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Kat Watkins
Kat Watkins had booked an accessible twin bedded room at the hotel for herself and her PA, but was told after arriving it was ‘out of order’. Photograph: Kat Watkins
Kat Watkins had booked an accessible twin bedded room at the hotel for herself and her PA, but was told after arriving it was ‘out of order’. Photograph: Kat Watkins

Disabled woman forced to sleep in hotel dining area ‘after booked room was unavailable’

Kat Watkins, who requires a ventilator at night, said she is suffering from severe back pain after night at Travelodge in Hounslow

A disabled wheelchair user who requires a ventilator at night had to sleep on a sofa in a hotel dining room because the accessible room she booked was not available.

Kat Watkins, 36, a UN convention on the rights of disabled people development officer at Disability Wales, who has brittle bone disease and sleep apnoea, said she is suffering from severe back pain as a result of not being able to sleep in the bed she had booked and paid for at a Travelodge hotel in Hounslow.

Travelodge has “sincerely apologised” to her.

Watkins had carefully planned her trip from south Wales to London to attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where the singer songwriter and guitarist James Bay was performing on 26 April.

She travelled in her adapted mobility van with her personal assistant on the day of the concert. She had booked a twin bedded room at the hotel for herself and her PA.

Watkins had stayed there previously and had had a good experience. She had mapped her route to the concert on public transport going from Hounslow East to Earl’s Court – both accessible tube stations – with a taxi for the final leg of the journey.

On arrival at the hotel at 3pm, she and her PA were informed that the room Watkins had booked was no longer available because all the accessible rooms were “out of order”. When Watkins later asked why she said she was told by a member of staff it was because the rooms had not been cleaned.

She was offered two alternatives: a family room where her wheelchair could not fit into the bathroom, or an alternative Travelodge hotel in Twickenham which did have an accessible room available. She reluctantly accepted the family room and went off to the concert.

On her return to the hotel with her PA at 12.30am, she was told the family room was no longer available and that the receptionist would try to book a taxi that could accommodate a wheelchair to take her to the Twickenham Travelodge.

But despite repeated attempts by the receptionist to find a taxi that could accommodate a wheelchair, none could be found. Watkins and her PA said they had no choice but to sleep on two uncomfortable sofas in the Hounslow Travelodge dining room, finally bedding down about 2.30am.

“I was struggling to breathe. I use a ventilator at night and my breathing was becoming more and more shallow,” said Watkins.

“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 have never experienced anything as horrendous as this before. I don’t even know how to say how bad it was. It was off the scale. I’ve been in agony with my back since that night. I’ve told Travelodge I won’t be using their hotels again.”

Alex Osborne, disability equality officer at Disability Wales, said: “Kat’s experience was particularly bad, however we have many examples from our members, and my colleagues, of very poor service in hotels.”

Osborne said they hear frequently of disabled people encountering problems with rooms, even though accessible rooms have been pre-booked. “Many still find themselves being put in other non-accessible rooms due to double bookings. This causes a lot of stress to the disabled person, impacting not only their holiday/break but also in many instances causing pain when the disabled person has to stay in a room which is not suitable,” she said.

A Travelodge spokesperson 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 should have informed Ms Watkins ahead of checking-in that her room was out of order and that we had moved her booking to one of our nearby hotels.

“We are very sorry for the inconvenience of this miscommunication and we have refunded the booking in full and offered an e-voucher for a future stay. We hope that we can welcome back Ms Watkins and reinstate her faith in our brand.”

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