Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson, who triumphed in the dressage in the Rio Games, is calling for the introduction of a worldwide common accessibility standard for hotels.
Speaking at Abta’s Travel Convention in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, Pearson, who was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, said the majority of hotels do not have the basic facilities for disabled guests.
The 10-times Olympic gold medallist has travelled extensively around the world to compete and in his former role as chairman of the Equestrian Athletes’ Committee.
Pearson, CBE, said: “There needs to be a format for what makes a hotel room accessible.”
He added: “I’m talking about the really simple things, like wide doorways and corridors to allow wheelchairs and scooters in; being able to turn around; non-slip floors; and ramps instead of steps.
“It’s not that difficult. These kinds of things should be standard everywhere but they aren’t.”
He said even in the Paralympic Village in Rio there had been no dropped kerbs and the doorways had been too narrow for him to get into his room on his scooter.
“It was so ridiculous and ironic,” said Pearson. “If they can’t get it right even in a purpose-built village, what hope is there for hotels?
“Most hotels have a few ‘special’ rooms, but often we don’t want to feel like we’re in a special room full of plastic rails.
“There’s no reason why instead of polished grip-free floors, which are lethal if you’re transferring from your chair to a bed, hotels couldn’t start using special non-slip vinyl and making spacious wet rooms so disabled people can stay in normal, stylish rooms.”
Pearson said the travel industry needed to start taking accessibility and inclusivity seriously, with 12 million registered people in the UK, and many more with mobility issues – a figure which he says will only grow as people live longer.
Pearson revealed he was in talks with the World Travel & Tourism Council to try to get the issue raised within the United Nations and the UNWTO and was keen to see an ‘International Care Agency’ created, enabling disabled people to hire carers around the world.
Pearson’s calls were praised by Enable Holidays, which provides accessible holidays for those with limited mobility. Head of marketing Jeremy Cooper said there was a clear need for common standards, which would have to be “policed”, for disabled facilities in hotels as well as for resorts, transfer companies and airlines.
He said: “I can only applaud people like Lee who are bringing this issue to the forefront.”
According to research released this month by market research firm MyTravelResearch.com:
• Around one in five people have a disability and about 88% of people with a disability take a holiday each year
• Cruising is becoming more popular for people with disabilities. In the past five years, 10% of adults with disabilities in the US have taken a cruise.
• People with disabilities are generally tech savvy, with 58% using mobile devices to support their travel needs.
• According to VisitEngland research in 2015: The overnight accessible tourism market is worth £3 billion to the English economy, with day trips lifting the figure to £12.1 billion.
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