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The Real Market Potential for Hotels Who Adopt Universal Design to Include People with Disabilities

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September 2015, RooMers Magazine –

The Real Market Potential for Hotels Who Adopt Universal Design to Include People with Disabilities

by Jane Sleeth

The AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities) for Ontario as of June 2015 is 10 years old.  The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in the US is, as of this month 25 years old.

The provinces of Manitoba and Alberta will be next in the passing of regulatory language about accessibility as wen as changes to building codes to reflect the need for more accessible design in the tourism industry including hotels. The remainder of the
provinces and territories wilt all move to a similar approach to accessibility in the marketplace as Ontario’s AODA Regulatory language coupled with updates to provincial and national build codes will impact all hotels and motels during renovations phases
and new design/construction phases of hotel projects. As well the formula regarding the number of rooms to be accessible have already been updated in Ontario which will be followed by the other provinces in Canada over the next 5 years.

Regulatory language for the AODA which was outlined in a previous article of RooMers Magazine is mandatory in that compliance requirements for accessibility is mandatory for ALL businesses including hotels & tourism.  This represents one way to
cause business such as the tourism industry and hotels more specifically to ensure designs are inclusive for ALL segments of the population. The AODA which will be mirrored across each province in Canada approaches the regulations in a way that
addresses key areas;

• Accessible Customer Service – ensuring employees are aware of PwD (People with Disabilities) and provide service in an accessible & inclusive way.
• The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulations or IASR. Relative to the hotel industry there is the mandatory training required by ALL employees Whether customer facing or not as well as an emphasis on the recruitment and hiring
of PwD in the workplace including hotels.
• The IASR”s Public Space Design which includes ensuring accessible design for parking lots and external recreational amenities in the exterior & interior space of hotels
• The Ontario Building Code appendix called ABES which is now mandatory as of Jan 2015 and will be closely followed by the National Building Code for Canada which requires all newly built hotels and renovated hotels to meet the accessible
design standards

Why Regulate Accessibility?

Regulatory language in the us, Canada, Europe inc1Ud109 the UK as well as Australia and New Zealand is occurring for many reasons with the major impetus being the aging population in these countries along with the increase in disabilities which occur
with aging. Regulations can certainly move the agenda related to accessibility for all PwD. In our practice we ensure our clients are aware of the need to comply with accessibility language such as the AODA, ADA and Building Code’s accessible design
requirements. At the same time we guide these businesses to take accessibility a step further by considering the huge and growing demographic shifts occurring in North America and the resulting market advantages in designing the business to attract
& maintain this market. There is excellent data and profitability information available from cruise lines, trains & other tourism related businesses in Europe, Australia and the UK Which can be applied to the hotel industry. The findings reveal that when
attention to PwD (People with Disabilities) and aging populations are accommodated using accessible design plus employee training this increases access to the 53% of North Americans WOO either have a disability or have a strong connection to People
with Disabilities ie. Family and friends. (R. Donovan Fifth Quadrant Analytics 2015)

It is time for the Canadian lodging industry to adopt strategic and high level business plans to capture this emerging, well­ educated and wealthy market segment. It will be the hotels within Canada who are aware of compliance will more importantly adopt best practices in accessibility & universal design who will realize the benefits of being early adopters.

In Canada & the US, 1 in 5 people has a disability. This is a significant portion of the tourism consumer market. Yet few hotels are accommodating the spectrum of people with disabilities by ensuring the public space and hotel rooms/amenities are built or
renovated to capture this market. Further still most hotels do not provide the in depth training & policy development required to ensure individual requirements of disabled and aging guests is met consistently and to a high level Beyond People with Disabilities (PwD) there are the aging Baby Boomers who after the age of 60 have at least one disability Which requires some type of accessibility in design be it a larger turning radius in the bathrooms, access to TTY with the telephone system or kiosks which allow people to plug a headset into it so they can hear what amenities are available in the hotel etc.

Aging Boomers and PwD now have significant financial assets (remember the G7 Countries emphasized accessible education over the last 25 years so PwD have jobs which affords them discretionary money for tourism related activities). Currently in North America 25% of North American’s over age 50 control one half of the NA buying power representing $150 billion in annual discretionary income. (Fortune Magazine P Digh).

A common misconception is that accessible design will make a property look less attractive. This includes the idea that accessible design is expensive and it means a property’s amenities and rooms will look like what we facetiously call “an
orthopaedic shoe”.

In fact when hotels adopt what is called Universal Design Principals during both new hotel planning and building and during renovation projects the outcomes allow a balance of an aesthetically unique hotel with functionality and univffsa1ty access by
guests, employees, and maintenance/service personnel.

Proof for this lies in the fact that newly constructed hospitals in Canada and the US have an appearance similar to high end hotels rather than typical hospitals and rooms! The hotel industry has a strong requirement to be competitive and differentiate
themselves in the marketplace. The use of Universal Design Principals which occurs at the “blueprint phase” of design build and renovate projects will ensure properties not only meet the basic compliance requirements for accessibility but will allow hotels t0
capture the market segments of aging guests and guests Who have disabilities.

When the Canadian lodging industry moves away from compliance with accessibility laws towards best practice this means Universal Design approaches will be used where accessibility becomes central to the design versus just an add on for compliance reasons. Universal Design also allows ALL Guests to benefit from the designs 0f rooms and amenities being simple & intuitive, while allowing flexibility in use, having size and space for approach and use and minimal physical effort to access and use.

Accessibility laws and accessible building codes are the current and near future reality in Canada. The size and wealth of the market of PwD and aging guests for hotels is significant and growing, It is time for the hotel industry to realize that early adoption
of compliance with the addition of universal design as best practice will ensure guests chose to stay and return to your hotel/chain and assure financial health & profitability.

Article provided by: Jane Sleeth is Owner and Senior Accessible Design Consultant with Optimal Performance Consultants. Founded m 1991 as a national specialist firm, OPC has worked with Fortune 5oo companies to realize the cost benefits of ergonomic and accessible design. Jane can be reached at j.sleeth@optimalperformance.ca