Everyone deserves a vacation that offers them the chance to rest and relax. However, the few options when it comes to accessible vacation rentals make it difficult for people with disabilities to enjoy some much-needed R&R.
Find out why and how you can adapt your vacation rental for guests with disabilities.
Change Is Needed
According to the World Bank, 15% of the world’s population, an approximate one billion people, live with a form of disability. On average, those people are more likely to experience socio-economic disadvantages than people without disabilities.
In the past, disability inclusion was not regarded as a priority by many people. However, growing awareness of inclusion, equity, diversity, and social justice is changing that. Adapting your vacation rental for people with disabilities means they can enjoy the decent break they deserve. In addition to making it possible for more people to enjoy the accommodation, the right adaptations ultimately could result in greater profits.
Knowing what adaptations to make can be tricky, as there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” A ground floor apartment in the city may require different adaptations and accommodations to a cabin at the lake, or a beach house in Florida. It’s important to recognize that there’s more to wheelchair accessibility, for example, than a ground floor location, an elevator, or a lack of steps.
Begin with a walk-through inspection of your vacation rental when considering adapting it for people with disabilities. Check for:
- Accessible parking
- Steps to the property entrance/an elevator
- Narrow walkways
- Areas accessible by stairs only
- Places or spaces that are difficult to reach
It can also be helpful to check the doorway dimensions, the height of the toilet, whether there are grab bars in the shower, and whether the shower is roll-in and has a bench. Gaining a sense of potential accessibility issues is a good starting point to planning the adaptations necessary to better accommodate people with disabilities in your vacation rental.
With that in mind, consider the following guide to adaptations for improved accessibility:
1. Offer Close Disability-Accessible Parking
Check if it’s possible to offer disability-accessible parking close to the property. There should be enough space for a ramp or lift to function, and a sign and painting to indicate the space is reserved for people with disabilities.
If it’s not possible to offer a disability-accessible parking space, provide your guests with suggestions for alternative parking spots, drop-off/pick-up locations, and alternative transportation options.
2. Adapt the Entrance
A vacation rental property entrance that is difficult for people with disabilities to access sets a negative tone right from the start. Build or buy a permanent or portable ramp for the entrance. The slope ratio should be 1:12, which is one inch of height per 12 inches of ramp.
The threshold of the door should be half an inch or less high. Fill in or remove any dips or bumps that could make movement difficult for people in a wheelchair or be a tripping hazard for people. Consider adding a lower peephole so people in wheelchairs can see who is outside.
3. Clear the Hallways
Clear the hallways of tables, chairs, decorative objects, and any other items that may obstruct people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids. In addition to offering easier access, doing this will prevent furniture, artwork, and other items from possible damage. If you’re clever about how you clear up, you can still create a welcoming space that’s well designed.
4. Adapt the Kitchen
Lower the heights of the countertops and other kitchen surfaces to offer easier access. Use the lower cupboards and drawers for storing dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, and mugs. Install a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer, rather than a top-bottom setup.
5. Alter the Bathroom
Install a roll-in shower with seats, grab bars, and other grips, or install a walk-in tub with seats. Lay flooring and shower surfaces that provide some traction instead of posing a slipping risk. Install easy-transfer toilets or install grab bars next to the toilet and install a roll-under sink. Lower the faucet handles in the shower to offer easier access to people with wheelchairs or who use the shower seat.
6. Offer Service Animal-Friendly Accommodation
Adapt your vacation rental to include service animal accommodation. Go for easy-to-clean, durable furniture and floors, and add pet beds and bowls for food and water. Provide additional cleaning products for pet messes and provide dog waste bags and/or a poop-scoop to make it easier for guests to clean up after their service animals.
7. Widen the Doors
Widen the front, back, outside, and internal doorways if they are not at least 35 inches wide. The average wheelchair is 25 inches across, and the average internal doorway width in the US is between 28 and 32 inches, which means a close, uncomfortable fit for standard wheelchairs. Along with widening the doorways, lower the door handles to offer an easier reach for people who use wheelchairs.
8. Replace Stairs With Ramps
Replace as many stairs as possible with ramps (see above) to offer easier, safer access for people who use mobility aids such as walkers, walking sticks, and wheelchairs, as well as for people with limited mobility. If replacing internal stairs with ramps isn’t possible, consider installing a stairlift or an elevator. Just ensure that whatever you install is strong enough to hold the weight of a wheelchair and its occupant, and that it doesn’t pose any safety risks.
9. Install Gadgets For Accessibility
Install various gadgets that offer greater accessibility to people with disabilities. Opt for a smart thermostat that’s controllable via smartphone and light sensors that automatically switch lights on and off as people enter and leave rooms. Use a keypad, lockbox, or smart lock to offer an easier, automated self-check-in process.
10. Lower Light Switches
Lower the light switches to a height of 36 inches from the ground to make them more accessible. Consider installing remote-controlled lights if you cannot lower the switches. Use reduced-glare bulbs for under-countertop and recessed lights, to limit any problems lights in those positions may cause to wheelchair users.
List Your Vacation Rental As Disability Accessible
After making the necessary adaptations to your vacation rental, remember to list the property as disability-accessible. Mention the various features, such as parking, ramps, wide doorways, an accessible kitchen and bathroom, grab bars, and low countertops and light switches. The welcome you offer guests with disabilities will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.