In 2009, the Ministry of Tourism issued guidelines for 3-star, 4-star and 5-star hotels, stating that all hotels must have specific facilities for persons with disabilities. The hotels had to comply with these guidelines for classification and reclassification, and for getting star certification. They had to make the hotels disabled friendly by 2010.
But when I visited some of the starred hotels, I could not find any such facilities. Since I am a wheelchair user I had to face a lot of difficulty due to the absence of those facilities. So I filed an RTI with the Ministry of Tourism.
The reply that I got from them was shocking. In most of the answers, they copy pasted the guidelines that they had received from the Ministry of Tourism, rather than providing me with the exact numbers which I had asked for.
According to them, the number of 5-star hotels that have facilities for disabled guests is 123 in the entire country. Similarly, the number of 3-star and 4-star hotels that have the same are 132 and 210 respectively. Here lies the discrepancy in the entire scenario. If, as the numbers imply, there are hotels that have been given star certification without complying with these guidelines and making arrangements for accessibility, how did they manage it? It is written in the guidelines that inspection would be done every 5 years for classification and reclassification of these hotels. This means that, since 2010, no inspection focusing on accessibility standards has been done! And if they were done, that automatically means that even after the inspections, no step was taken against the hotels lacking the desired facilities.
Or, to be frank, all of this has been eyewash. Those who have not complied with the guidelines should have had their licenses cancelled by now.
The reply to question number nine – “how many accessibility audits of hotels have been done since 2010?” – is all the more thought provoking, because it says there has been no accessibility audit for these hotels, and no inspection regarding the facilities to be provided to disabled guests. As per letter no 4/13/2015-AIC (pt) dated 15/11/2015/16, the Department of Persons with Disabilities, MSJE informed the Ministry of Tourism about their plan for access audits in hotels across India. Unfortunately, till now nothing has been done. Moreover, there has been no sensitisation training given to the staff.
Consumers with disabilities make up a powerful and significant consumer group for the business world. Why do the government and private businesses forget that by ignoring us and our needs, they stand to lose a huge consumer base? When we are spending money, it is our right to demand appropriate services for ourselves in return. The disability market size increases even more when you add in our friends and family—people who care deeply about diversity and disability issues and make purchase decisions accordingly. Disregarding this market is a lost revenue opportunity for the economy as a whole. The government, private organizations or individuals should never think that complying with the accessibility standards is an act of benevolence. Accessibility is not an act of charity; rather, it makes good business sense for the economy as a whole.
As a consumer we demand: