When people with disabilities plan a trip, accessible accommodations are typically a critical aspect to consider. Both the hotel room and the surroundings should offer all the typical amenities, but also address the person’s special needs. REHACARE.com showcases three hotels that want to facilitate comfort and ease, especially for people with mobility disabilities.
Hotel rooms that are designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities are still not a matter of course. The Heidehotel Bad Bevensen sets a good example.
From "Design for All" and "Travel for All" to "Vacation for All" – it’s a natural continuation and an appropriate motto for the two FDS Hotel gGmbH hotel facilities. People with and without disabilities can enjoy a relaxed vacation both at the Seehotel Rheinsberg and the Heidehotel Bad Bevensen. "Both hotels represent one-of-a-kind accessibility and inclusion, ensuring that nobody needs to worry about anything," says Managing Director Stefan von Schlotheim. He adds that the hotel aims to not just be lodging location for patients and their caregivers (German: Pflegehotel). The main goal is to make sure that guests with disabilities can enjoy a carefree vacation in both hotels.
Another example from Belgium shows that this is a successful approach: Hotel Middelpunt on the Belgian coast is also ready to welcome guests with disabilities. "We primarily highlight the vacation aspect and not the specialized care needs a guest might have," says management assistant Liesbeth Verloock.
Holiday for body and soul – that is the goal of Hotel Middelpunt. Therefore, existing restrictions and possible care requirements are taken into account accordingly, but they should nevertheless be pushed into the background. The focus is rather on maximum holiday fun.
Comfortable and accessible hotel rooms
How does a hotel ensure that guests with and without disabilities can have easy and convenient access to hotel rooms at any time? The number one priority is structural on-site factors and the right room amenities.
Besides adjustable beds, in-room refrigerators for medication and a 24/7 call system for reception, the hotel in Belgium also offers five so-called "high care rooms". These rooms feature adjustable high-low beds (with bed rails) and a hoist and ceiling mobility system. The hotel premises also have handrails, Braille labels and guests can request personal assistance by external professionals at the time of reservation.
Guests of the two German hotels can request the in-house catalog of assistive devices when they make their reservations. Most of the aids are available free of charge or can be obtained for a fee. "Guests can choose from a variety of folding wheelchairs, electric mobility scooters, rollator walkers, elevated toilet seats, stand-assist lifts and different types of pillows for optimal comfort and sleep," says von Schlotheim. "Every room also has an accessible bed with an inconspicuous design and stand-assist attachment if required. We focus on the typical feel and look of an average hotel room and don’t highlight the assistive technology." All of the spacious bathrooms are accessible, some also feature height-adjustable sinks. The toilet flush is electronic and the towel hooks and bars are mounted and stacked at different heights. Another eye for detail: The hotel room doors open easily thanks to room keys with transponders versus a hotel key card. Emergency alarm buttons also come standard in all rooms and bathrooms.
All accommodations at the Seehotel Rheinsberg also feature automatic doors. Both hotels have wall-mounted handrails to promote safe mobility.
Also the wellness area at Hotel Middelpunt takes into account the needs of guests with disabilities, for example in the infrared sauna.
Hotels provide a total accessible package
Despite all the room amenities, no vacation would be complete if it didn’t come with comfort, activities, and excursions. Hotel Middelpunt offers a tiltable comfort bath and an accessible infrared sauna. The fitness and wellness area of the Seehotel Rheinsberg also has a lift and slide for guests to enter the pool. Both hotels of the FDS Hotel gGmbH also have free shower wheelchairs that guests can use for the sauna since the chairs don’t conduct heat. "We also offer special bathrobes for wheelchair users," says von Schlotheim. "We also thought of small, ingenious tools to collect ping pong balls for example or a ball ramp for wheelchair users playing in the Seehotel Rheinsberg bowling alley." Guests can also rent electric mobility scooters, tricycles or wheelchair bicycle tandems for outdoor activities. This allows visitors to explore the surrounding areas. Von Schlotheim points out that both Rheinsberg and Bad Bevensen are known for being accessible travel locations. "We also compiled a 'Rolli Road Book', a diagrammatic book to navigate across the terrains of the Lüneburg Heath (German: Lüneburger Heide). We put together a list of accessible destinations that have been tried and tested by wheelchair users."
Hotel Middelpunt offers a similar resource for its guests that compiles accessible destinations in the area. Located on the Belgian coast, the hotel is also well-known for its outdoor conveniences such as the wheelchair-accessible path from the hotel straight to the beach which was created in collaboration with the city of Middelkerke. This feature is much appreciated. "We scored an A + rating for accessible tourism from Toegankenlijk Vlaanderen and Visit Flanders," Liesbeth Verloock explains.
The rental of various auxiliary means is a matter of course at the Seehotel Rheinsberg as well as an accessible environment for activities at the holiday resort.
The accessible tourism industry has tremendous potential for more growth
These kinds of "seals of approval" and guest reviews and recommendations help word-of-mouth marketing and are an important vehicle to promote the possibilities of accessible travel and vacationing and its importance. The REHACARE 2019 trade show presence of these hotels also helps to increase awareness for these travel options and intrigues the curiosity of potential guests. Generally, it is public awareness and general visibility that could propel this industry forward. Liesbeth Verloock from Hotel Middelpunt aims to contact tour providers, operators, and travel agencies and prompt them to inform their customers about the options the Belgian hotel has to offer. "I hope that the industry will continue to grow," she says. "We are still the 'underdog' of the tourism industry. The more we talk about this type of travel, the more we can increase awareness."
According to von Schlotheim, this also helps to increase the level of mutual acceptance of travelers with and without disabilities. "It must become a normal occurrence to see a wheelchair user, who might drink champagne with a straw, sit next to a non-disabled pedestrian who enjoys his or her breakfast."
The general spectrum of accessible traveling and vacationing options must likewise be broadened – always keeping in mind that the entire tourism supply chain is accessible and not just the hotel. After all, it’s only a fully accessible travel experience if the location also offers accessible boat tours or restaurants, for example, besides the accessible hotel accommodations and reservation systems.
Nadine Lormis (translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com