Disability will affect all of us at some point in our lives and currently, 1 in 5 people are disabled. The collective spending power of disabled people is called The Purple Pound and is estimated at £274 billion a year. But for disabled people to be able to spend their money, businesses including hotels must be accessible. The key to happy, returning customers is to offer good accessibility and inclusion.
So with this in mind, here are 5 things I look for when going to an accessible hotel as a wheelchair user and what makes me want to book again. Of course, these are just some of my most important and there will be more/less depending on your disability.
1. Access starts online
Booking a hotel room shouldn’t be complicated, but for disabled travellers like myself, it can be a challenge. So much time is spent searching on websites looking for the best accessible hotel to meet my basic accessibility needs. And that’s before I even consider other important factors.
When I visit a hotels website, I want to be able to find details about the accessible room quickly. Clear and concise information with photos showing the accessible bedroom, bathroom and facilities help me decide whether it is suitable for my access needs.
Personally, the hotel’s website is the first and often the only place we will look before booking a hotel bedroom. I will simply leave the website if I can’t find any mention of accessibility and I won’t give that hotel my custom.
Access starts online and there is no excuse for not having accessibility information on a business website.
An incredible 73% of potential disabled customers experience barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visit according to findings from The Purple Pound.
2. Location & proximity to public transport
Location is an important factor when choosing a hotel and is usually based on what our intended activities are at the destination.
Personally, travelling in our wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) is more convenient and allows us to store luggage and equipment in the car easily. This is particularly important if we’re staying at an accessible hotel in the UK and going to be away for several nights with lots of luggage.
Once we arrive at the hotel, we want to be able to park as close as possible. A hotel with its own car park or nearby on-street blue badge parking is ideal and can make all the difference to whether we book that hotel or not.
A city centre hotel with easy walking/rolling distance to visitor attractions and public transport is also very handy. Researching accessible things to do is another huge task disabled people must do before going somewhere new.
There is often a list of local attractions on a hotels website, but it would be helpful for hotels to consider the mindset of someone with accessibility needs visiting that location by suggesting a few accessible attractions. This would be a nice starting base.
I’ve always found it very helpful when hotel staff are able to quickly help whenever we’ve needed to book accessible transportation to and from the hotel. I think it’s important that hotels have an up-to-date list of contact numbers for accessible taxis and general accessibility information on the cities public transport for their disabled guests.
The hotel should also provide alternative accessible transportation for airport transfers if their airport shuttle buses cannot accommodate wheelchair users.
3. Arrival, entrance and public area access
First impressions of a hotel are important, but perhaps even more so for disabled travellers. So it’s vital to feel welcome from the get-go. Poor access upon entering as well as in and around the reception and public areas will immediately cause concern. If I can’t easily access the public areas then what about the ‘accessible’ room.
Level access, ramps, automatic doors and open space to easily move around enable independence and create inclusiveness. It’s great being able to check-in at a lowered reception desk and comfortably speak to the staff while completing paperwork such as a Personal Evacuation Plan (PEP).
It’s nice when staff explain where to find different amenities in the hotel including the bar, gym and spa rather than assume we can’t/don’t enjoy drinking or working out like other hotel guests. All areas of the hotel should be accessible to everyone.
I recently stayed at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London. The hotel entrance was at street level, but then once inside there were marble steps down to access the lobby, reception, restaurants and rooms.
However, we were impressed that the staircase retracts and transforms into a wheelchair lift.
4. Accessible hotel rooms
For most travellers, they will enter a hotel bedroom, throw down their bags and fall onto the mattress. Disabled travellers enter and immediately scan the bedroom to check its accessibility features.
- Is there sufficient space at the side of the bed to access it?
- Is the bed too low/high?
- Is there a ceiling hoist? (Hotel Brooklyn Manchester accessible room with ceiling track hoist)
- Space underneath the bed for a portable hoist?
- Space to manoeuvre – comfortable turning radius for wheelchairs.
- Does the bathroom have a roll-in shower? Is there a wall-mounted shower seat or commode?
- Power sockets next to the bed to power medical equipment and charge power wheelchairs?
- Light switches and AC controls within easy reach?
Sometimes the little touches add to the overall hotel stay experience.
- A thoughtfully placed toilet without obstructions e.g. a hand wash basin positioned too close that prevents safe wheelchair to toilet transfers.
- Enough space under the bathroom sink that allows wheelchair users to roll completely under without banging knees or stretching too far. (Hotel sinks are a big bug-bear of mine.)
- Are there adequate grab bars in the bathroom?
- A lowered mirror in the bathroom
- A full-length mirror in the bedroom (because disabled people like to check our appearance too.)
- Automatic door entry system for easy access to the hotel bedroom (Corendon Vitality Hotel Amsterdam had this and it was great.)
5. Staff awareness
We all go to a hotel expecting staff to be helpful and friendly, but attitude and awareness towards disability are also incredibly crucial. It makes all the difference when staff speak directly to the disabled person rather than the person we are with.
Often, it’s the staff that can add to the overall experience during a hotel stay. The service we receive is essentially the first opportunity for staff to create a great first impression and ultimately a great lasting impression. A great first impression and great customer service will make me want to stay at that hotel again and recommend it to others.
The European Commission report found that 50% of disabled people “would travel more if they could be sure more accessible facilities were available”. A survey by VisitBritain revealed that domestic overnight visitor spending by disabled people was £3.2 billion in 2015, likely to be much more now. This is proof that disabled people want to travel more and will if accessibility is available.
What do you look for when booking an accessible hotel? Let me know in the comments below!
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