Freelance writer Jane Edwards casts her eyes over accessibility-friendly hotels and other accommodation in Belgium.
Belgium is a country known for its fine art, beautiful architecture and food, and as such, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Tourism has been growing year on year, with a 7% increase in overnight stays from 2017 to 2018. In order to ensure that all visitors can enjoy everything that Belgium has to offer without limitations, the country has made special efforts at both providing and improving accessibility.
Its efforts in this regard are award-winning. In 2013, the Belgian destination information provider, ‘Visit Flanders,’ won the Amadeus and WTM Travel Experience Award for accessible travel. Belgium is a highly innovative country, and improving accessibility is both an ongoing effort and a priority.
Meeting the basic criteria of accessibility
The first step to improving hotel accessibility in Belgium is to ensure that hotels are meeting at least the minimum requirements for accessibility, and beyond that, the aim is to build in as many extra accessibility features as are currently available.
An accessible holiday in Belgium means that each and every visitor can admire the architecture and canals and explore the country’s history and culture by visiting the tourist sites and museums without any limitations.
Finding an accessible hotel will always be the first priority for a tourist with a disability. Fortunately, there are many hotels now in Belgium with accessibility features available all across the city and near some of the most popular tourist attractions, including Grand Place, the EU Parlamentarium, the Atomium and the Royal Museums of Fine Art.
Hotel brands like the IHG, Radisson and Marriott also offer accessible rooms at almost all of their Brussels hotels. Most accessible hotels will provide rooms that are specifically designed for disabled guests, including facilities such as wheelchair accessible hotel rooms, wet-room bathrooms, a roll-in shower, grab bars, and a bathroom door wide enough for wheelchairs and mobility scooters to fit through.
Accessible hotels should also provide step-free access to the hotel and plenty of room for a wheelchair to maneuver in the hotel bedroom.
However, as accessibility is not currently standardized in the hotel industry, it is common for hotels to claim that they are accessible without meeting what is considered to be the most basic criteria, so when searching for an accessibility-friendly hotel in Belgium, you will want to make sure that it meets the above-mentioned criteria as a minimum.
Many of the hotels which are accessibility-friendly are also pet-friendly, so for anyone thinking about taking their canine companion on holiday, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a wide range of dog-friendly hotels to choose from. An important aspect of traveling responsibly with your pet is booking dog-friendly accommodation ahead of time. You will want to check whether the hotel in question has any restrictions on dog breed, size or weight so you can be sure that it is a suitable option. These restrictions, however will not apply for guide dogs, as all pet-friendly hotels will accept guide dogs as part of their accessibility policy.
Taking accessibility to the next level
In order to improve hotel accessibility, all hotels that claim to be accessibility-friendly firstly need to meet the basic criteria. Beyond that, facilities such as track hoists, accessible high-low beds, raised toilets, mid-height light switches, ground level accessible washrooms and automated or lever-controlled doors should be fitted.
Some hotels in Belgium are already going the extra mile, such as the B&B Altijd Genieten, located a few kilometres from Damme, which has recently been renovated to include ceiling track hoists from the bed to the bathroom. Each of the two rooms fitted with a hoist also have accessible-high-low beds.
The travel agency, Limitless Travel, which specializes in organizing accessibility-friendly holidays has created a fully disability-friendly holiday itinerary for their Belgium tour, so that travelers can be fully clued up on accessibility friendly locations, sites and venues across Belgium – which is a great way to improve the customer experience.
Given Belgium’s current track record at providing accessibility-friendly hotels and tourism, along with the country’s reputation as an innovation hot spot, there is no doubt that Belgium will continue to strive to improve hotel accessibility into the future.