Written by Kristy Durso for TravelAge West, October 8, 2023
While a quarter of Americans live with a disability, there has historically been very little focus on this demographic within the travel industry.
Credit: 2023 LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that approximately one in four Americans have some form of disability. And when it comes to global figures, the World Health Organization reports that 16% of people worldwide have a disability. So, the market for accessible travel is vast.
Until recently, however, there has been very little emphasis within the travel community to target this demographic. While there has been a push in recent years for companies to be more inclusive, persons with disabilities have mostly been left out of the conversation.
Travelers with disabilities struggle to even get their basic needs met while traveling, and typically have very few options for inclusive activities and/or food experiences that are equitable to the opportunities for those without disabilities. And when it comes to marketing, there has been very little consideration given to promoting travel for those with disabilities.
RELATED: Travel Advisor Kristy Durso’s Crash Course on Accessible Travel Planning (and What the Industry Gets Wrong About the Disability Community)
Delta Vacations recently released its first ad in a series featuring those with disabilities. It is of a couple taking a photo while exploring a European destination. In most ways, it looks like a regular depiction of people engaging in typical tourist activities. There is, however, one major difference: The gentleman in the picture is using a wheelchair.
While this may not seem significant to many people, for those with disabilities — who are often marginalized — the ad has a huge impact. It tells a story. It lets those with disabilities know that they are no longer forgotten, no longer excluded from mainstream companies. Delta Vacations has finally offered people with disabilities an invitation to the party.
Delta Vacations is not the only company working toward inclusion. Holland America Line (HAL) recently added accessibility to the top of their list by refreshing Koningsdam. Though only in dry dock for three weeks, the ship installed permanent pool lifts in all the pools and added a lift to the spa hydrotherapy pool, finally making the spa something that those with mobility disabilities can use. Previously, guests would have to call guest services to set an appointment with a staff member who knew how to operate the portable lift. Now, guests are free to use the lifts at their own convenience, which means they have an equal experience as every other guest. This is true inclusion.
The work is not yet finished. The fight for inclusion and equality goes on. As travel professionals, the question should not be what are travelers with disabilities limited to, but what does that individual desire, and how can we make it happen?
Kristy Durso is the owner of Incredible Memories Travel