As a short-term rental property owner, you’ll find that some of your patrons have children or adults in their care who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). These include conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Down Syndrome. Persons with IDD are sometimes faced with unsafe situations, especially in new places. Persons with IDD who are impulsive or who have limited ability to move, see, hear, make decisions, or do not feel or understand pain might not realize the danger or consequences of something that is unsafe. You should consider the following accommodations in your short-term rental that might provide a better overall experience for these patrons.
1. Provide Information to Parents and Caregivers
I’ve never known anyone who would purposefully be unprepared in case of an emergency when information is readily available. Your guest book should contain all the normal information such as check-in/check-out instructions, house rules, login instructions and passwords, and nearby attractions and places of interest. But pay particular attention to providing information on the nearest emergency and non-emergency medical facilities, clinics, and community policing.
Canvass your community and find out who are the reliable healthcare providers, dentists, and pharmacies. Contact those providers and ask about their willingness to serve your patrons, if needed. Let them know you will be including their information in your guest book and provide those contact numbers, hours of operation, and after-hours contact instructions.
2. Safety Considerations
Most of the risk factors for people with IDD are similar to what we all face. These include environmental risks such as tripping hazards, poor lighting, bumping into sharp edges, lack of handrails or grab bars, and lack of or non-working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. You should address all these kinds of concerns for all your patrons regardless.
For persons with IDD, you might also consider additional safety precautions such as installing child safety locks on exit doors (deadbolt locks, slide locks or flip locks are all good choices); door alarms; pin locks on windows; soft, rounded edge furniture; locked chemical storage; and making sure you unit’s TVs are securely anchored from tipping over. If your rental has a swimming pool, you should also consider making U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets of various sizes available for your guests.
3. Energy Smart Home Features
Many persons with IDD are sensitive to outside noise, outside light infiltration, interior spectrum lighting, temperature swings and unfiltered air. Those with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy can also be sensitive to lighting. Properly installed insulation in floors, walls and attics ensures even temperatures throughout your rental increasing comfort while reducing energy use and noise.Wall insulation with an R-value of 30 or higher is recommended.
Additional consideration to soundproofing such as using acoustic paint on the interior walls could help cut noise infiltration. Such paint is formulated with ceramic microspheres and sound absorbing fillers which reduces sound transmission.
Many persons with IDD are sensitive to outside light infiltration, interior spectrum lighting, and surface glare. Those with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy can also be sensitive to lighting. When it comes to lighting, you should opt for natural or warm lighting with dimmer switches and avoid fluorescent lighting. Dimmer switches will allow your guests to adjust the lighting to the level that is comfortable to them. Fix any broken, flickering, or malfunctioning light fixture or bulb, and always use high quality bulbs.
Installing black out curtain panels at windows help maintain even temperatures when in use, are designed to block out exterior lighting, and would be a welcome accommodation for those needing a quiet place to help decompress. Additionally, use finishes and surfaces that are non-glossy as glossy finishes can cause glare issues.
5. Security and Automation
Consideration should be given to installing a security system for your guests in which an alarm sounds if an exterior door or window is opened. This would alert a parent or attendant that a person who has IDD is attempting to exit. Such security systems also tie into other parts of the rental such as lighting, thermostats, door locks, and video surveillance. Professional installation and monitoring fees are reasonable.
6. Muted Color Scheme
Some individuals with IDD may be more sensitive to color than average. And others, such as those with low vision, may need more visual contrast in their environment. Your choice of color scheme in your short-term rental should consider these kinds of issues.
Unless you are deliberately setting out to create a highly stimulating environment, more aggressive or vibrant colors should be relegated to décor accents, while muted, soothing colors are preferable for wall color.
7. Odor Free Environment
Some of your renters including those with IDD will have allergies or sensitivities to smells. For this reason, you should refrain from using scented candles, potpourri, or scented air fresheners in your rental units. Additionally, your use of odorless cleaning chemical solvents and odorless washing detergents for towels and linens would be appreciated.
8. Other Sensory Considerations
Many individuals with IDD need vestibular stimulation, so adding a swing, glider, or rocking chair to your unit can provide this stimulation. Others need a sense of security and calm at times when their stress and anxiety levels are high. Providing your guests a weighted blanket will provide the respite needed.
These kinds of accommodations will go a long way in creating a welcome and safe environment for your guests, and I hope you will put these considerations to use. And remember, making your short-term rental accessible is not only good for those with a disability; it’s good business for you.
For more information on short-term rental properties, visit www.BecomingRentABLE.com.