Many hotels these days cater somewhat to travelers with disabilities — but in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, the world’s first American Disability Association-compliant hotel recently opened. For people with disabilities who love to travel, this Allegheny Mountains hotel is definitely on your radar screen.
The school hotel is a new boutique address in a remodeled historic schoolhouse in downtown White Sulfur Springs. Designed to showcase the best of local traditions of accommodation and hospitality in an inclusive atmosphere, The Schoolhouse Hotel is the city’s first full-service boutique hotel, a welcoming setting for travelers who want to relax, unwind and dine for leisure or business – and, quite admirably, it’s the world’s first ADA-compliant hotel.
Charlie Hammerman is president and CEO of the Disability Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the disability market that purchased the school building in 2019 and began its conversion in 2020. “With roots that go back over a century, our goal is to embrace the charm of White Sulfur Springs and bring the town and surrounding mountain region to life for all guests,” he told me. .
Mr. Hammerman also explained to me what the new hotel was all about. “Once we decided to go ‘beyond ADA compliance’ at The Schoolhouse Hotel, we pushed the envelope by featuring all kinds of technology, including guest bathrooms. The hotel was designed with accessibility in mind from sensory design including lighting and sound, counter height and automated services Touchpads in bathrooms allow touch control to raise/lower the toilet seat, flushing, cleaning and bidet The expansive layout and limited obstructions in the chambers create extra space where usually there is no extra space for storage of toilets. scooters or wheelchairs.
He also explained why this project is so important to him. “It all started with my uncle, Dr. Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights advocate, who 50 years ago helped start community living programs and family support services. Burton was also a national leader in special education, calling for programs to integrate students with disabilities into public schools and working to promote a more open society for them.
“Inspired by his example and by my own experiences as a parent of a disabled child, I continued the mission. After my legal and Wall Street career, DOF has now assembled a motivated team to push society to live beyond ADA compliance and address all issues faced by people with disabilities and their families.
Even the needs of customer service animals are taken into consideration. Rescue stations provide synthetic grass for service animals, which are naturally attracted to the feel of grass, but this material is durable, hygienic and immediately washable, draining into the ground or soil. The designated rescue station also provides guests and their fellow attendants with the ability to stay sheltered from rain or weather, and the synthetic turf doesn’t get muddy.
“A hotel that is accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, is key. Instead of installing a few specially designed rooms for people with special needs in a property, why not design and build the property to meet all the needs? »
He continued: “Every room is fully accessible and every public space is fully accessible. We hope it will become a showcase for the hospitality industry. The differences between a standard hotel and a fully accessible hotel are not difficult – this is how a hotel should be built.
“We will also be displaying artwork from artists living with mental illness in the rooms to support them.”
In my humble opinion, this alone is a very commendable undertaking.
The Schoolhouse Hotel offers accommodation in 30 rooms including two suites.
All rooms pay homage to the building’s former life as a school and are decorated in a range of earth tones, mauves, blues and accent plaids, with plush bedding, comfortable furnishings and designer furnishings. large multi-paned windows with city and mountain views. Each room is themed around a different school subject such as art, history, literature, math and carpentry. High-definition interactive TVs and Google Nest are wired to communicate with reception.
The Schoolhouse Hotel’s signature dining experience is the Varsity Club. Seating 118, the restaurant serves an upscale menu of southern culinary classics crafted by Executive Chef Adeyemi Allen, whose experience includes four years as Senior Chef at the Greenbrier.
Why White Sulfur Springs? As a small town in Greenbrier County in the southeastern region of West Virginia, White Sulfur Springs is home to some 3,000 residents along with two nicknames: “Spa City” and “Home of the Greenbrier Resort.”
Opening rates at The Schoolhouse Hotel start at $150 per night.
It’s a good start for a travel idea whose time has finally come. Be sure to bring your service buddy!
For more on my Wanderlust travels, please follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.