It's time that operators advertised their accessibility as a positive and realised a return on investment on their facilities, says Fiona Jarvis
I've been disabled for 25 years and during that time I've not lost my enjoyment of the good things in life, which includes going out to eat and drink. But despite enjoying hotel stays and evenings out, I'm often in the dark when it comes to understanding where I can and can't go regarding access and facilities.
I always need to ask detailed questions on whether a wheelchair has access to the bathroom or shower and whether they've got grab rails.
On the rare occasion I find some sort of access statement it's well hidden on a website and at one hotel this was beneath their policy on dogs. Why not advertise a good selling point in recessionary times and get a return on the investment regarding disabled facilities?
Do venues think it will put people off or is it just that these facilities are viewed as a necessity from a compliance point of view? Hopefully it's because they see inclusive access as normal, like having tables and chairs in a restaurant.
So what's the problem? Despite years of experience, I still worry about going to new places. I have to consider whether I will need help getting access, or not drink too much in case there's no adequate toilet.
I don't mind a lack of facilities or an obstacle, I just need to know what to expect. What if a guest is newly disabled or temporarily incapacitated or not assertive enough?
Not knowing can lead to disappointment, embarrassment or worse still you become too afraid to go out and ultimately feel excluded from society. Access statements should be presented from a sales and comfort point of view.
We all hope the Paralympics has changed the perception of disability in the same way that the internet changed communication for people with disabilities, it's the prime source of information on what to do and where to go. Not everyone wants to always visit the local pizza chain just because they can be sure it has a disabled toilet.
The hospitality industry should realise this and add descriptions of their venues from the perspective of a less able customer, they might be surprised at how profitable this could be, in a market worth £2bn.
Fiona Jarvis is founder of Blue Badge Style - A Guide For The Discerning Less Able