Earlier this year CQ Hotels Wellington launched New Zealand’s first ever sign language restaurant –but this wasn’t a one-time stunt. The hospitality business is now being recognised for its ongoing commitment to inclusive employment.
CQ has been selected as a finalist in the ACC Employer Award category in the 2015 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis living with disabilities.
Olivier Lacoua, General Manager of CQ Hotels Wellington, says CQ has been involved with the local community since its inception as ‘The People’s Palace’ on Cuba St in 1907. “We are particularly passionate about working with and supporting the local community and feel being socially responsible as a workplace is the right thing to do,” says Olivier.
CQ’s drive to diversify employment began about three years ago. Olivier recalls that in his native France businesses had to employ a person with a disability for every 20 employees. With this initiative in mind, he got in touch with Workbridge (an employment agency for people with disabilities).
CQ now employs five staff members who have various disabilities. Two deaf staff members were hired especially to assist with the launch of the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) menu and have stayed on in permanent positions.
“I think it’s so important that employers start looking at other avenues when hiring staff. Often some very good, skilled employees miss out because of a small disability which doesn’t reflect in their performance,” says Olivier.
CQ was the first hotel in New Zealand to train its employees in NZSL. Employees continue to receive sign language training through Deaf Aotearoa programmes and CQ senior managers regularly attend disability awareness workshops.
Olivier and his team are striving to lift the standard around accessibility for staff and customers and to create a best practice approach for the hospitality industry. “If you don’t align your business plan and strategies with the ‘accessible community’ you are destined to alienate one quarter of the New Zealand population,” says Olivier.
He’s worked closely with Be.Accessible and Accessible Options NZ to increase accessibility across CQ’s premises, extending beyond the NZSL menu in the CQ Restaurant.
Features include vibrating and flashing emergency alarms, large number telephone keypads and computer keyboards, evac chairs and a mobility scooter available to guests free of charge. CQ has also developed six fully accessible hotel rooms at its Quality Hotel site, complementing the three rooms available at the Cuba St hotel.
CQ Hotels Wellington is a hospitality business that walks the talk when it comes to including people with disabilities and Olivier is calling on others to do the same.“Focus on an employee’s attitude, not skill, as a priority and contribute to positive change here in New Zealand.”
Olivier and the CQ team will find out if they have won at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, December 3 at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.