“The elevator is over there,” hotel associates have often told Peter Slatin, who, as a blind man, finds the description extremely lacking in clarity. Such communication glitches were common when Slatin traveled and each negative interaction colored his perception of hotels as a whole. And, after speaking to friends and colleagues who also had disabilities, he discovered many of them had similar stories.
Slatin decided to tackle this problem head-on. He cofounded Slatin Media Group, and launched an online learning program (currently available through The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute or directly from Slatin Media) to educate associates in the hospitality industry on serving guests with disabilities through enhanced training.
According to Slatin, hotel staff should be making a conscious effort to understand the specific challenges that may impact a guest with a disability’s experience, and it is of the utmost importance that hotel associates understand what to do and what not to do in particular situations. “There is a lot of confusion about the right way to engage with a person with a disability and when those guests engage with a hotel associate who isn’t quite sure how to interact, it can negatively impact their perception of that hotel,” Slatin says. The training also covers situation-specific protocols, such as what to do when a guest arrives with a service animal. “Hotel staff need to know that they shouldn’t pet or engage service animals while the animals are working. It distracts them from doing their job. Many hotel associates aren’t aware of this,” Slatin describes.
Beyond better serving guests, more extensive training can also have a very positive impact on hotels’ bottom lines. To put it simply, if a hotel is particularly adept at serving people with disabilities, word will spread like wildfire in support circles. “There is not a lot of marketing aimed at this population. The only way people with disabilities learn about a hotel that is well-prepared to provide great service for guests with disabilities is through word-of-mouth,” Slatin explains. “There is a lot of value in learning the best way to serve people with disabilities.”