Any tour operator striving to make their business better will also be looking to make their tour business more accessible. The importance of ensuring all destinations involved on your tours are accessible, how to communicate accessibility information on your website, and having custom and private tour options available to accommodate people with disabilities are topics we have covered before. But what does accessibility for a business or space even really mean? What may be accessible to one individual with a disability, may not be for those with a different level of severity or a different disability type.
In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law, was put into place requiring almost all businesses open to the public to “provide reasonable access and accommodation for all disabled customers, clients, and members of the public.” But the ADA’s accessibility rules and regulations are unclear and multi-tiered. For example, buildings constructed before 1992 are required to remove accessibility barriers only if doing so is “readily achievable”, in other words if it’s easy and affordable to do so. What is “readily achievable” can be left up to interpretation and the reality is there simply aren’t the resources to enforce ADA codes in all places open to the public.
In Forbes’ Why Is Accessibility Still a Problem? What Can We Do About it? Andrew Pulrang breaks down more in-depth why so many public and commercial buildings and spaces are still widely inaccessible, despite the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, over 30 years ago. Pulrang points to a combination of factors, from the stigma of disability advocacy and society’s deeply ingrained ableism that leads to the issue being considered a low priority to the lack of resources to enforce ADA codes and lack of clarity of the regulations, as we mentioned previously.
That all means that the responsibility to make your business accessible lies mostly on business owners, and for small business owners it can be hard to know where to even get started. Thankfully, Pulrang, who himself is a writer with lifelong disabilities and over 20 years of experience writing on disability practices, policy, culture and politics, offers advice and resources for how businesses with barriers can improve their accessibility. If you’re a tour operator with the desire to make your tours and business more accessible for guests with physical disabilities, check out the resources and advice below:
Not sure what accessibility for your space and tours consists of or if it’s even possible? Here you can read a brief breakdown of accessibility for different types of physical disabilities.
For a more in-depth guide that includes everything from who is covered by the ADA to what to prioritize when it comes to barrier removal and how to assess your facilities, looking through the Department of Justice’s ADA guide for small businesses is an excellent resource.
ADA National Network
Do you need more technical support? If your question or concern isn’t answered in the small business guide or you need to consult with an expert on ADA compliance, that is exactly what the ADA National Network was created for. The National Network provides information and offers guidance and training via phone support, email as well as in-person consultations. They also provide training via distance technology like webinars, podcasts and web courses.
Centers for Independent Living
For input, training or technical assistance provided by actual disabled people, check out the Centers for Independent Living, these locally-run non-profits act as community advocates and are committed to a staff made up of at least 51% people living with disabilities. In addition to on-location training, they offer online courses, national webinars, training materials and fact sheets.
Are you interested in making your tour business more accessible but concerned about the financial burden of doing so? Did you know there are tax credits and deductions for small businesses to aid them in complying with the ADA?
The tax credit allows small businesses to offset the cost of barrier removal as well as the costs of providing “accessible formats such as Braille, large print and audio tape; making available a sign language interpreter or a reader for customers or employees, and for purchasing certain adaptive equipment.”
In addition to the tax credit there is an up to $15,000 per year deduction available to all businesses which can be claimed for money spent on barrier removal and alterations.
Once you’ve gone through the resources above and done the hard part of removing accessibility barriers in your tour business, make sure the information on the accessibility of your business is displayed clearly and in detail on your website.
If you’re a tour operator, you already know that displaying the details of your tours thoroughly and with clarity is vital for communicating what guests can expect, attracting the right customers who will most enjoy your tours, and taking away the extra step of having to send an email or message asking for more information. When it comes to information on accessibility, people with disabilities and their families and friends appreciate the same courtesy. Be detailed about how accessible your business and each tour is for people with physical disabilities and be clear about what you aren’t able to provide in terms of accessibility. The more details you provide the more easily guests can determine whether the tour fits their needs.
For people with physical disabilities, all the societal and practical barriers to accessibility Pulrang mentioned means daily tasks and travel require more work, more time (planning, preparing, packing) and more money. According to The Guardian, “Surveys showed 23% of non-travelling disabled people found travel ‘so stressful it’s not worth it’ and 22% found it ‘just too hard’.”
But as we discussed in How to Set Up an Accessible Travel Agency “accessible travel is a market segment where demand drastically outweighs availability.” Keep in mind that the majority of people with disabilities are not traveling by themselves but rather with family, friends and caregivers. Additionally, as mentioned in the ADA’s small business guide, ”Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.” That means when your tours aren’t accessible or the accessibility of your tours isn’t clearly communicated to guests, that’s a lot of potential business you’re missing out on! So take advantage of the resources available and get to work on making your business more accessible today.
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