Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

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Sandman Inn Improves Accessibility for Guests with Disabilities

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 3:14 pm on Saturday, October 11, 2008

Accessibility 100A quick update on the accessibility of Castlegar’s Sandman Inn…resulting from a mis-forwarded email (ooops!) regarding my previous post sent to the hotel manager, the following room improvements were in process, as of Friday:

  • New bars (3 in total) have been put into the washroom. Done Oct 7th
  • New moveable shower head is being put in today!
  • Covering for pipes under sink is being put in today!
  • Purchased a tub transfer bench

And, from my understanding, the Sandman is also interested in having SPARC BC (Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia) conduct an accessibility audit.

I would like to add that I did not request permission to post this update. However, I do feel the Sandman Inn deserves acknowledgement for acting promptly in improving the room’s accessibility once they became aware of the issue. If only other establishments would respond as promptly! 

I would welcome the opportunity to interview the hotel manager so that he can share any lessons learned from the process, and I’d gladly post updated room photos to show what improvements have been made.

For change to occur, there needs to be a will for change. The Sandman Inn’s willingness is encouraging.


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to this blog by filling in the form in the upper right corner or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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What Makes a Hotel Room Accessible?

Filed under: Accessibility 100, Living with a disability — by Glenda at 11:47 am on Thursday, October 9, 2008

Accessibility 100 This past weekend I traveled, in my capacity as Board Director and Treasurer, with SPARC BC (Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia) to Castlegar, a small town located in southeastern BC. Following the lessons learned from our trip to Victoria a couple of years ago, where I could barely get into the bathroom of my accessible hotel room, the SPARC staff went trough an extensive accessibility checklist when booking the hotel for our group. SPARC was assured by hotel staff that the Sandman Inn was accessible and that the accessible room had the necessary features. Even when checking in on Friday evening, the front desk staff told us there was a grab bar by the toilet.

Because there were a few stairs up to room wing and the elevator, I had to outside and around to another door to get to my room. That wasn’t too bad in the rain, but would have been a real pain with a foot or more of snow! SPARC staff Alla and Emese went with me just in case…

Toilet with no grab bar

Entering the room…Surprise! No grab bars, no where!

Alla and Emese went back to talk with the front desk lady, who was less than helpful. Then called the hotel manager at home and woke him up. After a brief discussion, he promised to have bars installed the next morning. Meanwhile, I was thankful Mom had taught me to "hang onto the air" when necessary. I managed to do what I had to. 

A shower with an unreachable shower head

Looking around the accessible room, I noticed more glaring accessibility issues. The shower head was hung at a standing level. There was no way I could have reached it. The taps were knobs, rather than levers, making it difficult, if not impossible, for those with minimal manual dexterity to turn on the water.

A bathtub with no grab bar

A shower bench was provided. Actually, initially, the bench was beside the toilet. According to the front desk lady, I was suppose to use that to help me get onto the toilet. Huh? I guess I’m not disabled enough to figure out how to do that. Alla placed the shower bench in the tub (go figure!), mainly to get it out of the way. With no grab bar in the shower and after my adventure in Vegas, I didn’t chance having a shower. (Shh, don’t tell anyone!)

A roll-under sink with exposed pipes

The sink had plenty of clear space underneath for an individual in a wheelchair to roll under. The tap had a great lever handle. However, an individual with limited or no sensation in his/her legs can easily be burned by the pipes when running hot water. That is why exposed pipes must be wrapped in insulation.

The door with a lever handle and a lower peep hole,  but a high door lock

Unlike the bathroom door that had a door knob, the room door had a nice lever handles – levers are much easier to open by individuals with limited hand function. There was even a second peep hole at seated level. (Personally, the lower peep hole has always baffled me. Looking through it, am I suppose to recognize people by their crotch?Anyway, a nice touch.)

But, do you see where the safety lock is? Yes, near the top of the door! I had to stand up to lock the door.

A toilet with a grab bar mounted on the wall

After some assertive advocating by SPARC staff, on my behalf, Room #124 at the Sandman Inn now has one grab bar! Which is a good thing, considering that was the only accessible washroom available during our day long board meeting, but that’s another story.

Thanks SPARC BC!


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to this blog by filling in the form in the upper right corner or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Creating the Celebrity Experience for All Customers

Filed under: Accessibility 100, Virtual Book Tour — by Glenda at 12:36 pm on Saturday, September 27, 2008

Accessibility 100

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Donna Cutting, author of newly released The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service, on her Celebrity Experience Blog Tour. Her book is about providing quality service to all customers. Here she shares her advice when serving customers with disabilities:

The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red-Carpet Customer Service by Donna Cutting When Glenda invited me to write a guest post about providing customer service to people with disabilities, I was honored. Then, I was nervous. While providing a red-carpet customer experience is my area of expertise, I would never presume to call myself an expert on the American Disabilities Act, accessibility, or the various needs of people living with disabilities.

Perhaps that’s why I am the perfect person to write this post! Because even with my years of past experience in the field of elder-care, and working with people who have developmental disabilities, I am smart enough to know that I know very little. My guess is that most service professionals are in the same boat – they may know even less.

Yet, they meet people living with disabilities every day. They’re called customers.

I recall this incident which I wrote about in The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red-Carpet Customer Service:

A few months ago, I was in the airport riding on a shuttle from one concourse to another. The shuttle was full of people, and behind me was a party of three – two airport employees and one woman who was in a wheelchair. One of the employees was apparently escorting the woman in the wheelchair to her gate and like me, they were taking the shuttle to get there. While they rode, the two employees carried on a loud conversation with each other about another employee and how she had refused to ‘do wheelchairs.’ “I’m sick and tired of doing wheelchairs,” one of them said. “Why should I have to do all the wheelchairs when she gets out of it?” “I know,” the other one exclaimed. “I’ve pushed three wheelchairs already today, and I’m just going to refuse from now on.” Wow. I didn’t know what to do, quite frankly. I couldn’t believe they were having this conversation right in front of this woman, without regard to her feelings at all. I looked at the woman in the wheelchair and smiled at her. She smiled back and lifted her shoulders in resignation. I refrained from commenting, thinking the woman had already been embarrassed enough. But I wonder if I made a mistake. Someone should have called those young women on their behavior.

Here’s what I think Managers can do to ensure that EVERYONE – including those living with disabilities – gets red-carpet treatment from their employees.

  1. Hire people who have the sensitivity to treat people with kindness. If someone is going to be serving your customers, kindness should be in the job description.
  2. Learn everything you can about the American Disabilities Act and accessibility laws. Ensure that everyone on your team has this information. Learn how to reframe your language when discussing people who have disabilities. For instance, that airport employee wasn’t “doing wheelchairs.” She was escorting a PERSON who uses a wheelchair.
  3. Provide exceptional, ongoing training on the needs of your customers living with disabilities – to ensure that they are given red-carpet treatment – and that their unique needs are met with their dignity intact.
  4. Hold your team accountable for their actions! Do not tolerate employees who treat unkindly, condescendingly, or without dignity.

©2008, Donna Cutting

Portions of this blog post are excerpted from The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service (Wiley, 2008) by Donna Cutting. Used by permission only.

This book excerpt was part of a blog tour brought to you by Key Business Partners.

Yesterday, the blog tour stopped at these locations:

Today, this is celebrated also at these blogs:

And tomorrow, it will continue to be celebrated at these blogs:

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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What is Accessibility?

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 1:29 pm on Monday, August 25, 2008

Accessibility 100

In the Accessibility 100 series, I have been sharing practical tips for increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. But, what is accessibility, really?

To me, accessibility is much more than building codes and checklists. It is also very much about the human factor and the intangible. I’ve developed an acrostic (still pretty much a draft) for ACCESSIBILITY:

AAccepting attitudes: Without acceptance of people with disabilities, accessibility is pointless.

CCreativity: Finding an accessible solution oftentimes requires thinking outside of the box.

CCitizenship: Accessibility enables an individual to be a participating member of a community.

EEncompassing: Accessibility encompasses all facets of life.

SSociety’s values:The level of accessibility, in terms of physical access and acceptance, reflects how a society values its citizens with disabilities.

SSuccess: When I can get where I need to go and do what I need to do, that is definitely a success!

IIncreases independence: There is so much I can do myself because of accessibility.

BBelonging: When I can physically get somewhere, I have a sense I belong there.

IInitiative: Accessibility doesn’t merely happen. It takes effort and commitment. It requires initiative.

LLiving life: The higher the degree of accessibility, the more able I am to live my life as fully as possible.

IInteraction: Accessible buildings, accessible services and accepting attitudes enable greater interaction among people, all people.

TTeamwork: For a place of business or an organization to be accessible, it requires a commitment from every level. Accessibility entails communication and teamwork.

YYou: Accessibility actually begins with you: you welcoming me, you keeping aisles clear, you installing a grab bar or automatic door opener, you approving the budget, you launching an accessibility improvement project, you holding the door open. You make accessibility possible. Thank you.

What does accessibility mean to you?


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to this blog by filling in the form in the upper right corner or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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A Checklist for Planning an Accessible Event

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 2:36 pm on Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Accessibility 100

Whether planning a meeting, workshop or multi-day conference, your goal, no doubt, is to assist all participants, including those with disabilities, to feel welcomed and able to fully participate in the event

This checklist is intended as a starting point in planning an accessible event, which likely requires more than ramps and wheelchair washrooms. The key is to consider every aspect of the event and what barriers a person with a disability – whether it be physical, mobility, hearing, sight, or cognitive – might face, and how you can eliminate or minimize those barriers to ensure all participants feel welcomed.

 Event Information

Welcoming people with disabilities begins with the event information by informing participants how to request a disability-related accommodation. The process for requesting an accommodation will depend upon the nature of the event. For an informal gathering, a quick e-mail or instant message ensuring the venue is accessible may suffice. For a more structured event, the information should include:

  • Who the request should be made to (person or office)
  • How a person can request an accommodation (phone, fax, TTY or e-mail)
  • By when the request should be made (date, usually at least one week in advance of the event)

Stanford University’s Diversity & Access Office provides the following sample to use in your event announcement and information:

Disability Accommodations and Services:
If you need a disability-related accommodation or wheelchair access information, please contact ____________ (name or office), at ph: _________, fax:________, or e-mail ____________. Requests should be made by _____________(date, at least one week in advance of the event).

Remember to inquire what, if any, accommodations your organizing team also require.

Also, promoting a scent-free practice for the event will increase the comfort level for those participants with chemical sensitivities.

 Physical Access

Ideally, all venues would be appropriately accessible for everyone to be able to use. However, reality dictates that is not necessarily the case. For smaller venues in less populated areas, creativity may be required to obtain an adequate level of accessibility.

The basic points to consider:

  • Can individuals using wheelchairs and other mobility devices get into the building?
  • Is wheelchair parking available near the wheelchair entrance?
  • Is there a wheelchair washroom?
  • Are hallways and doorways wide enough (a minimum of 36" or 91.5cm) for people using wheelchairs to navigate?
  • Are there visual fire alarms? If not, inquire about the facility’s evacuation plan or create your own.
  • If the event will be held on an upper floor, is there an elevator large enough for a wheelchair or scooter?

 Signage

Navigating an unfamiliar venue for the first time can be disorienting and even frustrating. Clear and legible, preferably high contrast, signage assists in pointing people in the right direction.

  • Ensure that the signs for the street address or building name are clearly visible from the street.
  • If the wheelchair accessible entrance is not the main entrance, place a sign at the main entrance pointing to the wheelchair entrance.
  • Post clear and easy-to-read signs showing locations of accessible washrooms, elevators, phones, etc.

 Room Setup

Equally important as the venue’s accessibility is the room setup. Some points to keep in mind:

  • Are all meeting rooms wheelchair accessible?
  • Is there room for wheelchairs, scooters and service dogs?
  • When a room does not have fixed seats, remove chairs so that  wheelchair locations are integrated with other seating areas. (i.e., chairs removed should be interspersed – front, middle, back, sides of room, etc).
  • If a presenter uses a wheelchair or other mobility device, ensure there is a ramp up to the stage and that the lectern is adjustable. Ideally, all of the stages and speaking areas, including lectern or podium are accessible to wheelchair and scooter users.
  • Ensure that there is a well-lit space provided for the sign language interpreter when interpreters will be present.
  • Check for noise levels (ventilation systems, noise from adjacent rooms etc.) which may be distracting.
  • Check to see that the meeting room has appropriate requirements (drapes, blinds, etc.) to provide reduction of light or glare from windows.
  • Covers should be used over electrical cables or cords that must cross over aisles or pathways. Cable covers should be no more than 1/2" thick in order for wheelchairs to traverse across them.

 Session Content

Once the participants are comfortably in the room, the session’s content also needs to be accessible. Here is where having accommodation requests from the participants beforehand assists in preparing any materials and in preparing the presenters.

  • Some people with visual impairments and other kinds of disabilities require the size of type print to be enlarged. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind provides the following guidelines for when creating large-print content:
    • Use Arial or other plain, sans serif fonts.
    • Font size should be at least 14 point.
    • Large-print fonts range from 16-20 point.
    • Material should be printed in black ink on white paper.
    • Print on non-glossy paper to avoid glare.
  • Encourage presenters to verbally describe contents of videos, or any written materials, including PowerPoint slides and whiteboard notes. (Creating accessible PowerPoint presentations will be covered in a future Accessibility 100 post.)
  • Encourage presenters to use captioned videos, where possible. Otherwise, provide an alternate means for participants who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • During video and slide presentations, offer to have someone sit beside an individual with visual impairment to describe the scene, people and action as it happens without interfering with already existing narrative.
  • If requested, provide sign language interpreters. See how can I hire an interpreter for more information.

 Refreshment and Dietary Considerations

When refreshments or meals are being provided, consider:

  • Where beverages are being served, bendable straws and lightweight cups should be made available within easy reach of individuals in wheelchairs or scooters.
  • Provide non-sugar (dietary) beverages, juices and water for people with dietary concerns such as diabetes.
  • Self-serve meals or buffets may present obstacles for some people who are visually impaired or people with a physical disability. Well-trained catering service staff can provide assistance to participants who require additional help. If catering staff is not present, ensure that someone is assigned to assist those who need help getting food.
  • Check to make sure that an alternative to pastries and cookies, such as fruits or vegetables, are available for people with dietary concerns.
  • Provide an opportunity for participants to indicate their dietary needs on any registration form or invitation to an event where meals are being served.

 Transportation

If transportation is being provided for an off-venue trip, is it wheelchair accessible? Or, have alternative arrangements been made?

 Staff Training

An enlightened and helpful staff can be invaluable during the event. Ensure the staff has received disability awareness and creatively solve unusual problems. They may be asked for the nearest wheelchair repair shop or the nearest veterinary (for service animals). They may need to know the location of the TTY (teletypewriter for those with hearing or speech impairments). Or, they may be asked for a water bowl for an assistance dog or where dogs can be taken to do their business.

 Additional Resources


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to this blog by filling in the form in the upper right corner or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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