Wheelchair-bound disability activist told to sleep in hotel dining area. Here’s what happened

Kat Wankins, a development officer at the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities at Disability Wales, suffered from severe back pain because of not being able to sleep in the bed she had booked at a Travelodge hotel in Hounslow, UK. Watkins suffers from brittle bone disease and sleep apnoea. 

“Out of Order”

Watkins planned her trip in advance from South Wales to London to attend the performance of singer-songwriter and guitarist James Bay at the Royal Albert Hall on April 26. She travelled to the hotel in her convertible van where she had booked a twin room for herself and her personal assistant. 

Watkins, who had been there before and had a good experience, was upon arrival informed that the accessible rooms were ‘out of order’ and the room she had advance-booked was no longer available. When questioned about the reason behind the rooms being unavailable, a staff member told her that the rooms had not been cleaned. 

Another mix-up?

Watkins was then offered two alternatives: a family room where her wheelchair would not fit in the bathroom, or an alternative Travelodge hotel at Twickenham with an accessible room. Watkins reluctantly opted for the first and went ahead with her plan to attend the concert.

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After returning to the hotel at 12:30 am with her personal assistant, she was informed that the family room was no longer available and that the receptionist would book a taxi for Watkins and her personal assistant to travel to Twickenham Travelodge.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts by the receptionist to find a taxi, Watkins and her personal assistant were left with no choice but to sleep on two uncomfortable sofas in the Hounslow Travelodge dining room.  As a result, Watkins suffered from severe back pain the following day. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Watkins said she was “struggling to breathe. I use a ventilator at night and my breathing was becoming more and more shallow.” 

“The concert I attended was good but I can’t look back on it with fond memories because the experience I had was so traumatic. I’ve been in agony with my back since that night. I’ve told Travelodge I won’t be using their hotels again.”

Not the first time 

Alex Osborne, a disability equality officer at Disability Wales, said that “Kat’s experience was particularly bad; however, we have many examples from our members, and my colleagues, of very poor service in hotels”. He further added that they hear frequently of disabled people encountering problems with rooms, even though accessible rooms have been pre-booked.

Travelodge apologises

A Travelodge spokesperson commented on the matter and said: “We would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Kat Watkins and her PA for their recent experience with us.

“On this rare occasion, we failed to meet our normal high standard of service. We hope that we can welcome back Ms Watkins and reinstate her faith in our brand.”


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