Ms. Shackelford

ADA Compliance

Is Your Room Service Up to Scratch? - Servicing People with Disabilities

By Ellen L. Shackelford, President, Connections Access Consulting Services, LLC (CACS)

When service is an added feature of any venue, patrons expect the advertised services to be available upon request. Once a situation arises, it is expected a rather quick solution will follow. Guests at hotels and motels trust a quality service from employees while they enjoy the comforts therein.

My articles continue to give live situations which adds credibility to the contribution. Sharing these situations with readers may begin to shed some light on how to approach issues with an open mind. Being a person with a disability who has experienced various types of issues resulting from inadequate room service, may bring some insight to how good service can go a long way in customer satisfaction, which leads to repeat business.

When people travel away from home, it is their hope to be as comfortable as possible and when needed be able to receive the best service the hotel can offer. Sometimes it is necessary to go beyond the usual by servicing individual unique needs. Everyone has something they will request during their stay, whether it is a forgotten item, such as, a toiletry item, grooming kit, etc., but sometimes it could be something over-looked in the room initially. Room service is just as it states; if you need something, we will service you to the best of our ability. It doesn't mean once a request has been addressed it stops there, instead it should go far and beyond the call of duty.

Customer service is an essential element of room service; it is what gets counted at the end of a stay and added on the comment cards left in the room on the desk. It's good business practice to assure the service guests receive is exceptional. When people with disabilities travel, it is difficult enough finding a venue which is accommodating and accessible, but when a hotel is located and the individual accepts the accommodations they also want to be assured their service will be what was promised. After the visit to the front desk, the next step is to arrive at a room which was assigned, hoping all the amenities are satisfactory.

When the bellman carries the luggage to the room assigned, they are usually waiting for a tip for the deed they have just done. Once the task has been satisfied by both parties, the next thing asked is, (sometimes) if there is anything you need, please do not hesitate to ask, this is usually the drill you get once it's all said and done. Before a question or a request is asked, the person is out the door awaiting the next guest to assist with baggage. The service should begin at the arrival of the room.

In my travels, I've found difficulties with getting service once my room was assigned and my belongings were in it. I use a wheelchair for mobility and have difficulties reaching for things located on high shelves, or bending for things on the floor. In this particular hotel, I asked the bellman if he could assist me with something before he left the room, but his response was, "I will have housekeeping assist you." It was unclear why he could not help me with what was needed at the time. After the response, my first thought was he was the person who delivers the bags to the room. When he told me to ask if there was anything I needed, it was obviously for the front desk to accomplish. Now I'm wondering if the entire staff has been trained on how to assist patrons with disabilities with accommodations? The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is an eighteen year old civil rights law people still don't acknowledge. It's amazing how people don't understand the simplest things others take for granted are huge issues for people with disabilities.

For example, someone having to use adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair, scooter, cane, or walker, may have a difficult time reaching the remote control left on top of a television chest, or plug in a cord for a lap top computer located behind a bed or a heavy chair. In the bathroom the room may not have a roll in shower, but a tub with a shower chair inside the tub for someone to use, but unable to access it because the nozzle is too high to reach the shower head or the toilet is to low and has no grab bar for safety. Someone who is blind may have difficulty locating items in the room without a tour of the assigned room. A person who is deaf and unable to hear would have no way of knowing when the telephone rang without a devise to assist them. There are a multitude of different types of disabilities and hotel staff need to be trained on how to assist ALL persons with disabilities on products and services they need to make their stay comfortable.

Accommodations should include room service to all guests. For some it may require a little more foresight. People with disabilities travel often and will be loyal customers to a venue who invests time researching how to make accommodations for patrons with disabilities. It is not special treatment, special services, but a quality service deserved by everyone. People with disabilities deserve the same services and amenities as all other guests staying in a hotel. Accessibility and accommodations are two separate issues which often are misunderstood. A venue may advertise they are accessible without the accommodations. Such as, the building may be accessible in terms of physical access into a building, but the services therein are not adequately accommodating. For example, a restroom may be accessible, a person using adaptive equipment may be able to pass through the door, but the room may not offer features for the person to use the stall comfortably. It may not have an adequate grab bar, the stool may sit to low for someone having to transfer on to the stool, or there may not be turnaround space to maneuver in the bathroom. Unfortunately some hotels are still not adequately addressing these issues. My experiences encountered in different hotels show me how the room service could be more accommodating to patrons with disabilities. Training of staff and management presumably comes from the ones who know exceptional service. My grandson at age five said, "Grandma, if you don't tell me, how am I suppose to know?" Simple words which have a lot of weight came from a five year old. Don't be afraid to ask your guests what they expect in guest service, because they will certainly tell you. Following are some suggestions, which may assist you in enhancing room service to patrons with disabilities.

  1. Offer assistance when needed. Usually a person with a disability will tell you what assistance is needed and how it is to be received. When a guest is escorted to a room by the bellman, allow the person time to do a walk through to make sure things are adequate. If not provide a list of things to add or correct and pass it on to the appropriate staff person.
  2. Make sure items are in a location which is reachable. Often the remote controllers are in a location to high for someone using a wheelchair, for example to reach. It is a courteous gesture to offer to move them to a place where it is easier for them to reach it. In addition, assure the hand held shower is accessible to reach. Assure furniture is not crowding a space for those using mobility devises.
  3. Add communication devises to access. People who are deaf are unable to hear a telephone ring or a knock at the door. Install communication devises which aid in the awareness of noise, such as, flashing lights at the door, indicator lights on the telephone when it rings, and alert devises for the alarm clock. These items can be found on web sites for assistive technology devices for people with disabilities.
  4. Provide a list of suggestions for guests with disabilities to fill out to enhance exceptional room service. Having your room service up to scratch is just as simple as asking what do you need and then be able to deliver!

Ellen Shackelford is well aware of the many challenges people with disabilities face daily. She is founder/president of Connections Access Consulting Services, LLC, and is dedicated to a service which will enhance the awareness of the unconscious injustice done to the aging population and Citizens with disabilities. She works so all will be included in social situations. Ellen’s goal is to serve as an advocate by providing education through training and disability awareness programs necessary to address the importance of inclusion in an aging society. Ms. Shackelford can be contacted at 757-827-0783 or ln@cacsllc.info Extended Bio...

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