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Disability access in the hospitality industry – are disabled guests welcomed?

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Disability access in the hospitality industry – are disabled guests welcomed?

Disability access in the hospitality industry – are disabled guests welcomed?

The stats

From our research, it appears that many operators still have a long way to go when it comes to allowing easy access for disabled people as well as making them feel comfortable.

According to Papworth Trust who surveyed people with disabilities in the UK last year, 14% reported difficulties when visiting pubs or restaurants. 22% of disabled adults reported having less choice over how they spend their free time due to accessibility compared to non-disabled people.

Specific barriers that disabled people often face when going out to a hospitality venue can occur even before they enter the venue, starting with parking problems, which 21% encounter. 22% also have issues with approaching venues due to lack of ramps and handrails.

Once inside a venue, 44% find moving around the building difficult due to stairs, doors and narrow corridors and it’s the same for 23% who have difficulty with inadequate lifts and escalators. In addition, 17% have issues with the bathroom due to locations, layout or size.

It’s a real issue and something that Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton is behind.

“For too long businesses have been missing out on the spending power of disabled customers and their families – worth a staggering £249 billion a year. Sadly, disabled people are often locked out from the everyday experiences many of us take for granted, whether that’s enjoying the great outdoors or benefitting from latest innovations in technology”.

The Purple Pound

The Purple Pound – the spending power of those with a disability including households, because of course this impacts the spending power of family and friends of the disabled. In a study by The Purple Pound, at least 75% of disabled households have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service.

What’s more, it is estimated that restaurants, pubs and clubs lose £163 Million a month. The statistics are staggering, and the hospitality industry have a responsibility to be inclusive – which in turn will help their bottom line.

The solution

What can operators do? We got chatting to Christian Wilkes, a support worker for a charity that provides day services and residential care for adults who experience physical and intellectual disability in Somerset.

Poor accessibility leads to an exclusive environment/culture. This encourages institutionalisation which is something that many adults with disabilities have to battle with every day. British policy, Care in the Community, have made steps to de-institutionalisation but with lack of funding, more inclusivity is something that operators must take responsibility for.

Talk to us about each sector in the hospitality industry and the access they provide.

“I would say restaurants are generally more accessible for physically disabled people. Pubs tend to have less wheelchair access but have a much more informal feel making them more accessible people with intellectual disabilities. In my experience a quiet and spacious venue can be more attractive than a busy high street restaurant. Saying that though, although hotels tend to be large and have lifts, they perhaps have less hoists for people in wheelchairs.”

“It’s not just the physical aspects of the venue though. The holistic environment such as having an accepting culture, adaptable menu, non-patronising staff etc makes the facility accessible.”

What would you say is the minimum that operators should provide for those with disabilities?

“Put simply, access for the same as everybody without a disability. This actually comes under the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Act 2010. Both these acts state how it is society that disables a person and therefore it is society’s responsibility to provide equal access to all. This is where most hospitality venues fall short as most places see accessibility as just getting a ramp for the front steps and having a disabled toilet, whereas realistically there is so much more to it than this.”

Other than physical accessibility, what changes would you like to see staff make?

“Staff training on disability would be great as often it is how staff respond to people that makes a place inaccessible. I personally feel that disabled only evenings could work for some but if we want to promote an inclusive society, we need to do all we can to make venues accessible.”

Can you give us an example of a really good experience you’ve had?

“The best restaurants for accessibility tend to be supermarket restaurants. They’re spacious, quiet, have large menu’s which can easily be adapted to the persons needs and often the staff are very friendly and have got time to talk.”

So, there is so more that the hospitality industry can do to provide both physical access as well as an adaptable and inclusive culture within teams. Looking at each step of the guest journey, right from your brand and your website will help to see what’s good and what can be improved.

If your ethos is to provide inclusivity, do you promote this on your website and social channels? Are you clear about what you can and can’t provide for guests with disabilities? Can your team confidently deal with enquiries about the level of accessibility you provide?

Taking the guest journey from their arrival at your carpark through to taking their bill, it’s important to consider each potential barrier which might affect the guest experience. By investing in your team’s knowledge with extra training, you can be part of the change to making the hospitality industry more inclusive and ultimately boost the guest experience for all.

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