Wellington's CQ Hotels opens doors to accessibility

CQ Hotels Wellington general manager Olivier Lacoua says business has been thriving since it introduced New Zealand sign ...

CQ Hotels Wellington general manager Olivier Lacoua says business has been thriving since it introduced New Zealand sign language in the CQ Restaurant.

A Wellington hotel company has boosted business by adopting a more inclusive approach to hospitality.

CQ Hotels on Cuba St has nine rooms across two hotels that cater for people with disabilities, and a sign language restaurant complete with braille menus and staff who use New Zealand sign language.

General manager Olivier Lacoua said the sign language restaurant was originally a temporary initiative for New Zealand Sign Language Week in May.

KEVIN STENT/Dominion Post

CQ Hotel in Wellington leads the way for people with disabilities

But due to the restaurant's popularity, the company has decide to keep the unique dining experience and require all its staff to learn basic NZ sign language.

Lacoua said a benefit of the measures had been increased patronage to the hotels.

"We have increased our turnover by 20 per cent in the last three years," he said.

The restaurant doubled its customer numbers, which Lacoua said was not easy given the location on the footsteps of a central Wellington street which offered many dining options.

CQ Hotels has worked with social change agency Be Accessible since 2012 to ensure its facilities are as accessible as possible for people with a range of disabilities.

Some additional features included larger numbers on phone dialling pads, an evacuation chair at the top of the stairs and a fire alarm that vibrates under guests' heads in the event of an emergency.

Lacoua said  costs had been minimal to make  the building more accessible in the last three to four years.

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"More often it's the understanding and being available to [people with disabilities]," he said.

They have also embraced accessibility in employment and hosted an intern for four months through Be Accessible's internship programme.

CQ Hotels created a position for Victoria University student Olivia Mexted, who had achromatopsia, a vision impairment that meant she was colour blind, sensitive to light and had poor depth perception.

Mexted was studying her honours degree in tourism management, and her internship at CQ Hotels involved sales and marketing as well as events and conference management.

She felt there was a barrier at the moment with employers' perceptions of people with disabilities, and said the internship gave her the chance to prove her value as an employee.

"There's always jobs I won't be able to do. I will never be a doctor, I will never be able to drive anything so [her disability] does limit options but [the internship] was a great way to try and get a foot in the door in the sector I was studying in," she said.

 - Stuff


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