Inclusive Hotels Network

Brass in Pocket

Picture of Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) single by Pretenders with IHN logo overlaid.

Picture of Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) single by Pretenders with IHN logo overlaid.

As an inclusive design professional I often speak at conferences and give talks to architects and designers. In February I gave a talk titled ‘Brass in Pocket’ about why hotels need to be much more inclusive at the Colliers International and Howard Kennedy conference in London. The event was themed on eighties pop hits, hence its name ‘Smooth Operator: Keeping Hotels Profitable Time After Time’. The focus was on the finances and profitability of hotels so my talk explained about the purple pound as well as accessibility and inclusion and the work of the Inclusive Hotels Network.

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Publica invited Withernay Projects to get them up to speed on the latest guidance and regulations about access and inclusion. Unfortunately examples of poor practice are still much more common than good practice, and one of the questions during Publica’s was whether there were any examples of really good public realm design. The example that always come to mind first in Granary Square and the route to it from King’s Cross St. Pancras, evidenced by the number of visibly disabled people there every time I visit. There are even two Changing Places facilities there! (The area isn’t perfect, but it’s better than most).

Attending conferences and lectures is one way of ensuring CPD is up to date. Online courses are also available, such as the Design Council’s Inclusive Environments CPD. It took me much longer than the hour that was advised at the start, mainly because I had to keep going back to find other things to click on / watch to complete each stage. The Inclusive Environments Hub is also well worth looking at: it’s a searchable database of guidance, standards and regulations for every aspect of accessible and inclusive design.

The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation

Image: Cover of The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation guidance document.

Image: Cover of The Use of Hoists in Guest Accommodation guidance document.

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.

October 2018 note: A new edition of this guidance document with a new cover (as above) and minor amendments to the text is now published. It's available to download free of charge using the link above.

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. 

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!

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Minor revisions were made to this document in October 2017.

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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.