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Online Travel Players Boost Accessibility for Travelers With Disabilities

20 August 2018

People who want to select a non-smoking room are shown options at most booking sites. The industry needs to be just as helpful for travelers with specific needs for mobility, hearing, or visual challenges. Thankfully several online booking sites are trying to help.

Two big challenges face travelers who have sight, hearing, or mobility issues – 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 – which includes seniors with age-related impairments – often feel frustrated at major travel sites for not providing ample and updated information about the rare hotels and private rentals that provide services for travelers with challenges.

As a workaround, many people looking for accessible travel book offline, turning to travel agents, like Accessible Poland Tours, that specialize in accessible tourism services for people with special needs. In the past 18 months, many online booking sites and technologists 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, who are not sure what they might get.

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Making Booking Sites More Usable

Finding hotels and other lodgings that are accessible to people with physical disabilities can be a challenge, as the information is often not signposted on major booking search sites and mobile apps.

Roughly one out of two hotel guests whose sight, ears, or body are impaired 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 online information isn’t always clear or accurate. A couple of small online travel companies are addressing the problem. They share a goal of sparing travelers from having to call hotels directly to ask for photos or otherwise ensure the reliability of information about properties.

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Real-World Solutions

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. Other airlines are making similar moves to improve their kiosks. Some airlines are also adding captioning to in-flight entertainment. Delta is adding induction loops, or technology that helps hearing aids receive audio, to its Atlanta terminal. While not related to online booking, there is one new technology that caught our eye in its potential to help travelers.

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Some industry experts estimate that the market for spending by travelers looking for accessible options could approach $17 billion worldwide each year.

A mindset shift is the most significant factor driving a growth in travel spending. Vigorous travelers like Harris stop considering themselves to be disadvantaged relative to others. Online booking tools still have more to do to help them make that mindset easier to adopt and sustain.

To read the full article and to learn more about how online travel players boost accessibility for travellers with specific needs.

Source : Skift

Photo : Unsplashed