Wellington hotel’s ambitious accessibility goals

An image of a picture containing the NZ sign alphabet on the wall of the CQ Hotel If any business exemplifies and embodies the spirit of accessibility, it is CQ Hotels Wellington.

The popular hotel first made its commitment to accessibility known in 2011 during the Rugby World Cup through Be. Accessible’s assessment programme, Be. Welcome.

After initially receiving a Silver rating, they swiftly claimed a Gold rating after introducing numerous access features such as a lowered reception desk, trained their staff in New Zealand Sign Language, offered menus in Braille, and having blankets and food bowls available for assistance dogs.

But as Fab50er and former CQ Hotel general manager Olivier Lacoua explains, it is not just the customer-facing side of the business receiving all the attention; CQ Hotels Wellington's commitment to accessibility reaches deep into their workplace culture.

"As well as our employees, we had our intern Olivia involved in the marketing and events side of things, so she is doing SWOT analysis and market research at the moment to see how we can improve our business plan."

Olivia, who was also a 2015 Be. Leadership participant, was put in touch with Olivier through the Be. Employed Internship programme, which aims to match up outstanding university students with access needs to an employer for a fully-paid meaningful work placement.

Olivier says one of the most crucial and exciting aspects of their accessibility journey has been the total buy-in from staff.

"We're developing a different culture in our team. In our latest staff survey, it was encouraging to see that 98 per cent of our team support what we’re doing and understand the direction we're taking. It gives us an edge over our competitors and from a workplace culture point of view, people are proud to work here."

The team also makes sure they keep their NZSL skills polished, with a half hour "coffee catch up" every month to refresh, and a full-on two-hour session once per quarter.

The CQ Hotels Wellington team show no signs of stopping there, either. The next challenge is to look into improving accessibility to the hotel pool with a wheelchair hoist. The hotel is always looking for what can be done next to bring more people along the accessible journey with them.