Do you understand what the client says? Can you write it for me, please?. These may be frequent questions among hotel and tourism workers, especially contact personnel, and not precisely due to a lack of command of foreign languages, but of the Spanish language itself, our mother tongue, when we interact with people with disabilities of the type sensory, especially: deaf and hard of hearing.

And it is not that it is a problem, but a need that I have seen in light of the experience that as a professional and teacher in the sector, when by chance of life I have had the opportunity, in more than one installation, to see how people with These disabilities have made a tourist life and the luxury or glamor of the facility they have selected has not helped them, because they have found a barrier that is not architectural: Communication.
The word, for the hotelier, it represents the opportunity to define the conditions of service to which the client aspires in search of satisfaction and a repeatable experience. It is the tool that screws all the scaffolding of that great structure that generates the set of benefits for which the installation has been designed.
Imagine yourself in a restaurant to a deaf - dumb customer asking for details about the composition of one of the dishes on the menu Menu or by specifying something as simple as the steak cooking term and you don't understand it, what would happen?
Simple, that something as appreciated as the quality it would be affected, because you, in your good intention to solve the problem, would resort to the pencil and paper resource; but, unfortunately, responses of this type can offend this person.
Why?
Because these disabled people sometimes go unnoticed since their disadvantage is not evident in their physical appearance, forgetting that in many cases, too, there are problems with the emission of the voice.
That is why it should be borne in mind that these people need help with the senses that make up for the lack of hearing. (Eyesight and body sensitivity to vibrations) and although, in the case of the hard of hearing, hearing is sometimes improved with otoamplifiers, it also needs to be helped to receive the sound stimulus in the best conditions, avoiding multiple reflections and background noises, although they also benefit from measures taken for the deaf, with visual information.
The deaf person finds barriers in:
  • The absence or lack of simultaneity of the visual or vibratory transcription in the sound stimuli.     
  • Calls for loudspeakers, dictaphones, telephones, radios, and bells.
  • An interlocutor with his back turned or poorly lit when he does lip or gesture reading.
  • The environment too motley that fatigue or distract you from your point of attention that is the interlocutor, which you can not lose sight of.

The hard of hearing find barriers in:

  • Floor and wall coverings that reflect sound.
  • Acoustically poorly equipped premises, with incorrect insulation and cushioning, causing discomfort in the common listener, these are accentuated with the use of hearing aids, when simultaneous noisy functions are carried out in the premises, such as workshops, classrooms, auditoriums, concert halls, conferences and theaters, since hearing impaired people using otoamplifiers cannot subjectively select the received sound stimulus.

 The right deal
Before commenting on the most important rules to be followed when dealing with people with special needs, three relevant facts must be recorded:
  • There are a good number of people who, due to professional duty, have to associate with people with special needs with certain frequency. Among them are the majority of tourism professionals, in all their specialties and events.
  • The fear of making mistakes, of treating these people incorrectly, often makes these professionals inhibit themselves and avoid dealing with them.
  • In other cases, the lack of sufficient knowledge in the subject, leads to making silly mistakes, easily avoidable. 

According to Clotilde Amengual[1] disabled people are sometimes rejected or feared, considering them an eventual source of complications for tourist staff. But we cannot forget, in any case, that the disabled are people like any other, who need human contacts with others, being able to affirm, without error, that it is not difficult to deal with them. This figure of the customer with special needs must be demystified.
To achieve this, it is only necessary to take into account some basic principles:
  • Put yourself in their place, understand them and their peculiar world. (empathy)
  • Adopt a positive mental attitude, which means, in short, seeing in the disabled what he has and not what he lacks. Take into consideration everything of which they are capable and appreciate them as human persons of equal value as others. (professionalism)
  • In addition, know and apply some practical rules. (training) 
The quality guidelines of the gastronomic area involve, in the first instance, design variables of the facilities in the different stages of the circuit (which begins with access to the establishment and then continues with the transfer to its table, an eventual transfer to the sanitary service, the use of the establishment's equipment - tables, chairs, etc. - and culminates with the departure of the establishment's facilities). This circuit requires considering guidelines such as signage for access and distribution, circulation spaces, separation between tables, table heights and bar counter, etc. 

Precisely as deaf and hard of hearing people do not have mobility limitations and in the design of the restaurantAs a result of the international norms dictated by the different bodies authorized for its approval and implementation, aspects such as those mentioned above are taken into account. The reason for this article focuses its essence on the subject of communication, given that we have perceived in Our bibliographic search that does not address the issue of professional training of human resources for the sector thinking of the disabled and / or disabled and very specifically the teaching of universal sign language as an alternative exchange in the absence of sounds and / or voice.
And although KEROUL from Canada in its publication “Offer a meilleur service… une question d'aménagement et d'accueil”Defends several ideas related to the service to this type of client, but especially the one that “… If a person has elocution problems, ask him to repeat what he wishes, it is annoying that they serve him a dish that he does not like. If you can't really understand him, offer him a pencil and paper or ask someone else to interpret ... " Personally I differ on the application of this type of solution, motivated, in the first instance, that it is only feasible for those facilities where the disabled segment is not considered within its market potential. If we promote rooms for the disabled and comply with the Universal Accessibility Standard issued by the UN, or with the 1996 Barcelona Charter, the deaf, as people who are, require certain conditions for efficient service and the first is that they do not exist. communication barriers.
According to consultations made by virtue of offering as much information as possible about how the world develops in relation to this topic, we were able to verify that countries such as Argentina and Spain, especially the Hospitality Schools, are beginning to insert as a topic in the training of professionals for tourism , the mastery of the resources necessary to care for this client with sensory deficiencies, in order to make the concept of Accessible Tourism.
I am of the opinion that quality is not measured only by luxuries but by a set of conditions that make the product unique, therefore, the reason for my disagreement with KEROUL is that we should not wait to realize sensory deficiency of the client, but we must anticipate the event and that is where the responsibility of those who are in charge of preparing the personnel that offer the different services, inserting the programs and study plans, very particularly in the case of our Schools de Hotelería, the universal sign language as one more subject of knowledge.
And while our Schools, as cells of training and transmission of policies and trends that are incorporated into the sector for which we prepare and update staff, prepare for this new challenge that translates into an increase in moral and social values of each person and of the quality of the various services that we promote and offer, let us write down a few rules that will make it easier for us to serve these people as naturally as we do with regular clients.

  •  Never underestimate them, they are capable of doing many things without help and they are pleased that their merits and progress are recognized, without exaggerations that insult their intelligence.
  • Never impose your help, ask naturally if they want it and how, the only thing you can receive in return is a negative response, which should not offend you.
  • If you help them, do it discreetly and naturally, do not brag about what you do or try to attract the attention of people around you.
  • Treat them as equals and to do so try the following:

      1. Do not feel pregnant when talking to them.
      2. In no case utter compassionate sentences about your condition. When it comes to the story, talk about it naturally.
      3. Do not fall, neither in a tense silence, nor in an inadequate verbal explosion.
      4. Never treat them like children, not even the mentally handicapped adults.

·         Do not advise them unless they ask you to. 
·   Never talk to the companion of the disabled person, unless he cannot follow the conversation. The marginalization, even occasional, hurts deeply.
 ·         Keep normal human contacts with them: phone calls, invitations, walks, or talks. They highly value interest in their professional work and activities of all kinds. It is important to congratulate them for the results obtained in any activity, as happens with non-disabled people.
 ·    Show understanding and tolerance. Think of it as being done daily with the non-disabled. As we said before, don't be offended if they refuse your help. On the contrary, one must rejoice in its validity for certain acts.

It may interest you:  Table location in restaurants. Basics

[1] Argentine architect, student of the social integration of the disabled and handicapped.

I am a dreamer and in my dreams I believe that a better world is possible, that no one knows more than anyone, we all learn from everyone. I love gastronomy, numbers, teaching and sharing all the little I know, because by sharing I also learn. "Let's all go together from foundation to success"
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