Universal Design: All Things Great and Wide, Booking Airbnb or VRBO or Anywhere Really — Reeve Connect
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Universal Design: All Things Great and Wide, Booking Airbnb or VRBO or Anywhere Really

heatherkrill Moderator Posts: 107 Moderator
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This was originally posted as a Reeve Blog back in June of 2017, but stands as a good reminder for those of us making travel plans this summer.  A truly accessible door will allow access by any kind of wheelchair.  My husband, Geoff, prefers to use mountain bike tires on his wheelchair as he is often on grass, gravel, unsmooth surfaces; however, they are wider making some seemingly "accessible" doorways not accessible at all...Please comment if you know of other resources!    

One of my husband’s best friends is getting married next month on Lake Winnipesaukee. Knowing the hotel, they reserved rooms that would sell out quickly, I had a lovely conversation with the owner. She was eager to meet our accessibility needs. They, of course, had a ramped room available, but when I asked about the bathroom door width, we learned Geoff’s wheelchair would not fit through. Certainly, not the end of the world, but I’m hard-pressed to spend $200 a night on a room when Geoff cannot easily access the bathroom.

When we travel as a family which is not often, finding a truly accessible house to rent is virtually impossible unless we stay at a hotel, which is also incrementally more expensive. People are surprised when they consider the size of their door, not realizing it was smaller than would allow a wheelchair to squeeze through. Two years ago, at the TD Boston Garden, we were taking the kids to see Frozen on Ice. Geoff does not like to remain in his wheelchair for performances; however, where I had purchased our tickets would not allow him to bump up a couple steps to transfer into a seat. Still grateful to a man named Steve, I explained our issue and he was able to resolve our situation by moving our entire party of 12 to a private suite complete with a bathroom and access to snacks. This was an upgrade we certainly did not expect, nor could we have afforded.

“Well, Mom, why don’t they just make all doors big enough when they build houses?” I explain that there are building codes now for just about everything, but that there wasn’t always. Houses or buildings which were built a long time ago don’t have the same rules. Where we live in a mountain based tourism community, most places are built up and include countless stairs.

Universal design is a beautiful thing. People consider it when constructing a new home thinking of retirement. Do we really want to be climbing two flights of stairs when we are older? My brother Greg is an architect on Martha’s Vineyard and visiting him before we had children meant going to work sites to check on cool design projects. He was a student at Northeastern University when he first taught me about the concept of UD, and even back then, before Geoff was on my radar, UD made so much sense. Bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor with easy access to the kitchen or family room can be both practical and beautiful.

But we also consider universal design when looking at the political bathroom scene of 2017, about who is allowed to use what bathroom and when. Bathrooms are made even more comfortable and spacious with wider berth and doorways. Geoff has taken our daughter into the men’s room, just as mothers from the history of time have brought their boys into the “ladies’” room. When the answer is so obvious to a child, we expect it to be as simple for the rest of the adult world. Universal design. Bathrooms built for everyone, accessible for all, whether one is disabled, able-bodied, old, young, male, female, transgender, etc. Our children love handicapped stalls or family restrooms with dad. Obviously. There is more room. Our kids also know how some bathrooms used to be just for white people and some used to be just for black people and how the world doesn’t work that way anymore because it was wrong, unfair, and unjust. We clarify: the world should not work that way anymore, but it does, and so we need to understand why and make sure we educate everyone we know.

Until then, I really think someone could make a lot of money creating an accessible VRBO or Homeaway or Airbnb link for housing. Maybe that already exists in an affordable format. And if does, please share what you know in the comment field. We live better and more easily when we are more informed. Universal design works: here’s to all things great and wide.


    WAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 379 Moderator
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    Such a great post. Thank you for this @heatherkrill

    Does anyone remember “Accommable.com”? It was started by a Quadriplegic years ago and was a comprehensive listing service for disabled travellers. It was VERY extensive, and had many apartments and houses all over the world listed on it. It had all the great filters like roll In shower, completely ADA accessible, and also went an extra step to include houses that had lifts, commodes and other tools already there for the renters use. The owner of the site and his team were passionate about vetting all their listings to be ACTUALLY 100% accessible. So when you searched, you knew you could trust the listings. It was WONDERFUL. My husband and I used them a few times and were hooked. We had tried air B and B for years and always found that the listings that said they were accessible were not. We were relieved... until...

    we received an email from the team at Accommable a couple of years ago saying they were “joining forces with Air B and B” and were working with them to make air B and B’s accessibility filters even better. We had hope. They said in the email that the properties available on Accommable would now be available on Air B and B and that they were essentially being purchased by Air B and B. We were happy for them, as they had done such an amazing job thus far. We waited and waited and finally air B and B released a statement and new filters saying they had adjusted their system to include better accessibility filters and had purchased Accommable. 

    Since then, I’m disappointed to say that Air B and B’s accessibility filters are horrible. Not only are NONE of the properties that were on Accommable on there anymore, but, when you use the filters it brings you to places that are not accessible (example filtering “roll in shower” and finding properties with single stall showers that have lips in them). They clearly do nothing to vet these properties and it takes now longer to find a truly accessible place for rent than ever. 

    We now have to only stay in hotels whenever we travel, or, have to go through other companies like disabledholidays.com when we want to rent a place for longer periods of time. 

    Would LOVE to see Accommable back again. Tear. Sigh. 
    - Brooke (WAGS of SCI) 
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • Mnichols23
    Mnichols23 Moderator Posts: 43 Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI I’ve never heard of accommable .com that seems like a great help. I’m eager to see what Air Bnb does with it
  • prc_donnal
    prc_donnal Member Posts: 27
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    I  am an Information Specialist at the Paralysis Resource Center.
    We have a factsheet on travel and includes websites where people include reviews on accessibility in places to which they have travelled.
    Please contact me as I would be happy to send it to you.
    My contact info is: [email protected] or (800) 539-7309 x5911.
    Donna Lowich
    Senior Information Specialist
    Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

    Have a question about paralysis and need personalized assistance? Contact our Information Specialists: www.ChristopherReeve.org/Ask
    WAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 379 Moderator
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    @Mnichols23 they purchased Accommable in 2017 and vowed to make Air B and B more accessible.  They adjusted their filters to include more options for disabled travellers which was great, however, they do not vet the properties properly and allow properties to list as accessible when they’re not. It makes the process harder than ever to find a suitable accommodation. Accommable was great because there were so many properties that were exclusively 100% accessible. It was ran by a quadriplegic who knew what he was doing. Now, none of the properties that were listed by Accommable are even on air B and B anymore.... someone else in the community needs to create a new Accommable -like site again. It was actually amazing. - Brooke 
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • BrookeU
    BrookeU Moderator Posts: 175 Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI, that's so disappointing. I just shared a link to the Airbnb press release on another post saying how it seemed like a step in the right direction, but after reading your comments here, I'm upset! Why even bother taking over the site if you're going to ruin the whole point of it.....ugh.

    @heatherkrill, big fan of universal design here. Trust me, l love old historic buildings and their beauty as much as the next person, but I'd far rather have everyone be able to fully access buildings. Not to mention, universal design can be beautiful, despite what some people might think. Everyone gets old eventually and will have trouble with stairs and other things, so why not be ahead of the curve and just make it all accessible from the get-go? One of my best friends is an interior design major, and I'm so, so happy that universal design is part of the curriculum. She's asked me lots of questions about accessibility when doing her assignments, and she designed some really lovely accessible spaces.
  • ambercollie
    ambercollie Moderator Posts: 187 Moderator
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    Hmmm I Love to travel I'm going to look into this more! Thanks for ALL the great info!!
  • ShortieO
    ShortieO Member Posts: 5
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    Air BnB, Home Away, VRBO are all garbage when it comes to accommodations for wheelchairs. Their filters DO NOT filter out inaccessible homes. When you select wheelchair accessible, you get homes with entry steps, no accessible bathrooms, bedrooms on the second floor or basement only accessed by stairs. When I email owners, their response is that a wheelchair can get around their living room or kitchen and there are grab bars in the tub. I’ve also had several say that there are only a few stairs so it’s wheelchairs accessible. Straight up garbage.