Sponsored by Blue Badge Access Award 2019
This award recognises the operators going above and beyond the requirements of the Equality Act in accommodating and catering for people with disabilities.
The Royal Lancaster London is a shining example of accessibility. Following an £85m refurbishment of the hotel, creating 411 bedrooms, four are now accessible. That doesn't sound like a big percentage, but Sally Beck, the general manager of the hotel, was not prepared to create an accessible room with a standard, inflexible template. Beck has a tetraplegic friend, so has first-hand feedback on disabled requirements, but also sought out the late Arnold Fewell, hotel marketing consultant, to advise.
The accessible rooms have beds that can be moved so the hoist can be on either side. The bathrooms have showers with flexible seats that flip down, a handrail fitted to the wall can be pulled out if needed, and the sink height can be altered. Every room is fitted with audio beacons and with emergency pull-cords on either side of the bed (as well as one by the shower and one by the toilet).Vibrating pillows, often used by those with sensory issues, are available upon request.
Each guest is personally shown around the room on check-in to ensure they are fully aware of all the accessible facilities and that everything is positioned to suit their particular requirements.
The hotel has designated guest safety zones, large-font menus are available on request, there is a wheelchair for in-house use and a mini ramp at the front door.
The hotel team has been fully trained and continues to receive further accessibility awareness training.
The UK has an ageing population and around 25% of people have a visibility or mobility problem, so, as Beck said: "If you are not caring for these guests you are crazy. You need to take it wider than the 6% who use wheelchairs. You could do the basics and still cover the needs of the majority."
What the judges said
"The hotel team is on a great journey to a really accessible property. Ultimately, they care."
"A well-thought-through, robust and substantive entry with clear evidence of achievement. The hotel faces many challenges, not least of which are the restrictions imposed by an early 1960s building. Sally and the management team have devised and introduced many innovative approaches to meet the needs of those with a range of access problems and disabilities."
"There's a lot to like about this entry. Sally had to work damn hard to get those four rooms."
"To provide a truly accessible booking experience, hotels must provide detailed access information and bookable accessible rooms online. Delighted to see both of these at the Royal Lancaster London."
"A powerful industry message with a passionate general manager pushing through positive change within a challenging building."
Park Plaza London Waterloo
Royal Lancaster London
Peter Banks, general manager, Rudding Park
David Battersby, founder, Hospitality and Leisure Manpower
Ross Calladine, head of business support, VisitEngland
Helen Dolphin, consultant, Helen Dolphin Consultancy
Karen Fewell, director, Digital Blonde Marketing
Tim Gardiner, president, Tourism for All UK
Carrie-Ann Lightley, marketing manager, AccessAble, and travel writer
Michael McGrath, founder, Muscle Help Foundation
Daniel Pedreschi, regional general manager UK, PPHE Hotel Group
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