I am sensitive to the words “inclusion”, and “accessibility” more than ever now, as I navigate through life with a sister who has a disability, and a mother who recently passed away and was also a PWD’s (person with disabilities). They have been elevated to popular buzzwords to attract metrics, but they have deeper meanings for my family and I. Just like the millions of people living with or are caregivers to persons with disabilities we are sometimes regulated to a forgotten scale in the various marketing schematics. So, I throw on my cloak of polite tolerance of other individuals and groups that unwittingly and yes, sometimes purposely impose their own misguided perceptions of disability on us from a first encounter. It is an intangible battle of insight and awareness that as family members and caregivers of PWD’s, we tackle each day in the hopes of chiseling down barriers that surround even the most basic of socially expected activities.
For this blog, I venture down the path of inclusion and accessibility into the realm of one such expected activity…accessible hotel accommodations. We all want a great room when we travel and to have one that exceeds our expectations and takes us beyond a normal hotel experience, is even better when coupled with a name that conjures up indelible hospitality memories in an inviting and welcoming space.
For my family, this is Marriott.
My sisters and I took a trip with our mom about a year before she passed, realizing her days of clarity were fading away at a pace we were finding difficult to accept.
We charted a random destination from our home in North Myrtle Beach, but reserved rooms along the way at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The trip was not uneventful, it was a drive filled with questions from our mother , who, in addition to being stricken with dementia, was also confined to a wheelchair after having been paralyzed from a severe stroke years before. She was antsy, fumbling with her seatbelt and trying the handle on the passenger car door like a wayward child intent on just getting out.
“Now where are we going?” she asked like a regimented soldier on patrol every fifteen minutes. As soon as the answers we gave disappeared inside her diminishing mind, she was at it again.
We calmly replied each time it was a vacation day, no need to explain we were just going anywhere, away from her normal routine, but towards a memory we were waiting to embrace…our last trip together. We hoped our stay at the Residence Inn would help dispel her anxieties with its homey interior and relaxing colors that invoked images of a tropical style, much like our own home.
When we arrived it was early afternoon. The front desk associate, Sandy, was extremely nice and knowledgeable about the features of our mobility accessible room. We spoke for a few minutes after our check-in was completed and she shared with us of her own mother’s battle with dementia. The connection she sparked with my sisters and I made the process of navigating through the hotel and into the town much easier. Yes, you can argue it was still two Marriott associates keeping the values of our company’s founder in the forefront, but it was also very clearly the unique experiences of our moms that created camaraderie amongst our group.
Sandy explained how the carpet in the hallway was at the right thickness to easily push the wheel chair from the lobby to our rooms. Once inside, we were not only pleased with the size of the room, but more importantly with the space around the furniture, making our wheelchair movements easy to manage. The bed was at a level that allowed us to transfer mom from her to the bed without any trouble. My favorite was the bathroom with the 32 inch wide opening and spacious shower seat with a long handled shower that made bath time less of a hassle. We admitted the layout was something we could all get used to, the accessible rooms truly made a great case for universal design.
Our time there was enjoyable; Mama eventually relaxed and asked to linger in the dining area to enjoy the Palmetto tree pictures on the walls. The sleek wooden floors were again an easy navigation for the wheelchair and added to the air of inclusion for our family.
We were only there for two days but we all remember it with fondness. The associates were friendly, the location an easy exit off Hwy.17, and the southern charm radiating from the property made our journey feel like a visit with family. One of the takeaways for me was this; I wish the policies and guideline rules of the ADA (American Disabilities Act), in regard to accommodations, were instilled to feel more like honors than instructional laws to comply with, then our struggles to obtain inclusivity and accessibility that benefits all would feel less like a barrier and more naturally accepted.