Ms. Rose

ADA Compliance

Meeting the Needs of Multigenerational Travelers

By Clara Rose, President & Creative Director, Creative Alliance

According to a recent U.S. Census, one in five Americans has a disability and half of them are considered to be severely disabled. Currently there are more than 54 million Americans with disabilities. This number includes a wide variety of persons from all walks of life, some you may not have considered.

Who are they?

While the younger end of the age spectrum is not generally considered a rapidly growing part of the ADA population, an estimated 3 million children between the ages of 5 and 15 - have a disability. This group travels with parents or extended families and are very likely to be a part of an educational or support group, making them a valuable referral source for any hospitality business.

One in every four veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan are now a part of the ADA community. While the exact rate of increase and numbers are not readily available, it represents a significant growth in the number of disabled veterans that are Generation Y or Millenniums (born between 1977 and 1994 and representing the largest population group since the baby boomers).

Consumers over the age of 50 (well before the age of retirement) often experience changes in vision, hearing and mobility that affect how they interact with businesses and their products. This segment of the population is not traditionally included in the ADA statistics. A noteworthy statistic - according to the Census Bureau more than 50% of the U.S. discretionary income is controlled by those that are 50 years old and older. This group definitely has the power to impact revenues and the bottom line for the hospitality industry.

The "Boomers", the generation born between 1946 and 1964, gave life to the single largest generation of Americans. That demographic (over 75,000,000 strong) continues to shape our society today and will do so long into the future. Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 everyday of the year for the next 19 years! How many of these baby boomers have - or will have in the future - different abilities that require special accommodations?

Over 42 million family caregivers provide informal support to individuals with disabilities and seniors at home and in the community. This group of Americans represents additional tourism dollars when they travel with those they care for.

The Challenges

Traveling can be a challenge for those with disabilities, their traveling companions and the service providers but individuals with disabilities are usually quick to adapt to their surroundings and will let others know how to best accommodate them. They are not looking for special treatment, just equal treatment and the same access that everyone else enjoys.

The traveler that is disabled, any traveling companions and travel companies are all responsible for making travel planning as smooth as possible for the person that is disabled but Travel and accommodation providers are also bound by the law to accommodate those covered by the ADA, whenever possible.

There are some specific problems that are often found by the traveler with a disability. Check this list to see how your property stacks up.

  • No accessible airport transfer service

  • No wheelchair accessible vehicles

  • No access to restaurants, bars or retail areas

  • No accessible rooms available (roll in showers, bed shakers, communication devices)

  • No accessible parking or blocked walk ways

  • Inaccessible web sites and reservations

  • No adapted toilet in public areas

  • No accessibility equipment (bath chairs, toilet raisers, mobility devices)

  • Untrained staff (sensitivity and ADA compliance training recommended)

  • No reliable information about area attractions that offer accessibility

The needs of the traveler with a disability will vary depending on the disability. Special accommodations can range from seating arrangements during transportation, to different access needs for lodging. Service animals may be accompanying the traveler and need to be accommodated as well.

Accessible Tourism

With all the new regulations and 2012 changes to the American's with Disabilities Act, some relevant verbiage is emerging as main stream; ADA friendly, ADA sensitivity and Accessible Tourism; to name a few.

Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavor by ADA resources and organizations to help ensure services and travel destinations are accessible to all people, without regard to their physical limitations or abilities. It seeks to enable people with access requirements; including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive, to function independently, with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services and environments. Darcy and Dickson (2009, p34)

Even though accessible tourism is not a new concept, it has only recently been brought to the forefront as tour operators, hospitality businesses and destinations are beginning to take notice of the increasing demand for accessibility.

A Harris Poll conducted in conjunction with Open Doors Organization and the Travel Industry of America, found the following information:

  • The 54 million Americans with disabilities have a combined income of $1.75 billion.

  • They took 32 million trips and spent more than $13.6 billion on travel.

  • They spent $4.2 billion on hotels and $3.4 billion on retail, transportation and other activities.

Additionally, the study suggested that these same travelers would double their spending if some minor changes and amenities were available to them.

  • Meet and greet programs at airports

  • Preferred seating on airplanes

  • Hotel rooms closer to the amenities

  • Accessible amenities

  • Unobstructed paths of travel on the premises

  • Educated employees; who go out of their way to accommodate guests with disabilities

A number of studies have shown that once a person with different abilities finds a business, where they can stay or get services in an accessible manner, they become loyal, repeat customers - along with their extended families.

As research continues to emerge that shows the strength of the accessible tourism market, hospitality industry professionals are right to take notice and make appropriate changes in order to capture this new and important market.

It seems prudent for businesses to tap into this huge and growing market of people with disabilities and benefit by welcoming them as customers. There are a number of professionals that specialize in ADA compliance issues and remediation, who also offer an ADA compliance survey which will help you identify any deficiencies.

The Law

In February of 2001, the then President announced the New Freedom Initiative - a comprehensive program to promote the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of society by increasing access to assistive and universally designed technologies, expanding educational and employment opportunities, and promoting increased access into daily community life.

The statement from the Whitehouse: "Wherever a door is closed to anyone because of a disability, we must work to open it. Wherever any job or home, or means of transportation is unfairly denied because of a disability, we must work to change it. Wherever any barrier stands between you and the full rights and dignity of citizenship, we must work to remove it, in the name of simple decency and simple justice."

In keeping with this vision for change, in 2010 the Department of Justice made significant changes to the ADA regulations, including the ADA regulations for accessible design.

The U.S. Department of Justice believes that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes good business sense and additionally those with disabilities can gain access to services, products and employment opportunities, a win-win situation. To that end they provide a variety of resources and a full range of publications to explain the laws, including a series of question and answer publications.

The Future

Everyone has the right to travel and explore even the farthest edges of our plant. Accessible tourism certainly makes this more possible. It gives those travelers with accessibility needs and their traveling companions, greater options. Once a foreign concept, accessible tourism is becoming more main stream and accepted in the hospitality industry.

With nearly a quarter of the population looking for accessible ways to travel and places to vacation - the hospitality industry can greatly benefit from being ADA compliant.

The business owners and hospitality properties that recognize the needs of the multigenerational travelers and their potential revenue contributions, surely have the edge. Many of these companies are working hard to be not just ADA compliant but truly ADA friendly. They are making a difference, while capturing some of the revenue dollars that affect the bottom line.

Is your brand being proactive and making the adjustments necessary to meet the changing needs of the multigenerational travelers? How will you stay relevant?

Clara Rose is the founder of Creative Alliance and co-founder of Nationwide Compliance Alliance. She believes that business success is not accidental, merely the implementation of a sound strategy and the correct tools. Ms. Rose finds great reward in equipping entrepreneurs and business owners with the tools and pieces for business success. As a professional speaker, trainer and author; Clara works with teams to help them create a culture of understanding and sensitivity in the workplace and equips professionals with tools and insights. Additionally, she speaks and writes about the different forms of communication that are an integral part of business life with Customers, Colleagues and Co-workers. Ms. Rose can be contacted at 941-284-8640 or Clara@ClaraRose.com Extended Bio...

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