Accessibility campaigner and marketing expert Arnold Fewell has died at the age of 67.
After a brave fight against cancer, Fewell passed away in the early hours of this morning (Thursday 14 February 2019) supported by his family.
In his later years Fewell campaigned tirelessly for the hospitality industry to take accessibility more seriously, while also running his family marketing business AVF Marketing.
His perseverance and passion for promoting accessibility and spelling out the financial advantages of serving those with disabilities won him the Special Award at the 2012 Cateys. But this wasn’t the first time he was recognised at the hospitality industry’s awards.
Having started his career as a graduate trainee at Trusthouse Forte working his way up to general manager, Fewell took a change of direction and joined North Yorkshire County Council as education catering manager.
In the three-and-a-half years he was with the authority he increased meal uptake from 21% to just over 60%, despite a reduction in free meal allocations. In recognition of his work, which included the FEAST (fun eating at school today) campaign, Fewell was awarded the Foodservice Caterer Catey in 1988.
Fewell went on to set up AVF Marketing in September 1990. He worked with dozens of authorities, helping them to win new business, increase meal numbers and retain contracts.
In 2000 Fewell suffered serious issues with his right leg, which eventually had to be amputated. For many this would have meant slowing down, but Fewell turned the events into a positive.
He campaigned tirelessly to raise the issue of accessibility within hospitality and promote just how much operators were missing out by not appealing to this lucrative market.
He told The Caterer in 2012: “Being a person with a disability opened my eyes to the situations we all face every day. Many of these are completely unnecessary and could be avoided if non-disabled people had a little more forethought.”
Having seen the issues first hand, Fewell said that he just wanted to make a difference.
“My focus in the last 10 years has been about providing great customer service to people with disabilities. This is not rocket science. This is about making small changes that can make a huge difference to people with an impairment.”
Reacting to the news Hospitality Action chief executive Mark Lewis paid tribute to Fewell.
He said: “In my time at The Caterer and Hospitality Action, I’ve been privileged to meet many admirable people. None have I admired more than my friend, Arnold Fewell, who died today.
“That The Caterer now presents an Accessibility Catey each year, is entirely down to Arnold’s tenacity and dedication to his cause. Arnold adored the Cateys, and presenting him with the Catey Special Award in 2012 was one of the highlights of my career at The Caterer.
He added: “I shall remember Arnold as a gentleman and gentle man, someone who responded to health problems stoically yet defiantly, and who refused to let them define him. I shall remember his strength of character, his kindness, and his sense of fun – he always had an endless supply of ‘legless’ gags…
“Arnold had a passion for making the world a better place. In truth, he achieved that simply by being here with us.”
Fewells eldest daughter Karen Fewell paid tribute to her father’s passion and determination.
“Throughout his illness, dad continued to work and has been so determined to make real changes in hospitality to improve experiences for others, despite his own health issues,” she said.
“Dad always said he wanted his legacy to be how he had made hospitality accessible for all and he has made some significant changes and brought accessibility higher up the agenda in this industry.
“However, there is so much work still to be done which is why as a family we’ll continue this journey. Dad helped us fall in love with the world of hospitality, just like he did, and we are so grateful for the love the industry has shown him.”
Fewell is survived by his wife Lynn (pictured with her husband) and three daughters Karen, Nicola and Sarah.
A celebration of Fewell’s life will be held at New Life Baptist Church, Northallerton at 2pm on Thursday 7 March. Contact Karen@digitalblondemarketing.com if you would like to attend.