B&Bs Get Better and Better

by Barbara and Jim Twardowski on November 1, 2006 - 2:15pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 6

A slight drizzle didn’t dampen our stay at the Corners Mansion in Vicksburg, Miss. The owners of the historic bed-and-breakfast (B&B) served us oatmeal cookies and let our son play the baby grand piano that was on display in the double parlor. We joined another family on the front porch to watch the sun set.

Perched on a hill, the B&B has a staircase leading down to the front yard. Using my wheelchair, I’d entered the property through the glass-enclosed back veranda. Our first-floor bedroom was furnished with antiques. Although the bathroom wasn’t totally accessible, it fit my needs.

To ensure I could stay at the inn, I’d searched the Internet and spoken to the innkeeper before making our reservations. (One useful site is www.bedandbreakfast.com.)

I recently explored another source in an interview with Candy Harrington, who has written a new book that will make planning my next vacation easier. There Is Room at the Inn: Inns and B&Bs for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (see below) describes inns in 40 states. It features reviews of a wide selection of lodging choices from Victorian inns and quaint B&Bs to mountain retreats, a dude ranch and even two safari parks.

Harrington has been writing about accessible travel for a dozen years. She says, “Many innkeepers have made their properties accessible because they have friends or family who are disabled. Others have done it because they want to welcome all guests.”

The locations in the book have the right combination of physical and attitudinal access. As far as physical access goes, Harrington’s basic requirement was that a person in a wheelchair had to be able to get through the door, get into the guest room and use the bathroom.

Roll-in Shower
The San Francisco Bay Room at Landis Shores in Half Moon Bay, Calif., has a spacious bathroom with a roll-in shower. Photo by Charles Pannell

Knowing that bathroom preferences vary, her list includes tub/shower combinations, roll-in showers and even low-step showers that can accommodate a shower chair. She strives to describe the access so that 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,” Harrington told Quest.

Attitudinal access (the innkeeper’s attitude) also played an important role in property selection for the book.

“People want to go where they feel welcome, not merely accommodated, so I looked for innkeepers who had a genuine understanding of access issues,” Harrington said. “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.”

The appeal of a B&B is the attention to personal service and staff who know the area attractions. The Professional Association of Innkeepers International) estimates there are 20,000 inns worldwide, and the average room rate is $143.90. Many offer specials, particularly during mid-week or off season — check online or call the property.

The number of B&Bs offering accessible lodging is growing. Harrington says she’s continually discovering more, and she just might write a second edition of There Is Room at the Inn.

There Is Room at the Inn

There Is Room at the Inn: Inns and B&Bs for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, by Candy B. Harrington, 219 pages + index, 2006, $21.95. Demos Medical Publishing, www.demosmedpub.com, (800) 532-8663.

Candy Harrington, author of Barrier-Free Travel, has narrowed her focus from the advice on the general travel topics of that fine book to the specifics of suggestions for bed-and-breakfast inns (B&Bs).

Harrington offers reviews of 118 inns spread across 40 states, and her assessments are based on firsthand experience; just thinking about her travel for researching this book can be exhausting.

Each review contains a thumbnail sketch of a B&B and its location. Many of the inns are in small towns or rural areas, but since the purpose of a B&B is often to provide a retreat, the rusticity is part of the charm.

Harrington also describes the accessibility features and limitations of each inn. Helpful photos of the B&Bs and rooms showing such things as ramps or accessible bathrooms garnish the book. She also notes nearby accessible sightseeing or recreational opportunities.

Harrington rightly notes that B&Bs offer a very personal form of service. They aren’t exemplars of hotel chains; consequently, patrons have direct contact with the people responsible for the quality and character of their stays. Harrington’s inclusion in her reviews of statements made by B&B owners therefore provides a real insight into the innkeepers’ vision for their establishments.

Harrington, also the editor of Emerging Horizons, an accessible travel magazine, has already earned her considerable reputation as an informative travel writer for people with disabilities. There Is Room at the Inn will add to her distinction.

Kenneth Plax, MDA

Your rating: None Average: 5 (8 votes)
MDA cannot respond to questions asked in the comments field. For help with questions, contact your local MDA office or clinic or email publications@mdausa.org. See comment policy