The age old saying “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” perfectly encapsulates why there is often a divide between what businesses THINK is accessible, and what is REALLY accessible. My own understanding came about from lived experience as a carer of a person with disability, and feedback from thousands upon thousands of our followers. However, before Accessible Accommodation came to be, I too was a property owner who thought she knew what accessibility was, but clearly didn’t!
I’d like to tell you about the weekend I learnt a very valuable lesson. My mum Barbie came to stay at our brand new wheelchair accessible holiday house in Barwon Heads, Victoria,
You see, we worked with the Architect to include all the accessible features into the new build. Can a guest roll into the shower easily? Is the bedroom large enough to manoeuvre a wheelchair? Are the doors wide enough? And so on. The end result was a beautiful, well thought out (or so I thought) accessible accommodation, that my mother can feel comfortable in her frequent visits from Sydney.
The Architect researched what builders and government bodies deem to be accessible accommodation. Whilst I researched by asking Barbie and other wheelchair users and scouring the internet for real life experiences. So, when the place was built, we were proud to be able to share the place with other travellers.
The Bleeding Obvious
Back to the weekend mum came to visit. I asked mum if I could borrow her wheelchair. I wanted to see for myself how someone in a chair can navigate, and experience a relaxing home away from home.
All was going really well until I came to the bathroom sinks. Yes, we included double sinks where a wheelchair can glide under.
I looked up at the mirror.
There was simply no way I could see my reflection to put on makeup! The mirror was too high!
Now, we found a simple solution, and the world didn’t end. However, it taught me a valuable lesson. I had a lot to learn to truly understand the perspective of a wheelchair user. It was the start of (what i didn’t know at the time) how Accessible Accommodation came to be. Sure, nowadays I live and breathe all things accessibility. But I can’t expect the same for every accommodation provider in Australia. Sure, we can share recommendations, as we always do for new listings, however, there is another way to truly understand guests with physical disabilities.
If you are in the Travel and Hospitality industry, I recommend you hiring a wheelchair (for around $20 a day at your local Pharmacy). Cruise around your hotel, holiday accommodation or restaurant. See for yourself what it is like for your guests to navigate their way around your establishment. I promise you, it will forever alter your perspective, realise the importance of truly empathising with others to better understand them .
Our guests with disabilities will appreciate you. A better experience means a great chance of a good review and return visits. You will have “rolled” a mile in someone else’s shoes.
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