ADA Compliancy Toward Accommodating Blind & Low Vision Guests

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | July 17, 2011

Co-authored by Soy Williams, AIA, President, Soy Williams Consulting

Hotel establishments that do not evaluate and prepare their facilities to accommodate persons with visual disabilities are making a mistake. The number of persons with visual impairments and disabilities is likely to grow dramatically. This poses significant implications for the hotel industry.

According to some estimates, the number of older Americans in the United States is projected to increase by 135% between years 2000 and 2050. Historically, 1 person out of 25 was over the age of 65 at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1989, that number increased to 1 in 8. By 2030, 1 out of every 5 people in the U.S. is projected to be over the age of 65.

Since a significant portion of visual impairments is age related, these statistics confirm the number of people in the United States with vision loss (approximately 25 million) is rising dramatically. As the number of seniors increase, so does their desire for leisure travel and retirement vacations. This means that hotels and resorts will likely experience an increase in the number of guests who are blind or have low vision.

Hotel establishments have good business reasons to accommodate guests with vision impairment since they are part of a growing customer base. Avoiding legal pitfalls should also be a good incentive to initiating proactive measures to accommodate these guests and address their concerns.

Americans with Disabilities Act

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.