The Bespoke Hotel group owns 200 properties around the world, and is the UK's largest independent hotel group. In recent years Robin Sheppard, CEO of Bespoke, has become a champion of universal design in the hospitality sector. Sheppard himself uses a wheelchair. "I started to research it and felt there was a bit of an injustice and a ‘medicalization.’ I thought, 'It doesn't need to be this way." Rooms for people with disabilities “should be every bit as stylish as those for able-bodied guests, and the necessary functionality should not detract from the design.” Sheppard demands five guiding principles from award applicants. Their designs should be universal, personal, flexible, functional and beautiful.
"Just because you can't walk doesn't mean you haven't got a sense of style. That's the point we're trying to make." This, says Sheppard, flies in the face of the wider industry approach of offering “gray rooms and bathrooms that look like toilets in train stations.”