At a time of difficult trading it is astonishing that hospitality businesses don't take the disabled people market seriously. I am a permanent wheelchair user and I stay in hotels at least 100 nights a year. I also eat out regularly, attend conferences and exhibitions, and have a daughter getting married. I only say this to show I have lots of experience as a disabled customer.
It is estimated that the accessible market is worth £2b. Yet few hospitality premises in the UK make any attempt to ensure a disabled person feels safe, comfortable and welcome.
The provision of good customer service for people with disabilities is not rocket science; it is common sense.
This tip alone could save you thousands of pounds in an accident claim: Imagine you were a disabled person and had slipped while using the shower. You might have broken a bone or sprained a muscle and could not get up. You would be naked and soaking wet, lying on the floor. You might be bleeding. You would almost certainly be shocked and concerned about what you are going to do next. No worry you think - I will pull the alarm cord. Imagine your horror when you go to pull the cord and see it tied neatly in a ball, several feet above you and unreachable. This is a common occurrence. Housekeeping staff presumably think they are helping to reduce false alarms or stopping the cord interfering with able-bodied people. Whatever the reason it must stop happening.
In this series of articles we will look at different parts of hotels, restaurants and bars and highlight steps you can take to make your premises more accessible to people with disabilities. They are usually simple to do and can be phased in over time if money is required. They all have one aim in mind and that is to improve customer service so that people with disabilities come back time and time again.
Arnold Fewell, AVF Marketing
10 tips for creating an accessible bathroom
1 Build wet rooms, not bathrooms. Showers are more popular than baths, and everyone can use a wet room.
2 If you have a shower curtain, ensure it is 6in off the floor so wheelchair wheels do not get caught up. If that happens, the shower rail can be pulled out of the wall - I have done it.
3 Sliding doors must slide easily. Too often they come off their runners or get stuck. Imagine you had restricted movement - shutting the door can be difficult or impossible.
4 Don't have furniture opposite bathroom doors as it reduces accessibility.
5 Ensure there is a good colour contrast between the wall and the grab rail, so the rail is easy to see.
6 Avoid reflective surfaces like stainless steel as the dials are more difficult to read and the user may not be able to move quickly if they turn the heat up by mistake.
7 If you use a wall-mounted shower stool, ensure it is bolted to the wall, level and has a support leg underneath. A good alternative is a free standing stool that has a high weight-bearing level.
8 When you provide supporting back cushions make sure they do not make the user have to bend forward as it makes the shower unusable.
9 Before you place the grab rails, consider what it would be like if, for example, you did not have a leg or you were partially paralysed. Sit on the shower seat and work out the best place to put them.
10 Make sure the soap dispenser is full and easy to access.