My husband and I are staying in the Hilton Garden Inn in Arlington, VA.  We requested and received their wheelchair accessible room.  As anyone with a disability who has traveled can tell you,  not all accessible rooms are created equal.  We will be moving across the street tomorrow to another hotel that has an accessible room that makes you want to pay extra money.  However, the cost is almost the same as the room at the Hilton.

In our room in the Hilton, there is a bathtub with a small tub stool.  These things are like the trill ride from outer space when your legs don’t work and you weight 30 pounds more than your traveling companion.  The bed is higher than any accommodations I’ve ever seen, making it almost impossible to climb into the bed.  A person without any disabilities would find it hard to maneuver into this bed. 

The room where we will be staying tomorrow evening is the Arlington Court Suites, a Clarion Collection Hotel.  The address is 1200 North Courthouse Road, Arlington, VA 22201.  In addition to the bedroom, there are two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining/living room combination.  A wonderful evening buffet is included in the price Monday through Wednesday evening and a free breakfast buffet each morning. 

The bathroom has a large roll-in shower with a shower seat.  The safety bars are conveniently located.  The water nozzle and the shower head in the shower are placed within easy reach of the person taking the shower.  In short, it is a great bathroom. 

The one drawback is that the bedroom has one queen-size bed.  Because my husband has developed a spastic jumping while he sleeps, we can no longer sleep in the same bad.  However, most people do not have that problem.  And we have worst problems while traveling.

If you are in the Washington DC area, I would not hesitate to recommend this fine hotel to anyone needing a wheelchair accessible room.  One word of advice, book your room through a hotel reservation website.  You can save from $20 to $70 a night.

Yesterday, I called an on-line travel agency to book a hotel room for one night.  I had used them about a year ago with great results.  Now, I was hoping to get a room in the same hotel with the same great price.  When the option for a wheelchair accessible room didn’t appear on my computer screen, I called the 800 number to speak to an operator. 

“I need a wheelchair accessible room.  I would like to book with the Sheraton Pentagon Hotel, please.”

“Thank you,” the operator said.  “I will inquire regarding your request.”

After a few minutes, she came back on.  “I’m sorry.  This hotel doesn’t have any wheelchair accessible rooms available for that day.  However, you may book a room and perhaps there will be one available on that date.”

“Well, I must have a wheelchair accessible room,” I endeavored to make myself more clear.

“Yes, I understand.  So you will book a room?”

“Is there a wheelchair accessible room available at the hotel?”

“Not at this time.  But I have been assured that if one comes available for that date, you will  be able to have it.  I will book your room now.  You do understand that there will be no refunds and no cancellations, once I book your room.  Can I have your credit card number?”

“Excuse me.  Didn’t I just say that I must have a wheelchair accessible room?”

“I am sorry; you are not understanding me.  Let me explain one more time.  There is not a wheelchair accessible room at this time; but if a room becomes available, you will be able have this room.  Do you understand?”

“Yes.  You are asking me to pay for a room that I probably will not be able to use.  I don’t think you understand.  My husband cannot walk.  He must have a wheelchair accessible room.  I cannot take the chance that I don’t have a room that will be accessible.”

“I am sorry.  You don’t understand me.  I will explain again.  You cannot get a wheelchair accessible room at this hotel unless you book a room.  Then if a room becomes open, you can have it.  May I have your credit card number now?”

“No, you cannot have my card number.  We just need to start over with another hotel.”  We went through several hotels.  She finally came back with a hotel that she assured me would have a wheelchair accessible room.  I booked the room and gave her my card number.

When I got the information in an e-mail, the Special Requests portion of my itinerary said, “We cannot guarantee that your requests will be honored.”

I called the hotel directly and spoke to the front desk.  “No,” the desk clerk said, rather glumly,  “we weren’t told that you needed a wheelchair accessible room.  However, we have many rooms that are accessible.  If you will call me on the day you check in, I will assure you that you will get the room you need.”

The long and short of this story is:  If you need a wheelchair accessible room, some on-line travel agencies cannot or will not insure that you will be able to get one.  If you use an on-line agency, review your contract.  Then be sure to call ahead to the hotel front desk to insure that your accessibility needs will be met.