November 10, 2014
After five years, the Clarion Congress Hotel Prague welcomed participants to an event called Friendly Places. Up to 1,000 people from 53 organizations participated in the Red Cross's Friendly Places project – guaranteeing barrier-free services, that gave rise to a national network of places where disabled and elderly people are guaranteed to be treated in a professional manner and with necessary services available.
The aim of the event was to remind people about the goal of the project and to sum up its benefits over the last five years. Providers can create a Friendly Place after completing a special training course and having their place of business certified. The certification process also includes an evaluation of service availability, taking both adaptation of the building and communication area into account. The Clarion Congress Hotel Prague is a Friendly Place too and received the prestigious certificate in 2010. "I am proud that our company can provide its clients with professional services," said the hotel's managing director, Miroslav Bukva, during the event. "Knowing how to communicate with people with various types of disabilities is not a common thing these days, and I'm glad that, thanks to the training, we got the opportunity to see things from our guests' point of view. It's all about details and you sometimes don't realize what difficulties handicapped people have to face." During the certification process, hotel staff like receptionists, waiters and waitresses who come in direct contact with guests completed a special training course on serving guests with specific types of disabilities – blind, deaf of wheelchair users.
"Lack of awareness is a big problem among officials and doctors as well as staff in the service industry," Pavel Wiener, the project's manager, said during the conference. "The results of the pilot phase of the project revealed that training how to communicate with disabled people doesn't receive any attention, both in education at schools on every level and when training people in official positions."
Among others, Marek Jukl, the president of the Czech Red Cross, Jiří Vaňásek, the director of the labour market department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and Václav Stárek, the director of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants, who discussed the benefits for the business itself, gave speeches during the event: "Training the staff definitely delivers a competitive advantage and professional services," he said. As a part of the conference, new certificates for 2014 were awarded, e.g. to the National Library of the Czech Republic, Kooperativa Insurance Company and Česká spořitelna.