The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation

Cover of the Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation

Cover of the Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation

The second document by the Inclusive Hotels Network is now published.

The guidance of Approved Document M, BS 8300 and other publications are aimed at construction industry professionals. Even if operators are aware of their existence, they are unlikely to be able to interpret the the regulations and standards to make decisions about inclusive environments.

The Inclusive Hotels Network first convened to address this knowledge gap. Founded in 2012, the group now meets each month to discuss ideas and generate guidance and case studies. Working with hotel operators, access consultants, occupational therapists, product designers and others, we meet monthly to share knowledge, experience and ideas.

Guidance documents are the tangible results of our meetings; Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss (by Chris Harrowell and the IHN) was published in November 2016 and the The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation is now available to download (free of charge) here.

A comprehensive resource about sanitary facilities in guest accommodation is currently in development. This will complement the forthcoming BS 8300-2: Buildings sections on the subject.

If you have something to say about accessibility in hotels, guest houses, bed & breakfasts or hostels please do get in touch. The IHN is on LinkedIn and Twitter @InclusiveHotels or you can email Rachael here. 

Tower Court wins at the Housing Design Awards

COMPLETED AWARD

Image: Housing Design Awards Project Winner 2017

Withernay Projects worked with Adam Khan Architects and Muf Architecture/Art and their team on proposals for Tower Court, which was presented with a Housing Design Project Award by Ben Derbyshire of RIBA in July 2017.

Four new buildings will replace the demolished 1950s blocks, providing new homes for returning and new residents adjacent to Clapton Common in London.

The need to design for the Haredi community, as well as other future and returning residents resulted in several features that may benefit all residents and provide a more accessible environment. These include:

  • Generously sized entrance lobbies with space to store children’s buggies and prams;
  • Optimised daylighting of lobbies and cores (to avoid the need for electrical light when observing Shabbat); and
  • An external environment that is focused on families with young children and socialising / entertaining.

Tower Court is scheduled for completion in early 2019.

Writing on the wall

Musings on a WC cubicle wall.

Musings on a WC cubicle wall.

London's Granary Square has become a favourite place to meet friends: it's easy to get to (King's Cross and St. Pancras International have been step-free for a few years now) and there's a good variety of bars and restaurants. The accessibility of these venues is evident in the number of disabled people who visit them, and who knows how many more people with invisible disabilities are regulars too?

The purple pound is currently in the media. BBC News has a quick explanation, and a more in depth analysis of the statistics can be found at VisitBritain, alongside a useful list of resources for business and venues.

After Friday's dinner a group of us left Granary Square for a club in an older building, where customers had vented their access frustrations on the ladies' washroom walls.

Coat hook please & toilet seat [I’m getting too old for this!]
— Disgruntled customer
More writing on the wall.

More writing on the wall.

This exchange of words on the wall highlights the importance of legible text, but it was the comment by the doctor that worried me.

[Arrow to printed sign on wall]
Can’t read / too small, not OK for people with visual needs.

[Arrow pointing to first comment]
I’m a doctor & this isn’t even a thing.
— Frustrated customer and ignorant doctor.

I'm not advocating writing on loo walls or any other walls but pretty sure that the person who wrote the first comment wouldn't have felt it necessary to scrawl a complaint on the wall if 'visual needs' weren't a thing. If I were inclined to add to the debate I'd point the doctor in this direction: RNIB Key Information and Statistics and give them both a telling off for vandalism.

Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss

Cover of Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss document with IHN logo.

Cover of Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss document with IHN logo.

Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss is the first guidance document to be published by the Inclusive Hotels Network and is now available to download from our page on the CAE site.

Written by architect Chris Harrowell and the IHN, the 40 page document goes much further than Approved Document M in explaining how to make hotel guest rooms and facilities accessible to people with hearing loss.

Hotel, hostel and bed & breakfast operators should be aware that as service providers they cannot legally discriminate against people with disabilities (and other ‘protected characteristics’), and should provide an equal service to all guests. But how should they go about doing this? This is what the Inclusive Hotels Network aims to address.

The guidance of Approved Document M states the necessity of providing visual as well as audible alarms in places where people may be alone, the importance of lighting to assist people who use sign language or lip-reading and electronic hearing assistance among other features. However these provisions must be supported with staff training, good management and an understanding of the people’s needs.

Baroness Thomas of Winchester has shown her support for the Network by writing the foreword for all the guidance documents.  

We want the United Kingdom to be at the forefront of making our country as welcoming as possible to everyone, whatever their circumstances. The Inclusive Hotels Network understands this, and I hope these excellent guidance documents will be read by the whole hospitality sector.
— Extract of foreword by Baroness Thomas.

The guidance is free to download so please share widely with architects, hospitality industry contacts and access friends!

* * * * *

Minor revisions were made to this document in October 2017.

* * * * *

Availability, adaptability and awareness

Brochure cover for CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016

Brochure cover for CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016

On being asked to talk at the CIH Health and Housing Conference 2016 I was delighted: it will be my first visit to Northern Ireland, although of course I’ll be getting to know the conference venue and other attendees rather then exploring Belfast.

Another reason for delight is the scope of the programme and delegates: it’s not access people talking to other access people but a broad spectrum of people who are determined to make housing better for everyone, including those with no home.

Northern Ireland’s Technical Booklet R and England’s Approved Document M make for an interesting game of spot the difference for someone who does what I do. However the guidance about meeting regulations in any country, no matter how overly detailed or lacking are simply recognized, or ‘approved’, solutions for providing a basic level of safety, comfort and access. The principles of inclusive design are much more interesting and easier to relate to.

So how do we design an inclusive home? Well we can’t. That’s to say it is not feasible to build one type of home with features that fit everyone’s possible needs. The key is choice, coupled with availability, adaptability and awareness and these are the three themes of my talk.

 

Paving slabs, cat food and beer

Withernay Projects logos

Withernay Projects logos

It's three years since Withernay Projects was formed, which seems a good time to tell you about the company's identity, designed by the talented Gattaldo. Much coffee was drunk while Aldo asked all sorts of questions about what Withernay Projects is all about, which is not at all obvious from the name.

Anyone who has tried to name a company, band or child will know how agonizing this is. My surname is very well known as a brand of audio equipment and manufacturer of paving slabs so that wasn't an option. Anything that directly related to access or photography was out because the company does both. The answer arrived through the front door on a letter from a friend: Withernay is an old nickname that some friends still use to distinguish me from other Rachels. Technically it should be Rachael 'With-an-extra-a' I suppose. Projects was added because there's already a company called Withernay Limited... which makes cat food.

Handily, the extra 'a' in my name also stands for access and the capital letter is almost an arrow, hence the A in both of the logos. Aldo presented me with a variety of ideas, of which the polygon was a favourite. The access consultancy logo represents the plan of a building, a labyrinth, and a puzzle that needs a solution, which heritage projects often resemble at first.

Seeing the polygon reworked as a circle immediately made sense as the logo for the photography side of the company, being a simple symbol for a lens or the iris of an eye.

Crate Best was drunk three years ago. Yes, I Instagram beer bottles.

Crate Best was drunk three years ago. Yes, I Instagram beer bottles.

Interior photography for an architectural practice.

Interior photography for an architectural practice.

Three years on Withernay Projects continues to advise on access and inclusion for some brilliant design teams and photographs all sorts of places and spaces, from bathrooms to beautiful historic interiors, and the company name still causes confusion on the phone.

 

New London SPG

Covers of Central Activities Zone and Housing supplementary planning guidance documents.

Covers of Central Activities Zone and Housing supplementary planning guidance documents.

New editions of two London Plan supplementary planning guidance documents are published today and are available on the london.gov.uk site.

The Housing SPG incorporates guidance on the application of the new Housing Standards, which include Volume 1 of Approved Document M that came into effect on October 1, 2015 and reference to the Nationally Described Space Standard. Link to Housing SPG on london.gov.uk.

The Central Activities Zone includes guidance about inclusive design of hospitality, attractions, housing and commercial buildings in central London. Link to CAZ SPG on london.gov.uk.

2016 Amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1

Part of cover of amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1.

Part of cover of amendments to Approved Document M, Volume 1.

A new edition of Approved Document M, Volume 1 was published on March 1st 2016 and is available to download from gov.uk. The amendments came into force on the same date in respect of building notices given, full plans deposited or initial notices given on or after that date.

The changes are relatively minor, and are the same as the list of amendments that was sent out with hard copies to those who bought them. The changes document can be downloaded from this link on gov.uk.

One of the changes is the addition of this note to Diagram 3.8 (kitchens in M4(3) units):
"Unit length should be measured through mid-line of the worktop, not the front or rear edge."

Update: A frequently asked questions about Approved Document M document (published 21.03.16) are available to download from gov.uk

Room for improvement

Logo of the Inclusive Hotels Network: multicoloured circle around 'IHN' text in black, with 'Inclusive Hotels Network' to the right.

Logo of the Inclusive Hotels Network: multicoloured circle around 'IHN' text in black, with 'Inclusive Hotels Network' to the right.

Have you ever arrived at a hotel room that promised a sea view only to find that this referred to a glimpse of distant water beyond a multistorey car park and the back end of a shopping centre?

Disappointing.

The hospitality industry knows that guests will stay away from home more often for work or pleasure if the accommodation and service offered suit their needs and expectations. Hotels entice you to book through their websites with full screen images of amazing views, the promise of a 'welcome drink', chocolates on luxury pillows and close-up photographs of what to expect for breakfast. But if your number one priority for choosing where to stay is hearing assistance then you're probably going to have to enquire, and hope that the person you ask can help.

Mixed messages: The image on the left is a screen-grab from the booking page of a hotel's website. The check box next to 'Accessible room required' is greyed out, and a pop-up that appears when you hover over a tiny question mark says: "We're sorry, but accessible rooms are not available at this location". However, the quote on the right of the image is from the same hotel's website: "There are 6 rooms at the hotel, [sic] which are specially adapted for guests with disabilities. Most public areas of the hotel offer wheelchair access. For more information, please call..."

Mixed messages: The image on the left is a screen-grab from the booking page of a hotel's website. The check box next to 'Accessible room required' is greyed out, and a pop-up that appears when you hover over a tiny question mark says: "We're sorry, but accessible rooms are not available at this location". However, the quote on the right of the image is from the same hotel's website: "There are 6 rooms at the hotel, [sic] which are specially adapted for guests with disabilities. Most public areas of the hotel offer wheelchair access. For more information, please call..."

The provision of accessible facilities in hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfasts is improving, but the misconception that accessibility is only for people who use wheelchairs still exists. A quick browse through hotel websites reveals a lack of understanding of, or provision for, the needs of people with hearing or sight loss, people who use walking sticks or crutches, people who need assistance from a carer and many others. Twenty years after the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, discrimination still happens.

Are there any disabled accessible rooms?
All our rooms and floors can be accessed by wheelchair.
At our Amsterdam properties, there is no difference in the room layout. Upon request, we can adapt a room with handles in toilet, and chair in the shower.
[Our hotels in other cities] feature rooms fully adapted for citizens with special needs.
— One of the Frequently Asked Questions on a hotel website.

A positive change in recent years has been the inclusion of 'accessible rooms' among options for hotel rooms such as 'Classic', 'Deluxe suite' etc on some hotel websites. Even better is when clicking on the accessible option provides a gallery of photographs of the accommodation, giving guests an idea of whether the hotel's definition of 'accessible' meets with their own.

Inclusion begins before a guest's decision to book. Websites should support the use of screen readers, have legible text and 'alt text' image descriptions. The language used to describe facilities should reflect the social, rather than medical, model of disability, and descriptions of the facilities should begin with arrival at the hotel, not the door to an individual room.

Screen-grabs from the websites of two different hotels. The first claims that it is 'Catering to your every need' but the only mention of accessibility is in a list of Facilities: "Facilities for accessible access". This is not a link so you cannot find out out from the website what 'accessible access' means. The second image is of a booking menu of drop-down lists. Under 'Type' are 'Double', 'Twin' and 'Disabled'.

Screen-grabs from the websites of two different hotels. The first claims that it is 'Catering to your every need' but the only mention of accessibility is in a list of Facilities: "Facilities for accessible access". This is not a link so you cannot find out out from the website what 'accessible access' means. The second image is of a booking menu of drop-down lists. Under 'Type' are 'Double', 'Twin' and 'Disabled'.

A group of hotel operators, architects, access consultants, bedroom and bathroom product designers, and statutory bodies created the Inclusive Hotels Network in 2012 to share knowledge and experience about making hotels and other sleeping accommodation accessible, and to develop guidance based on this, which will be available free of charge once published. The first two documents are about the provision of hoists in hotel rooms and provision for people with hearing loss.

Withernay Projects is pleased to part of the Network, which now has a group on LinkedIn and a Twitter account.

“I loved the bathroom – didn’t look at all like other “disability” rooms, had a real “wow” factor but still had easy to reach and use fittings and products”
— A comment by a hotel guest from an Inclusive Hotels Network guidance document.

Links to further information

Inclusive Hotels Network - page currently hosted by Centre for Accessible Environments,

Equality and Human Rights Commission - advice about the Equality Act for business such as hotels.

Visit England - Access for All advice about exploring England.

DisabledGo - Access information about all sorts of places in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Website Accessibility Initiative - Introduction to web accessibility.