Understanding guests with disabilities

A number of people have special needs as guests. These are people with disabilities, such as:

  • Physical (permanent or temporary, may be accompanied by an assistance animal)
  • Mental (distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities),
  • Cognitive (learning, understanding, processing information and problem solving)
  • Sensory (visual or hearing impairment)
  • Elderly people
  • People with a long term health condition

The full participation of such people in travel is often hindered by physical and attitudinal barriers.

   Welcoming people with disabilities according to their special needs

When faced with people with disabilities many people are not sure how to act, leading to some awkward and embarrassing moments. Whatever disability your guest might have be RESPECTFUL, AWARE, and ADAPTABLE.

Here are some general tips:
• Greet a person as you would greet any guest. Making a mistake during greeting is far better than to avoid a person out of fear of offending
• A friendly attitude is always welcome
• As a rule, speak directly to the person with disability (not to his/her companion)
• Ask in which way you can help

Tips for handling people with visual disabilities:

• Always identify yourself and ask what kind of assistance you can provide
• Explain to a person where things are located
• Print instructions with big thick fonts on yellow background and in Braille
• If a person has a guide dog do not pet, feed, speak or distract a “working dog” unless given permission by the owner
• Offer your arm by asking which arm they prefer
• Use directional words when guiding a blind person to their room/seat

Tips for handling people with hearing difficulties:

• Speak clearly and slowly, but do not shout; use paper to write if necessary
• Face the person so he/she gets a clear view of your face
• Look directly at the guest and speak expressively
• Speak to a person directly (not to the companion)

Tips for handling people with speaking difficulties:

• Take as much time as necessary – do not hurry the guest; ask him/her to repeat if you do not understand
• Show respect and offer to use other means of communication – writing, pointing, typing

Tips for handling people with mobility difficulties:

• If in a wheelchair ask your guest if he/she needs assistance
• Do not move the wheelchair or crutches out of reach
• Offer assistance with door opening/closing, entrance to the elevator and similar
• If you need to lift a person in a wheelchair, ask him/her for instructions

Watch this insightful video about serving guests with disabilities (in English) 

 Understanding challenges and dealing with them 

See a video about common mistakes when dealing with people with disabilities: