3 Ways to Reach and Support Travelers with Disabilities

person in wheelchair with hands up going down a ramp surrounded by trees
by Jennie Wang
Marketing Coordinator

Over half of American travelers plan to prioritize leisure travel this fall. Visiting friends and family, relaxing, exploring and new experiences are just some of the top travel motivations on their list. However, for travelers with disabilities, these trips can be accompanied by unique challenges that are too often overlooked and disregarded.

In our recent webinar, “Travelers with Disabilities,” research found that one in six travelers indicated that they, or someone they travel with, face challenges around travel due to mental, physical or emotional impairments. The growing awareness around the importance of inclusivity in travel has led to more destinations and attractions working to make travel more accessible. 

Barriers for Travelers with Disabilities

In a recent survey done by Future Partners, almost half (47.2%) of travelers with disabilities stated they are faced with mobility and physical impairment issues, 33.6% with psychological issues and 22.8% with invisible disabilities. Below are just a few of the major barriers these travelers face when traveling, not including the social stigma they often feel while traveling associated with these challenges.

  • Physical barriers: Too often, facilities don't offer accessible spaces. This includes restrooms, hotel rooms, appropriate elevators, or obstacles and obstructions making it difficult to navigate. Many of the necessary accessibility features are not recognized by the ADA (Amercians with Disabilities Act) or the universal design architectural standard.
  • Transportation: Travelers with disabilities rated visiting attractions or events (37.1%) and using or getting around transportation hubs (36.5%) as some of the most difficult challenges they face while traveling. Something as simple as securing the appropriate seating at an event or encountering difficulties boarding a plane can cause major setbacks for these travelers and deter future travel plans.
  • Accommodations: Not all accommodations offer accessible facilities such as roll-in showers, wide doorways and properly heightened fixtures. Additionally, marketing this information on your website and equipping staff with the proper knowledge often remains unaddressed.
wheelchair going over a curb

Supporting Travelers with Disabilities

Despite everything, travelers with disabilities still take, on average, 3.3 trips per year and indicate that travel will be a budget priority for them in the next three months. So, how can your destination reach these travelers? 

  • Meaningful representation: 45% of travelers with disabilities said that travel ads “don’t reflect people like me.” Creating inspiring content with vivid imagery and up-to-date information geared toward these travelers can start setting the scene of envisioning themselves in your destination. These travelers are also much more apt to peruse online blogs, content and pick up a visitors guide. 
  • User-specific content: Only half of travelers with disabilities rank online information as good or excellent; this offers a great opportunity for some of the top and trusted travel resources to start setting a standard around both digital and print content available in the industry. 
    • Top online resources for these travelers include articles and blogs (34.4%), mapping sites (31.0%), OTAs (30.1%) and DMO websites (22.4%). These stats are slightly over-indexed compared to other travelers, meaning this audience will be spending more time exploring different channels and eager to consume and share new content.
    • These travelers place higher value on social media use in travel planning, specifically, Facebook (34.4%), YouTube (27.6%) and Instagram (25.2%). As content creation with digital creators continues to rise, consider partnering with audience-specific influencers to showcase your destination.
    • The use of printed materials is greater compared to other travelers, top printed materials include travel or lifestyle magazines (18.7%), free printed destination guide books (15.6%) and television programming (16.1%). This could point toward the value they place on consuming rich content from different resources with inspiring itineraries.
  • Educate and communicate: Educate staff and foster awareness around customer service and support for travelers with disabilities. With greater understanding comes advocacy, empathy and a shift in perception around the diverse needs and capabilities of travelers with disabilities. 
woman in a wheelchair next to woman walking with bags towart the ticket line

Travel enriches lives, creates lasting memories and broadens cultural understanding, and it should be made accessible to everyone. Understanding how to communicate to, reach and accommodate travelers with disabilities could be pivotal in growing your destination visitations and enriching your community for both travelers and locals alike.


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