Everybody enjoys a good vacation whether it’s fun in the sun, an off-the-grid escape, or sightseeing in a big city. No matter the type of relaxation you seek, everyone is entitled to exactly that. So what do you do when some guests need certain accommodations to enjoy your vacation rental?
Fortunately, the travel industry is waking up to the growing need for more accessible travel options. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Figures from Cornell University’s DisabilityStatistics.org show that around 12.8% of the US population has a disability. That adds up to over 42 million people who may experience issues when it comes to travel.
Making your short-term rental accessible to everyone is imperative for the guest experience, safety, everything, really! If you feel like your property isn’t currently up to standard, take a look and see what you could change or modify to make your stay more inclusive for all guests.
Even when you’re on board with making the modifications, it might be difficult to know what needs to be changed. Start with a walk-through home inspection and think thoroughly about what could be limiting. Are there narrow walkways, hard-to-reach spaces, or places of the home that are only accessible by stairs? This is a good place to start when thinking about how to increase accessibility in your home.
We’ve outlined some key areas for accessibility below, but remember that one size fits one. A single-story, ranch-style house will require different accommodations than a city loft or mountain cabin.
When an entryway isn’t disability-friendly, you risk damaging the guest experience. If it’s hard to come in and out of your home, you’re setting your guests up for a negative experience from the very beginning of the stay. There’s a number of things you can do to make this fix. Here are some ideas:
Install a ramp at the doorstep. If it’s not possible at the front entrance, add a ramp at another entry point and make it known to guests where the access is located before their stay.
Remove any divots or dips at the doorway that might make it difficult to enter.
Lower the peephole or add another one. Having a viewpoint for guests in wheelchairs for when someone rings the doorbell is crucial.
Handicap accessible parking
If your property doesn’t offer parking, make it clear in your communications prior to the guests’ arrival. Outline any alternative options, places for drop-off, or transportation arrangements.
If you do offer parking, see if it’s possible to expand the space to make it handicap accessible. Handicap parking should be wide enough for a ramp or lift to deploy. Additionally, this space should include a clearly marked aisle on the side. Once your parking meets these standards, you’ll need to have the space painted to clearly indicate that the space is reserved for guests with disabilities.
Dimensions of hallways and doors
To maximize the quality of a guest’s stay, you’ll need to make sure that all the rooms are as accessible as possible. The standard size of a wheelchair is 25 inches wide. To accommodate this, you’ll want to widen your doorframe to at least 35 inches for comfort.
Additionally, make sure that all door handles are at a lower accessibility point and are easy to find and maneuver.
There are a number of modifications you can make for your bathroom to be more accessible. This is a crucial area of the house so having your bathrooms be fully usable for all will ensure a quality stay. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
Walk-in Tubs with bath seats or a handicapped-accessible shower
Hand grips and grab bars
Easy to reach outlets
Again, modifications will largely depend on your space and what accessibility measures you’ve already implemented.
For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s a place to share meals, plan your day over the breakfast bar, or just simply hang out. This should be shared and enjoyed by all guests so it’s up to you to make that possible. What’s the height of your appliances, table-tops, counter spaces, or fridge handles? Are there any jagged edges or hidden obstructions that could be dangerous for guests in wheelchairs or those who have visual impairments? Consider what tools and appliances need to be within reach for all.
What are the advantages of accessible vacation rentals?
There are always upfront costs associated with renovating, repairing, and improving properties, but these initial expenses are well worth the value that they’ll bring. Investing in accessibility is no exception. When you modify your vacation rental property to make it more accommodating, you’ll gain many benefits from these adjustments.
Airbnb’s in-home accessibility product manager, Srin Madipalli, lays out the facts on why it’s a smart move for vacation rental owners to adapt their property for disabled travelers.
There’s a market for it
Statistics show that over one billion people (or over 15% of the world’s population) experience some form of disability.
“Everyone, no matter what their needs are, deserves to have an amazing experience when they travel and to have peace of mind that they will be welcomed and accommodated,” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.
Whether you upgrade your vacation rental to be more suitable for wheelchair users or simply make it clear on your website that service animals are welcome in your home, you could potentially tap into a huge market of travelers with disabilities.
Get an edge over the competition
There are thousands and thousands of vacation rentals worldwide, but surprisingly few offer accessible rooms and a bathroom that are suitable for disabled and elderly people.
“It’s one of the reasons I set up the website Accomable [which was acquired by Airbnb in 2017] – because it was so difficult to find accessible accommodation online I could trust,” said Madipalli.
With this in mind, if you could adapt one or two rooms in your rental, you’d be able to offer something your rivals can’t – you’d have a new unique selling point.
Accessible rooms can be stylish
For anybody who has ever used an accessible bathroom at the airport or a shopping mall, you’ll know that disabled adaptations can look boring and clinical. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
For bathrooms, many rental owners already offer stylish, spacious wet rooms which a wheelchair can roll into. Specialist equipment like bathroom ‘grab rails’ can be attached and removed as and when you need them. That means if one guest is disabled but the next is not, then you can simply remove the equipment when not in use.
Besides this, a number of alternative accommodation types such as eco-lodges and yurts for glamping are already, by their very nature, accessible. What’s more, they can be inspiringly comfortable, modern and stylish.
Of course, it’s not possible for everyone. But if you have step-free access to your main entrance, at least one accessible bedroom and bathroom, plus wide enough doorways – you might be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to adapt your rental, welcome a disabled traveler and fill your rooms.
It’s a great opportunity to add accessible gadgets
“We’ve seen properties in the Peak District offering Boma 7 off-road wheelchairs, for example, which can enable you to get off the tarmac and explore the rugged dales. We’ve seen timber cabins with accessible hot tubs and cleverly integrated track hoists. We’ve even seen canal barges which have special adaptations for up to three wheelchair users,” he adds.
The mere existence of these high-tech home additions shows there is a real need for the accommodation industry to take accessible travel seriously. By offering such features in your home, you can help guests with disabilities have the best possible experience on vacation.
How to list your vacation rental as handicap accessible
Having your home be a safe and friendly place for travelers with disabilities is really something to brag about! If you’ve made your home accessible, now’s the time to make it known to your guests. Each OTA (online travel agency) has its own way of informing guests about accessibility. Here you’ll find how to get your vacation home listed as an accessible accommodation on these sites.
This platform has added 21 filters for listings with accessibility features. Some of the categories include: entering the home, getting around, common areas, and the bathroom. If your property has these features, let guests know! In the same place that you add your amenities and accommodations, you’ll find these accessibility features.
This major OTA has a Top 50 list for each state’s best wheelchair-accessible vacation rental. It’s great visibility for your property, but a competitive list to get on. If you want to make the cut, you’ll have to position your property accordingly. Vrbo’s accessibility features are a bit vaguer, in that you’d only list your vacation rental as “wheelchair accessible.” There are two other subcategories labeled “suitability” and “notes” where you can provide more details on the type of accessibility.
Booking has made an excellent list of choices to show just how accessible your property is. You can easily specify the types of modifications made and in what areas of the house.
The world is your oyster when it comes to your vacation rental website! The beauty of having your own page is that you can customize it and highlight what you deem as important. Get creative with how you advertise accessibility by putting reviews that brag on your accommodating vacation rental at the top of the page or adding in a virtual tour tab that shows the widened door frames and ramp entrance.
Follow the path of the other OTAs by listing accessibility in the features and amenities, put your own spin on it by adding a separate tab for accessibility, or demonstrating this however you’d like.
“Plenty of opportunities exist for property managers to appeal to this underserved market, such as incorporating braille, installing strobing fire alarms for the hearing-impaired, and having someone on staff available to assist the families of guests with Alzheimer’s,” said Alexa Nota, vice president of VRM Intel.
Luckily, Lodgify has tools and features that make these accommodations easier. If you have employees that provide assistance for guests, you can manage salaries, assign jobs, and send messages with our property management tools. Need to adjust the check-out window for guests that need more time finishing their vacations? Our fully-synced, real-time calendar will take care of it.
Are you ready to give Lodgify a try to step up your vacation rental business and increase bookings? Sign up for the 7-day free trial today. It won’t disappoint!
Srin Madipalli is the former CEO of Accomable, which was acquired by Airbnb in 2017. He is now product manager at Airbnb, leading efforts to ensure that travel is made accessible to millions of people around the world.
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