In Australia alone, approximately one fifth of the traveling population is disabled yet only 21% of 4-5 star hotels have wheelchair access and just a staggering 14.5% have other measures put in place for disabled guests.
This information is startling when one considers how much profit is being misplaced simply because accommodation providers are marginalising a specific group of people.
There are countless ways that these providers can choose to supply access to their property for people with disabilities. Speaking to the building inspectors department within their local city council would be an excellent way to begin! Wayne Manson of Multifit Hospital Supplies Ltd, suggests there are specific requirements that accommodation providers need to comply with when building or upgrading a property. Usually, these would relate closely to Disabled Persons Parking – parking ideally situated on a level area within reasonable distance from the designated accommodation facility, and with apt space for wheelchair loading. Another basic measure would be installing ramps or lifts where there are stairs, and particularly wide doorways with low, wheelchair friendly handles that can be manipulated by those with limited or no hand function.
Inside the accommodation itself, level shower access would be something truly beneficial for many disabled guests, equipped with handrails and a flexible shower head. Any basin would ideally be required to reach a height whereby a wheelchair would not interfere with its use, and some other bathroom modifications would also be necessary – for instance an emergency bell or button so that help may be called should trouble arise. It is important to note that elderly guests are also considered disabled in the way that they may be unable to do certain things, or carry out certain tasks in the same way that able-bodied people might. Diminished eye sight, deafness, muscle wastage, arthritis, severe illness as well as mobility inability; these are all instances of disability that will affect any number of hotel guests now and in the future, that could benefit hugely from more attention being paid to disability access in the industry.
A much undervalued method of aiding disabled access, as Manson describes, is simply risk assessment. “One of the biggest concerns for people with mobility difficulties and blindness is the risk of tripping and falling; it’s often those small steps on a path or doorway that people trip on. A simple solution is to install a small ramp.” If a guest with a pre-existing condition was to trip and fall onto a hard surface, break a bone or worse, the accommodation provider in question would then be open to – at the very least a disgruntled guest – at worst, a lawsuit. Preventative action would eradicate this worry.
One disability very much on the increase is sight impairment, with a growing number now relying on Braille and tactile signs to negotiate public buildings and accommodation facilities. David Gower of Braille Signs Ltd, had much insight to relay on the topic, “The existence of Braille and tactile signage creates confidence for Braille readers and can influence their choice of accommodation”. This is an excellent point when considering the advertising potential disabled access might provide a hotel!
“In August 2010 The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind adopted the Unified English Braille (UEB) format of Braille and formally recognized its adoption in New Zealand. This gave New Zealand signage providers one of the most up-to-date formats of Braille in the world, complete with recommended formats, heights, and bevel-angles for pictograms.” What is crucial though for accommodation providers to be aware of, is that certain aspects of Braille signage used in New Zealand are not used in Australia; thus it is essential that expert advice be obtained before any signs are erected in order to best aid those who require them. A few examples of the practical considerations one would need to consider, include the resistance of sign materials to cleaning fluids, and the size and degrees of visual contrast between the backing substrate of a sign and its text or pictogram.
Also according to Gower, “the edge bevel of raised pictograms is specified and a critical factor to any person deciphering a graphic by feeling its perimeter; not all disability sign manufacturers raise the profile of graphics and text like the new specifications require. Clearly then, compliance with these aspects and others should be checked before buying disability signage.”
Persons requiring disabled access deserve as much as anybody else, the right to a relaxing holiday free from hassle. This basic service should be aided, if not provided, by accommodation properties who would surely benefit from opening themselves up to countless more guests! It is certainly time that a much greater attention was paid to who the industry is currently marginalising, and put a great deal more effort into securing disabled persons access.