The travel industry has had the opportunity to reshape how it tackles the challenges posed by accessibility demands. According to CNN, the industry has long been discriminatory towards people living with disability, creating excessive demands of them when they travel – if they even can, that is, given the restrictions many airlines, hotels and countries place on accessibility. Improvements have been a long time coming, but changes in how travel industry stakeholders are now operating indicates that they have taken time to think, seriously, about what a disability-friendly travel industry might look like.
Providing accessibility is not as simple as, for instance, placing wheelchair ramps at hotels – though that is part of the solution. Many disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, are complex, requiring a mix of physical, mental and cognitive therapy to be properly treated – a standard that travel companies simply don’t comprehend, beginning with the first step of the trip; airports. However, change is afoot. According to CNTraveler, accessible calm rooms, which historically have provided a tailor-made path for travellers to enjoy calm before their flight, are being converted into disability-focused resources. The rationale is clear; many people living with disability require the extra time and space to settle with their travel plans, and many others experience anxiety relating to the potential barriers they’ll face on the way to their destination. These rooms tackle both.
Flying is only part of the question, of course. Hotels are the most consistent part of any trip away, and, depending on what country you visit, you might have to shell out extra dollars to receive accommodations with accessibility built in. This is set to change, according to TravelPulse. Their research has indicated that non-accessible hotels are now being left behind. 600 million people worldwide live with disability, and that number is set to increase due to long covid. This has generated real impetus to improve, even in countries where legislation doesn’t mandate the need for full accessibility in their properties.
Changing the law
The most promising news to come out of the travel industry is the possibility of new aviation laws relating to disability. According to Travel Weekly, the USA may enforce new rules that will mean every plane over 125 seats (therefore, the vast majority of airline fleets) will have to provide at least one accessible toilet. This rises proportionally depending on the size of the craft; an AirBus A380, at 853 seats, will need to provide many more. Where the USA legislates, the world usually follows, given the huge importance of American airports. This is good news for the disabled community, and good news for fairness in travel everywhere.
The travel industry hasn’t created true accessibility yet – but the future is bright. With a progressive view of accessibility in place from business, and legislation changing to try and force greater inclusion, there’s much to be looked forward to – with fully inclusive and comfortable travel for all.
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