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What stands out about the disabled facilities at Cringletie House hotel is that they have been so thoroughly thought out. Certainly, creating a hotel that was accessible to all was close to the heart of one of the owner, Mrs Van Houdt, not least because she herself has walking limitations.
In fact, arguably the key to the four-star hotel's success in becoming accessible is the fact it has drawn on the expertise of those with disabilities. For example, the disabled bedrooms were designed with the help of a consultant with MS and two representatives from the Scottish Deaf Association.
They seem to have thought of everything. There is a designated accessible bedroom with, for instance, electrically adjustable beds, a wide electronically operated door and wooden floors for easy wheelchair use.
Throughout the hotel, guests with impaired hearing can benefit from vibrating pillow alarms, flash lighting connected to the alarm bell, a loop hearing system and a hearing system that can be placed on a dining table. Those with impaired vision are offered large-print menus and large button phones and for anyone with walking disabilities there is an automated system in the car park to let reception staff know guests have arrived.
The list of services and facilities is simply too long to mention here. What should get a mention, however, is that the staff have been given extensive training and are, for instance, encouraged to experience what it feels like to arrive in a wheelchair and be evacuated from the accessible bedroom.
As judge Arnold Fewell, managing director of AVF Marketing, said: "The entry from Cringletie hotel showed how people with disabilities were involved in making the improvements and demonstrated a commitment to caring for people with different disabilities. In return they have benefited from extra business."
The owners commitment extended to making substantial investment. The hotel is listed, which was a big challenge, particularly as all the public rooms and some of the larger bedrooms are on the first floor. This made it imperative that they find space to build a lift for wheelchair users. To give an idea of cost, they invested £60,000 in the lift, £5,000 in the chairlift in the lobby, £30,000 in the redesign of a dedicated accessible bedroom and £10,000 in the ramp to the front door.
And at the end of the day, the fact they run a profitable business is what caught the attention of judge David Battersby, managing director of HALM: "It was good to see a relatively small business take such big strides to widen access to those with disabilities - and profit in the process. It has done much to ensure that making Cringletie accessible has resulted in the hotel offering the best it possibly can to all its guests."
Tim Gardiner business development consultant, Tourism For All UK, agreed: "Despite having to spend a lot of capital on major access adjustments to the building, the owners and management saw the business opportunity was going be achieved through their staff. By providing excellent innovative training in disability awareness, they clearly won the interest and commitment from the team."
Cringletie House Hotel, Peebles
â- One Great George Street, London
David Battersby, managing director, HALM
Helen Dolphin, director of policy & campaigns, Disabled Motoring UK
Arnold Fewell, managing director, AVF Marketing
Tim Gardiner, business development consultant, Tourism For All UK
Michael McGrath, chief executive officer, Michael McGrath Management Services