Disability equipment, for less!

Promoting Your Accessible Venue

If you take the trouble to make your venue accessible for wheelchair guests and/or other disabled visitors, then make sure you tell them about it in a way that encourages them to visit and recommend to others.


Promote Your Accessible Accommodation on DisabledGear.com (Full Size) 


Currently, a search for an independent and accessible venue is a painstaking task. So if you get it right, your guests should be grateful and only too happy to recommend. Social media enables word to pass very quickly.

What pains most is seeing people either paying lip service to accessibility or presenting the information in such an inaccessible way that visitors can't or don't access it. Make it clear and guests WILL bother.

DOs

  • Photos speak a thousand words - as a wheelchair user I can trust a photo in a way I cannot trust someone's brief description. The problem with disability is everyone differing needs. Give me the chance to make my own mind up. Me viewing a photo on your website is less inconvenience to you and me. Photos to illustrate accessibiilty should be clear & honest, not simply photographic impressions. 
  • Make it easy to find the accessible information from your homepage. On the website of one fabulous hotel in Cornwall, it was far easier to find information about Dogs than Accessibility. Don't bury a link in the text of another page so that it is impossible to find. Have a clearly identifiable link and people will use it!
  • Think the process through logically from guest arriving to getting to and using the bedroom and bathroom. If you have just put deep smart looking gravel down, it'll be like a tank trap to a wheelchair user. An accessible entrance or passageway which is also used as a store by staff will also cause upset. Can a wheelchair get through the doors?
  • Get your website designer to put a Share Button on your Accessibility Information page. The internet has become increasingly sophisticated and users therefore become lazier. If it's easy, they are more likely to share. It's an easy bit of coding for your website designer to do. 
  • Be helpful! This may sound obvious, but when people telephone with specific requests, it's because they have to be absolutely sure about things so they can relax and enjoy their stay. 
    • Learn the facts about your venue accessibility. 
    • Write them down. 
    • Train your staff to respond helpfully. 
    • Be prepared to take photos and email them through (this is SO easy to do with a smartphone!)
    • If you don't have the asnwers to hand, take a number, find out and call back. We had an amazing week at The Golden Lion, Osmotherley before our wedding. The landlord was the only helpful person who we rang, and when we asked about whether the shower was a fixed head or handheld, he asked us what we wanted and then had a hose pipe and shower head screwed in place of the fixed head. It was a quick and cheap job and made all the difference to me. 
  • Consider guest requirements and who you can have to stay. Have a look at the Inclusive London website and consider their symbols. Don't be put off by the range of symbols, but just consider your own premises and who it might work for. Breaking it down rationally may help you answer questions more helpfully

 

DON'Ts

  • Don't say it's accessible when really it isn't. Please note: steps are NOT wheelchair friendly, unless sensibly ramped. (I kid you not, I have had people point me to a lift which had 3 steps up to it...) 
  • Don't be rude or ignorant! There really is no excuse and it's just upsetting. Disability has enough barriers without this. It may be that you cannot help or accommodate, but you can relay these facts with a straight reply. Instead, why don't you find out what other local places offer accessibility so you can recommend them instead. Everyone will benefit this way and it leaves a nice taste in the mouth!

 

A clear way to display all this information is to set up a webpage called "Accessibility" Link to it from your homepage. You can also put a footer link at the bottom of each page. This makes it easy to find. Then write up clear headings, such as Arrival, Dining, Bedroom & En-Suite, etc.. Then list description, including measurements (such as door widths), level or ramped access, any access facilties or extra mobility equipment, and include photographs for each section. This takes all the guess work out of it for your disabled guests! 

Here are a couple of examples of how others have done it:

 

If you want advice, there are plenty of Access Consultants out there. One chap I would recommend is Brian Seaman at Access New Business. Plus you can have a look at either Tourism For All UK's website or Visit England's information page on Accessibility and Access Statements.

If you want a textbook example of how it can be done, then have a look at this promotional film made by Andy Gilbert at Gilbey Films for the W Hotel, London. Obviously only a handful of organisations will have this kind of money to splash on such a marketing video. However, look past this and learn how clearly features are presented and detailed. Ironically, having made such a great film, I cannot actually find it on their website anywhere! (I've put in a call to the Marketing Manager on 22-November-12.)

 

 

This article on The Best Accessible London Hotels shows that people are starting to highlight the issues and give praise where it's due. If anything I would say that the problem is one of disjointedness. But do a little homework, and not only will you see the size of the problem, but you'll also see where to promote your own efforts.

And when you do get it all together, make sure organisations know about you. Here are some you might consider contacting:

 

I will be happy to link to and promote agency sites which demonstrate genuine and greater accessibility in terms of both clearly presenting the accessibility information and having genuinely accessible places to stay (mot just a filter button which is unreliable).

Here are a few UK places you might like to try:

And for somewhere very special, keep an eye on Swynton Park as they have some exciting, beautiful and inclusive plans on the board. 

Also, just a quick aside for any agency sites reading this, I tried booking through one fabulous (for able-bodied people, that is) agency site and both telephoned and emailed for more information. In the end, having heard nothing back - they said they'd email me - I started googling the hotels they were listing as accessible and calling them direct. It was more work for me, but in the end I found one that was great and negotiated a better rate, saving myself money and meaning the agency site missed out on their fee. And the sadness was I wanted to become a regular of that agency site and spend regular money with them, as it would have been so much easier and more pleasurable for me booking each time. Guys... COMMUNICATE. By the way the hotel was Castel d'Emporda, east of Girona in Spain! And although they have a little to learn about displaying the informaton on their website, they have made an effort with accessibility and the receptionist was super helpful on the phone!

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