Moving forward: the path to continuous improvement

Access and inclusion is an ongoing journey for every business. Think internally about the physical, digital and operational adjustments you can make within your business, but also externally, towards the disabled influencers and accessible travel operators you could engage with to push yourselves further in your inclusive mission.

two women cycling on a cycle path in SurreyContents

  1. Concessions
  2. The importance of feedback and added value
  3. Review sites and forums
  4. Further help

 

Concessions

The decision to offer pricing incentives to customers with accessibility requirements can make or break an inclusive experience for a disabled person. According to Scope’s Disability Price Tag report in 2019, the disabled cost of living is on average £583 a month higher than the living costs of a non-disabled person. A disabled person’s extra costs are equivalent to almost half of their income (not including housing costs).

There are typically two main concessions businesses can provide. Firstly, a venue may choose to offer a concessionary rate for disabled customers – sometimes in recognition of the extra costs disabled people face day to day or physical barriers at the venue, which may prevent them from enjoying the same experience as non-disabled people. Minimise queuing by allowing these tickets to be booked online and promote fast track entry on your website.

Did you know?

Disabled people are less likely to be employed, and four times as likely to be economically inactive, in comparison to their non-disabled peers.

Secondly, many disabled people physically require support from a friend, relative or support worker to be able to access tourist attractions, accommodation and the transport required to reach them. The Equality Act 2010 does not place any specific requirement on service providers to provide free entry for carers. However, tourism providers must amend policies where disabled people would be at a ‘substantial disadvantage’. Attraction operators may feel it appropriate to amend the admission policy to provide free essential companion entry, as is the case at The Deep in Hull.  This would ensure disabled people who require the support of someone else (sometimes two people) to visit the attraction are not put at a substantial disadvantage.

The Access Card

The Access Card works as a kind of ‘disability passport’. It explains the owner’s access requirements in a discreet manner to help businesses understand their entitlement for discounted entry, or similar. 

Do bear in mind, though, that only some disabled people own this card. Offering disabled visitors numerous ways in which to provide evidence and supporting information would therefore be recommended.

You may consider it necessary to request supporting information in relation to concessions. This information may include things such as doctors’ reports, a Blue Badge or Access Card, or entitlement to disability-related benefits e.g. for Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. Be aware that a person’s essential companion is not necessarily a carer by formal profession and so wouldn’t have proof of this role to show. Staff should use discretion when implementing concession policies and remember that many impairments are hidden.

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Case Study: Mylor Sailing & Powerboat School

“We offer a range of activities from recreational, accredited courses to a more elite pathway into racing. Some of the main barriers to inclusion can be the expense of our activities, including transport and any carer or assistant fees related to this. We created a charitable arm of the business to enable us to apply for grants and funding to help with the costs of the specialist equipment whilst keeping the costs of the activities low.”

The importance of feedback and added value

If a business falsely advertises their accessibility and this leads to a negative experience, those with access requirements will naturally dissuade their friends and colleagues from visiting. However, should a business promote their inclusion journey with honesty (note: this does not have to mean perfection) and be prepared to operate with proactivity and empathy, disabled customers are likely to return again and again. Not only does this add value to a business, but it also opens a whole new market of visitors.

Testimonials and ‘word of mouth’ recommendations are hugely valued by many customers with access requirements. Not only do these ensure authenticity, they remove the ‘guinea pig’ feeling that accessibility in unfamiliar venues holds for many. Ask your customers with access requirements for their honest review, and hints and tips on how to improve your offering. Whether it relates to physical, digital or operational accessibility, all of these elements must be considered for a truly inclusive experience.

 

Review sites and forums

There are several popular forums where disabled people exchange ideas on holidays and accommodation. Facebook is particularly good for this, with popular pages and groups such as Accessible Travel Club, Accessible Holidays and Day Trips and Disability Horizons. TripAdvisor also has the Traveling with Disabilities Forum. They are all worth keeping an eye on, if only so you get a feel for the things that disabled travellers need and, all too often, don’t get. User-led review sites to destinations round the world are springing up rapidly. One worth focusing on, since it is largely focussed on the UK, is Euan’s Guide.

 

Further help

For further guidance, tools and resources to help increase engagement with the valuable accessible tourism market, go to www.visitengland.org/access.

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