Forest Hall Guest House, on 22 March, hosted the Minister of Tourism, Mathinus van Schalkwyk, at the unveiling of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) plaque commemorating Forest Hall as the first establishment in South Africa to qualify for a 4 star TGCSA Universal Accessibility grading.
In the normal grading process TGCSA awards four stars to an accommodation establishment that offer “excellent quality in the overall standard of facilities, furnishings, service and guest care”.
The Universal Accessibility (UA) Requirements deal with the suitability of an accommodation establishment to easily accommodate tourists who are Communication, Visual and/or Mobility impaired. These requirements have been integrated with the standard TGCSA Assesment criteria to determine the level of UA compliance across the industry. The UA assessment is an additional grading that does not affect the standard quality and star grading assessment of the property.
Forest Hall Guest House was awarded their UA Gradings as a result of outstanding Wheelchair Accessibility.
Of the unveiling of the plaque, Thekiso Rakolojane the Marketing & Communications Manager of TGCSA said; “…this is a momentous event in the history of tourism quality assurance.”
Forest Hall owners, James and Hilary Bolton are delighted with the award. James explains how the award came about; “Four years ago we built a large cottage in our garden for my mom who was permanently wheelchair bound. We built the cottage with wheelchair accessibility in mind and sought advice advice from the Association of Physically Disabled, occupational therapists and people in wheelchairs. We have now converted her cottage into 3 wheelchair accessible rooms as part of our guesthouse, Forest Hall.
There is a huge local need for proper wheelchair accessible accommodation and, as ours was suitable, we decided to apply for UA Grading and we were delighted to be awarded a TGCSA 4 star UA grading status.
Universal Accessibility is based on exacting international wheelchair accessibility criteria which have to be met precisely. Now local and overseas folk in wheelchairs will know that we fit all these criteria. It was a huge task getting everything ready but it has all worked out well.
Hilary has worked with people with disabilities all her life and the awarding of UA Status shows that we practice what we preach by setting a good example of providing this necessary accommodation at a graded level.
Proof of the success of our Wheelchair Accessible cottage and rooms is that we have had a number of wheelchair bound folk come to stay only to return on a number of occasions.”
Editors Notes: Hilary Bolton has done sterling work with Cheshire Homes which focuses on the care of severely disabled adults and children, many of whom are from poverty-stricken homes and broken families. James – aside from being a far better swimmer than I and a few years ahead of me at school (which instantly makes him so much more interesting and mysterious…) – is a qualified dentist and recently climbed Kilimanjaro.
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