80% of disabled people say they struggle when holidaying in the UK

4 September 2017

Guests enjoying Leonard Cheshire Disability's accessible Park House hotel in Sandringham

With the holiday season coming to a close, eight in ten disabled people we surveyed said they faced barriers and difficulties staying at UK hotels and resorts.

Of the 147 disabled people who responded to our survey:

  • over 70% highlighted issues finding accessible rooms
  • 50% had problems with access to bars, restaurants or other facilities

This was despite significant demand, with a third saying they use UK hotels or resorts more than once a year.

Costs of accessible accommodation are a common barrier to taking a break for around six in ten survey respondents, with accessible rooms often seen as more expensive.

One person who took part in the survey said:

'Disabled accessible rooms are the more expensive deluxe or superior rooms, adding up to £30 per night to the cost of a standard room.'

Disabled people who travel as part of a family faced specific challenges, including lack of disabled friendly family rooms. One said:

'I end up booking two separate rooms, one disabled and one family room, but this means that I end up staying separate from the rest of the family — and usually on a different floor or different part of the hotel complex!'

In some cases, lack of appropriate accessibility meant people were missing out on a break altogether:

'We've not gone on holiday in this or any other country for the past three years because we can't find anywhere accessible enough for me.'

Equipment provision varies widely

Provision of specific equipment, including hoists for wheelchair users, appeared to vary widely in hotels.

Chloe Timms, 29, a writer with spinal muscular atrophy, explained the significance of hotels providing hoists:

'To bring one yourself you need a big enough vehicle as it’s not equipment you can take on public transport.

‘You also need hotel beds to have enough space underneath them for the hoist wheels. I’ve had to use books and even upturned mugs to lift the bed before!'

Response from UK hotel chains

We contacted a number of top UK hotel chains and resorts to ask about what they offered disabled guests.

Most said they met legal requirements in terms of building regulations and access, also providing information on other accessibility features.

However some hotel groups admitted that offers and equipment could vary from hotel to hotel and advised people to check about provision of specific features.

Travels with carers or personal assistants

Some disabled people are unable to travel without a carer or personal assistant, but most hotel groups contacted had no firm policy for free or discounted carer rooms.

Lack of affordable offers on carer rooms was flagged as an issue by 28% of our survey's respondents.

Center Parcs has acknowledged the high demand for disabled accommodation. They said that though each of their five villages had accessible features across the sites, with a number of accessible accommodation options, they had plans to increase availability in the next few years.

Leonard Cheshire chief executive, Neil Heslop, said: 

'It’s encouraging to see from our contact with UK hotels and resorts that they want to accommodate disabled customers. However, based on what disabled people tell us, the UK holiday industry as a whole could do a lot better.

'It’s important to remember that this isn’t just about holidays. Many disabled people travel around the UK and stay at hotels as part of their job. Disabled people should have equal access to hotels and holiday resorts, and at a price that is affordable.'

Holiday industry and disabled access expert Srin Madipalli, CEO and founder of Accomable, said:

'The problem is that the information [about accessible holiday accommodation] is not so easy to come by.

'You can speak to several different staff members and receive different answers to questions such as: ‘how many wheelchair accessible rooms do you have?’. If you asked them about the dining or leisure facilities, there definitely wouldn't be the same level of inaccuracy.'

Leonard Cheshire Disability runs an inclusive hotel on the Sandringham Estate called Park House, and a guest house in Edinburgh called Park House Guest House. Features include an in-house care team available on-site 24 hours a day to offer guests support and a selection of different care packages. Hoists are in all main hotel rooms, as well as fixed tracking hoists in others.