Mama Bear vs the Tourism & Hospitality Industries
By Angela Wilson
The fun part of traveling and visiting new places are the attractions and activities that you have planned. There is usually another added planning step for those of us with a short- or long-term physical disability, other disabilities, or a family member with those concerns. How many hours will we have to spend to find and book the entire trip, because information from the tourism and hospitality industries our family requires is not easily available?
This is our family and, as you can see, we love to travel, locally and around the world.
Central Park, NYC
Alcatraz, San Francisco, California, USA
Putt Putt – Disney Cruise Lines, The Bahamas
The Coliseum, Rome, Italy
Due to a currently undiagnosed condition (8 years and counting), our son, Samuel, has been facing diminishing mobility. He has gone from no assistance, to wearing ankle foot orthoses (AFOs or leg braces), to using a walker, and now to using a wheelchair almost full-time. He still has strength in his legs so, with the use of other equipment or my husband’s or my own strength, we can assist his movement up and down stairs, over bumpy terrain, or through narrow spaces.
Of course, whenever we go searching for our next adventure, the physical information about a business’ location, lodging options, restaurant features, or activity online either is inadequate, incorrect, or doesn’t exist at all. If you haven’t gone on one of the large travel planning websites, take a look. At least when I tried travel planning, the first place I would go is TripAdvisor, as do millions of others. Unfortunately, TripAdvisor, and most large international travel websites, do not offer any filters for mobility or disability in their activities and sightseeing offerings, or just list, “wheelchair accessible” or “not wheelchair accessible.” It’s like these industries do not think we exist, or worse, that we don’t matter.
Through my research and conversations with dozens of tourism and hospitality industry professionals, I’ve found that there are at least 4 potential reasons, or combination of reasons, that these industries do not provide the details our families need.
- First, businesses believe that there is a binary definition of disability. (That is, the person is a full-time wheelchair user with no lower limb movement and then everyone else). Disability is a spectrum with lots of nuances, including aspects that have nothing to do with physical difficulties.
- Second, at least in the US, businesses may misunderstand the execution of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 1990 ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. Even now, 30+ years later, the information that people with disabilities need to participate fully in life is not provided, does not exist, or is not prioritized.
- Third, businesses believe that differentiating and marketing to this group is not profitable.
- And finally, businesses do not know that, providing some details, along with some minor adjustments and some forethought, people with disabilities can also be profitable clients.
When speaking to hundreds of individuals, family members, caregivers, physical therapists, disability professionals, and healthcare workers, when asked “What do these [travel planning headaches] problems cost you and/or your clients?” the top 4 responses provided were:
- We don’t travel as much as we used to,
- The time we spend is far from restful,
- Feeling overall frustration,
- and it’s always more work than just staying home
To me, this is unforgivable.
Because of these reasons, the incomplete solutions currently offered, and 1,000 more that I’m not even discussing, individuals and families spend an exhaustive number of hours researching the “standard” listings for things to do, accommodations, and restaurants, making an infinite amount of phone calls, and even then, still stressing about the conditions they will face when they arrive at a location or for an activity.
Since I am not one to accept the status quo, I decided to act and began Exploryst.com. Exploryst is building the trusted travel planning destination where EVERYONE (not just the typical traveler) can confidently plan their next best trip, including accommodations, restaurants, experiences, and cruises (starting in Colorado). Along with educating the industry, Exploryst is completing the research to offer the granular information, such as stairs, deaf/hard of hearing details, blind/vision impaired details, restrooms, parking, hallways, endurance needs, hotel details, and more that WE require to confidently plan our own trips and outings, around town and around the world.
Exploryst wants you to Confidently Explore. Wherever. Whenever.
By Angela Wilson
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