When my dear friend Jen became engaged to “The One” (Adam), my friends and I were prepared for a great shin-dig! Oops, I mean a very beautiful, elegant wedding.
No one would have expected anything less from Jen. After all she was our go-to party-planning maven. As we expected, she took care of every wedding detail. I was particularly touched because in all of their wedding plans, the happy couple thoughtfully made sure their wedding would be accessible for me and my wheelchair.
I’m pretty sure Jen and I made the hotel staff crazy with our repeated questions such as, “This is an accessible hotel room, right?” and “The bathroom at the reception facility has grab bars and a wide stall, doesn’t it?” We were satisfied with their comforting responses and were prepared for a completely accessible wedding extravaganza.
At least, that’s what we thought.
After making the 120-mile trip for Jen and Adam’s big day, Dan and I were sorely disappointed to check into a suite cluttered with superfluous decorations and furniture. It was lovely but hardly accessible. At one point Dan had to clear a path for me just to make it into the bathroom.
And the bathroom. Accessible? Not so much.
We had asked if there were grab bars in the bathroom, but we quickly learned there’s a big difference between the sturdy functional grab bars we needed and the glorified towel bar we got.
This suite was not going to work for us, and there were no other accessible rooms available at the hotel for us to stay that night.
This reality was painful, but after talking with the hotel manager, we learned that we should have asked for a “barrier-free” room. She apologized for the misunderstanding and gave us a voucher for a free weekend stay in the resort’s barrier-free room at a later date. She then called to hotels in the area and located a fully accessible room in a hotel 20 minutes away so we could enjoy the wedding and reception.
Which we did!
In addition to having a great time and learning to ask for a barrier-free room, through our stays in other hotels we’ve learned that not all accessible rooms are created equal and it always helps to ask questions.
I’m left-side weak so it’s always better for me to have a grab bar on the right side of the toilet for help in making transfers. If we get to our room and the bar is on the left side, I check to see if there is a different accessible room with a right-side grab bar. Usually there is, and the hotel staff is very willing to switch our reservations.
Even in the most spacious of rooms Dan always has to move some of the furniture – usually the nightstand or an extra chair – to make it easier to maneuver my chair. If you need to do the same, don’t be afraid to call the front desk for assistance.
I’ve merely scratched the surface on things we’ve found helpful in traveling with MS or any disability. Remember traveling is supposed to be enjoyable, and it can be with the right preparation and some flexibility for unforeseen situations.
Where to spend the night when we travel is only half the journey in traveling with MS and a disability. Check out our most recent post on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Blog about trick we’ve learned to make traveling on the road more manageable in spite of this disease we share. “On the road with MS” • NMSS Blog