Seven unintended benefits of being an accessible hotel

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Jake Steinman is the founder of TravelAbility. Contact him at info@travelability.net.

It's been over four years since we started TravelAbility, and in that time, I've learned two things from our interactions with the hotel industry as it relates to persons with disabilities:

  1. They believe they are already accessible if they are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
  2. Those ADA regulations were written for the median, which means that even fully compliant rooms are only accessible 50% of the time. 

Here are seven positive developments that stem from hoteliers including granular accessibility info on their websites.

1. You are laying the groundwork for aging travelers. Hotels that are accessible for persons with disabilities today will be inclusive for the tsunami of 73 million baby boomers who will be aging into disability over the next five years.

According to a study by the Open Doors Organization and Harris Research, the number of people traveling with disabilities will triple, to 33.8 million, by 2028. According to Health Day, 40% of those over 65, aka boomers, self-identify as having a disability; they have an average net worth of $1 million and control over 70% of all discretional spending in the U.S. Additionally, 73.4% are retired with the time to travel.

2. A happier reception staff. People booking accessible rooms are forced to be detectives, which means hours trying to get additional information about rooms from front desk reception staff and sweet-talking an engineer to make some measurements, all because the additional information they need is not online. 

A central California hotel found that including an accessibility FAQ on their website saved their front desk from having to answer specific questions about the hotel's accessibility and resulted in fewer complaints from callers, who were able to learn about the specific features before they booked.

3. Mitigating the risk of lawsuits. As hotels include more detailed information about their accessibility features online and train their staff to be accommodating for people with disabilities, they will receive fewer complaints and fewer nuisance demand notices. One of the most prominent ADA plaintiff attorneys told us that if hotel staff had been kind to his clients, none of them would have sued.

4. Radical loyalty. When travelers with disabilities find a property that works for them, the unintended consequence is that you will have a loyal customer for life and they won't be shy about spreading the word to their networks.

5. Benefits to the local community. Your hotel's accessible rooms can be used to accommodate disabled travelers visiting friends and families in the area whose homes are not accessible. 

6. Higher occupancy for ADA rooms. Hoteliers will receive higher occupancy for their ADA rooms and set more accurate expectations for their guests.

7. More meetings business. With an estimated 35% of the workforce working remotely, companies are downsizing their office leases and using the savings to schedule quarterly, off-site team-building meetings to increase productivity and morale. As a reflection of their corporate values, more planners are now including accessibility in their hotel and destination requests for proposal.

Where to start? Here's a sample of five of the 40 no-cost/low-cost fixes hotels can employ to make guests with disabilities feel more welcome. It comes from our publication: "The Accessibility Playbook."

  1. Hotel bank elevator buttons are often blocked by waste receptacles, ashtrays or plants. Remove one of the obstacles.
  2. All hotel check-in counters are too high for wheelchair users to reach. Train reception staff to meet guests in front of the check-in counter.
  3. For blind guests: Provide waste-disposal bags, dog bowls and relief areas at check-in. 
  4. For deaf guests: Request a mobile number at check-in to initiate text messaging for when a phone call is coming through or when someone will be coming to their door.
  5. Unless otherwise requested, parties that include autistic members should be assigned rooms as far away from the elevator as possible.
    And finally, the way in which we talk about things influences the way we think about things, and the way we think about things influences how we act. A brief video, "ODR Disability Sensitivity Training" on YouTube, has proven to increase staff empathy and enables them to be less awkward when meeting guests with disabilities.

To receive a copy of our "no cost/low-cost fixes" for hotels, e-mail info@travelability.net

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