People with Disabilities: Understanding & Embracing the Hotel Guest
By Ellen L. Shackelford President, Connections Access Consulting Services, LLC (CACS) | November 01, 2010
Upon arrival at a hotel is the time for staff, greeters, bellman, and management to welcome all guests with open arms. When people travel away from home, they want not only to feel a since of security once they reach their destination, but a warm inviting welcome as they do when they are in their own comfort zone.
It is thought to be a normal human behavior to be kind, sensitive, caring, and helpful, which is what we have all learned in grade school. However, since there are such a multitude of different people in this country with all types of behaviors and attitudes, it's difficult to become accustomed to all of them. What's even worse is when people of differences have disabilities. There are an estimated 54 million people living in this country with a disability, and unfortunately this number will rise daily, as people experience all types of things which cause them to be diagnosed with having a disability; whether it's through accident, injury, disease or birth.
They'll be from all races and walks of life, and economical backgrounds; all will have different behaviors, likes, dislikes, and needs. No matter the differences anyone has, we all face the same challenges and needs which is part of our human nature. Despite ones physical being, people with disabilities like ones without travel at some point or time. No matter where people travel, they typically want to feel included, accepted and welcomed.
One of the main issues for people with disabilities when they travel and interact in communities is the factor of inclusion. Travelers with disabilities continue to be overlooked as a valued customer in the service industries. Businesses should begin to notice the spending power of Americans with Disabilities is more than a Trillion dollars in aggregate income (U.S. Census Bureau - www.census.gov). People with disabilities have income, they travel, shop, work, own businesses, own homes, give to charities, etc. They too are worthy of receiving courteous extended customer service from the hotel industry.
I travel often and enjoy staying in 5 star hotels. Just recently traveling to Charlotte N.C., I chose to stay in one of these highly rated hotels, which I assumed would provide the customer service as advertised. However, it was the total opposite of what was received. Upon arrival of the establishment, I was greeted by the valet parking attendant. He seemed to be very helpful and sensitive of my unique needs, once I told him it was necessary for me to direct him on how to serve me, for I had to pull my wheelchair out of the car and put it together before I was able to exit my vehicle; in addition, it would take some time with the process. Unfortunately, it seemed as though he was becoming anxious and irritated, for there were other guests getting out of their automobiles looking for someone to park their cars too. There were quite a few guests who needed assistance and room to pull to the front door, so their luggage could be unpacked from there vehicles; my car had taken up some space, for the drivers side door was opened for some time, while I was trying to put my wheelchair together, so I could get out of the car and close the door.
Instead of this gentleman offering to assist me, he became inpatient and went to help others, who could have waited their turn. My experience for this hotel began at the front door. Needless to say, he never came back to assist me. Another attendant approached my vehicle and proceeded to unpack my back seat where I had my luggage. He asked me for my keys, name and how many nights I would be staying at the hotel. Once I approached the door to enter the building, the power- assisted doorknob was inoperable. Therefore, it would have been necessary to physically pull the door open, but since there was another attendant at the door, I assumed he would open the door from the other side.