Globally, it is estimated that there are over 1 billion persons with disabilities, as well as more than 2 billion people, such as spouses, children and caregivers of persons with disabilities, representing almost a third of the world’s population, are directly affected by disability.
It’s a misconception that people with a disability don’t travel. Our bucket lists and travel aspirations are similar to the general population. Although the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is over twice than that for the general population, many still have disposable income or travel work business.
Accessibility is much more than a human rights issue. Those in the tourism industry are realizing the economy opportunity in catering to those in this community and tapping into the vast market. Accessible tourism enables all people to participate in and enjoy tourism and travel experiences. Many people have access needs, but they aren’t all physical. Accessible or inclusive tourism includes but is not limited to those with blind or low vision, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, those with sensory processing needs, and those with food allergies and intolerances.
These populations are vastly underserved, as many travel and tourism facilities provide inaccessible travel, discriminatory policies, and untrained staff. In the United States, facilities are penalized for not following the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. However, many facilities are not regulated, nor are the regulations strictly enforced, and accessibility becomes misreported on official media. This creates difficulties for those with disabilities who want to utilize, visit, and access tourism and travel based businesses and facilities.
The improvements to physical and service infrastructure that come with a focus on accessibility encourages a more multigenerational focus in development planning, as well as realizing the human rights issues involved. Accessible infrastructure improves the ability of families to participate in social and cultural activities. Accessible tourism is beneficial to all.