Five Websites for Accessible Travel and Vacationing

Man in Wheelchair at Bryce Canyon

Everyone can benefit from the rest, relaxation, rejuvenation and intellectual stimulation afforded by a well-planned summer vacation. Children and adults with disabilities are no exception. Yet, finding accessible hotel rooms, restaurants and historic sites and resorts with beach wheelchairs and sensory-friendly entertainment can present challenges. Fortunately, options for accessible travel are becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, according to Smarter Travel, “travel by people with disabilities, also known as ‘disabled travel’ or ‘accessible travel,’ is on the rise. The travel industry is waking up to disabled travelers’ special needs by providing more services and greater accommodation.”

We’ve done some digging and come up with some of the best travel and vacation websites for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Airbnb Gets Accessible
Last year, Enabling Devices blogged about a new travel website called Accomable, which helped travelers with disabilities find accessible accommodations. Since then, Accomable has been acquired by accommodations and travel start-up Airbnb. In November 2017, Accomable’s cofounder and CEO Srin Madipalli  told Tech Crunch, he is hopeful that because of its significant resources, Airbnb will be able to grow and improve Accomable and its offerings. In turn, Airbnb acknowledges that their own disability services haven’t been up to par. “While the company has offered the ability to search for whether a property is wheelchair accessible, the company now acknowledges that this wasn’t cutting it,” says Tech Crunch. “Guests weren’t getting the information they needed to find the right homes, nor the confidence that the home they selected would actually be accessible for them,” Airbnb noted in a blogpost. “Now, the company is updating and enhancing this with more detail, including whether there is step-free entry to rooms, and if entryways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. These search features are now live on the web version of Airbnb and will soon get added to its iOS and Android apps.”

Accessible Journeys
Accessible Journeys isn’t new — the company has been around since 1985, so founder Howard J. McCoy, III, and his staff have plenty experience in the disabled travel industry. A registered nurse who grew up in a family with an uncle with a disability, McCoy says his family always included Uncle Ralph in all their trips… I grew up knowing nothing about disabled issues; I only knew solutions,” says McCoy. His experiences led him to found a company that finds solutions for travelers with disabilities and their families. The company provides vacation planning, accessible group tours and cruises, individual accessible cruises, licensed travel companions, and disability travel resources.

New Directions Travel
Like Accessible Journeys, New Directions has been operating since 1985. A nonprofit organization, New Directions offers travel experiences to teenagers, adults and seniors with mild to moderate intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. According to its website, New Directions serves over 650 people per year, taking them on trips to places such as Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Las Vegas, Israel, Disneyland, Japan and the Grand Canyon. They’re escorted by trained travel guides including special educational instructors, recreation therapists, residential counselors, vocational and independent living skills counselors, and other professional staff trained to work with people with developmental disabilities.

Autism Travel
According to Autism, “a lot of research shows that travel is one of the most intellectually stimulating events for individuals on the spectrum.” Yet, many families with autistic members are hesitant to take trips because of the many challenges they face. Autism Travel’s goal “is to help the leading travel destinations in the world create safe sensory friendly certified travel options for parents and individuals on the spectrum.” The website provides information on autism-friendly resorts such as Beaches in Turks and Caicos and Ochos Rios, Sesame Place, the Santa Barbara Zoo and so many others. According to its website, “the destinations featured on Autism Travel have completed an in-depth training and certification program [in autism] that is second to none.”

Started in 2006, by Ashley Lyn Olson, who has been paralyzed since age 14, is an online community for travelers with disabilities. The site includes “thousands of resources, reviews, guides and tips from many writers about accessible travel.” The website covers destinations all over the word, providing information on accommodations, transportation, equipment and more. Its goal is: “empowering people with limited mobility, their friends and loved ones to access and experience the world of adventure and leisure travel.”

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