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Photo: The Maasai chief offered his home for us to stay, but it was not quite what we needed..

Disabled Travel Tips for Hotels

A dear European friend gave us this secret years ago:

Before you accept any room, go see it first.

We checked into a swanky hotel in Tokyo with reservations and a confirmation for a handicapped accessible room made weeks earlier. It was late in the evening and we were tired, so I ignored our own advice and went from the front desk to the room with Nancy and our luggage.

Opened the door and discovered the room was nowhere near accessible. In fact, I could not turn the wheelchair around in it, but had to back out of the room in order to leave it.

Back at the front desk, after profuse apologies, the young attendant gave us the key to a different room. I asked that the front desk manager go with us this time to check it out.

Second room was better, but in the bathroom, we had to pass the bidet to get to the toilet, and the space was too narrow for us to reach it.

After showing us several other rooms, getting more tired and more irritated with each passing moment, we called for the hotel general manager. He met us in the room, then immediately showed us to the penthouse suite. No increase in cost to us, and in fact, he gave us the first night free to compensate for our difficulties.

Baccarat crystal chandeliers, butler suite, the works. It was not really accessible, either, but we had much more to work with than with the Maasai chief's house! Somehow, I knew we could find a way.

Point is: If you have a problem, talk to someone with the authority to do what you need to have done. In most situations, the front desk clerk does not have the power to bring about changes.

It is vital that you NOT lose your temper, raise your voice, or become abusive with your tone or language. You want these people to help you- and they will- but not if you shout at them or make them feel insignificant or unimportant.

I have often gently suggested to such people, "Think of us as your grandparents. Would you want your grandmother to stay in this room? Would you want any hotel to treat your grandparents this way? Take care of us as you would want your elders cared for." They all can relate to this.

ABOUT TAXIS

When we first started to travel, we could go days without seeing anyone else in a wheelchair. Fortunately, that is changing, and there are many more travelers in wheelchairs or using scooters than in the early days.

Unfortunately, taxi drivers have quickly discovered it takes much more time to board someone in a wheelchair. Often, they are asked to load aboard equipment which is bulky and heavy. At the end of the trip, they make no more money than otherwise, and as a result, many taxicabs drive on past without stopping when they see the prospective passenger is disabled.

Although this practice is illegal in the United States, such laws are widely ignored everywhere in the world. We have found one solution that makes the problem a little more manageable. It is not 100% guaranteed to get you cab, but it works well most of the time.

At the front desk of your hotel, have someone call a known and recognized cab company. If you are "downtown" in larger cities, stop in at any hotel or business establishment and ask them to do this for you. You can use this same technique in smaller towns, even villages. If you approach them with an appreciative attitude- rather than with an air of entitlement- they will not refuse you.

When the taxi arrives, see if you can bargain with the driver and engage him/her for multiple trips throughout the day- or even as a sightseeing guide for the day. Get the driver's cell or dispatch phone number and call again for the next time you need a taxi. Most drivers welcome this- especially if you tip a little more than is customary or expected. Go to next section of Travel Tips- Items to Take

Please go to our Disabled Travelers Guide to the World for many additional tips on arranging tours, transport and other details. See, especially, Chapter 8 of the Disabled Travelers Guide. There is also valuable information in Chapter 12 of the Disabled Travelers Guide .

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Have you checked the most important parts of our website? We urge you to go to the Chapter on Essential Plans. Then, whether they apply to you or not, read the Chapters Airlines, Cruises, Hotels, Taxis, Tours. Finally, be sure you read the Chapter Items to Take. The information in these chapters will make all the difference in the success of your trip.