Table of Contents

Module 2: The Journey: Traveler Accessibility Challenges

Learning Objectives
  • Readers will learn about the vast array of temporary, situational, and permanent accessibility requirements and the unique challenges travelers might face. 
  • Readers will learn why companies have a responsibility to provide equitable accommodations for travelers with accessibility requirements. 
  • Readers will learn about key “Traveler First” principles that should guide development of travel programs and services. 

Travelers with accessibility requirements are not a niche
During the research and stakeholder consultation process for this toolkit, travelers shared a wide range of stories about the ways their accessibility requirements impacted their travel. The sheer amount of time and resources they allocate towards planning travel, and the uncomfortable situations they are forced to navigate during travel, is not widely understood by “able” travelers. This has an impact not only on traveler wellbeing, but on the ROI of traveling for business.

Travelers with accessibility requirements are not a niche. As mentioned in Module 1, 39% of business travelers identified as having a requirement in a 2022 survey, while a further 9% said they had a requirement in the past. Accessibility requirements can be temporary, situational, and permanent, as well as both visible and invisible. In regards to the narrower definition of those who identify as having a disability, globally, 16% of the population lives with some form of disability, and the number will continue to increase as our population ages. 

In recent years, the industry is also improving its understanding of neurodivergent travelers. According to KultureCity, 1 in 4 individuals in the US has a sensory need or invisible disability, including PTSD, autism, dyslexia, dementia, strokes, etc, which is collectively referred to as “neurodiversity.” (Neurodivergence refers to individual travelers while neurodiversity refers to the collective.) The term hidden or invisible disabilities is also commonly used to describe impairments that go largely unnoticed, such as chronic pain, cognitive impairments, anxiety/depression, and others. 

Seventy percent of travel managers don’t know or won’t estimate how many of their travelers have needs. However, the data tells us that travel managers should assume that 4 out of 10 of their travelers have situational, temporary, or permanent accessibility requirements that will impact their travel.

What kinds of roadblocks do these travelers face? Consider the following real anecdotes mentioned in conversations with stakeholders:

Wheelchair User Short Stature or Dwarfism Broken Leg
Checked bags (that might normally be carried on) because they could not reach overhead bins Needed a step stool to reach the soap dispenser in an airport bathroom Struggled to get approval for a mobility device for an event at a large conference center
Wheelchair User Pregnancy Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Navigated unsafe sidewalks because the event shuttle did not have a ramp Pumped breast milk in a crowded bathroom at an industry event  Took extra steps to ensure hotel rooms had a dead bolt lock for security

These challenges are difficult to navigate for any traveler, but there is an added layer of stress for business travelers, who may be traveling with colleagues or trying to make a meeting on time. 
The following are a few personal stories from travelers with accessibility requirements: 

Derek Moxam & David Dame assign accessibility scores based on their experiences while traveling.
(Video courtesy of FlightClaim)
Susan Carboni describes realizing her chronic pain was considered an accessibility requirement.
(Video courtesy of Accessio) 
Zach Riggle sheds light on what it is like to travel with PTSD.
(Video courtesy of Travel & Meetings Society)

In 2024, a travel manager at TechnipFMC conducted a journey map with a traveler who had accessibility requirements. The purpose of the project was not only to map the traveler’s experience pre-trip and en-route, but to develop suggestions for their travel policy. The following captures specific components of this traveler’s experience that an “able” traveler might never consider:

Figure 1. Traveler Journey Map for Accessibility (TechnicFMC)

Many companies have a high-level, non-discrimination policy that ensures all employees will be treated equally in the work environment. But how does this apply to business travel accommodations? If anti-discrimination policies are to be taken seriously, companies have a responsibility to equip employees with everything they need to travel for business successfully. 

Travel programs and services should prioritize travelers’ unique needs
In order to acknowledge the unique challenges that travelers with accessibility requirements face, travel managers and suppliers should utilize the following principles to guide development of any policies or solutions (see CWT case study for more information): 
Calls to Action
  • Consider how the vast array of temporary, situational, and permanent accessibility requirements might impact your travelers or customers, and share this information with your stakeholders. 
  • Incorporate the “Traveler First” Guiding Principles into the development of policies or solutions for accessible business travel.

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