People with disabilities should not be overlooked when creating travel experiences and providing accessible travel is both a social imperative and a business opportunity.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, “almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life. Over one billion people – about 15% of the global population – live with some form of disability and this number is increasing.”
People with disabilities are diverse as are their disabilities. Even two people with a similar disability may have very different needs when it comes to accessibility and travel. Although wheelchairs typically appear on disability symbols, wheelchair users are only a small percentage of people with disabilities.
People with disabilities include anyone with impaired or decreased physical, cognitive, intellectual and/or sensory abilities. In fact, the UK government reports that around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults and the UN reports that over 46% of people over the age of 60 have disabilities.
The over 60 age group is also considered to comprise of “slow walkers” who also benefit from facilities made accessible for those with mobility needs. Accessibility features will benefit both persons with disabilities and pensioners, assisting businesses to retain customers for a longer period.
The business benefits for supporting people with disabilities are both socially and financially lucrative. An EU study found that travellers with disabilities travel with an average of 1.9 other people, indicating that by accommodating the needs of one customer with disabilities a business obtains an average of about three customers.
Furthermore, an Amadeus study found that travellers with disabilities would increase their travel budget, either through more frequent or longer trips, by 34% if accessibility barriers were eliminated. Providing inclusive and accessible solutions enables travel & Tourism businesses to reach more travellers and a higher paying market that has been historically underserved.
These high-level inclusion and accessibility guidelines were compiled on the basis of insights and frameworks developed by private sector leaders in Travel & Tourism, travel and disability experts including Accessible Travel Solutions and research from intergovernmental organisations. These differ from WTTC’s Inclusion & Diversity Guidelines which address inclusion and diversity in the Travel & Tourism workplace. This document’s focus is on the experience of travellers with disabilities.
A number of issue areas within accessible travel were considered when compiling these guidelines namely, developing a system for inclusivity and accessibility; offering accessible travel products, services and facilities; providing accurate, detailed and comprehensive accessibility information; marketing to people with disabilities actively and effectively; training staff on inclusivity and accessibility and including people with disabilities in operational decisions. These issue areas and their principles are included as key points to create a comprehensive set of guidelines for Travel & Tourism businesses.
Note that the guidelines are subject to change and may be enhanced as new research and insights become available. While not all guidelines will be feasible for every business in the Travel & Tourism sector, the information is intended to provide guidance to be integrated and adapted by each business wherever this is feasible for that business. These guidelines are scalable and can be used in Travel & Tourism businesses of any size. Businesses should consider further engagements internally to refine their approach.
Numerous organisations have undertaken work in this space, which have informed this document, notably the ISO/IEC guide for addressing accessibility in standards, the World Health Organization Disability information hub, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Ageing and Disability information hub, Expedia’s Breaking Down Barriers to Accessible Travel as well as Amadeus’ Working Towards Inclusive and Accessible Travel. While WTTC’s guidelines have their own pillars, they do integrate the content, learnings and insights from previous research.
These guidelines follow a similar structure as WTTC’s High-Level Inclusion & Diversity Guidelines and Mental Health Guidelines.
The guidelines are divided into four pillars namely:
- Developing an Inclusive & Accessible System
- Creating Safe Spaces
- Designing an Engaging & Relevant System
- Exemplifying Inclusion & Accessibility
1/ Developing an Inclusive & Accessible System
This pillar refers to systemic support of accessibility needs; effective change needs to be actioned at a systemic level. Access to accurate and detailed accessibility information is a large barrier to entry for travellers with disabilities. This information should be made available from before a traveller makes a booking and throughout the traveller journey. Travel & Tourism businesses should:
- Develop a long-term accessibility vision and short-term accessibility targets, including metrics to monitor the progress towards achieving the vision and targets.
- Dedicate sufficient resources to achieve the vision, considering the creation of a specific role for an accessibility expert and the naming of an executive sponsor within the organisation’s senior leadership for accessibility.
Read the full report here