The world is steadily becoming more accessible to persons with special needs and disabilities. One of the industries that has shown the most noticeable progress is travel and leisure. As limited mobility vacations become increasingly popular, these 3 hi-tech start-ups and resources are leading the way.
Accessibility is an art form. It requires conscious effort, meticulous planning, multiple perspectives, and an ongoing commitment of evolving to specific needs. As with any other field of endeavor, the addition of technological solutions increases progress exponentially — making a wider variety of accessible travel opportunities available to a greater number of people faster than ever before.
A change in mindset: Accessible travel in terms of profit, not expense
The accessible travel industry is booming. Some of the more popular vacation experiences seeing a sharp increase in enrollment include large- and small-boat cruises, safari and wilderness adventures, and general sightseeing tours of the world’s most historic cities. Some might argue that the sudden growth in handicap limited mobility vacations is strictly a (positive) numbers game.
A 2015 market study of travelers with disabilities sponsored by the Open Doors Organization (ODO) and conducted by Mandala Research, LLC revealed some eye-opening statistics:
- More than 26 million adults with disabilities took more than 73 million trips for business and/or pleasure
- Disabled travelers spent $17.3 billion in 2015 on just their own travel — up from $13.6 billion in 2002
- Disabled individuals traveling with one or more adults doubled the economic impact — raising the total to $34.6 billion
Tourist towns and resorts that resisted making accommodations for those with limited mobility did so because of the presumed increase in the costs of adaptability. However, changes came much more readily when it was discovered that the sheer number of travelers and the potential for profits would more than cover the cost of adjusting for mobile accessibility.
Making it possible: The hi-tech startups and resources enhancing accessible travel
Make no mistake — we still have a long way to go to create an even playing field with respect to accessible travel. A large percentage of travelers with disabilities report feeling like second-class citizens when trying to navigate public transportation facilities. But the following 3 startups and resources are making significant headway.
Wayfindr. This nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom is creating the benchmark in standards for digital wayfinding on mobile devices. Their mission is to empower vision impaired people to overcome isolation, through audio based navigation.
Through the Wayfindr Open Standard platform, venue owners and digital navigation services are able to provide high-quality, consistent audio wayfinding solutions to their customers and clients. After successful trials in London and Sydney, the Wayfindr Community is making its way into more facilities worldwide.
The end product is the ability of vision impaired travelers to use their smartphones to make their way around airports, train stations, and rideshare bases entirely independently.
Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub). As a London-based global research center, Global Disability Innovation Hub combines the top minds in disability innovation to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide. The GDI Hub formed after the 2012 Paralympics to focus on the world’s toughest accessibility challenges.
On the front lines, GDI Hub has created a collaboration for an international project that connects wheelchairs in India to the Internet of Things (IoT) and automatically renders and downloads wheelchair accessible maps of towns and facilities.
Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI). Contributors to the ATTRI include the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), the Joint Program Office (JPO) and other Federal partners.
A few of the front line projects featured by the ATTRI include technologies that power:
- Safer intersection crossing
- Pre-trip concierge and virtualization
- Shared-use, automation, and robotics
- Smart wayfinding and navigation systems
- Integrated payment systems
- Standard accessibility data platforms
Future ATTRI projects will focus on travel initiatives for persons with disabilities, veterans with disabilities, and older adults to enhance unique travel plans with respect to planning, safety, and independence.
*This is a guest post written by AMS Vans*
AMS Vans combines mobility and technology into a quality, affordable wheelchair accessible van. If you’re ready to explore the country and exercise your right to mobility freedom, we’re ready to help you get there for a lot less money than you might expect.
America’s Mobility Superstore is a national wheelchair accessible van dealer and manufacturer with a mission to deliver the industry’s best wheelchair accessible vans and adapted mobility equipment that meets the unique needs of our specially-abled customers at a price they can afford.