Making Hotels Accessible For All

Hotel Business –
Serving the hotel industry across the UK

To be bylined to Chris Bush, Head of Experience Design at
Sigma.

The average UK adult spends over 10 months of their
life asleep in hotels; a significant figure. Sadly, however, these
experiences are more straightforward for some than others.

In a recent survey, a concerning 72% of
disabled guests said their hotel failed to meet their accessibility
requirements. Despite recent efforts to improve this situation,
such as
AirBnB’s
new accessibility filters – which enable guests to
find accommodation that is perfectly suited to their needs – UK
hotels are far from accessible to disabled guests on the whole.

Our
research
supports this, having found there is a general lack of
awareness and accessibility provision across the entire UK tourism
sector. A recent example is the case of Richard
Shakespeare
, a man with cerebral palsy who was left on a hotel
floor for two hours after his hotel room’s emergency cord failed.
Staff were found to be woefully unaware of procedures they should
have followed throughout the incident.

Clearly, this highlights that more must be done to improve hotel
accessibility. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, from
training staff in order to understand the requirements of disabled
guests to ensuring both physical and digital offerings are
user-friendly and inclusive.

Not only will improving hotel accessibility benefit disabled
visitors, it also has the potential to boost the hotel industry’s

£20million
turnover. The Purple Pound is worth
£12 billion
to the hospitality market and given that
“disabled people tend to stay longer, spend more and bring more
people with them” there are real economic benefits for catering
for everyone.

With this in mind, let’s explore how UK hotels can be made
accessible to all.


Physical
adjustments

First and foremost, a hotel’s interior design should take all
guests into consideration.

To ensure all spaces within a venue are physically accessible to
everyone, hotel managers must ask “is this accommodation suitable
for those who are blind, deaf, immobile or who have with various
cognitive impairments or neurodiverse conditions?” If at any
point the answer to this question is no, then action has to be
taken.

The following points outline key ways hotels can create
accessible interior spaces:

  • Ensure wheelchair friendliness – provide wheelchair access
    throughout the hotel and rooms that have disabled toilets designed
    with the user in mind – for example, with grab rails, shower
    seats and lowered sinks. Also, have at least a handful of rooms
    fitted with hoists and electric beds.
  • Provide services for guests with cognitive impairments or
    neurodiverse conditions –soundproof hotel rooms and provide
    specific quiet zone floors or sections of the hotel reserved for
    guests with conditions such as autism or ADHD. Adding sensory
    lighting to bedrooms is also worth exploring.
  • Adapt for the blind – provide braille signs, be guide dog
    friendly and have trained staff on hand to guide passengers through
    the hotel if needed.
  • Help those with hearing loss – ensure all hotel information
    is visual as opposed to audio based. Make all areas of a hotel well
    lit and install video intercoms into all hotel rooms.

Conscientious customer service

Another priority for hotels is to ensure all staff members
understand customers with ranging abilities. This needs to go
beyond front-of house employees; guests should feel comfortable in
approaching all members of staff for assistance.

European hotel giant Scandic
is a pioneer in this respect, setting a great example for hotels
across the UK. The chain’s high level of accessibility is largely
thanks to its accessibility director – who himself is disabled.
He has helped ensure that all of the business’ employees
understand how to effectively facilitate guests with
disabilities.

To help mirror this approach on a widespread scale across the UK
hotel sector, all companies should focus on better staff training
on how to cater for the various requirements of a wide range of
guests.

Enrolling staff onto courses, such as those provided by the
National Disability Authority (NDA), is a great way to achieve
this. The NDA’s e-learning module is a
quick, affordable option for employers, but there are also
dedicated trainers across the country that are available to meet
workers and demonstrate how to effectively cater for disabled
customers.

Disabled-friendly digital platforms

Not only do hotels have to be physically accessible; their
online presence should also reflect this strategy.

Given the rise of online-only hotel booking sites, such as
Booking.com, Trivago and Expedia, more people are choosing to book
accommodation online than ever before. For this reason, it is
crucial that hotel websites are tailored to enable all visitors to
easily access hotel information and booking platforms.

However, as it stands, many sites are simply not hitting the
mark in this respect. This is evident from WebAIM’s recent
accessibility evaluation of the top 1,000,000 websites – which
included major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton. This found
that 97.8% of the homepages assessed failed various accessibility
standards. So, there is a lot of work that has to be done to
address digital inclusivity.

To ensure that everyone has equal access to these services and
information, user-friendly digital design is key across websites,
mobile apps and other channels. In this respect, it is important
that digital teams consider inclusive design from the outset and it
is not just seen as a ‘nice to have’ feature.

Here are a few simple features that should be included to ensure
web accessibility:

  • Video accessibility – ensure videos are closed-captioned or
    there is a sign language version available
  •  Text size – make sure this is adjustable and pinch and zoom
    are enabled
  • Visual effects – make these optional by allowing users to
    turn them on and off where required
  •  Links – make clickable links and buttons larger than and
    ensure adequate white space
  • Tab order – make sure users can tab through all key elements
    of a website and these elements are also friendly for assistive
    technologies such as screen readers
  • Colour contrast – make sure elements are easily legible and
    provide sufficient colour contrast

The above are just a subset of the items that should be
considered to ensure full web accessibility. The Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
provides a more comprehensive
list and is a good starting point.

Along with the above, inviting users with ranging abilities and
needs to take part in
usability sessions
throughout the digital design process will
be hugely informative. This will help identify aspects of a website
or app that do and do not work, enabling designers to rectify
issues accordingly. Doing this upfront will save time and money in
the long term.

There is no excuse for poor accessibility

Everyone is entitled to have equal access to any given service,
so it is about time hotels stepped up their level of accessibility
in order to accommodate for all guests.

It might seem like a daunting task, but the reality is that a
disabled access room is
no more expensive
to build or refurbish than a standard hotel
room. Therefore, there is no excuse for neglecting disabled access
any longer.

If hotels pay the same attention to detail in regards to
accessibility as they do to other areas of the business, these
establishments can expect to increase both guest satisfaction rates
and – thanks to the increasing valuable purple pound – their
bottom lines.

www.wearesigma.com

Hotel Business –
Serving the hotel industry across the UK

Source: FS – All-Hotels-Blogs
Making Hotels Accessible For All