Secrets of Hotel Stays as a Blind Person
Several years ago, a blind acquaintance of mine was attending a convention in a large metropolitan city. He was late arriving at his hotel, checked into his room, and, exhausted after a long day, thought he’d relax by taking a hot shower. After exiting the shower, still naked, he unpacked, reviewed the convention program, and returned several phone calls before getting dressed for dinner.
The only problem (and this is a true story) was that the curtains in the room were completely open during this exhibition. The room overlooked a large indoor pool which was crowded with other guests eating dinner and drinking at the bar. The hotel did not advertise floor shows, but the people at poolside got one anyway.
While this is the most extreme example of the kind of unique problems a visually-impaired guest might have staying in a hotel, it does suggest that there are some special things to consider.
While the following list is lengthy, none of this stuff is difficult.
Don’t forget to give some thought to where you’re going to stay. In addition to the usual things that people consider before making a reservation, there are a couple of things that might be of more importance for visually-impaired guests.
1. How large is the hotel? My normal preference, all other things being equal, is for a smaller hotel; it just makes getting around easier.
2. Can you eat in the hotel? Of course, you’ll be paying hotel prices and may need to take out a second mortgage, but there are times the convenience is worth the trade-off. Hint: In really large hotels that are hosting conventions, I often prefer the sports bar. I’m willing to sacrifice menu selection for not having to fight the crowd of conventioneers that gravitate to the fine eateries. After all, the food is probably coming out of the same kitchen.
3. Are there restaurants nearby? If the hotel staff tells you yes, be sure and ask for details. “Close” has a different meaning for the person driving a car than it does for the person walking, to say nothing of the freeway that might be between the hotel and the restaurant across the street.
Be sure to mark the room key so that you can tell the top from the bottom and the front from the back. The easiest way to do this is to ask the clerk to do it with a piece of Scotch tape when you are checking in. This failing, bend the card about three-quarters of the way back in whatever way you prefer to help you remember how the card should be configured to enter your room. Doing this won’t affect how the card functions.
Get a bellman. If you’re in a large hotel, the additional expense is worth it to have someone who can quickly and dependably help you get oriented to your room and the surrounding environment.
If you can’t read Braille and don’t have enough vision to read the number on your room, wind a rubber band around the door handle. This is what blind people did for decades before the ADA forced hotels to use Braille signage.
Ask the bellman the following questions before you tip them:
1. Where is the heating and air conditioning and how does it work;
2. How do you reach the operator and call room-to-room;
3. How can you distinguish the front and back of the “do not disturb” placard;
4. Where are the electrical outlets;
5. Where is the WiFi;
6. Which bottles are the shampoo, hair conditioner, etc. in the bathroom. You only have to gargle once with the shampoo to realize why this is important;
7. Where is the emergency exit; and
8. Where are the soft drink and ice machines?
Don’t be reluctant to ask clarifying questions. After all, they’re working for a tip so get all of your questions answered before money changes hands. You don’t need to tip as though you were a Mafia don, but it is important to remember that the bellman is providing a little extra service.
Be sure you’re familiar with the route back to the elevator.
Remember housekeeping may rearrange things. For this reason, it’s a good idea to put your possessions out of the way in the closet, in your luggage, or in desk drawers.
Keep a checklist of what you’ve packed in your luggage. There are two reasons for this. First, it ensures you haven’t forgotten anything when you get to the hotel and won’t have to pay the extortionate price for a replacement from the hotel’s gift shop. Second, it makes it easy to quickly pack when leaving and be certain you haven’t forgotten anything. Incidentally, saving this list in your luggage is a great time-saver when you have to pack for your next trip.
In large hotels, using a bellman when checking-out can simplify everything. This is not absolutely essential, but, especially when there is a lot of congestion in the lobby, you can save time and stress. Again, it boils down to whether the cost is worth saving the additional aggravation.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep the drapes closed! Beware of those pesky people in housekeeping. They will almost certainly open them every time they’re in the room so be sure to check. It’s guaranteed the hotel won’t be paying you for providing a floorshow, so you don’t want to provide one for free.