Today’s common occurrences like rail strikes and flight cancellations can pose travel challenges for many. But for travelers with accessibility issues, disruptions can have even more impact.  According to the World Health Organization, about 1.3 billion people – that’s 16% of the world’s population – experience significant disability. Whether your company engages in travel to connect remote employees or acquire new business, it’s worthwhile to help build a travel experience that’s fair and just for all your colleagues. Aim to address diverse and distinct travel needs so that your travel program serves everyone on an equal level. To help, we’ve outlined suggested ways to go about it.

1. Determine travelers’ needs.

Identify specific differences in the way colleagues experience travel. Look to see if they’re facing any travel challenges and capture their key requirements. As a starting point, it’s helpful to understand the range of needs among your travelers, many of which may not be visible. Here are some common considerations for travelers requiring special assistance:

Mobility: Some travelers with mobility challenges may be lacking enough wheelchair assistance throughout the trip. Others may need enough multi-plug sockets by their bedside to plug in assisted and electronic devices.

Visual: Having sufficient space and accommodations for a service dog or travel companion can be key for travelers with visual impairments.

Auditory: Things like phone amplifiers, an outline of emergency procedures, and closed captioning are important requirements for travelers with auditory issues.

Neurodiverse: Travelers with sensory considerations may need a quiet space when waiting for a flight.

2. Engage with travel providers that support all types of travelers.

With a better understanding of your travelers’ specific requirements, you can source travel providers that can address them. For example: some hotels cater to accessibility issues with enhanced task lighting, removable grab bars in bathrooms, and seating that accommodates mobility aids.

3. Create an inclusive travel policy.

Your travel policy will set guidelines that prioritize traveler wellbeing for a diverse set of distinct needs. It’s best to start the policy with brief accessibility requirements. Then you can flush out those requirements in more depth on an intranet page or other shared platform with specifics like companion travel, insurance, and travel providers. Include a contact person so that travelers know who to turn to when they have questions or need further assistance.

When drafting the policy, get input from stakeholders across your organization – HR, finance, legal and compliance, risk management, and IT. They should have a say in the guidelines. If you already have a travel policy, great. Then compare your policy with the requirements of your travelers to determine gaps and close those gaps with solutions.

4. Keep an open line of communication with your travelers.

Through a focus group or survey, get a sense of traveler satisfaction. See if expectations were met with the right solutions from travel providers. If not, follow up with the airline or hotel and align on a solution that does a better job of meeting a traveler’s special requirements. Keep in mind, requirements change regularly based on attrition, new hires, and a person’s capabilities. You’ll need to do ongoing check-ins with travelers.

5. Get the support of a travel management company (TMC).

If all of this sounds a bit challenging, you can take a lot off your plate by partnering with a resourceful TMC. We have the services, resources, and supplier relationships to support travelers with different types of disabilities. When you partner with us, travelers can get on a call with an agent that understands their specialized needs and delivers a concierge level of service. That way they can line up the right services before, during, and after the trip, whether that means arranging for an escort or booking a quieter hotel room.

When it comes to travel accessibility, our work is never done. We’re always striving to remove barriers and fill need gaps for our clients’ travelers. To assist IBM’s travelers, we developed the first end-to-end accessibility solution of its kind. It covers everything from travel preferences to booking to trip disruptions.

Our support for travelers with disabilities has received industry acclaim. It was an honor to win Best Travel Team with Google at the Business Travel Awards Europe 2022 event. Our team was recognized for the Accessibility Travel Desk, designed to assist travelers with disabilities. Moving forward, we’re aiming to expand our services to make travel universally accessible to everyone, across all regions.

Interested in finding out more? Contact Us.