Every once in a while, something you’ve taken for granted takes you completely by surprise. Such was the case last week with Home2 Suites by Hilton in Bellingham, Washington. While working food delivery, I had taken loads of food to this new local hotel, and hadn’t thought it different from any of the other hotels I delivered to, except everything seemed a bit more clean and modern because it was new. It smelled more like a new car than a motel and the décor was noticeably less cheesy. A dispatch to Home2 was always a relief, especially because it was close to home and I could usually beg off my shift early after a drop there.
Last week my sister and brother-in-law stayed at Home2 while visiting me in my small condominium. I had planned to take my sister to the local aquatic center to swim, as we both need it for physical therapy, but a tree blew down on the outdoor pumphouse during a recent windstorm and it was closed for repairs. Kathy suggested we swim at the hotel. I reconciled myself to a too-warm kidney pool full of kids and grabbed my swim bag.
Well, first of all, there was no kidney pool. It was a rectangular pool big enough to swim a useful lap in. Right away I noticed that my eyes weren’t burning when I walked in the enclosure—it’s a saline/ozone pool. No chlorine. The Braille door and elevator labels were standard issue—every place has them by now, but I noticed that both the hot tub and the pool were equipped with chair lifts for guests with disabilities. The washroom/shower was wheelchair-friendly, with a large floor area and grab bars on the walls. The shower had a handheld head available with a foldout bench. As a final touch for guest comfort, there was a folding baby changing table on the wall. Not that babies are a disability, but they considered everyone who might use that space.
Back upstairs in Kathy’s room, I noticed a table on wheels that could be rolled under the counter to create more space for a wheelchair or walking aid to get by. The bathroom had a pocket door for ease of use with wheelchairs and walking aids.
By now I was completely impressed by how well this hotel accommodated guests with disabilities. I decided to ask at the desk about what other features exist that I might have missed. The two young ladies working the night shift were delighted to be asked. They hauled a large binder out from under the counter and showed me their special rooms for deaf and hearing-impaired guests, with strobe alarms and TDD phones, and they said there were specially equipped rooms at every price tier so guests who want more deluxe accommodations are not limited to the cheap seats.
The ladies also mentioned the chlorine-free pool and why they chose that—the hotel is designed as an extended stay facility. Many of their guests, whether disabled or injured, must follow a physical therapy regimen, and the lifts, shower facilities, and less irritant water all facilitate daily use. I only caught a glance at the gym behind the pool room with exercise equipment, but noticed the machines were well spaced, not crammed close together like you usually see in hotel gyms, so guests with mobility challenges could mount and dismount more easily.
While chatting with the ladies, I noticed a food cooler with a variety of kitchenette-ready foods, and a display case of amenities that guests might have forgotten. When you’re in a strange town and getting to a convenience store is an even bigger challenge, these services are great for guests of all abilities.
In subsequent messages exchanged with the hotel manager, who clearly loves her job, I learned that the hotel is actively pet-friendly (your pet is a guest, not an inconvenience), and the staff will help care for service animals if needed. They use a text app available to all guests, to text the hotel staff for any service you need from anywhere in the hotel. Their goal is to take the stress out of being away from home, no matter who you are.
Home2 Suites, you inspired me to tell my friends. I’m reminded of last line of the Simpsons episode when Grandpa Simpson used his windfall to renovate the old folks’ home—“Welcome, everyone. The dignity’s on me.”