Expedia launched a set of new features that allows customers to search for hotels based on whether or not they have facilities for the deaf, blind, or mobility challenged (thanks to Gadling for the heads up).
There are lots of options to choose from, but finding them is a little tricky. Once you've entered your destination and dates and clicked "search," select "show more" under "hotel preferences" at the top of the results page. This will produce a list of options, with "accessibility options" in bold text at the bottom. Click this, choose the options you want, and click "search." Options include Braille signage, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, roll-in showers, and accessibility equipment for the deaf.
Once you choose a hotel, you'll have to request a room with the options you want. Expedia then contacts the hotel on the traveler's behalf to make sure those options are available and guaranteed, and finally confirms this with the travelers. If, for whatever reason, the property can't promise availability, Expedia says it will work with the traveler to find alternative accommodations.
I really can't understate what a relief it is to see a major online travel agent (OTA) add this sort of program. Both Travelocity and Orbitz allow you to search for properties that are "handicapped accessible" (Travelocity) or that have "Handicapped rooms/facilities" (Orbitz), but to my knowledge Expedia's is the first truly comprehensive search option for disabled travelers. And as the brother to a disabled sister (who happens to be an intrepid traveler), I'm fairly positive this will be very much appreciated by disabled travelers and their families. I can't begin to tell you how many tight hotel rooms and tall staircases my family has dealt with over the years. The ability to weed out hotels that aren't remotely suitable for people with disabilities is beyond welcome.
Readers, do you know of any other good booking or search options for disabled travelers? Any tips for traveling with friends or family that need assistance? Leave a comment below. Thanks!
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)