I was recently researching hotels and looking at a relatively new property and my heart sunk. Nearly every room featured needless steps in it’s design.
Enter the room – step. Go to the bedroom area – step. Out on to the deck? Step.
To be honest, it was kind of depressing. Like a reaffirmation that designers and businesses are not thinking of people like me as potential customers. Sure, there may be a “special” room with no steps, but I want the choice of which room I use – I often use a regular room but those “design steps” make it an impossibility.
This got me thinking about how to best appeal to hotels (or anywhere really) for accessibility or universal design.
“Because it is the right thing” model
There is definitely a moral imperative or human rights angle that needs to be taken when arguing for accessibility. Surely, as a human being, I should have the same rights to enjoy a vacation with the same selection of accommodations and activities (within reason) as anyone else.
This model often goes for the heartstrings of listeners trying to appeal to their human nature and say that “accessibility is the right thing to do”. (When it doesn’t work, it can also be used to fight for legislation along the same line of human rights.)
This often has great success and there are many business that work hard to accommodate all customers. And laws can help normalize accessibility.
But often laws in some countries don’t apply to smaller businesses or some areas of the private sector. And while there may be a desire to do the right thing and become accessible, often businesses bring up the “financial costs” of becoming accessible. (Note, they seldom actually do the math but just assume it is too expensive.)
This is why I have leaned towards…
“It is the financially right thing” model
I love to stress that building accessibility in from the start means there is no “cost” of becoming accessible later. Universal design is the best design.
But when a building is already built, there is no point in talking about “designing in accessibility from the start”.
In this case I try to construct the argument not as a “cost/expense” but as an “investment”. I bring up facts about how travelers with disabilities often stay longer than other customers, that we often travel in larger groups, and that these two points create a multiplier effect and that we spend more than other travelers.
Accessibility will allow businesses to capture a new market. So, the “cost” pays itself off with new customers and therefore an “investment” to make more money.
What happens when a business is doing well and “doesn’t need” new customers?
That isn’t a typo of “in conclusion”. I don’t have an answer.
This is more a post about the frustrations of appealing for accessibility. But it also a desire to open a discussion. How can we appeal to and encourage businesses to become more accessible to all customers? Is there a method other than the two listed above? Is the answer a mixture of the two?
If you have any ideas or have methods that have worked for you, please share in the comments!Published in