Hotel Accessibility and Its Place in Hotel Design

by | Oct 1, 2020

How important is hotel accessibility? 

In this video, Lesley chats with Sarah Tengler of Impact Vacations about the importance of hotel accessibility and how it fits into the design.

We have discussed before the importance of designing your hotel with your guests in mind, from business travelers to young families.

However, with 5.3 million Canadians alone identifying a need for accessibility, this is something that hoteliers cannot afford to ignore. Hotel accessibility should be on the list of things that hoteliers consider before renovating and a question that is asked of their interior designer of choice

You can also reach out to Sarah Tengler and Impact Vacations by visiting

hotel accessibility
At Lesley Wong Interiors, we believe in designing hotels that can welcome every guest. We have helped hoteliers improve their guest experience with our Guest First Design Strategy.  Reach out using the form below so that we can talk more about your hotel.

Hotel Accessibility - Interview Transcript

Lesley 0:01
Hi, I’m Lesley Wong of Lesley Wong interiors.Please welcome my guest today, Sarah Tangler of Impact Vacation. She’s here to share with us her knowledge and experience in the travel industry. So welcome Sarah.

Sarah 0:17
Lesley, thanks for having me.

Lesley 0:20
Impact Vacations is a specialty service. Please tell us more about what your agency does.

Sarah 0:27
So we’re a travel agency. We booked flights, hotels, cruises, all of the stuff your general travel does. But we take it one step further and customize it for seniors and those with accessibility issues. So everything from physical disabilities, dietary concerns, autism, and more.

Lesley 0:48
Wonderful. So tell me a little bit about you, Sarah, how did you get into this field? And how long have you been doing this?

Sarah 0:57
So I’ve been doing the travel thing for three years. But before that, I was actually a child and youth worker, that’s when I went to school for that’s what I plan to do with my life. I was working with kids with autism and other social developmental and behavioral difficulties, both in one on one private settings, as well as the education system. But traveling has always been my passion. It’s what my family does. It’s what I was brought up with, between my sister and I, we’ve been on every continent. So it’s a big part of our lives and our family. So I wanted to kind of include both in what I wanted to do. And so we started Impact Vacations.

Lesley 1:40
Wonderful. So it really sounds like you love what you do. Is that right?

Sarah 1:45
I love it. It’s a unique area that I love being able to help people enjoy the one part of life that gives me great joy as well.

Lesley 2:01
Yeah, sounds like it. So let’s talk a little bit about your knowledge and experience. What are the top three complaints from your clients? And what differentiates a great hotel say from one that gets a rotten review?

Sarah 2:18
So with accessibility for my clients, it’s basically it’s not a want when they travel, it’s a need. So whether they’re, you know, your grandparents traveling with the family, or somebody who uses a wheelchair, it’s a need to have that access, can they get through the front door? Can they enjoy the amenities? Are there stairs that they will have to climb to get into their room? So for them, specifically, the top three complaints are the bed, the height of the bed, somebody who is using a walker or is in a wheelchair can’t necessarily climb up onto a really high bed. We love those fancy mattresses, but are they realistic?

The second one is in the bathroom. And that’s a major complaint for a lot of people who require access. In the shower, you have a shower seat. I know my grandmother loves to be able to sit down in the shower, and she needs it for her stability. Having that shower seat on one side of the shower. But the controls are all the way on the other side of the wall. How do you reach them? A lot of people want that independence.

And when they encounter that kind of a situation, all of a sudden they need someone to travel with them. And then the third one is the pool. How many times have your parents or your grandparents taken the kids or grandkids on a holiday and the kids go out and play in the pool? But grandma uses a walker and can’t go down the stairs into the pool. Places need to have either a zero entry so that they can slide in or a lift so that they can enjoy the pool with the rest of the family.

Lesley 4:20
Right. So that is great points to speak about. So let’s go a little further than Why should Canadian hotels pay attention to this clientele.

Sarah 4:34
So Canadian hotels really need to look at this for a number of reasons. If we look at stats Canada 5.3 million people in Canada have some kind of disability whether it’s a senior that uses a walker or somebody with a permanent disability that uses a wheelchair on a daily basis or a power chair on a daily basis as well. There’s 180 million people around the world with disabilities, and many of them are going to want to travel to Canada.

Canada is an amazing country to see. So by ensuring the hotels are accessible, they can capture all these people and get them to see Canada. Sorry, Canada had roughly 22 million tourists in 2019. And people with disabilities want to travel, they’re just like everyone else. They want to go out and do things, they want to see things. And so many Canadians don’t see their own country, we have an amazing country with so much to offer.

Lesley 5:44
This is true. Yeah. So I know you said that Canadian hotels were in need of considering accessibility specialists to evaluate their hotel, the rooms and the amenities. Can you speak a little bit more to that?

Sarah 6:00
So Canadian hotels need to consider hiring accessibility specialists to evaluate their hotels, the rooms, the amenities, everything, from start to finish. Somebody who is fully abled doesn’t necessarily understand or can’t fully understand what somebody who uses a walker or somebody who is permanently in a wheelchair, what their needs really are. The AODA, which is the Americans sorry, the AODA which is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act doesn’t fully require places to meet all of the accessibility needs that are out there. And each province has something different, the territories don’t have anything.

So actually, Canada now is working on the Canada Disability Act, which will standardize access across the country. And by hotels, incorporating access into all of their functions, they’re going to be able to draw more people.

Lesley 7:14
Right. Wow. So this is great information. So how have things changed since COVID-19?

Sarah 7:24
Well, people with disabilities are maybe more hesitant to go anywhere. Some people with immune disorders, this pretty much paralyze them in fear of traveling. Cleanliness is now more important than ever, sanitizing. A lot of them are scared that maybe cleaning protocols are not followed. Exactly. I mean, you cleaned down a hotel room, and that’s great. What about what happens if you miss the remote? What’s sitting on that? People with immune disorders can’t afford that.

Lesley 8:03
Mm hmm. Well, Sarah, I feel like this is an important topic to discuss, as many of us have aging parents, and they want to travel, as well as loved ones with specific requirements. Some of the points that you made that I really appreciate, are one, the physical space has to adjust to accommodate equipment like a wheelchair two that there’s a great population with this need, that are not necessarily being catered to. And three that the wisest time to evaluate your property for compliance is either at the building stage or before renovation.

At Lesley Wong Interiors, we use our guests first design strategy, which means all guests, including the elderly, with and those with accessibility needs, can have a wonderful stay at your hotel. With the great information we discussed today, your hotel can be a place that welcomes everyone. Sarah, I really want to thank you very much for sharing your time and knowledge today. How can someone reach out to you and find out more about what you do?

Sarah 9:15
Well, you can visit us at we’re actually in the process of redoing our website, but it gives a whole bunch of ideas for Accessible destinations around the world as well as different types of travel. From there, you can send us an email with what you’re looking to do where you’re hoping to go, or you can give us a call at 1-855-823-4567

Lesley 9:45
That’s great. We’ll put the link in the description below. And if you want to connect with me, Lesley Wong, click on the link in the description. I’d be happy to discuss with you the considerations for your next hotel project. Thanks for watching.


LESLEY WONG, Principal Designer

Lesley is committed to continuously keeping up with ever-changing trends and technology. But as every decorator knows, there’s no greater opportunity for learning than on-the-job experience. Lesley has worked in hospitality, commercial and residential projects and enjoys crafting customized and beautiful environments for her clients.

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