There is Room at the Inn
Inns and B&Bs for Wheelers and Slow Walkers

Author Q & As

Q: In your book, There is Room at the Inn, you cover inns and B&Bs for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. What led you to address this topic? I mean, it just seems that most B&Bs would not be accessible.

Harrington: To be honest, that’s what led me to write the book; because most people don’t think that inns or B&Bs are wheelchair-accessible. The book actually evolved from my very popular InnSider column in Emerging Horizons. For every property I featured in that column, I had several others I wanted to include, but I just didn’t have the room. And since I’m on the road about 30 percent of the time, I keep finding more and more properties. I expect at this rate, there will probably be a second edition of There is Room at the Inn.

Q: You specifically mention “slow walkers” in the subtitle of your book. Can you tell me what a slow walker is, and how they are addressed in the book?

Harrington: I actually used that phrase in the subtitle of my first book too, mostly because I felt the term “wheelchair-user” was too restrictive. A lot of people have a mobility disability, but they don’t use a wheelchair or they don’t use one full time. Some folks just walk slow and have to sit down and rest often, while others use a cane or a walker. And then there are those people who can walk a little but need a wheelchair or scooter for distance. All of these people are what I consider slow walkers.

In all of my work, I describe the access so my readers can make appropriate choices. I don’t just state that something is or isn’t accessible, because what is accessible to one person may present some serious obstacles to the next.

For example, in There is Room at the Inn, I also featured some properties with ground floor rooms that lack fully adapted bathrooms. Although these rooms don’t have roll-in showers or raised toilets, they have wide doorways and no steps, so they will work for folks who just need good pathway access. Basically I tried to include a lot of information so people would have choices.

Q: You mention that you include information for innkeepers too. Can you elaborate a little bit on this?

Harrington: I talked to a lot of innkeepers over the course of my research for this book; and I quickly learned that most really didn’t have much of an idea about how to market their access. I mean, what’s the use of having an accessible guest room if nobody knows you have it? I even gave a presentation at the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) about this topic.

So when I put the book together I decided it would be helpful to have a little information for innkeepers, just to give them some insight on this market. I decided the best way to do this was to let them know why some properties were included, while others were left out. It’s not a all-inclusive marketing guide by any means, but I think the insight will be a helpful first step for many innkeepers.

Q: How did you find all of the properties in your book? How long did it take to do the research?

Harrington: Once I decided to write the book, it took me over three years to do the research; however I’ve actually been researching accessible inns and B&Bs since I started writing my InnSider column in 1997. I got a lot of suggestions from Emerging Horizons’ readers and from public relations professionals, however I stumbled across many properties on my own. Whenever I was on the road, I looked for properties to include. I even remember driving down the road one time and spotting a property that I thought looked nice, so I stopped to see if it was accessible. To my great surprise, it was.

Although there are 117 properties included in There is Room at the Inn, I interviewed over 700 innkeepers while I was researching the book. To be honest, I lost track at how many inns I visited. In the end, I guess you’d have to say that I really pounded the pavement in my search for accessible properties.

Q: What was your criteria for the properties that you included in the book?

Harrington: The properties included in the book have the right combination of physical and attitudinal access. As far a physical access goes, my basic requirement was that a person in a wheelchair had to be able to get in the door, get in the guest room and use the bathroom. That said, I also realize that there are many bathroom preferences, so some properties that I’ve included have a tub/shower combination, some have a roll-in shower and some even have a low-step shower that can accommodate a shower chair. Again, my goal is to describe the access so my readers can make appropriate choices.

Attitudinal access (the innkeeper’s attitude) also played an important role in property selection. People want to go where they feel welcome, not merely accommodated, so I looked for innkeepers who had a genuine understanding of access issues. I happened across several innkeepers who had very accessible properties, however they said they only wanted to attract guests that “weren’t too disabled”. Those properties were of course not included in the book. I spent just as much time interviewing innkeepers as I did measuring toilets.

Q: Can you give me an example of a property that did not meet your standards for inclusion?

Harrington: There are two properties that really stand out in my mind. In both cases the innkeepers told me that their inns had a very high level of access and that wheelchair-users could easily access all areas.

The first property had good access to the public areas, but the bathroom in the accessible guest room had a Victorian claw foot tub. Worse yet, the innkeeper kept telling me it was accessible because that’s what his friend (who uses a wheelchair) recommended when he built the inn. It’s kind of sad because the innkeeper still advertises this property as “wheelchair-accessible”. I expect a lot of guests are disappointed.

The other innkeeper told me that the accessible guest room was located in a cottage behind the main house, but there was ramp access to it. He had a different definition of a ramp that I did, as there were two wobbly two-by-fours leading up to the entrance.

I did not include either property in There is Room at the Inn, for obvious reasons!

Q: What is your favorite property that you’ve included in the book (and why)?

Harrington: Well, I have a lot of favorites, but one property that I particularly enjoyed visiting was The Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg, Ohio. Even though this property is located in the heart of Amish country, it’s far from your typical Amish inn. I guess that’s why I really liked it so much -- because it was such a surprise.

The inn is located in the middle of a 60-acre parcel and the architecture of the main building is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work; clean contemporary lines blended into a natural setting. Of course the innkeeper went above-and-beyond as far as access is concerned, and the staff is really helpful. And the inn has a great restaurant; again not your typical Amish food. It’s just a very accessible property in a beautiful setting. It’s particularly scenic in the fall.

Q: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you while you were researching your book?

Well we certainly got lost more than a few times, got locked out and couldn’t figure out how to work the heater or the shower. At one property we couldn’t even figure out how to flush the toilet. These are pretty typical occurrences that happen when you visit a lot of inns, and you just have to laugh at them. And we did laugh a lot.

But there was one property that gave me an extra chuckle. It was an older property and our guest room had a bathroom door with antique hardware. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the lock was on the outside of the bathroom door. The only thing that I could figure was that the door once led to an outside hall, where there probably was a community bathroom.

In any case, instead of just telling Charles about this, I waited until he went in for a shower to share the news with him. Imagine his surprise when I locked him in the bathroom. We had a good laugh about it -- after I finally let him out. The innkeeper had a good chuckle too, although she later told me that her husband changed the hardware.

Q: What was the most difficult part about researching this book?

Harrington: Well the sheer volume of the research was pretty taxing, however there was one thing that made things more difficult. Soon after I began my research I discovered that many innkeepers had wonderfully accessible guest rooms, yet made absolutely no mention of them on their websites or in their brochures. So that meant I had to contact more inns just to find out if they had an accessible room. And that was very time consuming.

The funny thing is, these same innkeepers would turn around and say, “I added this accessible room, but we’ve never had a wheelchair-user stay in it.” Go figure, if people don’t know it’s there, how can they book it?

Q: What sets your book apart from other B&B books?

It’s the first book of its kind, as no other B&B guidebook really addresses access issues. A few books display the wheelchair pictogram on select properties but There is Room at the Inn actually describes the access of every property. Additionally, I’ve also included information about accessible sights and activities in the area. It’s the first comprehensive guidebook about accessible inns and B&Bs.

Q: Who should read your book?

Well, obviously people who like B&Bs and inns should read the book; but even if you don’t consider yourself a B&B person, you’ll probably find a property that appeals to you in There is Room at the Inn. I’ve included a wide range of properties from cabins and lodges to romantic inns and owner-occupied B&Bs. There’ are even two luxury safari camps and a dude ranch listed in the book. Something for everybody. Since I’ve included accessible sightseeing suggestions, it’s just a good travel book, even if you’ve already made other lodging arrangements. It’s also a great vacation idea book.

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