious barriers that would make staying there difficult or impossible. I worry that I’m being misled when I see a place claim to be wheelchair accessible but see no specific details of what makes it accessible, or no pictures that I can scroll through and say “oh yeah, I can see the accessibility features here.” It’s often not intentional. I don’t think anyone would set out to misinform their potential guests. But saying something is accessible is a very broad term. My access needs are likely very different from the next disabled travellers access needs. There’s a very real risk that I’ll give someone money and then head out on my adventure only to be met with a hotel or vacation rental that I can’t actually access. There’s a fear that I will be stranded in a place with no other options, especially if visiting a smaller town or during a peak travel time. I have heard stories of this happening to other wheelchair users. That concern puts a huge added stress on vacation planning and definitely takes away from some of the fun.
So if you own a hotel, bed and breakfast, cottage etc. please please do us all a favour and be as specific as possible about accessibility. If your business isn’t wheelchair accessible don’t just leave out accessibility, plainly state that it is not accessible. Or tell us something is accessible or partially accessible and then include details about what accessibility features it has and what could be considered a barrier. Include photos of really important things like the entrance, how much space there is in the rooms and hallways to maneuver a chair, the toilet, sink and tub or shower, and the kitchen area. There are a lot of things that need to be considered to make a place comfortably accessible to me and I would feel way more at ease having all of that info there in front of me, especially if I don’t have to seek it out by contacting someone from every potential place to ask for all of it. People who work in hospitality and tourism obviously want their guests to be relaxed and to have a good time, and that should start at the planning stage.
Round Da Bay Inn is a great place to start if you would like an example of the ways you can describe accessibility and potential barriers on your website. Their suite has some potential barriers that would make it inaccessible to some wheelchair users (door width being one) so they state these things online to allow their potential guests to make an easier, informed decision.