In the second of two articles, Arnold Fewell, managing director of AVF Marketing and a permanent wheelchair user, gives advice on how great customer service can be delivered to people with disabilities by the reception department
I was recently asked if an architect was the right person to design facilities for people with disabilities and my emphatic answer was "no". Let me give you just one example why.
I was staying at a newly built hotel on Epsom race course. The reception staff were very welcoming, they had had some accessibility training but they wanted more and I asked them what was the biggest problem they faced. Their immediate answer was: "Our accessible rooms are the farthest away from reception and people with mobility impairments can't walk to them and, if they do, they usually stay put."
The distance was incredible as I soon discovered and the view certainly wasn't worth the long walk. I had to use two lifts and then roll down several corridors to get to my room and then back again to the bar if the hotel wanted me to spend any extra money. In my opinion the architects should have been called back to correct the problem and pay for any adaptations required.
Reception has a vital role to play in finding out what people with disabilities think about the accessible features of their hotel. The staff must feel confident talking to disabled people and remember that there is always a person behind the disability. They should talk to the person with a disability as you would any other guest.
A great way of discovering your limitations is to ask open questions. As well as "Did you enjoy your stay", why not ask "How did you find the accessible features of our hotel", or "What did you think of the accessible bathroom that we have just had refurbished".
Reception staff need training about the different disabilities and Tourism for All provides excellent online training for as little as £35. A receptionist could be the accessibility champion for their hotel and then undertake the training. Their role should then be to cascade the information through each department. In this way, every hotel can have a cost-effective way of improving the service they provide for people with disabilities.
eight tips for a best practice accessible welcome
1 Phone the guest after they settled in and make sure everything is fine and they are comfortable. Make sure they have everything they need or if anything in the room needs changing, like removing furniture so they can get round the room more easily.
2 Provide instructions and guidance about using the hotel in large print only so it can be used for everyone. Many times I have been given the same information, at the same time but in different font sizes.
3 Understand the right language and the wrong language to use. This is well covered in the training provided by Tourism for All.
4 Do not be afraid of anyone with a disability, particularly learning difficulties. They like being talked to and acknowledged just like anyone else.
5 Know where and have information about where people with disabilities can visit. This can be very helpful, especially when you know details of the accessibility. Don't recommend something to a wheelchair user if they are immediately faced with a flight of stone steps as once happened to me.
6 Tell all other departments that there are people with disabilities staying and in which room they will be, then request these are cleaned early ready for the guests arrival.
7 Have wheelchairs or scooters for guests with mobility impairments especially if you have substantial grounds. This may help a person fully enjoy your facilities especially if any of the walks or facilities are uphill.
8 Make sure you know how to open and close a wheelchair. This will show a person with a disability that you understand their needs and really care. Too often I have arrived at a hotel by taxi and nobody knows how to put up my wheelchair and I have tried to do it while standing on one leg. Not easy.
http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/08/05/339709/How-to.-make-reception-accessible.htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">How to… make reception accessible >>