How many wheelchair users does it take to sell a conference for 200 people?

By Arnold.Fewell

December 10, 2013

This is not a joke about changing light bulbs in hospitals but a serious question for all hotels, managers and staff, conference venues and organisers.  The answer is one.  If an event organiser has one wheelchair user or potential wheelchair user in their audience then they need to find a location where they are used to looking after wheelchair users.By this I don’t mean taking them in a back door, using grubby service lifts, and generally making the person feel second class.  I mean having the facilities and great customer service that hotels, venues and organisers strive to achieve with everyone.Surely the days of building ramps, widening doors and other major improvements were achieved under the Disability Discrimination Act of 2005.  If not they certainly should have been and you could easily face a legal challenge if they have not already been done.  Please don’t hide behind Grade Two status and other excuses because where there is a will there is a way.  For example, when Lincoln Castle, re-opens in 2015 it will have facilities for a wheelchair user to access the ramparts.  The castle was built in the 11th century so if you can make Lincoln Castle accessible then a grade two listed building should be much less of a challenge.We are now on the Equality Act of 2010, although this is not always apparent when I read hospitality industry websites and in a time when you should be delivering great customer service to everyone.I want to pose two basic questions that are vital if you want disabled guests to stay with you or use your conference facilities, they are:1.       Do you have an accessibility statement that can be downloaded from your website?2.       Do you always complete a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for your disabled guests?I suspect very few readers can currently answer yes to both questions.  If you can then you are on the right lines to providing great customer service for disabled people.  If not then come back and read future blogs as I will explain why it is vitally important to provide an accessibility statement and a PEEP.