People with disabilities travel and dine out just like everyone else. Research conducted by the Open Doors Organization in 2015 found that “more than 26 million adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure and/or business, taking 73 million trips." This spending has a significant impact on the travel industry, but sometimes the technology employed by hotels and restaurants is not accommodating to people with disabilities. This offers hospitality an excellent opportunity to employ self-service technology that will improve their disabled guest’s experience and capture more of their spending power with accommodations and services that support this group.
Examples of self-service already in use in hospitality
Hotel Self Service: A guest walks into a hotel lobby and proceeds to the front desk to check in. Before reaching the front desk attendant, the guest walks by multiple self-service kiosks, which offer the ability to bypass the in-person check-in. With no need to wait for an available attendant, check-in becomes significantly faster. In this way kiosks can be used to provide a fast and convenient check-in – or check-out – process. Kiosks can also be used to provide room keys, serve as method for hotel rewards members to obtain perks or rewards, access concierge or event information, change a reservation, and more.
Cruise Ship Internet Café: Cruise ships offer passengers with internet café computing options. These computers allow passengers to connect to the internet, check email, and more. Cruise ships also use kiosks for a variety of purposes including information gathering, trip planning, and onboard purchasing.
Amusement Park Kiosk: Amusement park guests are sometimes presented with kiosks upon park entrance or throughout the park that will upgrade tickets and/or provide fast pass access. These kiosks do not require the presence or assistance of an attendant but may be used to dispense fast pass tickets or bracelets, update bracelet payment methods, upgrade pass type, or check-in remotely to park lines.
Self-service ordering kiosks: Such kiosks are used to purchase games, make reservations, or order food and beverages at bars and gaming facilities. They are convenient and cost effective, allowing staff to fill in where they are needed but providing visitors and guests with the ability to order quickly without assistance.
Ticketing kiosks: Movie and concert-going guests can use ticketing kiosks to purchase their seats and select their seat locations. Ticketing kiosks abound in movie, dance, play, and concert theaters.
The benefits of self-service in the hospitality industry for the disabled
In all of these cases, a self-service kiosk offers guests autonomy and purchasing capabilities without waiting in lines or requiring the assistance of a staff member. They can also provide accessible alternatives for any of the tasks listed above.
For example, if a visitor is deaf or has low hearing, they may find it difficult to understand and respond to verbal requests from an attendant. Unless the staff is fluent in sign language, the visitor may need to rely on written instructions (which can be time-consuming and frustrating). In contrast, a self-service kiosk built to be accessible to deaf users would include text instructions.
Similarly, a visitor who is blind or has low vision may find a self-service kiosk helpful for ordering food or selecting options from a menu. Selecting the appropriate spa service at a hotel may be difficult if the visitor cannot read the selections. A self-service kiosk that has audio output and is designed to be accessible will provide those guests with the option of hearing the selections, without having an attendant read them out.
The kiosk may also include language alternatives and will assist users who cannot understand verbal instructions or read a print brochure (either due to language or literacy barriers).
Kiosks are able to cover the needs of the blind, deaf, and those with physical/cognitive disabilities while also catering to those who speak different languages. In this sense, an accessible kiosk matches and even exceeds what a staff member could offer.
But it is imperative that operators understand that deploying a self-service kiosk is not enough to cater to guests with disabilities. These kiosks must be both accessible and usable. When implemented and deployed correctly, technological advances such as check-out/check-in kiosks, ordering kiosks, and ticketing kiosks can provide access to more visitors, and assist in making visitors who are disabled feel accommodated and welcome in their travels.