A new website, Inclusive London, launched at the beginning of this year by the Greater London Authority (GLA), promised to make it easier for visitors to London with specific accessibility needs to plan and make the most of their stay in the capital. But 8 months down the line questions are arising about just how accessible the 1,500 hotels listed on the site really are.
An investigation by the BBC’s Inside Out which enlisted the help of young disabled investigators found many hotels were being misrepresented as accessible. And it’s not necessarily that the hotels were being deceitful about their facilities—many on the site did not make claims about their access and some did not even know they’re listed on it. So it’s worrying but not surprising to hear that Inclusive London has already had 5.2 million visits given how hard it is to find information on accessible London hotels.
Of the 1,500 hotels on the site, a mere 12% have been fully audited with access info. 27% have only been audited by hotels themselves or members of the public and a huge 61% of hotels on the Inclusive London site have not been audited for accessibility at all. All of which leads to serious doubts over the suitability of many of the hotels classified as “accessible”.
Inside Out randomly selected and secretly spot-checked 15 of these unaudited hotels. They found issues such as small lifts, narrow corridors, and a lack of facilities for companions; they even found one “hotel” from the site which was a totally inaccessible boat! Of these 15 hotels, 79% were deemed inaccessible by the investigators – a disappointing result.
Where the rooms were considered suitable, other issues arose: the only rooms on the ground floor (hence accessible) were expensive luxury ones, whilst cheaper standard rooms were up or down flights of stairs. The programme did feature a wonderfully accessible room – but for £444 a night. In fact, 66% of the audited accessible rooms on averaged well over £100. Budget hotel provider Tune Hotels does though offer some cheap accessible London hotel rooms for under £100 a night.Accessible bathroom at Tune Westminster
Inclusive London was set up to help the 23,000 people with disabilities forecast to descend upon the capital for the Olympics and Paralympics, which have boasted of being the most inclusive games ever.
But with the BBC findings and the GLA themselves admitting that people with accessibility issues are being pushed out of budget market, it’s time to ask: just how suitable is London’s accommodation for people with disabilities? This becomes ever more critical in view of the drive to increase the number of accessible London hotel rooms in time for London 2012.
Photo credits: warrenski, Tune Hotel Westminster.