Traveling with a Disability: Accessible Tourism

Planning the perfect trip involves many components, whether you’re going to the next town over or to the other side of the world. These can include researching your destination and its various attractions; booking long-distance travel that may involve planes, trains, and automobiles; finding local transportation options; making hotel or home-stay reservations; and investigating dining and shopping opportunities. When tourism is accessible and inclusive, the impact goes far beyond tourists with disabilities and their families and friends – it benefits the wider community and helps to ingrain accessibility into the social and economic values of the community.

What is accessible tourism and how does it impact people with disabilities? According to the United Nations’ Divison for Social Policy and Development, accessible tourism is “the ongoing endeavor to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. This includes publicly and privately-owned tourist locations, facilities, and services.” Accessible tourism encourages all people to participate in, experience, and enjoy travel. However, traveling can be a challenge for people with disabilities, who may encounter barriers such as a lack of accessible airports and transfer facilities and services; inaccessible booking websites and services; inaccessible streets and public transport; and a lack of information on accessible facilities, services, equipment rentals, and tourist attractions.

If you are looking to travel, here are a few of our go-to resources:

  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website has a page dedicated to information for people with disabilities. Here you can find a wide range of security screening information including medications and the 3-1-1 liquids rule exemption and traveling with mobility devices or prosthetics. You can also print out a TSA Notification Card you can use to notify the TSA agents of a health condition, disability, or medical device that may affect screening.
  • If you are in the hospitality industry, the NIDILRR-funded Hospitality & Disability Initiative from the ADA National Network can assist you in learning how to make your establishment accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities. The initiative also provides materials and services to assist employers in the hospitality industry in recruiting, hiring, and retaining qualified workers with disabilities.
  • The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH) is an educational nonprofit organization that raises awareness of the needs of all travelers with disabilities and expand travel opportunities in the US and abroad. They provide information for travel agents, accessibility resources, and tips and access information for travelers with disabilities.
  • The European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) provides resources, newsletters and e-bulletins, and a list of accessible cities in Europe. They also include a video on the accessibility gap in tourism.
  • Accomable provides information on accessible places to stay around the world for people with disabilities. You can search by destination, filter for your needs, and then book your stay. Each listing includes information on which adaptations are available in that location.
  • Two crowd-sourced apps give travelers with disabilities the option to rate the accessibility of local places:
    • Access Earth, from an Irish start up, aims to be like “Trip Advisor for accessible travel.”
    • org is a public, wiki-style database where users can rate the accessibility of locations (full, partial, or not wheelchair accessible) around the world.

We searched REHABDATA and found a number of articles on accessible tourism, accessible vacations, accessible travel, and accessible transportation. We encourage you to search REHABDATA for other topics related to accessible tourism and people with disabilities or contact our information specialists for assistance by calling 800/346-2742 or via our chat.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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