Hotels, hoyer lifts and hair dye | Guest Blogger Kristen Thomson

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on June 04, 2018 # Mobility, Travel

I’m certain that traveling with my disabled husband has given me gray hair. In fact, I could probably point out which gray hair I acquired during each trip.

Was it the one I acquired after driving halfway across the state of Florida to arrive at a hotel with an inaccessible lobby and a hotel room that was considered “accessible” because it had three handrails in the shower?

Or was it the one I got after driving up the entire eastern seaboard to New York only to be placed in an accessible room that was the size of a shoebox and had to maneuver the most cumbersome Hoyer lift imaginable into the teeny tiniest of space with the utmost precision to get my husband into bed?

Or the time we traveled to New Orleans, and our Hoyer lift malfunctioned, and my husband was stuck in bed for 24 hours until our hotel found us a place that would ONLY rent them (not us) a portable lift.

And shall we talk about furniture? Oh, the hotel rooms I've had to rearrange for the sake of having enough space for my husband to squeeze his wheelchair into areas that clearly NOBODY in a wheelchair has ever navigated through before.

Or how about my husband’s first airline flight during our honeymoon trip to Vegas where a passenger with extensive sky miles and a lousy attitude tried to convince a flight attendant that he needed my husband's aisle seat due to his "bad back." And created so much of a fuss to ALMOST have my husband transferred and relocated to a different seat with the help of a placatory flight attendant. Little did they realize that challenging a weary, traveling caregiver was a force to be reckoned with but...

They tried. They failed.

And we were upgraded to first class tickets on our return flight with sincerest apologies from the airline.

Troublesome situations such as these have caused incredible frustration, and despite the endless amount of times I have crashed and burned into a hotel bed from sheer exhaustion, I look at all the pictures of places we’ve been and realized EVERY SINGLE GRAY HAIR was worth the effort.

These experiences were necessary lessons in helping us prepare for future trips because even when we thought we were doing our due diligence in requesting accessible accommodations and conducting research of how “wheelchair friendly” our destination was, the definition of accessible is interpreted differently by everyone. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that hospitality industry professionals receive proper training on how to best accommodate the disabled to ensure their stay is as comfortable as possible or lack the compassion and willingness to try and improve situations because it requires too much effort or too much money. And for a wanderlustful couple such as me and my husband, this lack of consideration can be incredibly disappointing, frustrating and outright exhausting.

However, we are optimistic. We have been to accessible-friendly hotels like the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where they TRULY understand the needs of the disabled. Their rooms had plenty of space without obstructive furniture, roll in showers, beds low enough for paraplegic transfers and they even have ceiling lifts over the bed and in the shower for quadriplegics, like my husband. They genuinely have tapped into the market that is waiting for others to follow suit.

But until then, some of the ways that we’ve tried to help be a catalyst for change in our travels is by asking endless questions and providing constructive feedback to the establishments that we stay at or travel with.

In making reservations, we ask hotels to provide specific details of their accessible rooms such as the room dimensions, if they have roll-in showers, the amount of space around the bed to ensure transfers are possible and their willingness to move furniture if they obstruct our path. Of course, our biggest concern revolves around the height of the bed. Chances are the hotel will not have a ceiling lift or portable lift on site. Therefore, we make the hotel staff verify the types of beds they have in their rooms, how many inches there are between the floor and the bed frame and if they can adjust the height of the bed to meet our Hoyer lift needs.

Whenever we leave a hotel, we always offer constructive feedback directly to hotel management to let them know what works and how they can improve to make future stays more accommodating and recommendation worthy. Our travel dollars are where we hold power; we put the ball in their court if they want future business.

Although our preparation for our trips continues to improve, I don’t think the days of acquiring grey hair are past me just yet. However, our determination to check off places on our bucket list and our successful trips keep us motivated to continue traveling. A positive outlook also helps. Oh, and hair dye… lots and lots of hair dye.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.