I ring a hotel to book accessible accommodation for an upcoming event. I explain my needs and confirm with the frontline customer service staff member that they have accessible rooms available. Continuing with this booking, 15 minutes later I was transferred to the reservation team.
Again I relay my needs to this new staff member who says,
“We don’t have accessible rooms”
“But the staff member that transferred me said you did!” I query dumfounded.
“No we don’t. This accessible ‘room’ doesn’t meet the requirements for anyone using a wheelchair or stick?”
I take a frustrated breath
“So how is it accessible then?” I ask
“It has rails” the man immediately responds with confidence. He seems almost chuffed at his quick response.
Trying to advocate for myself and others is so taxing. I had wasted time and energy and was very tempted to book anyways and just adapt. However on principle I knew that I needed to stay elsewhere and try to educate this man as to why I wouldn’t be booking his hotel.
Firstly, I recommended to him to carry out an audit on their hotel’s accessibility. However, as I was mindful that this would be an expense unlikely to be prioritized, I mentioned that improving their customer service and communication would be well worthwhile. I suggested one way of doing this is not to tell customers that they have accessible rooms when they don’t.
Finally, I asked him to recommend a neighbouring hotel that were actually accessible.
So, 40 minutes later I ended the conversation and phoned another hotel.
So much of one’s job as an advocate is about educating service providers to enable clients and improve customer service. It’s so easy to feel disheartened at the ongoing frustrations and barriers that exist. But I’ve learnt that many people are oblivious to the needs of so many. They unintentionally create HUGE roadblocks in their services. To advocate, changes are slow and small but we need be focused on the importance of education and persistence. Keep going!