A Healthy Attitude 
Toward Disabled Guests
By Elizabeth Johnson,  Public Relations Manager 

Guests with disabilities rank accurate information about disability-accessible accommodations second only to accessible showers and larger bathrooms, according to a recent guest survey conducted by U.S. Franchise Systems, Inc. and its Microtel brand properties.

Such information has made quite an impact at USFS, where President and CEO Mike Leven has launched an initiative to make Microtel “the preferred hotel chain for people with disabilities.” 

All Microtel properties already comply with the physical accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and now, with the addition of staff training in a concept referred to as “attitude accessibility,” Leven is on the way to reaching his goal. 

Terri Fox, USFS’ vice president of franchise support, conducts on-site training for Microtel employees using the “Opening Doors” program developed by W.C. Duke Associates of Woodford, VA.  The goal of the program is to teach employees to be courteous and sensitive while allowing travelers with disabilities to maintain their independence and dignity. 

“We want employees to treat every guest with the same level of quality service,” says Fox.  “One of our ‘Ten Commandments’ is to place the person before the disability.  Every traveler has unique needs. It’s up to us to meet those needs, whatever they are.” 

To increase firsthand knowledge, employees take property tours to see and test all of the features in accessible rooms. They learn to operate the closed-captioning on the television set, use the remote control switches for the heating and air conditioning, check out a roll-in shower, see the oversized number pad on the telephone, and test the alarm clock with the flashing light for hearing-impaired guests. 

“It’s easier for our front desk staff to describe our accessible rooms if they’ve actually seen and tried them,” Fox explains. Employees also experience what it is like to maneuver through the hotel with a disability.

“We put them in a wheelchair and have them try to reach items or open heavy doors,” Fox explains.  Blindfolds, earplugs, and taped hands enable employees to experience sight impairments, deafness, and severe arthritis. This exercise creates empathy for guests with disabilities and makes employees aware of what assistance guests may require. 

Key points learned include: 

  • Treat the guest as a healthy, traveling person.
  • Ask guests with disabilities if they need your help.  Don’t just grab an arm or push a wheelchair.
  • Don’t be offended if a guest refuses an offer of help.  The guest knows best what s/he can or cannot do. 
  • Speak directly to the guest, not to a companion. 
  • Just relax; be yourself. Helpfulness and friendliness project a better attitude than anxiety. 
“Attitude accessibility is all about breaking down barriers of fear,” says Fox. “By training our employees to be comfortable with our disabled guests, we also make our guests more comfortable.” 

A version of this article originally appeared in Hotels

For information on ADA training, contact EI at info@ei-ahma.org

800 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite 1800
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 999-8100 • (800) 752-4567
fax (407) 236-7848
web site: http://www.ei-ahma.org
Also See:
Who Are You Hiring? Pre-Employment Screenings Help You Find Out / Elizabeth Johnson / EI
The Labor Squeeze: Finding Good Employees / Elizabeth Johnson / EI

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