Assessing London

I came back yesterday from the UK. I visited London, Edinburgh, and spent one night in Glasgow. 

I totally enjoyed the trip. Being in a place where everyone speaks English makes a big difference. Also the British are more smiley, chatty, and socially aware than the vibe I am getting in Berlin.

Maybe the socially aware point is a bit vague. It is hard to explain but for me it is being aware of the surrounding and proactively managing the situation. I normally observe this feeling in how/when people offer their help with something.

On the flip side the three cities I visited are far behind in infrastructure compared to Berlin. London public transit system is not accessible. Buses are small, allowing them to take maximum one wheelchair at a time. In Berlin buses are bigger, can take two, sometimes three wheelchairs at the same time.

London tube is much worse. The default is non-accessible stops. In a big city like London, it makes things much harder for people like myself.

I imagine the accessible housing situation is equally bad. Most of the city is old. Berlin is still being built which creates more accessible housing opportunities for people such as myself.

I still loved it, but not sure if I would want to live there. I normally look for three factors when assessing a new city.

1) Career Opportunities

I believe London wins on that one. The big 5 have development offices there. There are more startup deals and funding than any other European city.

2) People accessibility

London wins because of the language. I do understand the arguments of people being easy on the outside and hard on the inside. But I still think if one understands the language, it becomes a question of the effort you put into blending with the people around you.

3) Accessibility

Berlin wins by big margin. And it is getting even better over time.

I am not thinking of moving, but for me this was a good eye opener into the London situation and what are the options if I decided to move out of Berlin.

Accessible British Bathrooms

One thing I don’t understand about accessible bathrooms in the UK is their insistence on having a tiny sink, and placing it too close to the toilet. I can’t think of a reason for such a bad design and it is totally unusable.


This weekend I am meeting a friend who is living in the Netherlands. We decided to meet somewhere in the middle and hence it was Dortmund.

It is similar to every other German city I have been to on a weekend. Boring.

Sitting there on a quite Sunday with the sound of churches penetrating the silence feels like the right conditions to conspire and turn the world upside down without anyone noticing. Sadly we weren’t prepared so the world stays safe.

In terms of wheelchair accessibility it is not flat like Berlin. We didn’t use any public transit so I don’t know how good it is.

Facilities for disabled guests tried making the experience of finding accessible hotels better, unfortunately they made it worse, and I was part of this.

Facilities for disabled guests

I am planning a trip to Dortmund and noticed that they changed their “Facilities for disabled guests” filter – which allowed filtering for accessible properties on the site – to a more granular set of filters such as “Wheelchair accessible”, “Toilet with grab rails”…etc.

You can see the filters on the left

The problem with “Facilities for disabled guests” was that it didn’t mean anything. I still have to call each hotel, ask if they have wheelchair accessible rooms of the type I am looking for, and if the rooms are available for the dates I choose. After sometimes few, sometimes many calls, I would find a hotel that meets the criteria and book it. It is a tedious process, but it is the best available option that I am aware of.

More details ≠ better experience

Back in 2015 – when I was working there – I complained about how hard it is to find accessible rooms on the website. The best thing about working for Booking is that you can quickly ramp up an idea and run an experiment. That’s what we did back then. We ran a few experiments.

The experiments were no success. We thought the problem might be in the data we had. We only had this “Facilities for disabled guests” which is self reported by the hotel and subject to their interpretation of understanding what it means. That’s when I did a lot of research of what makes a hotel accessible and came up with a list of data points that we should collect from hotels. We collected them, and finally it is now live as you saw in the previous screenshot.

The problem with the new more granular filters is that they show less properties. I did the same search on the mobile website, which still has the “Facilities for disabled guests” filter. I was able to filter for more properties (26 properties) than the one on desktop (8 properties in the best case).

Mobile site

Finding really accessible rooms

In retrospect, I think my approach back then was wrong as I didn’t travel a lot and didn’t understand the problem from both sides, the “disabled” traveler and the hotel. Now that I did my homework contacting 300+ hotels in Berlin, I realized it is not a problem of collecting more data, well, it is about information but not the way I tackled it earlier.

My hypothesis (it is always a hypothesis until the data punches you in the face) is that there is no way to make a wheelchair user find and directly book accessible rooms online unless they are their own room category just like Twin and Double. There should be Accessible Twin or Accessible Single.

Some hotels already do that on their own website (I have a few examples but I am too lazy to dig into my data to find them), and some already do this on but they are like unicorns. It is almost impossible to find them as it is only mentioned in the room title which you can’t search for.

Bavarian Inn
Queen Room with Mobility Access – DoubleTree Amsterdam

I hope this post triggers some change for better. Booking is full smart people, and they can definitely make this better. Until then, please return the “Facilities for disabled guests” filter, because I can’t plan my trip to Dortmund.