Over 4 million people in Australia have some form of disability, equating to approximately one in every five people; however, despite the high incidence of disability in the population, few hotels can really be said to accommodate the broad range of impairments found in their clientele. Consider the following information to ensure that your business is doing all it can to be accessible.
What Does It Mean to be Accessible?
The first thing any service provider must consider, especially when using the word in advertising and promotional materials, is what does the word 'accessible' really mean. Disability is a broad category, encompassing many impairments (and even multiple impairments) which can create significant problems when it comes to accommodating any given individual. Creating accessible public spaces is a constant challenge, and the word 'accessible' should not be used lightly. With this in mind, here are five keys to creating accessible holiday accommodations.
Not Making Promises You Can't Keep
A major problem for disabled people using hotels is that they are told that they can expect a level of accommodation and accessibility which, in reality, they should not. It may be tempting to claim that you have a fully accessible room or rooms; however, do so with caution. Seek to clarify your guests' access needs in advance so that there are no unpleasant surprises or complications after their arrival.
Reaching the Room
The first consideration in providing an accessible room for disabled people is to ensure that the room itself can be reached comfortably from the building's entrance. Level access is a must. In order to claim that a room is accessible for wheelchair users, it must be on the ground floor, or accessible via elevator. Negotiating stairs is not an option for wheelchair users, so be sure to never mislead your customers before their arrival.
Navigating the Room
For wheelchair users, it is essential that there is adequate circulation space within the room itself. A minimum of 1300 mm clearance between objects, and ideally a width of 1500 mm should be provided for wheelchair users. At points where a full-turn is necessary, 1500 mm x 1800 mm should be allowed.
Providing Stable Furniture
For ambulant disabled people who have stability issues or other impairments that affect their ability to walk, it is crucial that all furniture supplied in an accessible room is stable and able to bear weight. This allows your guest to navigate the room more safely and easily, independently and with confidence. Wherever possible, try to also provide furniture with rounded edges rather than sharp ones: in the event of a fall, this commonly overlooked consideration can go a long way to avoiding unnecessary injuries.
Building an Accessible Bathroom
Ensure that there is adequate transfer space for a wheelchair user when using the bathroom facilities. The best test for this would be to contact your local disability organisation and request an audit. Lever handles on toilet flushes and bath and sink taps are considerably easier to operate for people with limited strength and/or manual dexterity, so should be provided wherever possible. Grab rails in the bath/shower space should be provided, contrasting in colour with the walls. Take care to ensure that these are properly fitted to avoid dangerous falls. Bear all of this information in mind and you will have gone a long way to creating an accessible hotel room for guests with disabilities.