Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inaccessible Hotel in a Liveable City

PJ, the city of choice Conference:

It’s truly heartening to listen to 2 renowned International experts talking about the importance of engagement, involvement and participation of all sectors of community, working together to realize a shared vision of a livable city for all. Yes, the message was clear, that is, the disabled community should be included and be actively participating. What a timely reminder to the local audience in the conference room. I knew then, I was in the right place and with the right people ie., town planners, architects, Residents Associations representatives, Local council members, NGOs and other state agency officers. I had to admit that I was initially hesitant to attend and thought I would probably just attend the first day and skip the next day. However, the conference was enthralling, so to speak, and I am happy that I marked a full attendance for the duration.

The conference was held at a newly completed hotel that offered modern conference amenities and facilities. The hotel design architects, however, had not given a thought that the disabled, being part of the community, also do attend conferences or as hotel guests. Both my wife and I were disappointed to discover the lift was not talking! No tactile to guide the blind and no hazard/warning tiles at strategic and possible hazard areas. It was simply unimaginable and unacceptable in a newly completed hotel that’s supposedly to welcome all hotel guests, both home and abroad. Another shocking irresponsible action by the cleaning staff was, converting the toilet for the disabled into a storeroom for their cleaning equipment and tools. Social attributes and attitudes were clearly lacking despite the grandeur settings of a nice looking hotel.

During the morning tea break, I had to join the long line of queue and also noticed that my wheelchair bound friends were also having difficulty in getting refreshments. My wife had to seek the cooperation of the hungry crowd to kindly make way for the disabled and informed the hotel service staff to organize an area for the disabled to enjoy the tea break. It was a similar experience during the buffet lunch break, where the blind had to rely on my wife to bring the food to them as there were no prior arrangements made to offer assistance. However, the service staffs were quick to assist the blind when informed about the needs. It was a great positive change and feeling on the next day. There were no issues to inconveniences, and the service staffs, including the conference organizers, were most helpful, be it at teatime, workshop session participation, and not forgetting the sumptuous lunch. Also, it’s nice that other conference participants interacted with the disabled at meal times to share their viewpoints. I know for a fact that from now onwards, the disabled guests coming to this hotel will certainly be warmly greeted and accorded good and caring service by the hotel service staff.

More challenging times ahead!

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