360 degrees barrier-free: Scandic Hotels Germany as a best practice example
The second sentence of Article 3.3 in Germany’s Constitution specifies that “no one must suffer discrimination on account of their disability”. This may sound very simple, but for nearly 9.6 million Germans with officially recognised disabilities it means no less than the ability to participate in the life of society. Thanks to barrier-free facilities, disabled persons and the elderly can be integrated and included in public life - and particularly also in the workplace.
For event planners accessibility is becoming increasingly relevant against the background of demographic change and the need for inclusion. Any planning of barrier-free conferences and meetings presents a number of challenges: Is the venue reasonably accessible for disabled persons? Are the facilities suitable for people with a variety of disabilities? For instance, can visually impaired persons and wheelchair users move around the venue with sufficient ease? Are there enough barrier-free toilets and accommodation options? Are technical facilities available, such as induction loops for people with hearing impairments? The questions that need to be addressed in the run-up to a barrier-free meeting are numerous and vary from case to case.
“Barrier-free facilities always need space,” says Klaas Brose, CEO of the Berlin Disabled Sports Association. For example, when he planned the executive committee meeting of his association, he made particularly sure that wheelchair users could move around easily. “There are a large variety of disabilities among our workforce. This makes it all the more important to have a wide range of barrier-free facilities,” says Perdita Müller, who represents disabled employees at Bertelsmann SE & Co. KG.
When planning and conducting barrier-free meetings and events, these two institutions have found a reliable partner in Scandic Hotels Germany, a chain which has also served the International Rehabilitation, Travelling and Mobility Trade Fair for Everyone (IRMA). Scandic Hotels are a chain that sees itself as being there for everyone, with accessibility as an integral part of its comprehensive sustainability policy.
Scandic’s Accessibility Standards specify 135 technical and architectural measures to ensure that guests can stay in a barrier-free environment. This includes extra-wide corridors and doors, inductive sound systems, wheelchair-friendly parquet flooring, Braille on all signs and buttons as well as door viewers at seat height. These are just some of the many measures taken by Scandic Hotels Germany at its conference facilities.
“Uncompromising attention to accessibility is outstanding at Scandic,” says Klaas Brose. The chain’s barrier-free policy covers all five senses, e.g. through the use of coloured routing systems and announcement systems in lifts. Even the websites of the hotels have been optimised in such a way that they can be read by visually impaired persons via screen readers, enabling them to plan their stay independently.
At the Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz and Scandic Hamburg Emporio at least ten per cent of all rooms are barrier-free, i.e. more than stipulated by German law. With its 33 barrier-free rooms, the Scandic Hamburg Emporio would have enough space to accommodate an entire wheelchair basketball team – a fact which may become particularly relevant when various cities will be competing to hold the 2024 Paralympics. It was this wide range of facilities that prompted IRMA to hold its event in Hamburg instead of Bremen this year, showing that accessibility is a major economic factor.
However, accessibility is not just a matter of architectural and technical aspects. It is also substantially related to issues of awareness and the creation of awareness. For over 10 years now Scandic Hotels have had a specially designated Disability Officer, Magnus Berglund, who is responsible for the further development of the chain’s 135-point plan and for the provision of staff training. Regular training and awareness workshops are held for hotel staff on how to serve people with special needs. Thanks to this 360-degree approach, Scandic Hotels are seen as exemplary in matters of barrier-free travelling and conferences.
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