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Carole at the wheelchair-accessible reception counter.The Ascott Limited (Ascott), the lodging business unit wholly owned by CapitaLand Investment (CLI), today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SG Enable, the focal agency for disability and inclusion in Singapore, forging a long-term partnership to elevate disability inclusion and set new standards for accessible accommodation in the hospitality industry.

This partnership is the first of its scale in Singapore’s hospitality industry, spearheading a range of initiatives that will deliver inclusive stay experiences through design and programming across Ascott’s properties in the country. It will also serve to foster workforce diversity and contribute to capability-building, not only within Ascott but also throughout the hospitality sector. To uplift and upskill the wider industry, Ascott and SG Enable will jointly develop and deliver essential resources and disability inclusion training tailored for the hospitality industry at the Ascott Centre for Excellence (ACE), Ascott’s global hospitality training centre dedicated to developing human capital for the hospitality industry. In an industry first, the insights gained from the joint initiatives will be used to develop a comprehensive global playbook in 2025 to steer the disability inclusion efforts of Ascott’s properties around the world.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Guest-of-Honour Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development. He said: “From accessible accommodation to inclusive hiring and upskilling opportunities, today’s MOU paves the way for greater inclusion and diversity in the hospitality industry. Partnerships such as this – between corporates like Ascott and SG Enable, the focal agency for disability and inclusion in Singapore – are crucial for driving positive change in our community.”

Ms Beh Siew Kim, Chief Financial & Sustainability Officer, Lodging, CapitaLand Investment and Managing Director, Japan and Korea, Ascott, said: “Marking 40 remarkable years in hospitality service, Ascott has embarked on a transformative journey to go ‘unlimited’ for our guests and associates. To create ‘unlimited good’ as a positive changemaker, we are deepening our commitment to championing inclusivity under our Ascott CARES sustainability framework. As a leading global hospitality company headquartered in Singapore, our vision is to strengthen Ascott’s culture of care and respect by cultivating a more inclusive operating environment for both guests and associates. We are thus delighted to find a like-minded partner in SG Enable to jointly establish new standards for accessibility in the hospitality sector and positively impact the future of travel. This MOU will mark an integral step towards our goal of scaling up Ascott’s disability inclusion efforts globally.”

Carole exploring the ramp access to the swimming pool deck.

“We are thrilled to embark on this groundbreaking partnership with Ascott. This collaboration represents a significant milestone in our journey of championing disability inclusion and accessibility. The MOU marks the first of its scale in the hospitality sector, and we look forward to creating inclusive spaces, building inclusive capabilities, and fostering a culture of respect and empowerment for all. Together, we can pave the way for a more accessible and inclusive future, in Singapore and beyond,” said Ms Ku Geok Boon, Chief Executive Officer, SG Enable.

At today’s signing ceremony, three persons with disabilities and their family members were also invited to share their experiences with the accessibility features of Ascott Orchard Singapore, following a stay at the property. The three groups of guests affirmed that Ascott Orchard Singapore was easy to navigate and wheelchair friendly, complemented by the warm hospitality of the service team who had gone through disability management training by SG Enable. Please refer to the Annex for more on their stay experiences.

Operating since 2017, Ascott Orchard Singapore is the country’s first serviced residence to be certified Universal Design Mark Platinum by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority for its user-friendliness. It features sheltered walkways seamlessly linked to the adjacent mosque and shopping mall, complemented with clear and informative signs that are accompanied by braille and tactile maps. Accommodation options include accessible guestrooms catering to wheelchair users as well as dual-key units that facilitate multi-generational living. All its public toilets are equipped with accessibility features, the swimming pool deck is accessible via a ramp and a Kipsu messaging platform is on hand to facilitate communication with guests who have hearing loss or visual impairment. In addition, part of its service crew has completed SG Enable’s disability management course, with more associates slated to undergo the training by year-end.

Furthering Commitment to Disability Inclusion

The partnership between Ascott and SG Enable will support the development and deployment of Ascott’s disability inclusion policies, frameworks, suite of products, services and offerings in Singapore, creating inclusive and accessible lodging experiences in its properties locally. Key initiatives will centre around the five pillars of the MOU: Inclusive Spaces, Inclusive Programmes, Inclusive Digital Interfaces, Inclusive Hiring and Inclusive Training.

1)    Inclusive Spaces

Drawing inspiration from SG Enable’s Design for Inclusive Spaces playbook, Ascott’s design and technical specialists will elevate the overall guest experience at its properties through thoughtful and intuitive design. For instance, installing nooks with soft padding to help reduce noise, which is an accessibility feature for those with autism and hearing disability. In-room amenities such as touch lamps, toilet chairs and assistive technology will also greatly enhance the stay experience for persons with disabilities. By end 2024, Ascott will formalise refurbishment plans for at least one property in Singapore to implement new accessibility features.

2)    Inclusive Programmes

Ascott’s diverse range of brands each have their own set of distinct signature programmes catered to guests of varying demographics and preferences. As part of pipeline plans, Ascott will curate a series of programmes that cater to persons with disabilities, enriching their stay experience. The first inclusive programme is on track to be rolled out in Singapore this year.

In addition, SG Enable will leverage their extensive network of partners to provide Ascott with opportunities to promote disability inclusion. These include thought leadership platforms where Ascott can share and learn about best practices in the global adoption of disability inclusion, as well as volunteering opportunities to uplift people with disabilities for both associates and guests.

3)    Inclusive Digital Interfaces

Digital touchpoints are an integral part of the overall hospitality experience in today’s travel landscape. Recognising the importance of inclusive digital interfaces, Ascott will enhance the design of its website www.DiscoverASR.com, which already complies with website guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to further simplify the user experience and improve accessibility features. To enable guests with disabilities to make reservations easily, the accessibility information of Ascott’s properties in Singapore has been curated to display prominently throughout the online booking journey. The online booking journeys of Ascott’s properties worldwide will be similarly enhanced to include accessibility information by year-end.

4)     Inclusive Hiring

Ascott has signed the President’s Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge[1], reinforcing its commitment to adopting an inclusive mindset towards employees with disabilities, creating barrier-free workplace environments and implementing supportive employment policies in Singapore. Plans are underway to progressively increase the number of persons with disabilities hired across the properties in Singapore, redesigning job scopes and workspaces where necessary.

5)     Inclusive Training

Together with SG Enable, Ascott will also co-develop a series of hospitality-specific disability inclusion training courses to be delivered at ACE, to train and equip industry leaders and professionals in Singapore. Prior to this, Ascott has already started conducting accessibility training for associates. To date, some 50 associates based in Singapore have attended disability awareness and disability management training conducted by SG Enable, with plans to have all associates based in Ascott’s properties in Singapore complete similar training by 2026.

Recording progress in Inclusivity in The Ascott Limited 2023 Sustainability Report

In the second edition of its annual sustainability report published recently, Ascott has detailed key achievements under each pillar of Ascott CARES: Community, Alliance, Respect, Environment, and Supply Chain for the year 2023.

In the area of inclusivity under the Respect pillar, Ascott became the first major accommodation operator to collaborate with Australia’s national accessibility body, Accessible Accommodation. Over 80% of Ascott’s associates in the country have completed training to better understand and implement measures to meet the requirements of people living with disabilities. In Malaysia, Ascott redesigned workspaces and introduced visual aids and communication tools to support a graphic designer with a hearing disability in her work and facilitate seamless communication within her team.

Ascott is one of the first hospitality groups to attain GSTC-Committed Status by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) for the successful adoption of GSTC Criteria, with accessibility being a key criterion. More details of Ascott’s sustainability achievements can be found in The Ascott Limited 2023 Sustainability Report published on www.DiscoverASR.com.