Accessible Beach + Inclusive Playground + Walkable Community = Positive Experience

We went on a quick trip to VA Beach on Sunday.

By quick I mean we were probably gone for a little more than 24 hours, but we wanted to take a few pictures of the beach access, and found some interesting things in our hotel! We went to the beach awhile back and wrote about the “beach access” at the Outer Banks and had heard VA Beach and some good options.


Awesome beach access and a super inclusive playground (we’ll do a more in depth post on playgrounds soon). PLUS this was the first time Scott and I were able to walk along the beach for ANY length of time without frustration. The boardwalk is amazing! We did find out that if you wanted to get one of the beach chairs to ride down toward the water you could use one for FREE. We didn’t do that, but it was nice to know that was an option!

While I was excited to see the ability for us to get onto the beach, we only saw these pathways in ONE end of the boardwalk. Would be neat to see this offered in various places along the shoreline.

Inclusive playground
Inclusive playground without steps to enter and lots of kid friendly activities to reach at various heights.
pathway on beach
Pathway on the beach.
space to sit in view of water
Space to sit in view of the water.
Bike lane on the left, boardwalk, and view of the beach and ocean.

The BAD…

Our hotel. Granted we found something cheap because we knew we would only be there for one night. When we first arrived I noticed that there wasn’t  a ton of room at the foot of the bed and Scott barely got through. This was the only way to get to the bathroom. You can see in the bottom picture there’s a piece of the dresser that’s scratched – Scott didn’t do that, but that’s an indicator that another person had trouble too!


narrow pathway foot of bed
Narrow pathway. Need at least 36″ at the foot of the bed.
Scott barely made it through here and his wheelchair isn’t extremely wide.

Then Scott asked if I could turn on the air – I had to crawl around this to reach the controls on the right between the table and an recliner…

Table blocking heating and cooling controls
HVAC controls blocked and hard to get to. This table is also blocking the ability to reach and manipulate the window coverings.

Then around 12am we heard a continuous beeping – which turned out to be an alarm clock that had been set in another room without any occupants :) Beep beep beep beep…


Well – curly hair, humidity, and wind made my hair CRAZY but I didn’t get a picture of that ;) Nothing a pony tail can’t fix!


We had an enjoyable time at the beach. We took a stroll at night and were super impressed with how easy it was to get around. If we had kids, Scott would have been able to get to them and be with them in the playground. All important! Did we see just “disabled people” using these features of the boardwalk and no step entrances to the beach? Nope, people of all ages and abilities were out and about enjoying themselves on their vacation.

There is even a bike lane separate from the boardwalk to make the space even more friendly and safe for lots of people. Next time we hope to stay longer, but what a joy it was to not be frustrated on our trip! The design of the area made our experience enjoyable and would make us want to come back. We’d pick a different hotel next time though :)

Accessibility Oversights: Pictures from readers like you!

Recently Karla, a friend from childhood, texted me about a hotel room she was staying in for a few days while on business. She said that it was labeled as an accessible room, but it felt awkward and cramped even for her to get around (and she doesn’t have a disability). She thought that my husband Scott, who uses a wheelchair, would get stuck in a few places.

Continue reading “Accessibility Oversights: Pictures from readers like you!”

Universal design doesn’t use ramps, but they are common for accessibility.

We are working on a new resource that highlights how important it is for people to understand how others function when building or designing things, specifically in various parts of a building. We’re hoping to finalize the resource in a few months, but I wanted to discuss a few things about ramps.

Please recognize that when we say that “universal design doesn’t use ramps,” we’re speaking to the nature of ramps typically being disability-specific, often alongside a set of stairs. Universal design is about design that functions well for as many people as possible, regardless of one’s ability level, without being disability-specific, and thus segregating. In other words, universal design promotes ease of use for everyone. Continue reading “Universal design doesn’t use ramps, but they are common for accessibility.”

Hotel accommodations are not always what they seem.

aloft hotel

Scott and I have had a busy week last week and have kind of slacked on the blog writing. We ventured out of town about four hours away to celebrate the marriage of one of Scott’s college buddies. Scott was the best man and we arrived into town early so they could get the festivities started early.

Good thing we came into town early, because our hotel accommodations were not what we expected. It wasn’t that the place was dirty, it was the accessibility component that went awry. We have stayed at this chain many times and have always been impressed with the way things were built. Yet, apparently not all accessible rooms in this chain are the same in all locations.

We’ve travelled a lot the past year (check out the map on this post).  When we started this blog we had just gotten back from travelling around the country from our stay in Colorado. As we were driving across the country we basically used our iPhone to find a cheap hotel in the location we wanted to stop for the night. No hotel was the same in how they had set up the rooms.

When we arrived at our hotel this weekend we walked into the room and noticed that the bed was really low to the ground.

lower bed

Scott lower bed picture

By really low I mean I grabbed my tape measure (yes for some odd reason I keep one in my purse) and measured the bed to be 14.5″ from the ground when compressed. Scott was sitting in his chair and the top of the bed came up halfway up his shin. It’s easiest if the surfaces are about the same height. If we stayed in this room, I’d have to help him get out of bed each time, as his injury makes it difficult to lift his entire body weight on his own from a surface that’s a lot lower than his seat (about 22″).[separator top=”29″]

However, this room did have a roll in shower with a seat bolted to the wall and he could reach the controls from the seat (win!) The seat was bolted to the wall in a good position where he could reach the controls without having to reach too far, but the shampoo and soap containers are bolted onto the wall a bit far away for someone to reach if they were seated.

roll in shower good set up

We talked to the management and they said that all their accessible rooms had low beds. They mentioned that older people have booked these rooms for convenience and ended up not being able to stay there because they were unable to stand up from the bed. We have stayed at these hotels before and never experienced a LOW bed. Most beds we come across in hotels are too high.

We ended up going to a “regular room” where the bed was a perfect height, but there was a step to get into the shower. They offered us a shower seat that actually needed to be assembled because it had not been used yet, but the seat was not substantial enough for Scott to feel safe while taking the shower. We ended up choosing the regular room so Scott could use the bed, but he would have to either negotiate the unstable seat or clean up using another method.

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higher bed

scott higher bed Why?!

Why is this acceptable? Why should someone have to choose to stay in a room that either: 1) You can’t get into the bed but can get into the shower, or 2) You can get into the bed, but can’t shower. The builders that mounted the bed frames really low to the wall did not understand how people move and how the ADA requires a toilet to be a minimum of 17″ tall – why would the bed need to be lower than that?

It would be so nice to know that at least one hotel chain met your needs, in every location. We were excited to book through this chain for the weekend because we thought we had finally found a place that would work!!

We are pretty resourceful people and generally try to make things work, but this is an issue – everywhere.

Making rooms that are universally designed so that no matter your ability you can use the room because it’s designed for a wide variety of people. Yes, some individuals need more adaptive equipment than others, but I am often baffled at the reasons why things are designed. The space just doesn’t work for the individuals it was designed for.

We’d love to be able to help change some of these issues, not only for us, but for everyone out there who wants to travel, but is afraid of what they will find at their hotel destination. It’s important to everyone’s safety and independence. -Sarah

What do you think? What are some accessibility issues you’ve run into at hotels? Has the hotel done anything to help you in any way?

Universally-Designed Hardware for Doors and Drawers

red door with a lever handle

If you have been looking over any information from the ADA or universal design you will have seen something to the effect that door knobs and drawer hardware should be usable without someone having to twist, grip, pinch, or turn their hands or fingers. What does that mean and what do these pieces of hardware look like?

As you read through this post think about ALL the individuals that would benefit from easy to use hardware. Not only does it benefit someone that has trouble using their hands due to arthritis, amputation, paralysis, injury to the hand, stroke, burn, or other impairment, but it allows individuals without any trouble to easily open and use doors and drawers with more safety and less frustration.

Lever Handles for Doors versus Door Knobs

lever handle

Imagine getting a bunch of things out of your car and making your way inside with a load of things in your arms and possibly a child in tow. You get to the door and have to unload your stuff to actually turn the door knob. Replacing the knobs with lever handles allows you to easily press the lever with a closed fist, an elbow, a foot or whatever, to open the door without playing gymnastics with the things in your hands. There are a lots of great looking lever handles out there these days!

Door Hinge Options

Ever wish a door in your house was just a bit wider to allow better access inside a bathroom, bedroom, or closet? Sometimes actually widening the door can be costly. Investing in a offset hinges allow the door to be open flush with the frame versus reducing the clearance by 1.5″-2″. Or you can do what my parents did and just remove a bathroom door in their master bath (the only accessible bathroom for my husband on their first floor). An air vent was being blocked behind the door anyway and where their bathroom was situated, it just made sense to make it an open concept to give them more room in the bathroom as well.

Sliding Door and Pocket Door Hardware Options

Sliding door and pocket door hardware can be hard to manipulate because some locks require you to wedge a finger in a small hole to engage/disengage the lock. Making sure the lock is a lever and easy to operate with a fist is ideal. The bigger the handle the better because it offers a space to push or pull the door with a fist or elbow. The door hardware that requires you to press your fingers into a small divot to close are hard even for me to use. Check to make sure the door on the track does not require a ton of force to open or close as well. 5lbs of pressure is a good range.

Drawer Knobs and Pulls

bar drawer pulldrawer knob

The majority of these are generally easy to use. Bars and stationary knobs offer a wide range of ways to get a fist, elbow or foot on the hardware to open or close the door or drawer.

swinging drawer handledome like handlehard to open drawer with fingers

If a drawer has a swinging handle or pull, or must be operated by sticking fingers into the pull or the drawer itself, it limits access for individuals without fingers and/or the ability to grasp, pinch or move their fingers. Get creative and put some neat looking hardware on your cabinets. It will spruce up the space without spending a ton of money.

Drawer Slides

If a drawer doesn’t slide well in the cabinetry, that can be a frustration. We have an old dresser that doesn’t have any hardware for the drawers to slide on within the cabinet.  My dad gave me a great tip to ease the frustration of sticky drawers that are wood on wood; rub candle wax along the edges of the drawer and they slide in and out without lots of grunting, and pushing.

I also love the soft close slides that slow the drawer down before it completely closes. No more slamming drawers!

Drawer Stopsdrawer has a safety built in so it will not fall out of the cabinet

My dad recently redid a chest-of-drawers (I fondly named it “Chester”) and added a small safety stop on the back of the drawer so it wouldn’t fully come out of the cabinet. There had been many times over the years that I was afraid that the drawer would break a toe if I accidentally pulled it out too far. This safety option is built into “Chester” and not only benefits me, but my husband, and reduces the fear if a young child were to play with the drawers as well.

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If you thought this was helpful, check out different ways to organize your life and de-stress with universally designed storage solutions!

Featured Image Credit (Biscarotte)