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Disabled facilities at UK tourism venues

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According to a recent article published on the BBC News website many of the tourism venues in the United Kingdom are failing visitors with a disability.

According to a survey carried out by leading charity Vitalise 63% of the venues surveyed were not fully accessible.

Some 52 of the 100 most visited tourist attractions in the U.K were surveyed and yet 26% of attractions did not have accessibility information available on their websites and very disappointing indeed is the fact that only 13% of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions said all their staff had received disability awareness training.

I am often amazed by what I find when visiting tourist attractions….but rarely surprised.

Some of the big names who make many millions of pounds in ticket sales from thrill seekers visiting theme parks or museums seem to put less of an emphasis on customer service or meeting the needs of customers with a disability than some of the smaller independent venues. Only this weekend I stayed at a small independent hotel,they seemed much more aware of my needs and how to support me than many of large hotel chains I have visited.

Do some of the big attractions not care about disability awareness?

Perhaps nobody has made the bigger venues aware of the issues?

Are tourist attractions failing to spot the opportunity?

Research suggests that the U.K has over 11 million people with a disability and that this represents a market worth over £80 billion a year for our economy…So surely businesses can see the benefits of being truly inclusive?

When I read the recent article published by the BBC I recalled a visit to a very popular theme park last year which in all honesty was one of the worst customer experiences I have ever endured.

Now we all make mistakes- I don’t expect everyone to get things right all of the time… but my day at this well-known Staffordshire tourist attraction was ruined by the actions of one member of staff. In essence the member of staff was very patronising and showed very little understanding of how to communicate with a customer who has a disability.

For the first time in 30 years I was so unimpressed by the way I was treated I decided to make a formal complaint (This then leads in to a whole other story but ultimately I did not feel like the company really took my issues seriously)

Whilst many businesses are aware of legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 it strikes me that many fail to address the importance of staff training. Many attractions appear not to train staff in the area of disabilities at all.

I am astonished given the economic arguments for accessibility and disability awareness that many businesses do not invest in training. Many of those businesses who do train the workforce in areas such as disability awareness do not put enough emphasis on the customer and effective communication.

Having conducted a detailed training needs analysis program within many major U.K businesses you never know what you are going to find. Some businesses perform exceptionally well in this area and seem to be genuinely passionate about meeting the needs of disabled customers. Other businesses that I have visited haven’t even given the idea of a customer with a disability any thought at all.

I often worry when people seek to separate those visitors or customers with a disability from those who do not have a disability. First and foremost everyone is a customer regardless ability!

Recently leading disability charities such as Scope have launched successful campaigns which are designed to end the awkwardness around disability and the related subjects. In my view the only way that we can seek to improve the experience for people living with a disability is to improve the level of understanding that exists within society.

If more and more businesses were to invest in staff training and try to examine how they might be perceived by customers who live with a disability I think we would be on the road to success. If tourist attractions and businesses do not see the value of customers with a disability we can’t expect them to see the value in being more accessible.

Ultimately it is about a change in attitude and how society views disability…The best mechanism for change is to increase awareness.

If you are seeking to gain an understanding of what your business could do to attract more customers with a disability please email [email protected] to arrange a free initial consultation