Justin, young man in wheelchair laughing, with mom smiling and holding beer, Love City Brewing mural on wall behind them
Accessibility (#A11y), travel

Road trip to DC, Baltimore & Philadelphia Part 1: RANT TIME

Hi everyone, we are going on a road trip! This is going to be a multi-part series about my driving trip from Minnesota to Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Today I’m starting with some of the challenges that I encountered along the way. Come back for the follow-up blogs about things that were awesome and highlights of the trip and some of the advocacy I did while I was there!

Things that you may not think about…but I do

Three days of driving means I had to find places to go to the bathroom. Something that not everyone thinks about when they travel, but I do get to think about the logistics of going to the bathroom. I found that travel plaza rest stops in Illinois and Indiana worked well since they had individual accessible/family restrooms where I could go to the bathroom with the help of both my parents. Trust me, we’ve done takeovers of men’s and women’s restrooms and it’s not fun!

In Maryland, we had to ring a bell for an assistant to come and open the accessible bathroom for us. That’s just weirdly humiliating. We did have a couple times where we had to search for a single stand-alone bathroom for me and discovered that Target stores also had accessible/family bathrooms that worked well for me. Google maps were pretty helpful in helping locate bathroom possibilities.

Sign for Family accessible bathroom

Welcome to….   wait, the roll-in suite with 2 beds that you reserved months ago has someone else staying in it… RANT!

Hey, Hilton Homewood suites in BOTH DC Downtown and Baltimore Inner Harbor, I can understand that someone may want to stay in an accessible room longer. But, when you have someone who had a reservation for that particular accessible room, then let them know! In DC, we arrived at our room only to find that it had 1 king-sized bed instead of the 2 beds we needed. We reserved these rooms months in advance of traveling because 1- bedroom suites with 2 beds and roll-in shower is what works best for us. The Homewood Suites in DC was able to move us into the room we had reserved after the first night.

Baltimore never did get us a room with a roll-in shower. They did try to set me up with a room in the adjoining hotel that had a roll-in shower for me to use the second morning. Unfortunately, when my parents wheeled me to that room in my PJ’s the key did not work. Nothing like being rolled to the front desk of the hotel in your pajamas in your shower chair to find out that someone else took that room. The front desk didn’t know anything about it because the staff from the day before didn’t write anything down anywhere. That was an extremely frustrating stay that dampened the Baltimore part of our trip as we had to spend time switching hotel rooms from a non-accessible suite the first night to an accessible suite with a tub on our 2nd night of our stay. We were ready to be done with Baltimore.

What I wish hotels would consider or how could this have been better?

  • Honor reservations for accessible rooms. A king room is not equivalent to a room with 2 actual beds. A bathtub is not equivalent to a roll-in shower. A custom shower chair cannot be rolled into a bathtub. Inform people staying in the accessible accommodations that they are reserved for another party for certain dates and that if they are overstaying their reservation, then they’ll need to move to another room. Then help them find a room that works for them.
  • Make more rooms accessible! Universal design for rooms would mean that there could be more rooms that could work for people with many accessibility needs. Larger bathrooms with roll-in showers would probably be appreciated by many travelers, not just those of us who use wheelchairs. Also, create more accessible rooms with 2 beds. I am always traveling with a caregiver, so one king-sized bed in a room doesn’t work. Also, we had to ask for our DC hotel to remove the large bulky chair in the living room because I couldn’t get my chair into the room.
  • Make it easy to search and reserve the accessible rooms online. Hilton does a great job with their website in searching for accessibility features and rooms. There are other hotel brands, where it’s much more difficult to search and see if they have the suites that work for us. My mom spent countless hours finding spaces that would work. She was probably most frustrated by not getting the rooms we reserved in DC and Baltimore. There was a lot of packing and unpacking and moving and that’s a logistical pain when you want to be exploring and doing fun stuff!

The images below show my favorite accessible bathroom from Hampton Inn in Youngstown, OH. This was a great bathroom! The other is our room in Homewood Suites In DC where we asked them to remove the bulky extra chair which they did right away for both of the rooms we stayed in.

ADA is 32 – and no, I’m not bringing my own portable ramp!

I know Philadelphia, Baltimore and DC are old cities. Everyone kept telling me “They can’t be accessible; they are old buildings.” I’m sorry, it’s been 32 years since ADA was passed. In that time, don’t you think an investment in adding a ramp into your restaurant would have more than paid for itself?  We actually had one restaurant tell my dad that it was wheelchair accessible and that we just had to bring our own portable ramp. Really?

We did find some awesome examples of accessible restaurants and breweries in old buildings. So, some have figured out how to welcome everyone in their community.

Rant over! Phew, that was cathartic. Now, I can move on to all the cool stuff that I saw and did on my road trip! Check back in a couple days!

Images below are of some examples of restaurant and stores that are doing it right! Notice the small 1-2 step ramps that have been added. Love City Brewing had a long ramp that all entering used with no steps (banner image). Other favorites included Sound Garden (Baltimore), The Dubliner (DC), Ben’s Chili Bowl (DC), Commissary (DC), and Kramer’s Bookstore (DC)

5 thoughts on “Road trip to DC, Baltimore & Philadelphia Part 1: RANT TIME”

  1. Justin, I love reading your blog. I didn’t realize it has been 34 years since ADA was passed. Wow, we aren’t making a lot of progress. Keep up your incredible advocacy. 👏👏


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