Finding Accessible Hotel Accommodations in Britain

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Finding accessible hotel accommodation and facilities for disabled people in Britain has just 

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been made a little easier.

Guoman and Thistle Hotels have been successfully engaging with Tourism for All during the past 18 months to enhance the information they provide to potential disabled guests.

Based on an Access Statement template developed by VisitEngland, Brian Seaman of Tourism for All Services Limited (the Consultancy arm of Tourism for All) has recently visited all the group's 38 properties in the UK in order to identify the facilities that may meet the needs of disabled clients.

Like other hotel companies, Guoman and Thistle Hotels vary considerably in style and design from property to property.  The group prides itself on presenting individual, interesting properties within both brands; the international deluxe brand Guoman is an inspirational collection of London landmark properties, whereas Thistle's 33 well-located properties across the UK form a high-quality portfolio of contemporary, yet relaxed full service hotels.

For example, some have Grade II Listed facades through English Heritage and have been open for business for over 100 years. Others have been developed in more recent times in a modern style, but have difficult access to some facilities.

Access to some properties is by a flight of steps straight up from the pavement, with no immediate way of overcoming these comfortably. However, by careful wording of the Access Statements this is identified at an early stage, and potential guests are referred to other properties where step free access is possible and their needs can be best served. Of the London properties the most accessible by wheelchair are currently Thistle's Marble Arch, and Guoman's Charing Cross and The Cumberland hotel.

Not only is this information likely to be of benefit to individual disabled people, but also to event organisers, it will also aid e-booking, central reservations, conference and banqueting staff and other front line staff at all of their hotels who are trying to identify what is available, either for their own benefit or that of potential guests.

The information contained in the reports includes relevant details of access to meeting and function spaces as well as leisure areas, the accessible public WCs, bedrooms and other public areas.

The Access Statements contain both text and images in a PDF format, one report for each property. The images may help to identify facilities for those who do not use English as their first language or to help individuals visualise the layout.

There are links to external websites to highlight local accessible transport options, parking and Shopmobility schemes (Shopmobility offers local hire services for mobility equipment and are often based in larger shopping developments in town and city centres), so that disabled guests can organise any equipment they might need to hire for sightseeing or shopping.

The Access Statements also set out to indicate the facilities that are available at each property for guests with a hearing loss or a visual impairment; including the range of auxiliary support devices for example: Big Button telephones, Braille and large print menus, vibrating pillow pad or alarm clock, or doorbells with a flashing light in bedrooms.

There are other elements of accessibility that are also being addressed by Guoman and Thistle Hotels. The Access Statements form a part of their overall strategic review of services and facilities for disabled clients, as they strive to enhance the guest experience for all.

Guoman and Thistle Hotels are not the only hotel company that have been reviewing information for disabled guests. Magnus Bergland of Scandic Hotels recently commented that all investments in greater accessibility have repaid themselves within a year to two years - and the recent update of information that they make available for disabled guests has repaid itself in three months. With that in mind we are confident that this will work for Guoman and Thistle Hotels.

The charity Tourism for All continues to strive to improve the information and services provided by operators in the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry for all users. Without the support of the industry this would not be possible and we are very grateful to our supporting Members - many thanks if you are one of them.

Further information about the progress being made by Guoman and Thistle Hotels is available at:

www.thistle.com/en/group/accessibility.html and www.guoman.com/en/group/accessibility.html

 

More information about developing accessible facilities may be obtained from:

Tourism for All - www.tourismforall.org.uk/Advice-for-Tourism-Businesses.html

Contact: Brian Seamanbrian@tourismforall.org.uk

 

A template for producing an Access Statement has been developed by VisitEngland -www.enjoyengland.com/corporate/corporate-information/Industry_Services/Sustainability-and-Accessibility/Accessible-Tourism/Access-Statements.aspx

Contact: Ross CalladineRoss.Calladine@visitengland.org

 

Information about equipment provided for shopping and sightseeing is available from:

National Federation of Shopmobility - www.shopmobilityuk.org/

Contact: Richard Ashdowninfo@shopmobilityuk.org

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1 Comment

As a power wheelchair user dealing with IBM (a form of muscular dystrophy) and approaching the Bible’s allotted lifespan of threescore and ten, I consider myself as representing a large and growing segment of humanity that is able to enjoy a much longer life than my forefathers, thanks to many incredible advances in medicine and technology.

The following is an observation and incomplete as I am not offering any solutions at this time - hoping for feedback before I do.

Thinking of travel, both for business and recreation there are many stories to be found on the internet and featured by the media of disabled travelers who undertake incredible trips and experience any number of adventures. Though these intrepid individuals are inspiring and much to be admired, I suspect (this is an assumption) that there are many, many people who are a little more timid (“normal”) who would love to travel but are intimidated by the prospects of inadequate inadequate travel and lodging facilities, by definition a population that is difficult to assess.

Concentrating on the hospitality industry, flying is another issue entirely, I was interested to see that Guoman and Thistle, hotel operators in Britain, are highlighting their efforts to improve accessibility. While a commendable effort, my reading is that the effort falls far short of the real need – a worldwide concern.

Inadequate accommodation for anyone who is disabled must be considered to be a discriminatory denial of service and, as we get deeper into the 21st century, consider that reasonable access to public spaces should be a right, not a privilege. Even when its not a regulatory concern, it is certainly one of ethics and morality.
Though, worldwide, many hotels offer assurances of accessibility, my experiences (limited to the US and the UK), is that the reality is far from being the case.
I suspect that the hospitality industry, even at its best (this is also an assumption), sets itself up to meet local accessibility standards (accented with “feel good” architectural features) rather than planning and implementing for the “worst case scenario” even though it is impossible to get it exactly right – disability is not an exact science!
Probably the greatest concern is the “bottom line” where bathrooms often prove to be absolutely inaccessible. In spite of assurances of full accessibility the reality is often a surprise.

Issues of cost and expense should be factored into the cost of doing business, regardless of the state of the economy. Though, worldwide, many hotels offer assurances of accessibility, my experiences (limited to the US and the UK), is that the reality is far from being the case, particularly concerning the “bottom line” where bathrooms often prove to be absolutely inaccessible. Some disabled travelers obviously manage to get by, even though it often requires much planning - and even then the reality is often a surprise.

While my view of accessible accommodation is obviously filtered to reflect my needs and those of people that I know, I try to reflect on as many variations of disability as I can in my thinking.

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