By Reese Jones
After two years, the tourism industry is finally making a significant recovery. In January, Spectrum News 1 reported increasing demand for both international and domestic travel. Travel expert Jeanenne Tornatore added that people are spending more on longer trips to make up for lost time.
With many globally participating in this travel boom, it is likely that we will interact with many travelers with impairments. That is why it is vital to prioritize accessible tourism initiatives across the board — initiatives that go beyond simple wheelchair ramps. Here are a few ways in which the tourism industry can provide everyone with an enjoyable travel experience.
Build an Inclusive Workforce
Ensuring the voices of the able-disabled community are represented in the workforce will not only diversify workplace culture but also guarantee your organization has access to the best pool of talent. According to DEI expert John Register, abled-disabled employees are more productive, as they take fewer sick days, and can increase profit margins by up to 30%. Providing these individuals with employment opportunities is seamless due to the increase in remote and hybrid work settings. Amid the Great Resignation crisis, organizations experiencing workforce shortages can reap great benefits by employing these individuals and improving hiring practices that can result in creating a more inclusive and accommodating culture.
Create a Baseline
Organizations can start by implementing more accommodative communication strategies. For example, in public spaces like airports, appropriate signage can be erected and hearing induction loops can be utilized to relay announcements and conversations to those with hearing aids. Organizations may equip employees with varying technologies to accommodate conversations. During tours, physical and recorded copies of guided tour scripts can be provided to tour guides with hearing aid-compatible FM microphone systems.
Individuals with speech impairments can be accommodated by hiring a person with the ability to demonstrate sign language or providing adequate training to existing employees. In addition, providing access to a speech-language pathologist or audiologist may assist, as they are the best of a few abled-disabled communication professionals that can curate enhanced travel experiences for individuals with impairments.
Improve Accommodations with Diverse Input
A more inclusive environment can be achieved by empathizing with the abled-disabled community, through the exploration of perspectives and circumstances faced by providing solutions to accommodate their needs.
In a recent featured post of internationally renowned speaker and leading accessibility consultant, Rosemarie Rosetti Ph.D., she emphasized that meetings must be inclusive to facilitate discourse — therefore, it is imperative to identify problems that may obstruct participation and find solutions to mitigate them. This may include live captioning or interpretation services for hearing impaired individuals or allocating time for those with speech impairments to relay their thoughts and ideas through writing or typing. In addition, issuing an agenda in advance can help everyone follow along and participate during discussions.
Provide Accessible Resources
Once inclusive measures are established, it is imperative to ensure that resources for accommodations are clearly and effectively communicated through accessible means. These resources should be made available through varying mediums (verbal, written, digital, print, and through special equipment/services) that represent all needs and aspects of the employees in the organization. For example, providing a printed or digital brochure, although, most will wind up browsing the website.
If an organization possesses diverse representation, their team would likely share that individuals with speech and hearing impairments appreciate easy-to-understand videos that come with recordings or captions that are accurate and synchronized with what is happening on the screen.
To ensure travel is accommodating, it is critical for destinations to share resources on all abled-disabled sites and inaccessible areas; opening up avenues for travelers to provide feedback on varying destination sites, for improvement.
Although it is true that accommodating abled-disabled employees can improve an organization’s bottom line, however, taking steps to create a universally enjoyable travel experience is imperative, as it makes the world a better place.