Online Travel Players Boost Accessibility for Travelers With Disabilities
Two big challenges face people who are blind, deaf, or who have physical issues and who like to travel — a sizeable group that covers about one in ten people in many countries.
Some struggle to use travel websites and airport kiosks that require a mouse to click around for researching and booking travel.
What’s more, a majority of this population, which includes seniors with age-related impairments, often feel frustrated at major travel sites for burying information about the rare hotels and private rentals that provide services for physically challenged travelers and for not keeping the information accurate and up-to-date.
As a workaround, many travelers have gone offline, turning to travel agents who specialize in accessible tourism services for people with special needs, such as Accessible Poland Tours.
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But in the past 18 months, many online booking sites have been aiming to make internet-based travel resources more accessible.
MAJOR PLAYERS MAKE MOVES
Alternative lodging, such as short-term apartment rentals or vacation homes, are often set up in properties that aren’t required to comply with the same accessibility regulations that hotels must. That makes booking this lodging tricky for travelers not sure what they might get.
Last November, alternative lodging giant Airbnb acquired Accomable, a two-year-old British startup that had been cataloging accessible lodging. The site has since gone offline as Airbnb has been integrating the company’s know-how.
HELP FOR WHEN A MOUSE DOESN’T WORK
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark U.S. civil-rights law, went into effect in 1990. That was before the wide adoption of the internet. So the law did not explicitly cover how online companies need to make their sites usable by the physically impaired.
MAKING BOOKING SITES MORE USABLE
Finding hotels and other lodgings that are accessible to the physically disabled can be a challenge, as the information is often not signposted on major booking search sites and mobile apps.
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Roughly one out of two hotel guests with disabilities said they had faced obstacles during hotel stays, according to a report by the Open Doors Organization, an advocacy group. Researching information online in advance can avoid such problems, but the information isn’t always clear or accurate.
Accessing internet-based services isn’t just a mouse clicking issue in people’s homes. Airport kiosks are another example.
In autumn 2017, United Airlines began installing technologies to make their self-service kiosks at airports more accessible to travelers with sensory or mobility impairments. It replaced the front faces at its gates at Orlando, Florida, and Hartford, Connecticut, airports with ones that have the new technology.
United will roll out additional kiosks as it renovates lobbies and retires old kiosks.