How to Make a Destination Accessible?

Neha Arora, founder of Planet Abled, delivered a talk on accessibility during the 'Emerging Trends' of X. Festival.

As a person with both parents affected by disability, Neha reflected on first-hand experience of inaccessible tourism eco-system.

She defined accessible tourism as experiences that meet the needs of all travellers and accommodate everyone. However, as Neha explained, a large population worldwide, around 25%, are either directly or indirectly affected by inaccessible tourism.

Neha Arora, founder of Planet Abled, delivered a talk on accessibility during the 'Emerging Trends' of X. Festival. As a person with both parents affected by disability, Neha reflected on first-hand experience of inaccessible tourism eco-system.

She defined accessible tourism as experiences that meet the needs of all travellers and accommodate everyone. However, as Neha explained, a large population worldwide, around 25%, are either directly or indirectly affected by inaccessible tourism. Thus, there is a necessity to make changes, make travel accessible and allow disabled people to enjoy destination offerings, explore cities and cultures.

Although, as Neha mentioned, accessibility and making tourism accessible should be looked at from a broader scope than the current practices. The solutions in place simply do not meet the needs of disabled travellers comprehensively. Thus, travel is not yet fully accessible for all. Destinations need to understand the needs of individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.The accessibility solutions introduces at destination need to move beyond traditional solutions such as installing a ramp. Neha explained that making travel accessible should no longer be focused on single disabilities and reflect on tourism and travel experiences of individuals with diverse abilities. Digital accessibility tools and digital content are great initiatives to make travel accessible to all.

Neha explained that accessibility should be part of the destination infrastructures and result in tech integrations that facilitate travel for everyone. She emphasised the importance of product design and skill training at destinations with full consideration to accessibility. She emphasised that accessibility must be a ‘built-in’ feature in product and experiences designs. Retrofitting for accessibility at later stages could be expensive and financially interfere with the process of making travel and tourism fully accessible.

According to Neha, the market research has demonstrated travellers assumption that particular destinations are inaccessible and thus opt not to visit. Therefore, destinations need to communicate that they are accessible and can accommodate people with disabilities more boldly.

Neha encouraged an inclusive mindset to understand the needs of travellers with disabilities better. People with disabilities will travel simpler. The industry needs to respond to travellers' needs with sustainable frameworks considering health & well-being, reducing inequalities. To make effective changes, organisations need to include people with disabilities in decision-making processes and elaborate on their personal experiences.

Key Takeaways

1. Accessibility should be at the centre of tourism strategies to facilitate travel for all.

2. Tourism’s approach to accessibility should be comprehensive and consider the needs of all disabilities.

3. Accessibility requires an inclusive mindset. Involving disabled people in decision-making processes allows organisations to reflect on and solve first-hand problems in the industry.

Published on:
November 2021
About the contributor

Neha Arora

With a totally unutilized engineering degree up her sleeve, Neha worked for 9 years in companies like HCL Technologies, Nokia Solution Networks and Adobe before starting Planet Abled. As a child she never went for a holiday, born as she was to parents with disabilities; and as a grown up when she did start travelling.