Disablity accommmodation

By | Category: Travel news
Lady Thomas of Winchester

Lady Thomas of Winchester

Yesterday there was a short debate in the House of Lords about facilities for the disabled in hotels. Yes, there have been laws for ages about providing disabled access but does that mean the measures taken are adequate?

Lady Thomas of Winchester initiated the debate pointing out that in 2010, Trailblazers, published a report, All Inclusive?, which investigated their members’ experiences of travel, both here and abroad. It found that one-third of young disabled people said that the accessibility of bathrooms was the biggest challenge for them, and six out of 10 said that most hotels were inaccessible and did not cater to their requirements. Lady Thomas largely absolved the big hotel chains but there are certainly some that still make life difficult for the disabled.

She reported, for example, that she had recently stayed in an upmarket hotel in Cambridge, which claimed to have disabled facilities. The lavatory had a swing-down arm with no corresponding rail on the other side, making it unusable by her and anyone who has to lever themselves up. It had a handle high up on the opposite wall instead. The remedy—to put a rail on the other side of the swing-down rail at the same height—would have cost just a few pounds.

Because disability covers so many areas, such as mobility, being vision or hearing-impaired, do experts from each area move into to check that all is adequate? It seems not. Lady Campbell of Surbiton pointed out that wheelchair users make up just 4% of disabled people. Those with sensory impairments, learning disabilities or mental health conditions may also require modifications, often at low or no cost yet how often are their requirements met?

Visit England says that the overnight accessible tourism market is now worth £3 billion to the economy in England and that overnight trips by disabled travellers and their companions have increased by 19%, with spend up by 33%, over the past four years.

Lord Touhig said that many of our holiday destinations and tourist attractions are unfriendly and unwelcoming to people with a handicap or a learning disability. He listed a case last November when two of his friends friends—one autistic and the other deaf—tried to book a weekend break in a seaside bed and breakfast but were turned away. They were told that their disabilities would disturb the sophisticated clientele.

Two-thirds of Britain’s top 100 tourist attractions are not fully accessible to those with a handicap and using a wheelchair. 11 million disabled fellow citizens are affected yet this group has a spending power of £80 billion, so many businesses are losing the opportunity of securing this income.

Lady Campbell drew attention to research published by the government revealing that it was easier to arrange holidays for disabled people overseas than in Britain. Thousands of customers were being turned away from hotels and self-catering accommodation because there were not enough accessible rooms to meet demand.

Tanni Grey Thompson said that she had recently booked a ground-floor family room for her family, and when they arrived there was utter panic on the receptionists’ faces because they did not know what to do. “We were shoved into an accessible room where we found a single bed and a chair bed. We could not actually leave the room because the staff were trying to bring in a mattress to put on the floor for my daughter to sleep on. When I went back to reception to say that I wanted a family room, I was told that they did not realise that disabled people had families; they thought they just had carers,” she said.

Research from the EU found that the European tourism sector is missing out on up to €142 billion every year due to poor infrastructure, services and attitudes towards travellers with special access needs, which can be due either to age or disability. But in 2012, this group of people undertook 783 million trips, contributing €394 billion and providing 8.7 million jobs to the European economy.

Lady Masham of Ilton, drew attention to those with arthritis who find low lavatories and low beds are very difficult. She travels with extenders for the beds.

Lady Jolly, speaking for the government, responded saying that the Equality Act requires all service providers to make anticipatory “reasonable adjustments” so that disabled people are not placed at a “substantial disadvantage” compared to non-disabled people. This means that service providers are expected to foresee the requirements of disabled people and the reasonable adjustments that may have to be made for them. The Equality Act requires service providers to make only adjustments that are reasonable in all the particular circumstances. Many accommodation owners are small and medium sized companies she said, “factors such as the cost and practicality of making an adjustment may be taken into account in deciding what is reasonable on a case-by-case basis.”  Operating from a listed building and/or not being granted statutory consent to make a reasonable adjustment is not an excuse not to consider what reasonable adjustments can be made for disabled customers.

Despite what government says, not all of the tourism industry seems to have fulfilled its role in welcoming the disabled or even understanding what disabilities include.


If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , , ,