News, Media & Resources | Hotels Need to be Designed with the Disabled in Mind, too

Hotels Need to be Designed with the Disabled in Mind, too

hotel access for disabled step free

A holiday, weekend away or even just an overnight stay while travelling should be relaxing for everyone. Yet for travellers living with a spinal cord injury, a hotel can be one of the biggest challenges to navigate. We take a look at the hospitality industry, the improvements to be made and how accessible hotels don’t need to compromise a traveller’s experience.

Wheelchair Accessible - What does it Really Mean?

Many businesses claim to be “wheelchair accessible”, although more often than not it is measured by the minimal required standards. There are many more positive steps to be taken to make an establishment more accessible for disabled people, with hotels in particular often ticking as few boxes as possible in relation to the Equality Act 2010.

The Purple Pound

It isn’t just disabled guests that are missing out, however. It would seem the hospitality sector as a whole are widely ignoring the spending power of those of working age with a disability. According to HospitalityNet, this spending power is worth around £249 billion to the economy. So really the question is: Why are hotels not inclusive enough in the first place, let alone not accommodating for an audience with so much to bring to the economy?

Style and Accessibility

The necessary functionality of a hotel room should not detract from the design, yet for some reason a room with better accessibility is often more basic in styling. An article by Big Hospitality reported that a quarter of Brits disliked being given an accessible hotel room, highlighting the obvious differences between ‘ordinary’ hotel rooms and accessible accommodation. This could be avoided if all accommodation were the same in style, with simple alterations to make an overnight stay as comfortable and accessible as possible.

In 2016, Sheppard and Bespoke joined forces with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to set up the first Bespoke Access Awards - with the aim of combatting this issue. Their argument was that hotels should be universal in their design, with both function and beauty in mind.

Unfortunately, too many hotels have deemed having accessible rooms as simply a need to tick a compliance box. These rooms are nearly always ground floor, with wheelchair users in mind, with a limited view and can be bleak in appearance. The addition of an accessible lift would offer the same experience many able-bodied travellers seek. Many hotels are also incredibly vague in their accessibility information, failing to highlight features such as wheelchair friendly reception desks and the choice of accessible rooms available. This can also go beyond the accommodation itself, impacting hotel spa access, restaurants and even gyms for all travellers. These factors can make a huge difference in making a disabled guest feel welcome, offering accessible facilities they have equally paid for like any other guest.

Competition for Hospitality

It has been difficult to ignore Airbnb’s impact on the hospitality industry, as ordinary homeowners open up their doors to those seeking a place to stay.

However, while able-bodied travellers have always enjoyed an abundance of filters to narrow down their searches, this hasn’t added much advantage to disabled travellers. Nevertheless, in 2017, Airbnb announced that they had acquired Accomable - a start-up founded by Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley – two friends with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Accomable’s mission was to make it easier for everyone to travel, regardless of disability. The input given by Accomable’s founders has allowed guests searching Airbnb to include things such as grab bars in the bathroom, an accessible-height bed, and a mobile hoist in their searches - coming a long way from their previous solitary “wheelchair accessibility” filter. We can only hope that hotels learn from this search function, highlighting features such as these that can transform a disabled person’s stay.

Hotels and Travel for People with SCI

Although it has been easy to spot where disability access can be improved, there are however plenty of places that SCI travellers can enjoy. Simple additions such as ramps, lower reception desks, accessible lifts and enough space under beds for a hoist can make a huge difference to a person’s experience. Some great accessible holidays can be tricky to find, but Women and Home have sought out the best places to stay if you’re travelling in a wheelchair. You can also check out one of our previous blogs on accessible holidays and travelling with a SCI. But unfortunately, for more complex disabled travellers, it still remains tricky to narrow down hotels with their needs.

Until hotels naturally accommodate for disabled people, we eagerly await improved information across hotel websites and better structured filters that will enable a more informed decision. We’ll be keeping an eye on Airbnb’s progress and look forward to those with adapted homes featuring their own accommodation online.

Here are some of the most popular specialised travel companies, offering tailored packages and experiences:

  • AccessAble is the ultimate guide for searching for accessible places to visit. This includes restaurants, hotels, cinemas and more.
  • DisabledHolidays.com offers an all-in-one service for travellers, whether you’re looking for UK breaks, a safari or even a cruise, they have plenty to offer.
  • Enable Holidays ensure that every holiday is an adventure, whether a family trip, group holiday or luxury travel. With each trip guaranteed to have adapted accommodation and transfers, your holiday can be tailored to your needs.

We’re a Different Kind of Law Firm

Aspire Law is a specialist law firm, working for people with SCI. We help and support everyone affected by spinal cord injury - with advice, legal help and even housing.

In the event of a personal injury claim the additional costs of business class/first class travel, hotels and carers accommodation are usually recoverable under the claim for all holidays for the rest of a person’s life. Get in touch, even if you don’t have a claim - give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.