Dale Reardon of Tasmania, Australia says the pandemic has prompted increased interest in the inclusive travel market. Reardon uses a seeing-eye dog while traveling around his country and a cane for mobility when traveling internationally. He and his wife created Travel For All as a community and directory for accessible and inclusive travel. “It shouldn’t have required a pandemic, but businesses, particularly travel and accommodation-related, are really suffering so they are looking into attracting more customers—marketing to and providing services to new customers they haven’t targeted before,” he says. “This means some of them are much more receptive to fixing website accessibility issues, improving booking processes, and generally being far more open and accommodating to accessibility requirements.”
3. A move toward contact-free
The risk of COVID-19 led to the implementation of more contactless options, such as more automatic doors, which Reardon says also helps improve access for many with mobility issues. And Devan says she’d be happy to see contactless check-in continue post-pandemic. “I sometimes have slurred speech due to ataxia,” she says. “With this [contactless check-in], I don’t have to communicate with anyone.”
Allie Schmidt, creator of Disability Dame (an online resource for moms with chronic illness and disability) has a rare, undiagnosed motor neuron disease that is paralyzing her arms. She, too, is pleased with the increasing availability of touch-less options. “There’s no longer an endless amount of paperwork and documents to sign when doing things like checking into a hotel,” she says. “Since I can’t use my hands very well, moving to touch-less payments has made it a lot easier for me.”
And for those with weakened immune systems due to a number of medical conditions, reduced contact and the elimination of physical expectations such as handshakes may be a welcome change.
Unfortunately, contactless pandemic protocols have also created additional obstacles. “As a Deafblind traveler, I rely heavily on my sense of touch,” says Haben Girma, an author and disability rights lawyer.
Janice S. Linz, founder and CEO of Hearing Access & Innovations, says that some of the changes meant to prevent contact have proven problematic for those with hearing loss. “People are wearing masks and there is plexiglass or glass everywhere which inhibits sound,” she writes via email. Linz says more induction loops—systems that provide a signal to send sound directly to the hearing aid or cochlear implant—are needed.
4. Public spaces are easier to navigate
In many ways, pandemic mandates for physical distancing have made public spaces easier to navigate for travelers with disabilities. “General mobility everywhere is much more pleasant,” says Reardon, citing the lack of crowds and increased awareness of space between people, whether on the street, in a store, restaurant, or elsewhere. “As a blind person, this makes mobility easier.”