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The Cateys judges for the 2018 Accessibility Award were impressed by the passion showed by Rudding Park in Harrogate, Yorkshire, to make the hotel completely accessible to both guests and staff with additional needs.
Steps taken by the business go far beyond those required by the Equality Act 2010, and the hotel was praised for the empathy shown in its goal of ensuring that the only reason a guest should feel special "is because of their visit to our surroundings".
The aim is to meet the needs of any visitor. Rudding Park undertakes extensive research and consults at length with its accessibility adviser before commencing any building work or upgrading any of its facilities.
The hotel has worked hard to give guests with additional needs a smooth and easy experience from the moment of their arrival. There are parking spaces for blue badge holders and a valet service as well an accessible taxi service and even a helipad.
All the public areas of Rudding Park, as well as 38 of its 90 bedrooms, are on the ground floor with level access throughout, while the lifts are equipped with audio and visual displays. Wheelchair-accessible toilets are available in multiple locations, and care has been taken to ensure that the signage is in a clear, easy to read font.
Two manual wheelchairs are available for use within the hotel and mobility scooter charging is available. The hotel also takes great care to make sure guests have enough room to manoeuvre around furniture.
When the Follifoot wing was completed in 2011, a fully accessible bedroom with en suite wet room was included within the design, along with additional adapted/accessible bedrooms. A newly built spa is also wheelchair-accessible, with adapted private changing facilities and a pool lift; the 14-seat cinema also has wheelchair space. But it's not just the guest experience that comes in for careful consideration at the hotel. The company says that 15% of its team are protected by the Equality Act. Additional staff needs include dyslexia, mental health issues, visual and hearing impairments, and physical impairments.
A junior waiter with a prosthetic leg had thought a career in hospitality would not be possible, but by implementing "minor adjustments", Rudding Park says that he has become a valued member of the team.
Thanks to the focus on accessibility, guests who may have thought twice about a hotel visit now use Rudding Park "as a matter of course".
One visitor says: "I have been visiting Rudding Park for many years in a wheelchair, I consider it to be my 'other world'. There are no physical obstructions anywhere, not even the slightest threshold with which to contend.
"The staff are amazing and treat me as if I were wheelchair-free. Every experience I have been privileged to enjoy has been a delight from start to finish."
What the judges said
"A shining example of what can be achieved when there is a will and desire to make a hotel truly accessible."
"The attitude of the team shines as a beacon for this award. The empathy shines through."
David Battersby Managing director, Manpower Hospitality and Leisure
Ross Calladine Head of business support, VisitEngland
David Croft Campaigner and author
Helen Dolphin Consultant, Helen Dolphin Consultancy
Arnold Fewell Managing director, AVF Marketing
Tim Gardiner Chairman, Tourism for All UK
James Jude General manager, Bespoke Hotels
Michael McGrath Founder and chief executive, Muscle Help Foundation
Brian Seaman Access adviser, Access New Business
Matt Wynes Head of corporate partnerships, Whizz-Kidz
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