I came across an article recently that was relatively short but it stuck with me in a really positive way. The article was about designing hotel rooms for the disabled. Certainly not a new concept, or one that you can’t find hundred hits for on Google, in fact if you want a quick refresher on how to book an accessible hotel room and what you get you can read my simple guide. The exciting thing about this new piece was that the accessible design process was focused on being beautiful! I’ve been in plenty of hotel rooms that are less than aesthetically pleasing with gaudy grab bars, a big old plastic shower bench, and just enough room for me to squeeze my wheelchair in and for them to check the box for wheelchair accessible. Meh – they are fine, they get the job done, but I certainly wouldn’t call it an oasis where I can pretend that I have four fully functional limbs.
This CNN article talks with Robin Sheppard who is a co-founder of the Bespoke Hotel group, with over 200 properties and that just under 10,000 rooms it is the UK’s largest independent hotel group. So right off the bat we are talking about a large organization, not some sweet, well-intentioned private hotelier.
In the last two years Sheppard and Bespoke worked to set up the first Access awards with the aim to foster the concept that accessible rooms should be every bit as stylish as the rest of the rooms in the hotel. Hell yes! Hotel rooms do not need to remind me that I have to live my life a little bit differently and settle for things quite often that just aren’t as beautiful. If I have to pay the same amount for a room as a regular guest I would love treated to that same luxurious feel! And if I do have to have an ugly hotel room compared to the rest of the rooms the least they could do would be to comp me a bucket of cold beers so that I can create my own mental paradise.
Sheppard came up with five guiding principles for applicants: Their designs should be universal, personal, flexible, functional and beautiful. Now, to be honest I don’t know what all of these mean in terms of design, but I like the sound of it!
I love the idea of these awards because it encourages hotels and designers to go beyond just the basics of ADA law. Sometimes we all need that carrot in front of the horse even if it is just a travel plug on your website.
What really inspires me about this is that these types of measures encourages people of all abilities to travel. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Travel offers all of us the opportunity to gain a new perspective and see our life and the story happening all around us anew. The decision to get out and explore helps break down some of those walls or boundaries that we put up ourselves – or we perceive that others have put up for us. We are capable of so many things but sometimes it is easy to forget when you feel that life has constantly told you no. I think that’s why I love the idea of these beautifully designed hotels so much. It is incredibly inviting and screams the message “hey, you are important!” Which, at least in my ears, are some seriously beautiful words!