I recently went to London to visit my sister and decided to book into a hotel close to Euston Station. Whilst making my booking, I made sure to advise them that I required a wheelchair accessible room. By this, I meant a room big enough to accommodate my electric wheelchair and a bathroom which I could use easily.
Having met my sister, we went to the hotel so I could check in and ensure the room would be suitable for me. But before I even got that far, I was disappointed. The receptionist who checked me in didn’t have the patience to listen to me, choosing instead to look at my sister and expecting her to speak on my behalf. Though I have a speech impediment, it’s not that difficult to understand me – if you’re prepared to listen. My sister, knowing how fiercely independent I am, refused to speak for me and the receptionist defended her actions by explaining that she wasn’t British. Though I understand that this may make it more difficult, I’d argue that it’s no different to listening to different accents.
Having eventually obtained my room key, I proceeded to my room, where I was again, left disappointed. The room itself was small, making it difficult to move around in my chair. And the bathroom was not fully accessible – although grab rails had been fitted, the shower was over the bath with no seat. Travelling alone, as I was, it was far from suitable and I didn’t feel confident enough to shower.
As I was only staying one night, I decided to just make the most of my time and raise my concerns when I returned home, by firstly tweeting the hotel chain who were keen to hear more about my stay. Having put all my concerns in an email, they were very apologetic and offered me a full refund on my stay.
Though this was a nice gesture and much appreciated, I would must rather that staff receive the appropriate training to ensure that such issues don’t occur in the first place. Staff need to understand not only how to interact with disabled customers, but how to advise them on levels of accessibility so that customers understand their suitability for their needs.