Travel Tips Upgrades Will Benefit Disabled Travelers

Wheelchair travelThere’s good news on the horizon for disabled travelers, thanks to a recent legal settlement spearheaded by two determined women.

Accessible travel guru Candy Harrington reports on this game-changer in booking hotels online.

Avid traveler Bonnie Lewkowicz had grown tired of being shut out of bargains on, just because she needed a wheelchair-accessible room.

“It just didn’t seem fair that travelers with disabilities were unable to take advantage of the convenience and low-cost options of booking hotel rooms online,” recalls Lewkowicz. So she resolved to do something about it.

It Only Looks Like a Reservation

In theory, you can reserve an accessible room on, but in practice, the reservation is only treated as a request. In other words, a guest will only be assigned an accessible room if one is available upon arrival.

And with the ageing generation of Baby Boomers and more disabled travelers hitting the road these days; more often than not, those accessible rooms are in short supply as the accessible rooms are snapped up by other travelers.

Handicapped parking signLewkowicz teamed up with Judith Smith, a fellow member of Axis Dance Company, which brings together ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. Equally frustrated about the situation, the team attacked the issue legally. The case became known as Smith v., with the plaintiffs represented by Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates.

In an unusual legal move, the lawsuit didn’t ask for any monetary damages, but instead requested injunctive relief. And that’s exactly what they got, in the form of an out-of-court settlement.

So starting in September, and Expedia will include details about accessible rooms on their Web sites; and give disabled travelers some personalized attention in the reservation process.

It won’t exactly be a “point, click and book” option, but a trained customer service representative will work with each disabled customer to make sure an accessible hotel room that meets their needs is actually reserved (not just requested) for them.

For more, check out our Accessible Travel category.

New Regulations on the Horizon?

Additionally the Department of Justice is looking at third-party reservation systems as they update the Americans with Disabilities Act Access Guidelines (ADAAG). Those new ADAAG will be released in September, and it could include requirements for third-party reservation systems to block accessible rooms upon reservation.

Coupled with the settlement, this could ultimately make travel more accessible and affordable for disabled travelers. So look for September to be a month of change as far as accessible travel is concerned.

By Candy Harrington for Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington has covered the subject exclusively for the past 16 years.  

She is the founding editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of several best-selling guide books for disabled travelers, including her newest release, the third edition of Barrier Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (  

She also blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at