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Is it Bad to Request Handicap Rooms in Hotels Since the Bathrooms Are Usually Twice as Big?

Peter C. asked Me:

Is it Bad to Request a Hotel’s Handicap Accessible Room

Even Though You Are Not Handicapped?

The answer may surprise you. No, it is not bad to request a handicap room and in fact, such rooms are used more by those who are not handicapped than those who are handicapped. Read on According to the American Community Survey (ACS), there are six types of disability:

  1. Hearing

  2. Vision

  3. Cognitive

  4. Ambulatory

  5. Self-Care

  6. Independent Living

Of these six, Ambulatory difficulty is the disability that would most likely be in need of a handicapped room. Those who use a wheelchair (please do not say “confined to” or “Bound to” a wheelchair as both are considered politically incorrect[1]and insulting)[2] fall under the category of Ambulatory.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the HHS (U.S. Department of health and Human Services), and National Center for Health Statistics, a joint 2016 National Health Interview Survey[3] concluded that roughly 17.1 million or 7% of Americans have difficulty walking and are in need of assistance (ie: wheelchair, walker, cane, crutches.) In the 2017 Disability Statistics and Demographics report[4] by the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, their Disability Statistics and Demographics survey concludes the percentage comes to roughly the same at 6.6% of the population.

Statistically, Accessible Rooms Will Remain Empty

A hotel has a limited number of Handicapped rooms so exactly how many does “limited number” mean? According to the ADA (American with Disabilities Act), it varies. Section 224 of the ADA throws light upon the mystery by defining the hotel design requirements:

By focusing in on the first two columns, we see that a 100 room hotel needs 4 or 4% of the inventory to be accessible. But look what happens when the hotel has more rooms: A 201 room hotel must have SEVEN accessible rooms. At 401 rooms, it jumps up NINE handicapped accessible rooms.

Let’s be realistic. Unless there is a convention or in-house conference for people in wheelchairs, the odds of a hotel actually needing seven or nine or even three or four of these rooms, are very, very remote. When only 7% of the U.S. population has an ambulatory issue, how many of that 7% are all traveling on the same day? Is it

7%… 6%…5%? Who can say, right? But by reviewing the data, I think it is safe to conclude that most handicapped accessible rooms sit empty each night, unless the hotel is sold out.

People who use wheelchairs are well aware of their needs. Unless they started using a wheelchair just recently, they know to request an accessible room when making the reservation and then a day or two before arriving, following up with the hotel by speaking to a manager or in-house reservations agent to confirm the specific room was blocked (held.) Very few will simply show up at checkin and request such a room.

In the remote chance that a hotel runs out of handicapped accessible rooms because non-handicapped guests are occupying the rooms, a Front Office Manager needs to be creative by calling each of the those guests and finding one that would not mind taking a (double) upgraded to a (large) suite to free up the room. Let’s think about this for a second. If you requested a handicapped room but was not actually handicapped and you received a call from the hotel manager explaining there was a real need for the room for a guest in a wheelchair, would you move? I mean, who morally would deny such a request (yes, I know…a few people would say, ‘no way.”)

You must also recognize the first three stats in the chart above. A hotel with between 1 and 50 rooms has only 1–2 accessible rooms. That’s not very many so you should refrain from asking.

So if we consider the odds and what the data tells us, it is perfectly ok to call and make the request. If you want such a room, you need to call the hotel and ask for the room. If you are told, “rooms are assigned upon checkin” and they refuse to block a room, then you can escalate the request to a supervisor or manager but then ask yourself is it really worth the trouble? In this case, I would just ask the front desk agent upon checkin. These rooms are always the last ones that desk agents assign guests. Not because they should be assigned last, but because no room gets more complaints and requests for room moves than a handicapped room. A lot of people do not like the open roll-in shower or grab bars surrounding the bathtub or raised toilet and other modifications. However, if you are a Rooms Manager reading this, assign your last accessible room for one of the last arrivals. You never know who might show up with a request.


Lastly Peter, NEVER, EVER request an accessible room when you book on-line. THAT, is being very inconsiderate. Booking it on-line removes it from the inventory and you just might be taking away the room from a guest who legitimately needs it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 and the updated 2010 version do not mandate that an accessible room MUST be available for someone who is in need of it. When I was managing the Front Office however, I always tried to keep the last one in my “back pocket” just in case it was needed. But as a manager, I have removed doors, had shower chairs available, and have done everything I could to make my guest’s experience while visiting the property, an effortless and seamless experience.

Thanks for your question Peter.


[1] Proper Terminology: Don’t Use “Confined to” or “Wheelchair Bound”

[2] Please Stop Saying "Wheelchair Bound" • Free Wheelin'

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