Disability inclusion in hospitality venues

A brief guide for hospitality businesses that are looking for ways to be disability inclusive.

Kate Maslen
4 min

If you run a restaurant, hotel or other hospitality venue, you have a responsibility to make sure that diversity inclusion is at the core of your business model, this means ensuring your customers with disabilities are inclusion.

This may seem like it’s extra work on your already busy schedule, but it doesn’t have to be! If you follow these simple steps, your business can become more accessible for customers with disabilities and all the benefits will flow naturally from this.

Don't forget, there are 4.4 million people currently living with a disability in Australia, that's about 18% of our population and a huge demographic to be missing out on for business.

Create an Accessible Website

Make sure your website is accessible.

Your website is the first place people will turn to if they want to find out more information about your venue, and that includes people with disabilities. If a website doesn’t have any ADA compliance built in, it means disabled users may have trouble getting around it. This can make them feel unwelcome or even deter them from visiting altogether.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your website is easy for everyone:

  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and responsive so that it looks good on any screen size or device type (tablets, phones, desktops).
  • It should be navigable by keyboard alone—avoid adding fancy animations and other distractions that might cause problems for someone using screen reader software or tabbing through links with just their keyboard (especially if these features don’t actually provide any value).
  • Ensure all text used throughout the site has enough contrast between background colours and text colours so they can be easily read by everyone who visits regardless of whether they have colour blindness issues or not.

In addition to these recommendations above there are other things like having a dedicated accessibility option within each section of your site where visitors can easily tell whether accommodations such as wheelchair ramps exist at specific venues where they plan on dining while also providing an online menu option for easier access for those who are visually impaired.

Disability Awareness Training for Staff

It's important to realise that disability awareness training is not a one-time endeavour. While it's a good idea for managers, supervisors and staff to get some kind of initial training on what it's like to be disabled and how they can better accommodate guests with disabilities, ongoing sensitivity training should also be provided so that all staff members are aware of their responsibility in ensuring a welcoming environment.

For example, if you hire new waiters or bartenders who don't have experience with people who use wheelchairs as customers, they could be unaware of the fact that many wheelchair users don't want their feet touching the ground while seated at tables—they prefer being able to straddle the barstool with both wheels off the floor.

In addition to regular training for managers and supervisors, providing ongoing disability awareness education opportunities through guest speakers or inviting individuals with disabilities into your workplace would also go a long way toward making sure your employees have accurate information about what it means to live with certain types of physical impairments or mental conditions.

Install a Hearing Loop System

A hearing loop system is a great way to ensure that people with hearing aids or cochlear implants can hear the audio feed at a venue. This can be especially useful for people who have trouble hearing when there are multiple speakers talking at once, or when there's music playing in the background.

The system works by transmitting sound through two wires: one wire carries the signal in and out, while another connects it to an amplifier and speaker system. The system can also be integrated into existing infrastructure so that no major renovations are needed.

Make Your Signage More Accessible

  • Make sure your signage is clear and visible.
  • Keep in mind that this includes not just the information on the sign itself, but also the placement of it.
  • Make sure there are different sizes of signs to accommodate different ranges of vision.
  • Consider colour contrast between text and background for people with low vision, as well as making sure there's enough contrast so that people who are colour blind can read them too.
  • Consider font type/size/style so that everyone can read it clearly—not just those with perfect eyesight! The same goes for materials used to create signage; they should be easy to see regardless of lighting conditions or viewing distance (e.g., don't make everything tiny!). Also keep in mind whether any particular language(s) need(s) translation services

Provide Braille Menus and Signage

Braille menus are an excellent way to assist customers who cannot read the regular menu, but they can also help people gain access to your venue if they have mobility issues or a visual impairment.

Braille menus are usually provided by your printer and are quick and easy to order. You will find they are cost-effective, too - both in terms of providing the service itself and marketing the fact that you offer it. This can work wonders for attracting new customers who may otherwise not have considered visiting your business.

Offer a Range of Food and Drink Options on the Menu

  • Offer a Range of Food and Drink Options on the Menu
  • It is important to ensure that all food and drink options are accessible to people with disabilities, including those who have difficulty eating or drinking.
  • This includes providing an assortment of different types of food that can be eaten by hand, with cutlery/a fork, with fingers or utensils (if appropriate) as well as mild spice levels and texture variations such as smoothies or liquid meals.
  • Labels should be clear so you can clearly state if something is gluten-free, nut-free etc., what allergens are in each dish (if any). If you have a special order menu or list then this should always be available for reference for staff and customers alike.

Join the Ariel App

The Ariel App provides an easy way for venues to get their accessibility information out to the public.

  • Register your business through the Ariel Business Portal
  • Link your social media, website and menu to your listing so they have direct access to the information they need.
  • List your venue photos, videos and any other information you'd like.

There are many ways that you can make your venue more disability inclusive and friendly. The key is to be proactive about it, so that everyone can enjoy a great experience at your venue or business.

Article by

Kate Maslen

Kate is one of the founders of Ariel and works as a Support Coordinator.

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