New £30,000 award to celebrate hotels that welcome the disabled
A new international design competition, launched by Bespoke Hotels and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), aims to encourage a more "joyful experience" for disabled hotel guests.
The award is inspired by disabled rights campaigner Baroness Celia Thomas of Winchester, who has struggled to find accessible hotel accommodation to meet her needs as a sufferer of limb girdle muscular dystrophy. The Bespoke Access Awards will offer a total prize fund of up to £30,000.
Robin Sheppard, chairman of Bespoke Hotels, who has restricted mobility after suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome, wants the awards to celebrate hotels which have a joyful story to tell.
Speaking at the awards' launch at the House of Lords, Sheppard said: "There is not much chuffing joy at being disabled and rocking up at a hotel knowing you will end up being put into a basic room next to the lifts.
"The awards are not about rules and regulations, it's about changing hearts and minds.
"As a disabled person you become anti-social as you are self-conscious about the effect you have on other people, as well as suffering from the difficulties of being able to access certain places. If these awards enable disabled people to feel better about themselves emotionally, then we will have achieved something."
The Bespoke Access Awards will recognise the most imaginative, innovative and practical ideas in architecture, product design and service design, worldwide.
Alongside Sheppard and Baroness Thompson, the judges will include Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and architects Alan Stanton and Lord Richard Rogers. Together they will consider the guests' experience from the front door to any room or service within a hotel, as well as the process undertaken before he or she arrives or during check-out.
The main winner will receive the £20,000 Celia Thomas Prize, with further awards of up to £10,000 to be considered.
Baroness Thomas added: "I am hoping that hoteliers will let their imaginations soar to allow staying away from home a much more joyful experience for disabled guests."
The awards are now open for entries and the winners will be announced on 1 December as an event to be held at the Palace of Westminster, London. Further details can be found at: www.bespokehotels.com/access.
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