Even old hotels can be accessible

Old photo of Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo, NY, which has been renovated to be completely accessible.

Old photo of Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo, NY, which has been renovated to be completely accessible.

We celebrated a big family wedding over the weekend with the ceremony and reception held at a hotel built in the early 1900s. I worry about access when a building is described as “a fine example of French Renaissance style of architecture.”

Since the celebration would continue into the wee hours, we decided to book rooms at that hotel for the night. My access worries doubled.

The Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo, NY, was recently renovated, refurbished, even re-imagined, but with its historical status my expectations for an accessible experience were low.

Boy, was I completely wrong.

Rechristened the Hotel @the Lafayette, its updated name implies a blend of old and new, and the “new” includes incorporating accessibility features down to the smallest detail.

There may not (yet) be a curb cut at the front of the hotel, but once inside, getting around is a breeze. At the front desk in the hotel’s art deco lobby,  I checked in using a handy slide-out shelf.

Our spacious room on the second floor had lots of space to maneuver around the furniture. There was wood flooring with  two or three small rugs scattered about the room. (I would recommend removing the lovely Calvin Klein rug that’s under the bed since it got tangled in my wheels.)

Did I mention that the bed is low, and that I could reach the phone, all the lamps,  the TV remote and even the towels!

Speaking of the big bathroom, its roll-in shower was one of the best I’ve seen with its easy entry and three dispensers – shampoo, conditioner, body wash – adhered to the shower wall at the right height to actually use.

I should have listened to the groom (my nephew) who assured me the site of the ceremony and reception would be accessible, but I tend to worry about buildings older than 100. He was right: the room, with its twinkling lights and romantic candles, had plenty of space between tables, allowing for carefree stops at the bar, banquet tables and restroom.

What a joyous experience to be part of my nephew and his bride’s special day, and adding to the joy was participating with such ease.

My love of travel – even to a nearby hotel – is one of the reasons  I read with great interest the piece by Ashley Lyn Olson, CEO and founder of Wheelchairtraveling.com, who has run into every kind of accessible and inaccessible hotel room, bathroom and bed.

As she explains, traveling can be fun, enlightening and life affirming, but it can also be exhausting, frustrating and humiliating.

My recent experience illustrates that things seem to be looking up, thanks in part to developers who sink millions into old properties, making sure every guest feels welcome.

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