“We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” - Steve Wonder
As a Housing Sector, we all frequently use hotels for conference and events.
My wife and I recently stayed at the Village Hotel in Swansea, and we noticed we were in an accessible room. I was delighted, as I thought all rooms were accessible in this hotel as standard. Sadly, I was mistaken and it was just one of 6 out of 145.
This lead to a discussion later in the pub, and the above Stevie Wonder (quote above) came to mind.
Why can’t all hotel rooms be accessible?
Think about it…who loses out if every toilet has fold away supports?
Would you notice that the door frame is a little wider (to accommodate wheelchairs) or that the wash-hand basin is lower?
OK, walk-in showers stop you from having a bath. Fine - but how many people have a bath in a reasonably priced hotel? It’s not The Ritz. A walk-in shower is so much more practical.
I stayed in a hotel in England last year where the shower was inside a high-sided bath. What made it worse was that the bath was mounted on a plinth so the swing to get your leg over was over 75cm or 2ft 5” (I measured it!). Ridiculous and difficult for even many abled bodied people.
What about the emergency pull cords – the argument from the hotel is that they would get misused by the hordes of partying drunks that descend on budget/mid-price hotels every weekend. I have no time for this argument, just slap a decent fine on their credit card for misuse. Or failing that – call the police. It won’t take many fines/prosecutions before they learn not to do it!
So, what has the law got to say about hotel accessibility?
We are all familiar with Equality Act 2010 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 i.e. ‘…Rights of access to goods, facilities, and services...’.
Far too vague for me….so I spoke to a senior planning officer at a Welsh local authority as I wanted to know what planning rules are considered when giving a hotel planning permission. I assumed that if you are building a hotel, sure you must make some accessibility effort in the common areas? What about the number of accessible hotel room? I was shocked to discover that no rules or guidelines exist, according to my planner friend. This is a disgrace. As a nation, we have our own law-making abilities. Surely Wales, we can do better?
This is not just about social justice, it should make financial sense. I can stay in an accessible room, but people with certain disabilities can’t stay in an inaccessible one, so why not make all rooms accessible so that anyone can use them?
Therefore, if the law is not going to provide the accessibility we need, we need to demand better from the hotels we use. As a sector, we struggle to secure venues that have enough accessible rooms. Accessibility is not just about the visible disabilities. We have an ageing population, (many tenant activists are older people) that struggle with high sided shower/baths and would welcome the extra support that comes with an accessible toilet etc.
We need to be prepared to use our buying power and move our business to other hotels that have greater accessibility. We can be agents of change and we should be using our power to make positive change happen.
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Update: I received this from my Planner mate this morning ‘....Did you send a complaint to Visit Wales last week? Apparently, they received a complaint about the very same thing!..’ Seems I am not alone!