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A sight for sore eyes

CQ Hotel in Wellington has become New Zealand’s first hotel to be awarded a Be.Accessible rating for the way it caters for physically, visually and audibly impaired people.  Hospitality Business correspondent Jai Breitnauer checks it out.

The Comfort and Quality hotel, CQ for short, has a long history of lending a helping hand. A character building in the heart of the capital’s vibrant Cuba Street, the site was originally owned by Major James Paul and his philanthropist daughter Annette, who worked tirelessly with the Salvation Army to house displaced women. They donated the site for the building of the Paulina Resque Home in 1894, which later became a Salvation Army ‘People’s Palace’ – a safe and alcohol-free hostel for travellers.

In 1990 it was acquired by Port Nic Properties who gave it a full refurb, bringing it up to earthquake safety standards, and when the company joined the chain Choice Hotels in 2005, further work began to make it a world class hotel and conference centre.

When forward thinking GM Oliver Lacoua joined the business a few years ago, he felt CQ could take their mantra of quality and comfort one step further, and build on the site’s philanthropic past. He began work to fit the hotel out for guests with additional physical, auditory and visual challenges, to make their stay more comfortable.

As well as a lower check-in desk and accessible car park, there are nine rooms fitted out with extra space and an accessible en-suite. They offer iBeacons with organisation BlindSquare (see box), and their menu is available in sign language. Key staff are also trained in sign language and they’re currently working on introducing braille menu’s and information cards as well.

Key to not paying lip-service to the gesture is the training of staff, who as well as learning basic sign language have also had special training to help customers with additional needs in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake. The lifts go right to the car parking level, the conference facilities are all on the ground floor and the public areas are all fully accessible.

Although GM Lacoua has moved on to pastures new, the CQ is continuing its commitment to providing a good quality service to people with disabilities, and are working on expanding the services they offer.

A comfortable, quiet and pleasant place to stay, in a great location with exceptionally helpful staff. I couldn’t recommend it more.

What is BlindSquare?

This Wellington-based project is aimed at customers and visitors who are blind or have low vision or a print disability. Using the BlindSquare Event iPhone navigation app and Kontakt.io beacons, customers with sight loss are given the opportunity to explore Wellington independently.

As app-users pass by shops and businesses that are ‘BlindSquare enabled’, the app will provide a spoken description of the business, including its name, what goods or services it provides and the shop layout. The app also provides users with other information such as the names of the roads they are walking along, or where the bus stops are. It does this by communicating with the various beacons installed around the city and at participating businesses.

For more information visit https://wellington.govt.nz/services/community-and-culture/accessibility-services/blindsquare-ibeacons

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