In the third part of our accessibility series, Arnold Fewell helps identify the simple fixes that everybody should have done for disabled guests
Between 1995 and 2010 we had the Disability Discrimination Act, which introduced the concept of reasonable adjustments in businesses. The act concentrated on adding ramps, widening doors and simplifying building access in future plans.
The 2010 Equality Act changed the focus and built on the concept of a reasonable adjustment. In brief, this means that operators have a legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments to their property or business so that a disabled person is not discriminated against. These adjustments do not need to be expensive and many may cost you nothing, as they are simple changes in the way you do things.
If you provide the right positive environment and training about accessibility, your team will be well-equipped to identify reasonable adjustments. So why not task them to come up with ideas over the next three months by awarding a small prize for the best ideas? It isn't the prize but the recognition that is important, so include the ideas and the winners in your newsletters and on your website. Encourage guests to vote on the best ideas and contact your local media with the details. This will demonstrate to potential and existing disabled guests that you are serious in making your guest experience outstanding.
What should you be doing to help your disabled guests?
1 Train your staff. Research has shown that 69% of the general public will not go to the help of a disabled person due to fear. This is fear of getting something wrong and making a situation worse. The way to overcome this is to train staff and give them confidence.
2 Have a file of accessible venues to visit. Many hotels will have information on local places to visit, such as museums, gardens and attractions. Make sure you have details of all the accessible places that disabled guests can visit and provide a website or telephone number where they can get more information or ask questions.
3 Provide a letter of welcome for deaf people. Rather than trying to explain about the hotel and answer questions, provide all that information in a welcome letter. This is not only a good idea for a deaf person, but it can then be translated into other languages.
4 Provide a magnifying glass in the lounge. If you have magazines or newspapers available in your lounge, make sure there is a magnifying glass to help your guests with reading.
5 Provide a dimmable desk lamp in the bedroom.
6 Make a large-button phone available. This does not have to be kept permanently in one room, but can be kept in housekeeping until your booking process identifies when it will be needed.
7 Put on TV subtitles. This is a quick and easy improvement for a person with a hearing impairment.
8 Provide information in large print. This could be a registration form, a personal emergency evacuation plan or a restaurant menu. This should printed in at least a 16-point font.
9 Clear away dirty crockery from bedroom corridors. Train porters, room service staff and housekeepers to clear away any hazards for those with a sight impairment.
10 Provide a water bowl for an assistance dog. Dogs get thirsty as well, especially on hot days, so make sure it is regularly topped up.
11 Ensure you know where an assistance dog can be taken for a walk. This is a simple addition to your accessibility guide.
12 Make sure assistance dogs are given suitable space in restaurants and bars. Assistance dogs will sit at the feet of their owner, so this may mean taking out a chair or using a corner space.
13 Have the details of a local mobility or cycle shop. This will be somewhere where wheelchairs can be serviced, repaired or hired. Tyres can get a puncture, the front wheels of a wheelchair can come off and scooter batteries can go flat. Having details of somewhere like this is very helpful, or can your maintenance engineer help?
Arnold Fewell runs online training resourcewww.accesschamp.co.ukand is the managing director of AVF Marketing