April 27, 2008

A Week In A Handicapped Hotel Suite

I'm in Ottawa all week staying in a suite hotel. For whatever reason, I got a suite for the handicapped. Ironically, staying longer restricted the choice of rooms available. I feel uncomfortable for two reasons
  • a disabled person loses access to the room
  • intruding into the inner world of a disabled person
Public Space or Private Place?
In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell notes that we can learn more about someone by spending minutes alone in their private space than from months observing their public face, stay at dinners and parties. That observation still doesn't motivate me to tidy up my office :)

The front desk assured me that the room was "normal" except modified for a wheelchair. From the hall, there's no sign that this room is different --- a nice touch.

Here's what I noticed:
  • wider hallways and more open space
  • lower counters
  • lower bed
  • bath tub with support bars
  • higher toilet seat
  • lower thermostat and light switches
  • lower clothes bar in closet
  • nothing in the kitchen's upper cupboards
To my surprise, the hot water tap spews lukewarm liquid. Protection against scalding? Actually, no. It just took time for the water to heat up and reach my room. This may be environmentally friendly, but it wastes minutes of water flow. Maybe there aren't many guests drawing water at the time. Regardless, the room itself cannot be a factor.

The Shower
The shower head is at a lower height and in the middle of the long wall. Picture a microphone on a stand. That's the height. To wash from the top of my head to my upper shoulders, I need to bend down or kneel. Each of the three walls has a support bar, which seems like a good idea for any bathroom. There are no support bars elsewhere in the suite.

Just Right
The room looks right for someone seated in a wheelchair. It great that the hotel has such facilities. I just hope that a handicapped person won't be turned away because of my intrusion.


Anonymous said...

Promod, I had a similar experience several years ago in a hotel in Detroit. For some unknown reason I was given a handicapped room which, to my surprise, was located over 60 stories up (a long way down the stairs in the event of fire).

I had similar misgivings about depriving a handicapped person of a needed room. But I think that the big issue for me was why the room was located so high up in the hotel.
No one at the front desk could explain how I had gotten the room in the first place and why it was so high.

The truth is somewhat cruel...

While we pay lip service to the needs of the disabled, most people still do not give it much thought. That's why designated handicapped parking spaces are often filled with cars driven by people who are not disabled, or have permits that they are not intitled to.
I think that on top of a huge fine they should also be sentenced to spend a week confined to a wheelchair.
Now, down off my soapbox...

Promod said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Peter.

I'm on the 3rd floor, which makes much more sense than the 60th. After 4 nights, the room seems "normal" now. We adjust/forget so easily.

Maybe those who park in the handicapped spots have a mental disability ;)