Disability Travel On The Rise Despite Barriers To Access

TIA Reports
The Open Doors Organization (ODO) in cooperation with the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) today released the findings of its 2005 research study. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, is a follow-up to ODO’s groundbreaking study of 2002 on the spending trends and market scope of U.S. adults with disabilities. “This new data,” says ODO Director Eric Lipp, “confirms what we already knew, that there is a strong disability travel market. In the past two years alone, more than 21 million adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure and/or business.” The 2005 study reveals which destinations, domestic and international, are most popular among travelers with disabilities and provides new data on Internet use. Surprisingly, the study showed marked increases in certain sectors despite ongoing barriers to access.

The 2002 ODO study quantified how much adults with disabilities were spending on travel—approximately $13.6 billion annually—and suggested that revenues from this market could easily double if certain needs were met and obstacles removed. The 2005 ODO study, which employed an identical methodology, shows businesses in the travel industry the extent and types of barriers the majority of travelers with disabilities still experience. Among those adults with disabilities who have traveled by air, 84% said they encountered obstacles when interfacing with airlines and 82% said they encountered obstacles at airports.

Despite such barriers, the average number of leisure trips and hotel stays was up 50% from 2002. However, 60% of travelers with disabilities who have stayed overnight in paid accommodations said they had problems at these properties, either physical barriers (48%), problems with customer service (45%) or communication barriers (15%). On the positive side, as Eric Lipp notes, “Many of the most common complaints identified by the study, such as heavy doors and lack of knowledge among staff, could be easy and inexpensive to resolve.”

In terms of restaurants, the study indicates 71% of adults with disabilities dine out at least once a week and also shows a 6% increase in casual dining from 2002. To attract this clientele, Fuddruckers restaurants are offering such things as Braille/large print menus, customer service training and larger pathways between tables. In the new poll, 40% of adults with disabilities complained of the lack of room between tables.

The 2005 ODO study covered a new area of travel car rental. It found that 20% of adults with disabilities rented a car for travel in the past two years. But a staggering 50% said they would be more inclined to rent a car if it were delivered to and picked up from them, while 36% would be willing to pay more for this service. In Eric Lipp’s view, “More rental car agencies should follow the example set by Avis, which now offers Avis Access, a comprehensive program of individualized products to serve customers with disabilities.”

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Copies of the 2005 market study are available for sale to businesses, non-profits and individuals through the Open Doors Organization by calling 773 388-8839 or e-mailing [email protected]. The Open Doors Organization is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of teaching businesses how to succeed in the disability market and for making businesses’ goods and services accessible to people with disabilities.
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