The 5 worst mistakes hotels make when working with disabled guests

The lion’s share of hotel operators mean well, but no good deed goes unpunished if it results in embarrassment or comes off insulting. Here are five mistakes hotels can avoid making if they want to properly serve disabled travelers.

1. No Touching 

Peter Slatin, founder and president of the Slatin Group, said flustered front-desk professionals all too often overstep their bounds and grab disabled travelers in an attempt to guide them to their destination, often somewhere in a line. This “laying on of hands” is often well intentioned, but is a breach of personal space so severe that Slatin considers it the biggest mistake a hotel can make.

2. Remember your Guest

On the off chance a front-desk operator does decide to “position” a disabled guest somewhere in the lobby, Slatin urges operators not to forget about them. With no frame of reference, a visually impaired guest could end up lost at the end of a line they didn’t know they were a part of. While guests can sympathize with busy hotels, it’s better to keep them informed or come to them whenever possible to avoid confusion.

One of the worst mistakes an operator can make is to assume anything about a guest. Above all, ask questions and be present.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

David Moss, VP of operations at Virgin Hotels, said there is nothing worse than an operator getting in the way of a self-sufficient guest under the pretense of helping. “Approach them face on, introduce yourself, ask if they need assistance and wait for a response,” Moss said. “Some guests may be comfortable and content without assistance, others arriving for the first time may need help finding their way, but interfering when you don’t know could put them in a dangerous situation if you approach suddenly or aggressively.”

4. Buy the Proper Supplies

Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant telecommunications device for the deaf kits are mandated to be included on-property, but if your hotel doesn’t have enough on hand they might as well not have any at all. Christy Pettit, corporate director at Providence Hospitality Partners, said to also take stock of who your regular guests are, and when doing a room refresh consider adding more ADA-compliant rooms if needed.

5. Seek out Training

Deciding you need help is a difficult decision because it requires operators to take a hard look at how their hotel is being run, but your hotel will almost always be better off for it. Pettit said Providence decided it was time to start training for disabled guests after questioning if it was doing all it could, and hasn’t looked back since. “We started a program specifically training for disabled guests because we weren’t satisfied with the way thing were handled, we had some confused front-desk associates,” Pettit said. “Even down to the housekeeping staff, I recommend everyone be trained in this area.”