Travel Advice for the Disabled Traveller


By Philip Quinlan


The crucial thing about a successful trip is what you do before you go and what I mean by that is PLANNING!! You can never do too much planning.

First things first you need to decide why you want to go to a certain place. Have you heard that it is good for wheelchair users, are you going to support your sports team or is it for business perhaps?

Generally when I am organising a trip I look to organise the accommodation first. This is essential to the success of the trip.

Hopefully, solves that problem!

Remember when booking your accommodation that a central location makes things so much easier for wheelchair users. If that isn’t possible then you must try to ensure that you are on an accessible transport line. Again research is crucial in this regard and the hotel may be able to help you with this.

It is good to find out whether your location is in a pedestrian area which makes it easier for wheelchair users. It also helps if the area is not too hilly and Google street view has helped me with this on previous occasions.

Now for the enjoyable stuff like booking bars/restaurants and organising places of interest to visit!

There is no exact science in finding accessible restaurants and bars. Your best bet is to try the local tourist board or if you’ve got a recommendation contact the place directly.

Regarding places of interest like museums etc… they will have their own websites which give advice on accessibility and I find these information sources very reliable.

To recap on what I’ve said do your research, ask people who have a similar disability to you and GO FOR IT.


This is me in sunny South Africa!

PS – Join our social network DFH Connect to connect to other persons around the world with similar disabilities and exchange information on places you wish to visit.


Simple Ways for Hotels to Improve the Disabled Guest Experience


By Philip Quinlan


Disabled Friendly Hotels is not about lecturing the hotel industry – we are about raising awareness, providing and sharing information to all who care to use it and giving the disabled traveler peace of mind.

In this way, the life of the disabled traveler is made easier and the hotel industry will view the disabled market as an attractive business prospect thus raising standards for the benefit of all.

Having traveled around the world and seen the problems a wheelchair user encounters, I thought I would put together a list of simple, low cost suggestions for hotels to improve the experience of the disabled guest:

  • Ensure level access to all public areas of the hotel especially the disabled toilet.
  • Taking some furniture out of an accessible room for wheelchair users.
  • Staff being helpful and use clear open communication.
  • Providing accessible information at time of booking i.e. on the hotel’s website or the booking portal.
  • Easy and friendly check-in.
  • Provide high quality directions on the hotel’s website.
  • Publish the hotel’s general accessible information on the hotel’s website. (See our Forum Section on Access Statements).
  • E-mail a booking confirmation giving the hotel’s general accessible information which should include directions, details of public transport and details of local amenities and places of interest. Most importantly, this booking e-mail should inquire whether the disabled guest has any special requests that the hotel can facilitate.
  • Reception staff offer to reserve a restaurant table.
  • Reception staff offer assistance with luggage.
  • Reception staff offer a recap of the hotel’s accessible information at check in.
  • Reception staff offer a recap of public transport accessible information at check in.
  • Small sanitary bin provided in room to dispose of dressings.
  • Reception staff to ask disabled guests about their requirements in the event of a fire and provide a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan policy (PEEP). (See our Forum Section on PEEP’s).
  • Simplicity and clarity of signage around the hotel.
  • Suitability and availability of car parking on arrival.
  • Disabled toilets: provision of strobe lighting, mirror at correct height, ease of use of toilet roll holder and grab rail at back of door.

The above low cost suggestions can make a big difference and mostly relate to staff training, information provision, common areas accessibility, signage and good standard of disabled toilets.

If you have any other simple, inexpensive suggestions, please let us know. Oh, and don’t use the accessible toilets for storage because that is one of my personal bugbears!


We are not grumpy – we’re just different!


By Philip Quinlan


Sometimes, disabled travelers get a bad press or leave an impression of grumpiness.

It must be appreciated that travel for the disabled person is a more stressful experience than for able bodied persons as numerous things can and do go wrong.

There is often a lingering lack of peace of mind that the hotel one is traveling to will not suit one’s requirements.

In this environment, stress can build and raise its ugly head. It is important for hotel staff to recognise this additional stress in the mindset of the disabled traveler.

It also is important for hotel staff to realise that one disabled traveler is different to the next. A simple example is that a room should be set up differently for a blind person as for a wheelchair user. Housekeeping staff should be trained on why this is and how to lay out the room accordingly.

It is a good idea for the hotel to contact the disabled guest prior to arrival and ask whether he/she has any specific requirements and attach the hotel’s Access Statement. In this way, the hotel has time to prepare for those specific requirements if any.

The hotel should put in place procedures to meet any specific requirements.

Staff should be trained to know what questions to ask, how to phrase them and how to assist the disabled guest if and when they request assistance.

Some disabled guests put a high value on their independence and may refuse help.

So, please forgive us if we come across as grumpy; we are just different and carry a worry which able bodied guests don’t although they too can be grumpy!


The Cateys 2014 Accessibility Awards


By Senan Sexton


The Caterer is recognised as the foremost UK hospitality trade magazine and runs annual awards called The Cateys in a number of categories; one of which is the Accessibility Award.

The 2014 winner was the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel; the runner up being Jury’s Inn Brighton.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is a recent addition to the London market and was a major construction project. It enjoys a prime location built within a roundabout at the southern end of Westminster Bridge beside County Hall.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel is an excellent example of how a new build hotel project team have designed the building around the guest experience of the disabled traveler.

The project team were aware of the estimation that 27% of the UK population have an impairment of some kind and that this market is growing.

The project team looked at all aspects of the hotel’s operation to meet and exceed the expectations of guest with disabilities and indeed exceed its obligations under disability legislation.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge has step free access, tactile paving and electronic doors. Check-in areas feature induction loops and low desks for wheelchair users.

The hotel has 54 accessible rooms with doors that open fully against the adjacent wall and lighting controlled from the bedside table. The rooms have strobe lighting in the event of an emergency and vibrating pillows are available on request. The hotel has a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan policy and staff are trained in disability awareness.

From a business perspective, these initiatives have proved to be very worthwhile. The hotel has witnessed a comparative 7.6% rise in its occupancy and has attracted significant disability aware events and contracts from charities and the GB Paralympics.

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel is to be commended both for its accessibility levels but also for its use of accessibility as a marketing tool to attract major events and increase occupancy thus demonstrating that accessibility makes strong business sense for hotels.


Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans


By Senan Sexton


In the UK, fire legislation highly recommends that hotels put in place a Personal Emergency

Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for their disabled guests.

However, it is a recommendation that many UK hotels overlook despite a PEEP being a relatively straight forward, common sense process.

The background to this requirement is to ensure the safety of disabled persons i.e. that they can get out of a building in the event of a fire.

Therefore, hotels need to identify the needs of disabled persons and make proper arrangements for their assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation.

The hotel is required to ask the disabled guest about his / her requirements in the case of an evacuation of the building and to explain procedures in such an eventuality. The disabled person is encouraged to make their needs known to the hotel. This information exchange should occur at check in.

It is recommended that the hotel place a sign at reception requesting that people with impairment, who need assistance in an emergency evacuation, notify reception staff.

The PEEP is a personal plan and must be tailor made to meet the requirements of the individual and will vary as to the disabled person’s needs and the characteristics of the building. The PEEP should be completed at check in and signed by both the hotel management and the disabled guest.

It is the responsibility of the accommodation provider to ensure that staff are properly trained to facilitate an evacuation of disabled persons.

A general (but not substantive) list of procedures is as follows:

  • Wheelchair users will require trained staff to use equipment such as evacuation chairs to safely transport them down stairs.
  • Although lifts are normally prohibited from use during an emergency evacuation, evacuation or fire fighting lifts may be used by trained staff for the evacuation of disabled persons.
  • Visual impaired or mobility impaired guests may be guided out of the building by a staff “buddy”.
  • Where disabled guests are unable to use stairways without assistance, refuge areas need to be identified. Refuge areas provide a place of relative safety for disabled guests before being assisted to a final exit. Refuge areas can be an enclosure such as a lobby, corridor or stairway that can provide protection from fire and smoke and should be suitably signed and kept free from obstruction.
  • In accordance with their needs and abilities, disabled guests should either wait within their rooms or at a refuge point until their “buddy” arrives.
  • A guide dog user should be asked about how/if they can be assisted.
  • If it is safe to do so, wheelchairs, guide dogs and other equipment must also be evacuated.
  • Once outside the building, the staff “buddy” must report your presence to the person in charge of the evacuation.

An important part of a PEEP is that the disabled guest is able to communicate with his/her buddy. Giving the Duty Manager(s) mobile number to the disabled person is a simple suggestion.

The aim of the PEEP is to provide disabled guests with the necessary information to be able to manage their escape. If assistance with escape is required, the extent of such assistance needs to be identified in the PEEP i.e. which staff member(s) are to assist and the method to be used.

Given the different characteristics of buildings, disabled persons who regularly use different buildings should nonetheless have separate PEEP’s i.e. each and every PEEP is different.

It is essential that the person who may require assistance is fully involved in producing the PEEP. This process can be based on a checklist and should include items relating to the individuals abilities and location within the building e.g. a ground floor room will be more suitable for mobility impaired individuals.

The following should always be included within a PEEP:

  • Requirements for specialist equipment such as an evacuation chair and relevant staff training.
  • Identification and information on the best method of evacuation.
  • Location of refuges and means of communication.
  • Information about whether the disabled user can reach the refuge point unaided.
  • Characteristics of the building that might affect the evacuation e.g. any steps.
  • Details and contact numbers for your staff “buddy / buddies”.

The ability of staff “buddy / buddies” to respond quickly and to be contactable by the disabled guest is of paramount importance.

The hotel should issue written instructions to its staff and provide necessary training to ensure a PEEP is followed.

There are minor modifications that a hotel can install to aid evacuation such as ramps, colour contrasted stair nosings, handrails, visual or vibration alarms (for deaf or hard of hearing people).

If evacuation by the hotel staff is not successful, a PEEP will identify to the fire and rescue services the refuge location where the disabled person should be and his/her room number.

Limitation of Liability: The above is intended as an information and guidance piece only. Under legislation, every hotel is responsible to assess its own requirements and Disabled Friendly Hotels will not be held liable for any assertions or representations contained above.


The business case for hotels to encourage accessibility


By Senan Sexton


It is difficult to give exact figures for the number of disabled persons and wheelchair users.

It is estimated that 25% of the European market or 124Million Europeans have disabilities. Of these, it is estimated that 70% are physically and financially able to travel. It is estimated that 15% of the US population have disabilities and is expected to rise to 25% [1]by 2030.

Reports estimate the number of UK wheelchair users at up to 1.2Million[2] and the number of US wheelchair users at up to 3.4Million[3]. European data varies from various countries but is consistent with US data of approximately 1% of the total population using wheelchairs or approximately 5Million. With the population of developed countries estimated at 1 Billion, it would be reasonable to assume 10Million wheelchair users in the developed world. (The percentage of disabled persons in the developing world is regrettably higher; primarily due to conflict and disease).

There exists a large untapped market of people with access needs, including older people, who lack sufficient trust in having their needs met.

The following chart shows the number of people with specific disabilities in the UK who require specific care and thoughtfulness from accommodation providers.






Sight impairment

2 million




Registered blind




People Registered as Blind and Partially Sighted 2008, England (NHS)

Deaf and hard of hearing

9 million




Registered deaf and hard of hearing




People Registered as Deaf or Hard of Hearing 2007, England (NHS)

Wheelchair users

1.2 million



Improving Services for Wheelchair Users and Carers, Good Practice Guide 2004 (NHS)


9 million



Arthritis Care

Invisible disabilities



Learning disabilities

1.5 million



Over 50’s

As mortality rates decline, there is also a growing awareness of a major demographic shift. The UK now has 11 million people over retirement age and it is likely that they will wish to travel.

The below graph indicates UK population growth projections for this demographic:



Growth over the next 10 years

Growth over the next 20 years

Over 50s

4.1 million (20%)

6.7 million (33%)

Over 65s

2.6 million (27%)

5.1 million (53%)

Over 80s

788,000 (29%)

2.3 million (85%)

Total population

5.3 million (9%)

9.6 million (16%)

The propensity for disability increases with age and life expectancy is increasing. Indeed, the incidence of disability and impairments increases substantially after the age of 45.


Due to the increased aging population numbers and the existing and growing market for disabled travel, the number of carers travelling is increasing. Indeed few disabled people travel alone until they are comfortable to do so.

This again increases the size of the market and flags issues for accommodation providers in terms of room layout and pricing.


As such, existing demand for accessible accommodation is enormous and growing.

The hospitality industry is starting to recognize that disabled people form an important consumer group. Indeed, market research[4] has indicated that 84% of Europeans believe better accessibility of goods and services would improve opportunities for industry to sell products to disabled and older people and 66% said that they would buy, or pay more for products if they were more accessible and better designed for all.

Disabled guests also tend to arrive at hotels during down or off periods as it is easier for them to travel thus increasing occupancy in otherwise difficult periods. Research also suggests that disabled guests are extremely loyal and are highly likely to return if a hotel met their needs.

By improving accessibility in all areas of the hotel and its services hoteliers can ensure that they are opening their hotel to additional visitors and a large and profitable market segment.

From a moral perspective, we must accommodate and facilitate persons with mobility, sensory or cognitive impairments in order to be a truly inclusive and progressive society.

Open Doors Organisation – 2005 research

NHS Purchasing & Supply Agency & Audit Commission

US Census 2000 & Survey of Income and Program Participation 2005

Flash Eurobarometer Report EU Commission – Director General Justice - March 2012


Access Statements


By Senan Sexton


The provision of an Access Statement is of paramount importance in influencing a disabled guest to decide to stay at a hotel and should be posted on a hotel’s website to allow for easily dissemination.

An Access Statement is a description of a hotel’s accessible facilities and services.

Access Statements are a written, descriptive approach to providing a wide range of information on accessibility.

All areas of a hotel premises should be described from car parking, what to expect upon arrival, the standard and facilities of disabled rooms to public area disabled toilets. Photos should be included at every opportunity.

A good Access Statement will detail how accessible the hotel is and will detail potential problems and their resolution e.g. the existence of steps into a hotel but the location of a wheelchair ramp.

It is also extremely important that details of how to get to the hotel and any disabled friendly information on local public or private transport be included e.g. details of local bus service or telephone number of an accessible taxi service.

It is recommended that details of local places of interest be included with helpful links.

An Access Statement can be seen as a “first exposure” opportunity for a hotel to market itself to the disabled customer.

Research demonstrates that without the availability of an Access Statement on a hotel’s website it is highly unlikely that a disabled guest will stay at that hotel.

Good examples of Access Statements can be found on the Visit England website or by performing a Google search.