By Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News: Not being inclusively hospitable, a luxury few can afford.
Business Disability Forum has published extensive new research finding disabled consumers in the UK experience limited choice and feelings of disempowerment when choosing a place to eat or drink. Almost half of respondents said that their choice of hospitality venue was limited by their disability or access needs.
The research report titled ‘Hospitality: What disabled consumers choose to buy and why’ looks at how people choose where to eat or drink and why.
One of a series of in-depth research reports, ‘Hospitality: What disabled consumers choose to buy and why’ examines buying experiences of the 1 in 5 people in the UK who have a disability. The series considers purchasing experiences across seven key sectors, including hospitality.
Hospitality: Key findings
Of the disabled consumers who had been involved in selecting or researching a hospitality venue in the last two years.
- 85 per cent said that disability or access needs influenced their choice of restaurant, café or pub.
- 75 per cent of respondents said that finding the information they needed was more challenging because of their disability or access needs.
- 45 per cent observed that choice of hospitality venues was limited because of their disability or access needs.
- 39 per cent said that they felt confident they had made the right choice of hospitality venue.
In general, the research found that disabled consumers chose to spend their money on places that had either provided them with good information and service before or had been positively reviewed by people like them.
- 48 per cent said they relied on positive reviews and recommendations.
- 32 per cent of those surveyed said ‘I read general reviews in the media, websites or comparison websites, such as TripAdvisor’.
- 21 per cent agreed that ‘When possible, I will filter or look for reviews and recommendations from people like me’.
One disabled respondent said: “The main difficulty is finding accessible information online. Sometimes menus are not available at all and at other times the menu is available as a picture that conveys no useful information to me as a blind person.”
Urgent need for change
Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum, said: “Businesses cannot afford to overlook the needs and spending habits of disabled consumers. Yet, too often, disabled people face limited choice, increased costs, or even difficulty finding the goods and services they want and need.
“For disabled people, the need for better access to services and products has never been more urgent. Many disabled people face additional costs associated with having a disability. With living costs rising, it is more important than ever that disabled consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions and to get the best deals possible.
“Our research shows that there is plenty of good practice out there, but it can be patchy, and varies from sector to sector.”
In the research, disabled consumers also shared their experiences of when hospitality providers had got it right.
“Five blind people went out independently and rang in advance. They discussed help guiding to table, to the loos, even serving. The venue were not condescending at all – they explained where something was on the plate. Just to have that awareness was brilliant.” A disabled consumer.
“It was booking a restaurant and stating I would be using a mobility scooter. The person there gave me an option of either taking the vehicle to the table or parking outside in a vestibule. I felt she went out of her way to accommodate me and make me feel as normal as possible.” A disabled consumer.
Hospitality: Key recommendations
- Based on findings, the research recommends that hospitality venues:
- Make sure that websites and apps are fully accessible and easy to navigate.
- Show pictures of the venue (with descriptions) which allow consumers to make their own judgements about accessibility.
- Indicate where the toilets are situated and whether they are accessible.
- Clearly indicate aspects relating to access into the venue such as steps.
- Tell people, in advance, how to book tables that are quieter or in darker/brighter areas.
Excluding 20% of the population from your business by not being inclusively hospitable is an expensive choice few can afford.