Hospitality businesses should not forget about serving disabled customers as the industry prepares to train 200,000 staff for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.
That's the warning from People 1st, the sector skills council for the hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel (HLTT) industries.
People 1st, with the support of VisitEngland, is introducing the WorldHost training programme to raise the standard and delivery of customer service training in the UK. The programme includes additional learning modules on serving customers with disabilities. It covers topics such as knowing the right language to use and being aware of feelings, misconceptions and biases.
Marc Woods, Paralympic gold-medallist and BBC commentator, said: "Disability is always relative to the task in hand and there are some very simple things businesses can do to be welcoming to those with disabilities. Access is often an issue, but what makes a meaningful difference is the way in which people behave. Ignorance breeds fear and debunking some of the myths around disability will have a real impact on how staff treat disabled customers. Simply remembering that respectful and friendly service makes a lasting impression whether your customer is disabled or not."
Wisdom added: "Putting aside equality obligations, ensuring people with disabilities are served simply makes good business sense. There is a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games but not enough on ensuring we have the softer skills needed to welcome the world to Britain, and this is particularly true for meeting the needs of customers with disabilities. It's anticipated that up to half a million visitors will arrive for the Games and we need to ensure their experience of Britain is a very positive one."
WorldHost's tips for improving communication with customers who have disabilities:
- Treat all customers as you would like to be treated
- Make no assumptions or generalistaions
- Pity is not an emotion that disabled people appreciate
- Disabled people are not all alike
- There are ranges of abilities and not everyone requires or wants your help
- Do not let one bad experience cloud your judgement
- Do not patronise
- Do not be afraid to ask what you can do to help
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