Nervous about an ADA call today

5 replies [Last post]
PhineasSwann's picture

Got a little nervous just now about a call I received from a guest looking for a place to stay during their honeymoon. 

Said they found our place online and that said we were "ADA accessible." We never advertise ourself as such, although we do have a page called "Accessibility" that details that were are a 140-year-old inn, and outlines rooms and areas and how they have some limited accessibility. It mentions that our website is ADA compliant (to ward off lawsuits), but is clear and candid of how easy it is to get around our Victorian home. 

The caller said her fiancé was in a wheelchair and wanted to know about our rooms and what they had. I detailed our most accessible room was on the first floor with a single-step from the parking lot to the room, that it had a roll-in shower and that the doorways were 36 inches wide, but because the bed was a good 3-feet off the floor it wouldn't technically qualify as an ADA room. 

She asked me if we could put in a ramp, mentioned the specs needed, and even at one point in the conversation mentioned the state organization that reviewed businesses to gauge ADA compliance. 

She might have been genuine in her call, but in this overly-litigious age and with so many lawyers smelling quick $$$ through ADA lawsuits, my spider-senses were going off like crazy. 

I looked up an ADA checklist, and googled some law firms to discover that the concept of being "grandfathered" in is really a myth. So now I'll spend the rest of the day in a paranoic funk. 



Innkeeper & Owner


Tom's picture

Ok, one of my subjects, so I'll chime in.  First off, we designed and built the Inn as a B&B and although at 5 rooms we are NOT required to meet ADA, I used the ADA Guidelines as a design good practice and figured it would help DW and me as we aged.  We focused on mobility accessibility: door width, door swing clearance, steps (we are 3 stories and have an elevator).  We have a few disabled guests, but frankly, most disabled people don't look for B&B because they can't trust them.  Guests like what we did even if they're not strictly disabled, as with knee replacements, arthritis, and it helps with moving luggage.

But here's what convinced me when I was designing the Inn: The County building guy who helped me permit my first structure is restricted to a wheel chair. Great guy, helped with a lot of first time confusion.  Some time later I'm siting in my car, in a parking lot outside an Office store where I had just shopped.  I see building guy pull up, swing around in his seat, pop out a folding wheelchair, set it up and slide in, very smooth.  He scooted around to where he expected the curb cut to be and found it blocked by an illegally parked car.  All of a sudden he was stuck.  There were plenty of places I could have stepped up and gone inside, but that 6 inches of concrete might have been the China Wall to him.  He had to wheel down the parking lot to find another way to get in.

So we Americans live in a litigious society, but little barriers can actually have a big impact on people's lives -- the principle behind litigation is a grievance.  Given how B&B are famous for funky old spaces, it makes sense for bride to ask you.  Happens here and I go into detail about what we can accommodate and what not.  Solves problems.  As a practical matter, much depends on degree of upper body strength to use shower, toilet. 

It is important to try, to make a reasonable accommodation for disabilities, and to do it in good faith, and preferably with some outside, expert advice.  If someone is inclined to sue, your efforts to comply will be dissuasive.

Get a ramp with correct slope and surface.  Clear 18 inches away from the door jam where it swings inward.  Have at least one bedroom with a bed at a reasonable height (frankly, lots of people are uncomfortable in a 3 foot high bed).  Lever door handle, sanitize-able seat for shower, grab bar at toilet, bathroom with less clutter so someone can turn around.  Older guests will appreciate all of this.

I'll close the sermon with another anecdote.  To provide for grab bars I put 2 x 12 blocking between studs at 36 inch above floor to screw into.  In one room, the blocking didn't extend far enough to put a grab bar out front along side (did have one in back).  I had a very overweight guest who got stuck on the toilet, meaning she didn't have the strength to get up and was too fat and too heavy to be able to lean forward to get her weight over her feet, lacking anything to grab onto to pull forward.  Fortunately for me (it would have been my job) she called her sister who was also staying with us to help her off.  I learned of this because she began using the public powder room (full accessible).  I was embarrassed that I had put her in an embarrassing situation.  When she was gone for the day I went into the adjacent closet, ripped out a 48 inch strip of sheet rock on the other side of the bathroom, installed the missing blocking and put in a sturdy grab bar.   She was touched.  And I repaired the sheet rock.

gillumhouse's picture

It is not just wheelchairs. Himself was on 2 crutches courtesy of post-polio syndrome. At times a 1-inch was an effort for him, 2-inches impossible.

AsI have gotten ancient, I have discovered I want a grab bar at the bathtub to steady myself as I exit the shower. Going from slick tub to slick floor with wet feet is something to be nervous about.

OnTheShore's picture

Last year, we renovated one of our cottages (specifically the bathroom) to be "hopefully wheel-chair friendly" but specifically state that "it is not fully ADA compliant."

We had our first wheel-chair guest a couple of weeks ago, and they were quite happy with it (and wrote so in their Air review), but then they were from the UK, not the USA....

ETA -- I agree with Seashanty that it could be worthwhile (at least for you peace of mind) to investigate how you could ramp that one step (maybe a removable ramp to put in as needed), and maybe replace the bed with a lower one, in order to become more compliant.



"where even time relaxes...."


Arks's picture

OnTheShore wrote:

...maybe a removable ramp to put in as needed...

Yes. Just make sure it's the right length so the rise isn't too steep, and that it's well secured so it stays put when they're using it. These people sure sound like they're looking for things to complain about. Good luck!


All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel. ~ Mark Twain


seashanty's picture


My quick answer to those questions would be 'Yes, we can accommodate you.'

I got a ramp for under $50 ... for the rise you need, at just one step, it is not expensive. The more steps, the more complex, with additional feet needed and turns. We actually got a metal one for my son's aging Mastiff to climb four steps ... and later built a nicer one. For your place, I'm sure you can make it look good or pull up the temporary metal one as needed ... and it will be easier for people to bring in luggage, also people with canes and knee/hip issues. You can find them online ... look for an ADA threshold ramp.

As for the bed, a simple adjustable bed frame low enough to the floor with the mattress and box spring and you should be good to go. If you have a nice headboard, you can put your headboard there, fastened to the wall if need be. 

I've walked around with a yard stick to be sure we had sufficient space between tables, etc. One place was a surprise ... just inside the front door we had a hall tree and a small table that posed a problem when accessing the one 'accessible room'. Also, we had a door threshold removed from a few places that caused people to stumble or chairs to get stuck ... just that inch or so had to go. Required a 'sweep' under the bedroom door to keep light out. 

I'm sorry about the litigious bit. It's ridiculous that people act that way. But you are wise to be proactive. 



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.