One billion people around the world have some sort of disability, according to the World Health Organization. Wunderman Thompson Data finds that 89% of people globally think that businesses need to design physical environments so that they are accessible to all. Tapping into demand from both within the disabled community and outside it, innovative travel companies are developing new ways to cater to all journeys.

The non-profit Mission: AstroAccess may have set itself the goal of sending a disabled astronaut to space, but just taking a flight can be hard work for those with apparent and non-apparent disabilities. On most airlines, wheelchair users are not permitted to stay in their own chair and must forgo it to the hold, often leading to damage. Design studio PriestmanGoode has collaborated with Flying Disabled and SWS Certification to launch Air 4 All, a new flexible aeroplane seating system which adapts to allow users of powered wheelchairs to remain in their own chair. Following the launch, PriestmanGoode has also unveiled accessible train interior designs for the Canadian operator VIA Rail Canada.

Hoping to make the pre-boarding stage easier, the King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia began offering flight notifications in sign language in April 2022. In February 2022, the Changi Airport in Singapore launched a series of initiatives to help those with non-apparent disabilities better navigate their airport, including a visual step-by-step guide for pre-departure and the appointment of Care Ambassadors who have been trained to spot and support passengers who may need extra assistance.

Two people riding bikes on a dirt trail with mountains and scrub land in the background. The woman is riding a blue and white two-wheeled bicycle while the man is riding a green three-wheeled bicycle.
Wheel the World

Finding accommodation can also be a burden. A 2021 UK study reported that 91% of disabled travelers had stayed in accommodation that was inaccurately classified as accessible. Wheel the World is an online travel marketplace offering customizable tour packages for disabled people. The site’s Accessibility Mapping System tracks more than 200 data points on listed accommodation and experiences, crucially these are vetted in person by the start-ups employees and volunteers. Airbnb has introduced its own set of accessibility search filters in 2021, allowing guests to identify accommodation and experiences that suit their needs.

Two light-skinned women in wheelchairs on a footpath through tall grasses and trees
Wheel the World offers comprehensive guides to accessible travel experiences for people with disabilities.

For the ultimate in accessibility, the upscale Hotel Brooklyn chain in the UK aims to deliver beyond building regulations. Its newest location in Leicester, which will open July 4, provides 10 fully accessible ‘Liberty’ suites and bedrooms. The first Hotel Brooklyn in Manchester, which has won an accessibility award, features two rooms with their own electric hoist neatly concealed within a lighting fixture.

Travel can be inherently stressful and for those with additional needs even more so. Brands within the travel industry need to consider the requirements of all travelers, bringing accessibility to the forefront. Expanding access will not only make journeys and destinations more comfortable for those with disabilities but also for their friends and family members – inclusive design is better design.

For more on accessibility innovations in other categories, download our new report, “Inclusion’s Next Wave.”

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