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Inclusive Design - a people centered strategy for innovation

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Scandic Hotel

Scandic is one of the Nordic region's leading hotel chains with 230 hotels in seven countries. Their Hotels for All concept implements improvements in their rooms, restaurants and services that will increase accessibility for all guests. Since 2010, 150 new rooms have been built for visitors with disabilities.

PROBLEM

There are over 50 million people in Europe with some form of disability, but staying at hotels can pose a challenge for many of them. The President and CEO of Scandic, Frank Fiskers, saw accessibility as an important factor to improve desirability and open Scandic hotels to a wider market. Hotel guests with disabilities and members of disability organisations were the lead users. User insights also came from ‘expert users’ such as Scandic’s board of directors and members of the hotel staff by placing them in the situation of lead users with reduced ability.

APPROACH

In 2003, the hotel chain engaged Magnus Berglund as its Disability Ambassador. His first course of action was to hire several wheelchairs for Scandic staff to use. Over a time period of three months they were all able to see life from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Although being in a wheelchair is just one of many disabilities, Berglund saw it as an excellent way to get people discussing the issues. This immersive method of research allowed key decision-makers and staff at every level to experience the difficulties firsthand.

Berglund and his team members worked with disabled guests and disability organisations to develop an accessibility standard for their hotels resulting in a 93 point checklist. 77 points are compulsory for every Scandic hotel but all criteria have to be met by new hotels currently being built. The list was re-examined and extended in 2010. An important part of accessibility is the quality of service and the attitude of the employees. Every member of the hotel staff is therefore given training to aid them in understanding what they can do to make guests of all abilities more comfortable. This can simply mean placing food in a buffet within sight and reach of everyone or understanding how a hearing loop works.

Insights
By putting Scandic staff members into a wheelchair, useful insights were discovered firsthand into the needs of people with disabilities.

“Does the mirror need to be so high up?”

“How do I reach the coffee cups at the breakfast buffet?”

Consultation with lead users provided other insights. One person talked about how her mother who has reduced hearing would be woken up by the fire alarm at a hotel. This was the inspiration behind the Scandic vibrating alarm clock that also turns on with the fire alarm.

RESULTS

Scandic's design process is an ongoing, long-term plan for developing existing hotels, building new rooms and training staff members to have a better understanding of accessibility. Some key features on Scandic’s checklist are listed below:
− Height-adjustable bed*
− Telephone on the bedside table along with the remote control
− A space of at least 80 cm around the bed
− Vibrating alarm clock and fire alarm available on request
− Hooks placed at different heights so they can be reached from a wheelchair
− Mirror at a suitable height for wheelchair users as well as standing guests
− Handrail on the inside of doors at a height that can be closed from a wheelchair
− No or low thresholds at doorways
− Single-grip mixer tap or automatic tap*
− Washbasin placed at a minimum height of 78 cm* so a wheelchair will fit under it. The hook, soap and hand towels are also easy to reach
− Toilet paper holder on the armrest of the toilet
− Hearing loop available for meeting rooms
− The doors are at least 80 cm wide, so that guests can get through with a wheelchair, crutches or a walking frame*
− The stage is accessible for wheelchair users*
*Only applies to some hotels.

All these features are not designed to look like “special needs” equipment or add-ons. Better accessibility is something that everyone, including able-bodied guests, can benefit from. Scandic hotels are becoming well placed to attract large numbers of disabled people looking for a better hotel experience.