Welcome sign at the ILUNION Malaga saying: "Bienvenido a un mundo diferente".
Picture 1. Welcome sign at the ILUNION Malaga: "Bienvenido a un mundo diferente".

A View into a Different World, where Accessibility is the Norm

Per-Olof Hedvall

Imagine a place where human diversity is expected and accessibility is the norm. There are such pockets of society, but they are few and far between. Hotel Ilunion Malaga is one of them.

"Hoteles con Todos Incluidos"

I recently stayed at the most accessible hotel I have ever encountered: ILUNION Malaga. The hotel chain is driven by ILUNION, which was initiated by the Spanish disability organisation Fundacion ONCE.

The hotel was built from the ground up with the objective of being for all people, where everyone is included. When you approach the entrance of ILUNION Malaga, you are greeted by a sign saying: "Bienvenido a un mondo diferente" /Welcome to a different world/ (Picture 1). The hotel's slogan, "Hoteles con Todos Incluidos"/"Everyone inclusive hotels", greets and accompanies visitors and guests throughout their stay.

As a researcher in accessibility, usability, and Universal Design, staying at the ILUNION Malaga was an interesting experience. On the one hand, the message regarding diversity and inclusion was everywhere, visible to all visitors (Gallery 1). On the other hand, the hotel had an impressive level of accessibility and usability and contained a range of features supporting diversity, access and use. The details were there to be seen by the trained eye, but they were much less on display (Gallery 2).

I am sometimes asked about “good examples” of Universal Design. I always hesitate to denominate something as "good" or "bad" since access and use are more complex than such a binary affords. From a pure accessibility point of view, they have done an impressive job at this hotel. Regarding usability, it is up to each guest to assess what constitutes "good" or "bad", based on the experiences they have. I found the ILUNION Malaga to be an intriguing example of a project where diversity was a central tenet from the beginning instead of being bolted on later in the process.

Hotel entrance, photo taken from the outside. Two sliding doors with "hotel" written in huge letters across them.
Picture 3. Hotel entrance. Inside, the message "Welcome to a different world."

I recommend a visit if you ever come to Malaga. The overall impression has to be experienced. What stayed with me after our visit was a feeling of tacit accessibility. The hotel clearly communicated at the entrance that it was meant for everyone and the swarm of differences the visitors constituted. A wide range of access features could be found if one looked or asked for them, but it did not shout "accessibility" or "accessible".

When accessibility reaches a certain level, it becomes pointless to point out what is accessible and for whom.

When accessibility reaches a certain level, it becomes pointless to point out what is accessible and for whom. There are few pockets of society where the level of accessibility and usability has reached such a high level. The hotel greets you with “Welcome to a different world” for good reasons. If you ask me, it's an interesting case to study.

A bar coaster with the hotels message about "todos incluidos".
A bar coaster is another example of where ILUNION Malaga's message could be found.