“Wheelchair Friendly” versus Universal Accessible – the ongoing Saga

Not all accommodation advertised as wheelchair friendly is accessible according to universal accessible standards

Mandy Latimore
By Mandy Latimore
4 Min Read

Not all accommodation advertised as wheelchair friendly is accessible according to universal accessible standards

In Issue 2 of 2017, I wrote an article on the term “Wheelchair Friendly” and how it should be abolished. I’m currently travelling literally every second week for business and therefore have to find accommodation that I can use in many centres (often not the usual cities).

So, taking my own advice, I’m calling the various establishments that offer “Wheelchair Friendly” accommodation and asking for pictures and videos of the accessible rooms and bathrooms.

This has been such a help as some establishments have responded with pictures of their “accessible step-free shower” that clearly show a step and a concertina glass door, which I know will mean an extremely small opening to enter the shower!

One establishment sent pics and a video of the room – which is accessible – but then sent a pic of the flight of steps to the main building and restaurant. When I stated that I would not be able to make the booking as I was travelling with other people in my party, they offered me room service with my meals sent to my room. Thanks, but no thanks! I don’t want to feel like a banished child – sent to my room as punishment!

I had a very positive interaction with one establishment who immediately sent pics of the shower that had a tilt door opening (which I could see was too small).

I called them and asked if they could measure the opening. It was 60 cm and thus is too narrow. When I asked, they immediately agreed to remove the shower door for my stay (which was only two nights).

Obviously, I confirmed the booking as I was impressed by their attitude and I needed to be close to the venue I was assessing. It was done before I arrived and I was able to use the shower stall even though their grab rails and controls were not situated in the correct places.

The attitude of the staff and management is always so important and it is refreshing to find an eagerness to want to assist and make changes in establishments that are not on the usual tourist routes and places.

However, we need to address the problem at the root, which I believe requires the people who design the environments and the Tourism Grading Council and Department of Tourism to be trained to ensure that universal access (UA) is included within the grading of establishments.

There are a few new exciting projects that are being developed within the UA arena which should be a big boost to change perceptions within the built environment from the start – creating a UA attitude from the schools of architecture and interior design planning through to the grading of tourist attractions and establishments.

Various tools and apps are being developed and these should – once they have been marketed and distributed – start making it easier for those who want to make the changes to find solutions and products that will assist.

In the meantime … keep researching, happy travels and let me have feedback on your experiences!

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Mandy Latimore
By Mandy Latimore Consultant
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: mandy@noveltravel.co.za.
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