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Viewpoint: Be an accessibility champion

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Viewpoint: Be an accessibility champion

Considering accessibility leads to innovative technology and benefits for everyone. Robin Sheppard explains why businesses need to be more forward-thinking and appoint an access champion

What do the typewriter, the telephone, the remote control and the office scanner have in common? They were all designed to make things easier – and more accessible – for a disabled person.

The first typewriter was built to help a blind Italian countess write legibly. Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, had both a wife and mother who were deaf. The remote control was created to make life easier for people with limited mobility. Today’s office scanners evolved from technologies created to make talking books for the blind.

We have seen time and time again that designing for disabled individuals leads to inclusive design – finding creative solutions to problems for a much wider group to experience. These solutions eventually become conveniences for mainstream groups – and often for everyone. You just need someone to champion the cause.

“We are the champions,” sang Freddie Mercury, and now we have champions of sustainability (including teenage ones from Sweden). It’s time to empower colleagues across hospitality businesses to champion access and remove barriers, to reach a market worth more than £6b globally and see what benefits for disabled and elderly customers are waiting to be discovered – as well as to realise how this can benefit all of our guests and staff alike.

Right now, each and every UK business has a formula for measuring and sharing success. Sadly this is based mainly on examining forecasts and profit and loss accounts, with a bit of health and safety thrown in.

This is simply not fit for purpose in this day and ag. Whether it be at senior, board, or head of department level, this formula needs to change. Businesses need to measure and understand their impact in relation to their carbon footprints, sustainability and inclusivity. Starting today.

Access should sit permanently on the agenda and every hotel, restaurant and bar business should appoint an access champion within their teams. That person could be the general manager or the pot-washer – it doesn’t matter which. What’s in our hearts and minds is what should matter.

So now you’ve read this article, you can either forget all about it or do something to make a difference.

We don’t need regulation or government diktat to force us into new behaviours; but given how our nation’s age profile is changing, we need to embrace the increasing numbers of guests (and staff) with disability and become outstanding at anticipating their needs.

Come on – let’s champion the cause of ‘access’ and show the world how inventive we are here in the UK. It’s what Freddie Mercury would have wanted.

Bespoke hotels chairman Robin Sheppard is writing on behalf of the Blue Badge Access Awards, sponsors of the 2019 Catey Accessibility Award

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