With vague guidance in the Equality Act 2010 to inform and assist business within the hospitality, tourism and visitor sector the risk is that such businesses inadvertently become inaccessible.
The Equality Act 2010 requires venues to provide reasonable accessibility. But what does reasonable mean? The Oxford English Dictionary states ‘Having sound judgement; fair and sensible: no reasonable person could have objected’.
Whilst it might be clear that a building open to the public needs to be as accessible as possible dependent on money already spent by the business, the finances of the business and the structural challenges of any alterations. But what happens after this? How much consideration should be given to the use of the building, support given to those who visit and how much guidance is available other for this.
According to the hospitality sector which would include, hotels/public houses, activity providers and entertainment providers the challenges have been:
- Can people bring a guide dog into the venue?
- Can the carer come in for free?
- Do I have to provide an easy read document?
- Do I need to provide an accessible bedroom/bathroom?
- Do I have to provide a hearing loop
None of the above would be clearly detailed within the act so how does this assist a visitor venue? How do they answer the above questions? And who do they ask the question to?
‘Accessibility to venues for me has been truly mixed with some people stating that they are simply not accessible, to others simply stating that they are accessible but then I am not sure what this means, as I am sure the word accessible can mean something different to each of us and with the Equality Act not providing clear examples then it is simply left to interpretation. If I attend the theatre which I love doing some say that the person with me can attend for free, others state that they need to pay 50% and others that no concessions apply it is hard for me to say which is the right approach as the law does not clearly state this’.
The issue is that many organization’s don’t have a place to go they set their own guidance, policy structure and working practices often hoping they are not challenged by those with a disability and although some take disability barriers to court, most people either find alternative activity or complain to a manager and seek compensation. Evidence of this can be seen when Doug Paulley took the York Barbican to court when they expected him to purchase his and his carer’s theatre show tickets at full cost. It is inevitable that other visitor/hospitality business will be pursued but perhaps the easiest option would before the Equality Act 2010 to provide a useful guidance for what is reasonable in the hospitality sector, to state what should be the minimum for people organisations to deliver on. For instance in France hotels have to provide an accessible toilet.
Very few hotels, restaurants or visitor attractions in the UK display their accessibility information on their website easy to locate. This means that those visiting do not have their expectations managed from the outset. However, venues could start making a real difference by understanding what might be reasonable to their visitors, for example- sharing information, asking visitors what would have further improved their visit- just as you would ask someone without a disability- if it’s easy to do then do it, if it is of considerable expense then build it into the next refurbishment and then when you have applied the change market it to gain more customers.
With 1 in 5 people with a disability in the UK there is an extremely big customer base, this applies even more so when you consider the average family exceeds 5 then every family trip is likely to have someone with a disability: so even if the Equality Act 2010 does not make equality clear then perhaps there is another reason why you should.
Wave-length provides a toolkit for checking if your hotel/accommodation might be more accessible and would be happy to share it with those who sign up for free to The Wave-length Well. The Well is a digital resource bank aimed at employers, giving them exclusive guidance notes, case studies and up-to-date information on the latest Equality and Diversity policies and how these can affect the workplace, staff and clients.
We are also in discussions with Shropshire Destination Partnership to see how we might further improve visitor sites providing information on how to write and publish useful access statements for visitors. If you want to know more about the work we are doing at Wave-length to improve access for people with disabilities then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.