On the face of it, there is no disability access to Two Rose Cottages, but that’s not the end of the story!
Here’s the thing. There are five steps up to my front door, and the staircase to the bedrooms is almost alpine. This is an architectural reality of the house which I cannot change: a characteristic shared with many other buildings, including most of the shops, in charming, historic Midhurst.
This is a picture of the staircase when I moved in. It is, as you can see, steep.
Sadly therefore, Two Rose Cottages is not the place for people restricted to wheel chairs or walking frames.
But there are many kinds of disability, some visible, some not, and so there were several things that I could do so that as many people as possible would feel included.
Here are some of the things that I did:-
1. Information: I wrote about the issue clearly on my website, so that everyone (with and without a disability) knows what to expect, and can more easily make their choice. For example, there is information on potential tripping hazards (such as rugs – none in the bedrooms), the height of thresholds, and which taps have lever handles.
You can see what I wrote here.
2. Support: I installed handrails for the bathtub and each shower, beside the outdoor steps to the guest front door and on both sides of the staircase. I find these useful myself!
3. Arthritis: is so common that we don’t really think of it as a disability. But for some it can be. I installed as many lever taps as possible, and ensure that all my table lights have toggle rather than twist switches. (see also Comfort, below)
4. Sight: menus and guest information documents are available in large print upon request. Light switches are outlined in black, so they can be more easily discerned by those with partial sight. On the other hand, most of the door handles are white, like the doors themselves, so this is a potential difficulty. When I replaced one set I chose a handle with a stencil design. This is in keeping with the decor of the house, while making the handle easier to see for some. I’m told it helps. I will gradually change all the handles.
5, Allergies: all bedding and furnishings are hypo-allergenic, and we willingly respond to any specific dietary needs, such as a wheat free, nut-free or lactose-free breakfast (for that matter we are completely open to dietary preferences, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet, and always have locally-produced lamb sausages in the freezer, for those who do not eat pork). It is not a nut-free house, so it may not be suitable for all, but we are happy to remove nuts and other allergens from the guest areas as much as we can.
Two Rose Cottages is a pet-free house, although a cat did once stay in the house for four months while his owner was house-hunting around Midhurst. He was only allowed in the private area, but we can’t guarantee that he never made it into the bedrooms! However, the rooms were very thoroughly cleaned after he left, so they should be OK for most sufferers, but not for anyone with very severe cat allergy.
We have chosen not to encourage dogs, with the exception of service dogs, partly because the general smallness of the house makes it rather unsuitable for waggy tails, but mainly to reduce potential allergens. We are not inflexible on this point, so dogs have stayed there, and we have been very happy to have them where it has been important to our guests. Because of this, its not the place to stay if you have a very severe dog allergy, but we try to keep the risk to a minimum, and so far its been fine for everyone who has stayed here.
6. Comfort: we have provided a choice of pillows and blankets in each bedroom (check out our pillow menu). These benefit everyone, because we all have different comfort needs, but they are particularly useful for people with restricted mobility, who may need specific forms of support while they sleep.
In fact, as a rule of thumb I would say that what benefits people with access and mobility challenges benefits all. So paying attention to this issue is just a win-win.
And the most important step of all? Step 1. Let people know you care about access.
And here’s what it did for my business
I’m glad that I took these steps so that as many people as possible would feel, and be, welcome in my bed and breakfast. But in addition, these actions have directly benefited my business.
This is what I know from last season: three guests made a point of telling me that they really appreciated seeing the information on the website, and two more said they specifically chose Two Rose Cottages because of this information.
None of these people had the appearance of having access problems. For example, one had a husband with advanced cancer, and felt that I would understand their needs for extra bathroom supplies, which I did.
Another was a young couple who both had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and felt that I would be sympathetic to their concerns, which I was: they made a couple of requests for minor adjustments so that they would feel more comfortable, which were no trouble to provide, and we all felt happy. They also loved the pillow menu!,
And who knows how many others it may have been drawn to my little biz by the discussion of access issues on our website, that I don’t even know about.
So don’t be discouraged if you can’t provide full access – do what you can, and who knows who may benefit (including yourself).
I am grateful to Karen Thorne of Hopton House Bed and Breakfast, who included this topic in her fabulous Bed and Breakfast workshop. @HoptonHouseBnB