The Caterer

Viewpoint: Designing for every guest

11 May 2016 by
Viewpoint: Designing for every guest

A new competition encourages innovation in accessible room design. It's about time, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock

My parents always wanted me to be an architect, partly because it's a respectable job and partly because as a schoolboy I showed a modicum of skill in technical drawing. Unfortunately they overlooked my lack of creativity and an inability to pass exams and so, presumably along with most readers of The Caterer, I am not an architect or a designer of any kind.

Thankfully, our industry is well served by talent in this area, from those who manufacture beautiful fabrics and furniture to those who can conjure up gorgeous rooms from the sketchiest of original instructions from a client. In fact, the subject has become so central to good hotelkeeping that we are planning our first ever Hotel Interiors Forum later this year for the members of Pride of Britain, with the support of some of our commercial partners.

When you visit a decent hotel there are usually nice surprises in every part of the building. But I am sorry to say we often fall down when it comes to rooms for disabled guests. While meeting statutory requirements, these rooms are nevertheless often the least attractive. Among the few complaints that cross my desk, a recurring gripe is from able-bodied customers who are disappointed to be given a room that is conspicuously tailored to a person with physical difficulties.

What can be done? Step forward Robin Sheppard of Bespoke Hotels, who, along with the Royal Institute of British Architects, has launched a competition to find answers to this problem. There are three categories to the competition: Architecture, Product design and Service design. Anyone can enter and the prize fund of £30,000 should inspire lots of entries.

An aside if you will allow it. My only disability is the need for reading glasses, but even this proved too much when staying recently in one of the finest rooms at the Goring. Pressing all the wrong buttons on the wall, I managed to summon up the vast television from a cabinet at the foot of my bed and caused it to permanently lock at an angle of 45 degrees. All I had wanted was to turn the lights off. I am now banned from that particular room and have promised to bring a torch with me next time.

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