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By Josh Basile, C4-5 Quadriplegic, Trial Attorney, Disability Rights Advocate, Community Relations Manager at accessible
Traveling means just as much to me now as it did prior to my spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed below my shoulders. Simply put, I still want to travel.
My power wheelchair has gone many places. I have traveled to Havana, Cuba and taught slingshot golf to a paraplegic. I organized a trip to Colorado so my nonprofit could show several people in wheelchairs how fun adaptive skiing is.
While these trips have been amazing, they always start the same way: with an incredibly painful vacation planning experience.
Vacation planning is stressful for everyone, but when you have a physical limitation, it involves checking even more boxes.
Every potential restaurant, hotel, attraction, and venue needs to be checked for accessibility. Transportation needs to be pre-planned, as well. There is certainly no “winging it,” as most times, the people you’d typically ask like a hotel concierge know very little about what is and isn’t accessible.
This research is basically the most tedious and frustrating scavenger hunt you can imagine. And thanks to the lack of accessibility options available on the internet – only three percent of the internet is accessible – it’s often a scavenger hunt where you look down and see a task like “take a picture with a unicorn.”
In 2022, the web accessibility gap shouldn’t still be this bad. Over one-fourth of the U.S. population is living with a disability. This often overlooked and untapped population represents $500 billion in annual spending power with high levels of brand loyalty.
Web accessibility is not just an obligation that needs to be met: it’s an opportunity full of benefits.
AI-powered solutions like accessiBe’s accessWidget exist to provide options for business and website owners to improve accessibility and usability for all visitors while providing customizable accessibility experiences for all abilities. Inaccessibility prevents millions relying on accessible technology like voice dictation software, onscreen keyboards, or screen readers from accessing the information they need just like everyone else.
These barriers are so disheartening. Remember, these are barriers preventing people with disabilities from merely learning about the actual barriers they’ll have to navigate on their trip.
But ensuring your website is accessible isn’t just for those with disabilities. COVID-19 decimated the tourism industry, and it is still trying to make a comeback.
When you hear tourism, you often think of the big fish like airlines and hotels, but it’s so much more than them. It’s also the family-run restaurants and shops. Even those not in these industries are impacted, as most major cities, and even some countries, rely heavily on tourism when it comes to their budget. It impacts roads, schools, and just about every publicly-funded project or service.
With over 60 million Americans living with a disability, these are valuable tourism dollars at stake!
There are so many different disabilities that limit people from scouting out vacation destinations, and when these disabilities prevent them from doing so, their potential tourism dollars are put at risk.
It can’t continue like this, because it is hurting everyone involved.
Web accessibility should not be done just for compliance, but rather because it is a smart business opportunity and the right thing to do.
Advocating for more web accessibility is something we can and must do as a community.