Activism

Disabled people are speaking out about Travelodge's accessible room policy

A petition for better accessibility at Travelodge hotels has gained 54,000 signatures after a couple were given single beds.

Image of a hotel room

Couple say they weren't offered an accessible double room. (Pixabay)

For many couples, a hotel stay offers a chance to sit back and relax, a temporary getaway from the stress of everyday life. This was not the case for 25-year-old Alice Bigsby-bye and their partner Beau Brannick, 26, during their stay at a Travelodge in Manchester earlier this month.

Bigsby-bye, who is from Norwich, is a wheelchair user. As a result, when booking their trip, the couple requested to stay in an accessible double room. Upon arrival, they said it became clear that their needs had not been met. 

Despite requesting a double room, Bigsby-bye and Brannick said they were informed by staff that all accessible Travelodge rooms across the country are only fitted with single beds.

“At first, we thought it was because we both had quite feminine names,” Bigsby-bye told The Big Issue, assuming a booking error had been made listing the pair as friends rather than as a couple. 

“When my partner went to try and amend the issue, they were informed that all of the accessible rooms had single beds. According to the receptionist, the reason for this was supposedly because all disabled people travel with their careers, so don’t need a double bed.” 

In a statement, Travelodge told The Big Issue that its accessible rooms can accommodate double beds, as well as single beds.

Over a quarter of carers in the UK look after their spouse or partner, according to Carers UK, and many people with disabilities travel alone, too.

To compensate for a double bed, Bigsby-bye and Brannick said they were offered two single beds pushed together with a zip in the middle to keep the mattresses attached. 

“We asked if this was also something that happened in non-disabled rooms and they said no. Non-disabled rooms all have single beds or double beds upon request. We have since spoken to disabled people who have stayed on beds of this sort and they’ve all said that the zip is horrible to sleep on, and completely uncomfortable,” said Bigsby-bye.

Bigsby-bye also claimed that their hotel room was fitted with carpets rather than laminated flooring, making mobility difficult for manual wheelchair users. They also alleged that the red pull chord placed in hotel rooms in case of emergency was tied up and out of reach. 

Just a few days after the incident occurred, Bigsby-bye and Brannick took to Instagram to share their story. The post, which has received nearly 5,000 likes so far, includes reference to a Change.org petition started by the couple. Despite only being created two weeks ago, this petition has received nearly 54,000 signatures. Its intention is to hold Travelodge accountable for its actions, urging the hotel company to work on increasing their disability awareness, and offer a larger variety of accessible rooms. 

Image from the petition by Beau Brannick (@ninten_beau)

The couple’s story has received an outpouring of support on social media, and the comments shared by other disabled people suggest that this was not an isolated incident.

One user posted the reply, “I have had this issue happened twice since being in my chair.” Another stated, “I hadn’t thought about this, but we had twin beds pushed together which is NOT a double bed.” One more commented, “This has happened to me before too.”

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Travelodge is the largest independent hotel brand in the UK, with more than 560 hotels across the country. Since the petition was published, the company has spoken directly with Bigsby-bye and Brannick via video call in attempt to learn from their experience. According to the couple, the company confirmed that they will work with an unspecified disability charity group to ensure progress is made to the accessibility of their rooms.

Bigsby-bye said they hope Travelodge, and other hotel groups, will do better in the future.

“It’s always best to ask disabled personally what works for them,” Bigsby-bye said. “The problem is, it’s people who have no experience of being disabled who are trying to figure out what we need. It’s important for these companies to take criticism and be willing to change.”

Update: After this piece was published, Travelodge issued the following statement:

“We would like to sincerely apologise to Beau Brannick and Alice Bigsby-bye for their recent experience at one of our hotels. Similar to most other UK hotel companies we offer accessible rooms across our 580 UK hotels which can be set up to feature a double or twin beds. Regrettably, on this occasion, we failed to meet our normal high standard of service, due to an unforeseen maintenance issue preventing us from converting the twin beds in the room into a double bed. Our hotel team did everything that they could to resolve this issue and gave an additional complimentary double room next door to the accessible room that the couple used.  We have also refunded their booking in full and invited the couple back to stay in one of our UK hotels, so that we can reinstate their faith back in our brand.

“In addition we are currently in dialogue with the customers as we value their feedback and we are looking into incorporating some of their suggestions. We are also undertaking a comprehensive review with a charity partner and we have committed to share our plans with the couple in February 2022.”

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