Is Accessible Travel Marketing Really Good Business?


The City of Moreland in Victoria, Australia, and many other travel destinations, are working hard to sell their local businesses on the premise that if they make their places and their employees disability friendly, they will be sure to see an increase in the number of customers.

I know it makes sense, of course, and you can see it anecdotally wherever you go. People with disabilities are everywhere! There just doesn’t ever seem to be enough parking for all the “handicapped” people who need them! Or Bathroom stalls! (See Gina’s feature on this.) Concert venue spaces for wheelchairs are always getting sold out, and there is not clearly enough help in airports too, as those red caps who assist wheelchairs to their gates are always busy. So, based on this, we are outgrowing all the code requirements for these spaces.

There are disability consultants who make a career out of helping businesses get ready for this new influx of new customers promised, but who are they? What are the real numbers? It depends on how you define someone with a “disability”. As you can see below, most of the time, we see them lumped all together, which is great politically, but a hearing disability or autism is not going to stop most people from getting on a plane and traveling to the jungles of Belize, regardless of accessibility of infrastructure.

So, let’s get real here. How do we convince business to build a ramp and accessible rooms with views and then market those accommodations to those who really need them?

Let’s start with some of those facts where it pertains to mobility disabilities only:

A 2000 report from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research indicates that approximately 6.8 million individuals in the United States who are not institutionalized but have disabilities use assistive devices to help them with mobility.[i] Among these people 1.7 million of them ride wheelchairs and scooters. About 6.1 million use both wheelchairs and other mobility devices, such as canes, crutches, and walkers, simultaneously.

And the numbers are increasing over time:

The 2010 data from the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that 7.4 million persons in the United States household population use assisted devices for mobility.[i] The numbers seem to increase significantly with the passage of time and the aging of the baby boomers

And remember this: When it comes to a disability, these numbers can change overnight. Unless you are Transgender, most classes do not change from one to another. Disability can occur to anyone, at any time, in a matter of minutes. All it takes is one fall, one accident, or a catastrophic incident. Six weeks later, you’re being rolled out of the hospital with a wave and “Good Luck!”

Now compare the above statistics on Mobility Disabilities to what we see most often cited when talking about the market sector as a whole:

  • The 2010 U.S. census reported that 49.8 percent of people aged 65 have some kind of disability and the percentage increases as individuals grow older.
  • People with disabilities represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in the world, representing over 750 Million individuals worldwide, and in the U.S., surpassing the Hispanic population by five percent.  (World Health Organization, U.S. Department of Labor, The Rolling Rains Report)
  • More than 20.3 million families in the U.S. have at least one member with a disability. (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Disabled adults control over $3 Trillion in discretionary income worldwide; a number industry analysts predict will spike.  (The National Organization on Disabilities)
  • People with disabilities have the most buying power of any traditionally underrepresented group.  (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Between 2000 and 2030, the numbers of Americans over age 65 will more than double, from 34.8 million to more than 70.3 million. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • More than 7 out of every 10 Americans will acquire some sort of disability by the time they reach the age of 75. (U.S. Social Security Administration: The Work Site, 2004.)

“Australian research putting its value at 11% of the total industry market share. With the first of the Baby Boomer generation turning 65 on the first of January this year, the Inclusive Travel sector is estimated to be worth in excess of 25% of the total market by 2020, making it the fastest growing sector in the industry.”

Man walking with wife using walker 461x600 - Is Accessible Travel Marketing Really Good Business?

So, when you see great people who put together wonderful and informative literature like the examples below, using the statistics for people with all types of disabilities to encourage the inclusion for all of us, I say good for them!

So, while it may be using data that does not directly relate to the need for a physical accommodation, in the end, even if one person uses the facility who needs it, it was worth the effort. You can’t really place a dollar value on civil rights and doing the right thing, because whether it’s an older person with a cane, a family with an older child in a wheelchair, or a young couple on their honeymoon, these efforts make it possible for all people to move about and enjoy the gift of being alive and able to enjoy all that is open to them.

So we want to say, Good Job City of Moreland, and all others who jump on the Inclusion Train! Accessible Travel is Good Business, and, as stated by Torrie Dunlap, it is a “Growth Business”.

“You may have heard the phrase ‘growth industry’. The media has called solar power a growth industry, Cloud computing is a growth industry. Economists use that term to describe a sector of market that is experiencing a higher than average growth rate. Outside of business a growth industry can also describe an interest or activity that is increasingly popular. So yoga is a growth industry, so is craft brewing (especially where I live in San Diego, and here in Austin). I’m going to add one more item to this list of growth industries….. Inclusion. Inclusion is a growth industry.” Torrie Dunlap

It is also the right thing to do morally, which is no small thing. So, while we all spin our statistics however we can, let’s remember to appeal to the heart and minds of those who have the power and business sense to make changes so that we can all have an equal opportunity to experience all the world has to offer.

Resources and great examples of Accessible/Inclusive Tourism Information

Good Access is Good Business by City of Moreland

Blueprint for Accessible Tourism by TravAbility

[i]Kaye, H.S., Kang, T. & LaPlante, M.P. (2000). Mobility Device Use in the United States. National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. U.S. Department of Education. Accessed from

Imagery for Article provided by Disability Inclusive Stock Images: When Authenticity Matters, we only use Real Models with Disabilities who are paid for each sale.

deborahD 150x150 - Is Accessible Travel Marketing Really Good Business?

Deborah Davis

Deborah is a Speaker, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Owner of Wheelchair Lifestyle Enterprise Push Living Inc.

She was a Former Dancer, Accident Survivor (C 6-7 Spinal Cord Injury resulting in incomplete Quadriplegia 1985), College grad (BBA Finance 1991 U of Miami), with a background in Sales and Marketing and Non Profit Development and Management.

She is now embarked on new path creating a market for Disability Inclusive Stock Images with the creation of and publishing an online enterprise: The mission is to create Inclusion for people with disabilities through stock images for advertising, marketing and editorial uses, providing accessible properties for travel, swap or purchase, publishing an online magazine for improved health and well-being, providing information and opportunities for Accessible Travel, and operating an online store with products that improve lives.

She is most passionate about building a network of people with disabilities who are empowering, supporting and creating a more inclusive world. Personally, she is a mother of two beautiful, wise and exceptionally bright young women, and residing in South Florida.

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