“Elements of Service” Provides Online Training for Serving Guests with Disabilities

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) has introduced Elements of Service: Serving Guests with Disabilities, an online learning program designed to train guest-facing hotel employees in best practices for serving guests with physical disabilities, including vision, hearing, and mobility impairments.


The program’s goal is to ensure that service providers feel confident and equipped to handle service interactions with hotel guests who are disabled — without the uncertainty, confusion, and missteps that often characterize the experience of both service providers and hotel guests with disabilities.

The Elements of Service program was developed by Slatin Media Group, which was co-founded by Peter Slatin, a hotel consultant and writer who is blind, and Jason Willensky, an instructional designer specializing in online learning, performance support, and classroom training for industry and government. The content of the program is based on Slatin’s in-person workshop of the same name.

Finally, after a particularly terrible experience, I decided that I had to create something myself.

Slatin, a noted writer on business and commercial real estate, created the program because of experiences he has had during his global travels.

“As I’ve traveled, either with my guide dog or my white cane, I’ve had so many encounters with staff at hotels, airports, restaurants, and taxis, and often thought to myself, ‘Why doesn’t someone train these workers in how to interact appropriately with guests who have disabilities?’” he recalled. “Finally, after a particularly terrible experience, I decided that I had to create something myself.”

Slatin initially designed an in-person workshop, which he delivers at individual hotel properties around the country. His clients have ranged from the 200-room Hilton Arlington outside Dallas to the 1200-plus room Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Chicago. After going through Slatin’s training, the sales staff at the Hyatt Deerfield in suburban Chicago was able to make a sale to host a conference for people with disabilities at the hotel. The director of training at the Intercontinental Times Square in New York, where Slatin presented a staff workshop, shared an email from a blind guest who was delighted by the service he’d received while staying at the hotel during a TED conference.

With these successes, the time seemed right to broaden the accessibility of the training. Slatin decided to translate the program into an online format, and was introduced to Willensky, who was intrigued by the project.

The training goes beyond basic compliance with the 26-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is about physical and environmental access. Slatin notes that compliance “is the floor, not the ceiling,” for meeting these challenges. Elements of Service shows learners how to apply the Five Elements of Service to ensure effective social interaction. They will learn general information about disabilities, as well as specific communication skills and tools for serving people who are blind and vision-impaired, deaf and hard of hearing, and mobility impaired.

They are coming and you and your staff better be prepared.

“There are few statistics on people with disabilities who travel, but it is a growing market — they are coming and you and your staff better be prepared,” said Slatin. One group in particular to watch are millennials with disabilities.

“Millennials are the first generation that didn’t get the memo that says if you have a disability you should stay home. They are out there, traveling and enjoying life,” he said. In addition, these millennials let everyone know about their experiences — good or bad — on social media, so it’s important to have a well-trained team at every level of a hotel operation. Employees who act with ease and confidence will provide positively memorable travel experiences for guests with disabilities.

“The information in the course is mostly intuitive knowledge, but presenting it in a formal training setting gives employees the permission to do what they think is right,” said Slatin. “It’s all about social access — making destinations accessible and appealing to all travelers.”

Yes, all travelers. Baby boomers, Slatin noted, may not be disabled, but are dealing with age-related issues of sight, hearing, and mobility — and they are used to being well served. They will expect service providers to know how to treat them, whatever their challenges.

The Elements of Service online program is available through AHLEI’s online store for individual learners, who will receive a code that provides three months’ access to the content. The program can also be licensed by organizations who wish to train multiple employees.