The Crafty Traveller: web pioneers who are making the world accessible to everyone, regardless of any disability
Categories: Life Stories
For the ten million plus people in the UK with a disability, it has long been a challenge to find places to stay that meet their needs.
But things are improving. Disabled people with a love for travel are using the internet and social media to help others find accessible accommodation.
James Price broke his neck in 1999 and has since travelled the world as an elite wheelchair rugby player.
Frustrated by the lack of information on hotel accessibility, he devised Access All Rooms, which has a thorough rating system – the Global Access Award Scheme – grading wheelchair access from one to five, plus information on the suitability of properties for the visually and hearing impaired.
Impressive detail on ramps and pool hoists, door widths, bed heights and bathroom grab bars is provided by hotels, but carefully checked by James.
Crucially, the site lets you book accessible rooms online, avoiding the uncertainty travellers face when told they can request an accessible room but that it can’t be guaranteed.
The one drawback is that the site currently has only about 80 hotels – some 30 are in the UK, with the US and Spain having the largest foreign selections.
James aims to list 200 hotels by the end of next year.
London-based disabled entrepreneurs Martyn Sibley and Srin Madipalli describe their new listing service Accomable as ‘Airbnb for disabled people’.
It’s a peer-to-peer platform enabling those with accessible villas, cottages, apartments and spare rooms to advertise rentals to disabled travellers; you’ll also find hotels and B&Bs.
It started in April, so there aren’t many listings: the biggest choices are in the UK (about 50) and Spain. But the website is such a good idea that numbers will surely grow.
Options include a lovely-looking villa with pool in Andalucia designed for those with disabilities; adapted apartments in Barcelona; a fully accessible barn on the Isle of Wight; and a room with a sofabed in Chelsea.
Like Airbnb, Accomable doesn’t vet properties. Guests can leave reviews, though as the website has been running for only a short time, few are showing at present. You book directly with owners.
Launched in spring 2014, Euan’s Guide is like TripAdvisor for disabled people.
The brainchild of Euan MacDonald (who has motor neurone disease), the user-friendly website has warts-and-all, first-hand reviews by disabled people, with ratings for transport and parking, access, toilets and staff.
Most reviews are in the UK (with the highest concentration in Edinburgh), though there are a few abroad.
You’ll find about 120 reviewed places to stay in Britain, and it covers accommodation, attractions, restaurants, bars, sports venues and shopping centres. It’s fantastically useful, and there’s a mobile app version.
For UK accommodation, check Tourism for All UK’s openbritain.net.
It has around 6,000 hotels, B&Bs and self-catering properties – a massive increase on a few years ago – with many assessed under the National Accessible Scheme. You can search by specific requirements, whether mobility, hearing or eyesight.
If you’re considering going abroad, think about using a tour operator specialising in booking packages for disabled people.
You’ll find detailed summaries on these companies’ websites.
Reservations staff will be able to talk through your needs, and the companies will also fix and smooth out travel arrangements, including getting assistance from airports and airlines.