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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
A place for all people
Beatriz Rubio, accessibility manager at Ilunion Hotels, is showing off one of the company’s “accessibility bedrooms,” which serve the different needs of the chain’s customers. “We are not a hotel just for people with disabilities, but a place for all people,” she says.
The room seems typical for a midrange hotel, but it is packed with ingenious features. These include:
- a wide automatic door allowing easy access for wheelchairs
- clearly labelled plugs and switches to assist those with visual or cognitive impairments
- an orthopedic hoist above the bed
- and a full-body drier in the bathroom
“We work around client autonomy,” Rubio says. “The idea is that the client should be able to do everything by him or herself without any help, even though we are happy to help. We want the client to feel at home.”
Spain disabled accessibility mission
As well as providing guests with a warm welcome and comfortable stay at hotels across Spain, Ilunion’s mission is to employ disabled people. “It’s not charity,” Rubio says. “This is real work.”
Ilunion also operates:
- an industrial laundry service
- a telephone support line
- a research and development department
All are geared towards the company’s goal of delivering to Spain disabled accessibility.
About 42% of Ilunion’s workforce is disabled. This makes the company highly aware of the challenges disabled people face.
“Accessibility is the answer,” says Fernando Riaño, Ilunion’s communications officer. “All of these measures, all of these initiatives, share a single objective: to promote the employment of people with disabilities.”
In Spain disabled accessibility needs more investment
As the company grows across Spain and its industrial laundries doubled their output, Ilunion needed new investment funds. The European Investment Bank loaned €35 million to help Ilunion modernize its hotels and make energy-efficiency improvements to its laundry operations.
The loan helped in four key areas:
- construction of a fully accessible hotel and the refurbishment of the company’s existing hotels across the country
- refurbishment of the group’s industrial laundries, allowing increased productivity and greater energy efficiency
- funding for research and development in new technologies for people with auditory, visual and cognitive disabilities
- creation of 270 jobs
Spain disabled accessibility R&D
“Ilunion is a diverse group of companies,” says Martin Arnold, the EIB’s head of corporate projects in Spain. “They are always looking for profitable business opportunities in which they can create employment for disabled people.”
The company’s research and development work has resulted in a range of innovations, including products that help people with visual and cognitive impairments perform everyday tasks such as using cash machines and navigate in urban environments. Ilunion has even developed a small robot, Paca, to guide people around museums.
“We hope that this project shows to other companies, as well as the EIB, that people with disabilities can work just as well as anyone else,” Arnold adds. “We hope that in the future Europe will be able to integrate people with disabilities much better in the workplace.