Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined features of accessible hotel rooms. In this article, we cover what staff can do to create an accessible hotel service experience for guests. In particular, we look at how staff can find ways to make their premises welcoming to guests who need accessible features that a hotel does not have yet.
Providing Accessible Hotel Service
Hotels must welcome all guests who enter with assistive devices, service animals, or support persons. Service animals are legally permitted in hotels, including in dining rooms. Staff should alert guests to the locations of all nearby service animal relief areas. Moreover, hotels can choose to waive or reduce fees for support persons’ rooms. Hotels offering this service should advertise how much they will charge or what their policies are. However, hotels should not require that a guest has a support person with them.
Hotels must train their staff to interact with guests who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with guests, both in person and remotely. Training should also show staff how to help guests access their services if their buildings lack the features those guests need.
When guests book stays, staff should ask them if they have any accessibility needs. Moreover, staff should know about all the accessible features their hotels offer. For instance, staff should be able to tell future guests:
- Which rooms are barrier-free
- Whether any non-barrier-free rooms have some built-in accessible features, and which rooms have which features
- Whether they have other accessibility devices for guests to use in their rooms, such as:
- Visual alarms or bed shakers
- Teletypewriters (TTYs) or phone amplifiers
- Door knockers
- Bed rails
- Bath benches
- Raised toilet seats
Hotel staff should make sure that all guests can take advantage of any discounts they offer. For example, a hotel might offer a discount if guests book online. This discount could exclude guests who find the hotel’s check-out page inaccessible. The hotel should work on making its website fully compliant with web content accessibility guidelines. In the meantime, staff should apply the online discount to bookings the guest makes in a different way, such as by phone or email.
Staff providing accessible hotel service should also know:
- Where accessible parking, entrances, elevators, and public washrooms are
- Whether pool, fitness, or change areas are accessible
- Whether on-site restaurants have accessible seating
If hotels do not have accessible restaurants, pools, or fitness areas, staff should know whether there are near-by organizations that can serve guests who need them.
In addition, staff of hotel chains should be able to find out quickly whether there are other locations nearby that have the features a guest needs, in case the guest would prefer to stay there. For example, staff should know whether their hotel is affiliated with another hotel in town that has beds at wheelchair height or detailed layout descriptions. However, guests may still want or need to receive service at the less accessible location, so staff should be prepared to meet the guest’s needs.
Accessible Format Awareness
Similarly, staff should know whether their hotels have information in accessible formats. When hotels offer accessible versions of hard-copy print, their staff need to be aware of:
- What information is available in what format(s)
- where hard copies are kept
- Whether another location has hard-copy Braille or large print
- how guests can find web versions
- whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date
If there are differences between the current printed version of a document and the version a guest can read, staff should know what the differences are. For example, managers can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. Staff can then remind themselves of what the differences are while they carry the document to the guest. They should then go through these differences with the guest.
If accessible-format information is not available, staff should be prepared to provide this information in person. For instance, if hotels do not have Braille room numbers, staff may need to show a Braille-reading guest where their room is and describe in detail where other parts of the hotel are. Similarly, staff may need to show guests which buttons are which on devices like temperature controls or TV remotes. Likewise, staff should read other print information, like restaurant menus or pamphlets describing local attractions, aloud to guests upon request.
Accessible hotel service ensures that all guests have a pleasant experience. For many guests with disabilities, excellent service is as memorable as great views or nearby attractions. Guests will want to come back to hotels that treat them with dignity.