The hospitality sector needs to improve disabled access, as the majority of customers believe not enough has been done to make it inclusive for everyone.
According to a recent report entitled Accessibility in Hospitality by Hospitality Guest Experience Management (HGEM), 71 per cent of people think improvements in the industry need to be made for disabled people.
This figure rises to 73 per cent for those aged 66 or older, and female customers are more concerned about it than males.
The lack of disability access has a big impact on customer experience, the survey found, with 30 per cent of those surveyed claiming they would leave a venue if access for disabled people was inadequate. A further third did not answer the question, while 37 per cent stated they would not leave.
However, more than half of visitors (53 per cent) would not return to a venue if access was difficult for disabled people, and 43 per cent refused to gob ack to a place where staff were unaware of the needs of a disabled person.
Robin Sheppard, president of Bespoke Hotels and founder of Blue Badge Access Awards (BBAA), which teamed up with HGEM for the survey, stated: “The statistics in this report shock, embarrass and intrigue in equal measure.”
It was added: “More importantly, they make you realise that what is currently normal is not acceptable. We must establish a new normal and erase years of historic insouciance on accessibility.”
Purple.org revealed one in five working adults have a visible or invisible disability, with a collective spending power of £274 billion in 2020. Therefore, it is essential the hospitality sector does not alienate this huge group of people by not recognising or acknowledging their needs.
The findings revealed hotels fare best in the sector, with 58 per cent of consumers believing they take accessibility most seriously. However, this fell to 16 per cent for leisure facilities, 14 per cent for restaurants, seven per cent for pubs, and dipped as low as five per cent for quick services.
Previous winner of the BBAA and chief executive officer of Motionspot Ed Warner advised companies in the sector: “Being accessible AND stylish aren’t incompatible – they are the key to ensuring you haven’t excluded 20 per cent of your potential market.”
One business that has learnt how important it is to be fully inclusive is Yakut Lounge in Northampton, after it made the news for recently denying access to a disabled woman’s assistance dog.
Emma Warren was so shocked about her treatment at the Turkish eatery, she posted her experience on Facebook, according to Northants Live.
She stated: “I tried to explain to the staff by refusing access they are breaking the law, I tried to show them Barty’s ADUK ID but they refused to even look at it!”
Another patron called Chris refused to pay his bill if they did not allow Emma and her dog Barty into the restaurant, with Emma saying the gentleman “restored my faith in humanity”.
In response to the situation, Yakut Lounge’s manager Mario released a statement saying: “I will make sure it will never ever happen again, thinking all my staff knew that assistance dogs were allowed in the restaurant.”
Take a look at a range of access ramps to improve accessibility at your establishment.