By Ross Calladine, head of business support for VisitEngland
One in five of the UK population is disabled and VisitEngland research in 2015 showed that £12billion was spent on trips where a member of the party had an impairment, which includes money spent by tourists and day trippers in restaurants.
There are three aspects all businesses need to address to provide access for all:
Customer service and training – ensure all staff are disability aware with the right attitude and confidence to serve all customers
Information and marketing – provide detailed information on the accessibility of your facilities and services and make this information easy to find
Physical facilities – make reasonable adjustments to buildings and facilities so they are easy for everyone to enter and move around
VisitEngland provides a range of guidance, tools and resources to help businesses provide access for all.
Here are five of my top tips:
1. Train all staff in disability awareness
To be able to confidently serve disabled customers, staff need to be disability aware. This training should be provided for all staff on induction and refreshed (for at least those in customer-facing positions) at regular intervals. There are a number of online and classroom-style courses specifically for those working in the tourism industry www.visitbritain.org/providing-access-all.
2. Provide a detailed and accurate Accessibility Guide to promote your accessibility
People with accessibility requirements need information on a venue’s accessibility to help understand if it will meet their individual needs. Many are put off visiting a venue if there is no access information on their website. This information can be provided in the form of an Accessibility Guide and you can produce and publish an Accessibility Guide using a new online tool provided by VisitEngland and VisitScotland www.visitbritain.org/writing-accessibility-guide.
3. Provide an accessible toilet
Accessible toilet provision is a must for many disabled customers. It should not be used as a storage space, the emergency pull-cord should be within reach from the floor and the transfer space (next to the toilet) should be kept clear. Staff should be able to indicate the location of the nearest accessible toilet.
4. Welcome assistance dogs
Assistance dogs are highly trained animals that provide independence and confidence for users. It is unlawful to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. A bowl of water should be provided for assistance dogs. For further guidance read our Take the Lead guide www.visitbritain.org/sites/ default/files/vb-corporate/ehrc_guide_ to_assistance_dogs.pdf
5. Provide menus in accessible formats
Menus in large print (minimum font size 16pt) and in a clear font such as Arial should be available and staff should offer to read the menu out loud as this may be helpful.
For more tips and guidance on ensuring your hospitality business is inclusive and accessible to all, visit www.visitengland.org/access.