It has been a hard day and all you want to do is get to your hotel, check in, have a drink and a nice meal. You arrive in the car park and you can only see one space so you drive into it. Then you see it is for a disabled person. What would you do? Would you stay where you are or look for an alternative space?
Now think how you would feel if you were a disabled person arriving at the same hotel to find that all the disabled parking spaces had been taken. Then you see that none of the cars parked in the marked bays are displaying a blue or orange badge and should not be parked there.
This is one of the more upsetting experiences for a person with a disability. It means that they will not only have to walk further but it will make unloading the car a nightmare as there is insufficient space at the side of the car for assisting the disabled person, accessing the wheelchair and/or other walking or disability aids.
In supermarkets about 35% of accessible car parking spaces are used by non disabled people. This is a disgrace and yet the situation in hotels, pubs and restaurants is often much worse. The value of the market for people with disabilities is valued at £5 billion a year, so why do so many businesses in this industry create such a poor first impression.
Document M of the amended Building Regulations 2004 shows how accessible spaces should be set up. They need to be clearly marked, have extra space at the side and rear with a dropped kerb nearby so the pathway is accessible. This industry must stop the abuse of car parking.
When a person with a disability makes a reservation they are very likely to make some special requests. If your receptionist is trained to deal with this situation they would ask a series of open questions. Such as how will you be travelling to the hotel and what time will you arrive? With this knowledge a reserved sign can be placed on the parking space so on arrival the car is parked quickly, easily and close to the entrance.
All management and staff must keep an eye out for the misuse of accessible car parking and if you have CCTV the job will be that much easier. Staff must also be trained to understand how to help people with different disabilities. The needs of a person in a wheelchair are very different to someone with a visual impairment. Non disabled people often have a fear of upsetting a disabled person and may be reticent in offering help. This is perfectly natural and needs to be understood by management.
If this industry is serious about a £5 billion market it has to do three things: undertake an access audit of its premises; invest in disability awareness training for staff; and have clear policies and procedures to ensure people with disabilities have a safe and enjoyable visit.
Arnold Fewell is Managing Director of AVF Marketing Ltd. He provides a range of services to help the hotel and catering industry meet the needs of the DDA and people with disabilities. For futher information e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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