The Disabled Traveler's Companion

Mission Statement

The Disabled Traveler (TDT) 501(c)(3)

Traveling creates experiences that will last a lifetime. Everyone wants to travel, including people with a disability or age related difficulties, and their families.  Recent reports show that the average age of National Parks visitors is near retirement age. At parks such as Denali the average visitor's age is 57 and Yellowstone the age is 54.[1] TDT will help connect national parks to these audiences by providing a tool that they can utilize while making their travel plans.

Background

   Ron & Kay Wilmers have been traveling for decades with their children and grandchildren. With Ron being in a wheelchair made travel difficult at times. They saw very few other people in a wheelchair when traveling, especially in national parks.

   For some vacationers, planning a trip involves making reservations and packing up the car, kids or grandkids…..for travelers with a disability and/or age related difficulty, it may first mean knowing more about the destination and accommodations currently available before hitting the road.

Observation:

   The travels industry contains many “dots” of travel that are utilized when going on vacation. Transportation, restaurants, attractions, and many other areas produce billions of dollars in revenue. There are many statistics on every aspects of travel by age, income, geographical and even disability. The question is with the many improvements, such as communication that have been made to the travel industry let alone the world, why aren’t people with a disability and age related difficulties not taking advantage of these improvements and traveling? A traveler with a disability and/or age related difficulty requires specific information concerning accessibility information. The national parks are scattered throughout this country thus becoming the main destinations for this web site.

   Many places have made vast improvements according to the Americans with a Disability Act (ADA) but question why they have not seen a vast increase from this particular population.

   There is a huge untapped market wishing for accessibility information about our National Parks. 57 million persons with a disability and baby boomers – the demographic of 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – are the golden market for business. This population may experience age related difficulties (cardiac and respiratory problems, joint replacement, impaired vision or hearing, etc.) This group is large, vocal, wants to travel, and has discretionary income in the billions of dollars.

   “Baby boomers are getting old -- reluctantly, perhaps, but inevitably. And they are definitely not growing old passively. While disabilities often accompany old age, this is a    group that is not going sit on its hands and rock its way contentedly through its final decades. Boomers are going to go skydiving if they can. And travel suppliers are doing    everything they can to make sure the disabled can realize their travel dreams just like anyone else. Each year, travelers with disabilities spend an estimated $13.6 billion on    travel and take 31.7 million trips. Moreover, they're not solo travelers: 85% travel with at least one companion, and they are often part of a larger group”[2].

   National Parks have excellent accessibility features. But this is one of America's best kept secrets, as there is no promotion of functional accessibility information. Thus there has been minimal return on the billions of dollars invested in making the national parks accessible.

   There are currently accessible visitor centers, retail stores, restrooms, lodging, campsites, trails, and even shuttle systems in some parks. It is now possible for the individuals in a wheelchair to experience the grandeur of Yosemite, the sweep of Yellowstone, and the glory of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The issue is, few people know about these upgrades that are the result of 35 years of improvements. Most potential travelers in this group haven’t been able to get the advance information they need to be able to plan their trips ... or even be certain that a park they would love to visit can accommodate them.

  1.  By 2017, adults over 50 will control a full 70% of all disposable cash in the United States.
  2.  By 2022, the baby boomer generation will have inherited as much as $15 trillion from parents and older spouses.
  3. Just over two thirds of baby boomers surveyed by Nielson said that they plan to spend more time on their hobbies post-retirement, spending at a higher rate as they do so.
  4. According to an August 2012 Nielsen study, it’s surprising that less than 5 percent of advertising targets this most valuable generation.[3]

Defining the Problem:

   When planning a trip, the many components of the travel industry have followed the ADA guidelines for accessibility to the best of their knowledge. Many are assuming just because they display the international accessible sign the assumption of the location in question is accessible to everyone because it displays the sign and meets the ADA  regulations. What is missing is the functional information.

   Do destinations, which involve several components, provide information and is made available for people looking for specific information?

   There needs to be an universal language established that can be understood worldwide in any language to provide this information

   Photography is the universal language that will be seen around the world. They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” cannot be better defined.

Hypothesis:

   The people with a disability have $220 billion dollars at their disposal but they are not traveling and the reason may be is that adequate information is not being made available for them to plan and trip.

   They realized a destination is the primary factor when planning a trip which is then determined after the second level is accomplished which is lodging. Remembering their travels to earlier trips of national parks, they started to see improvements regarding accessibility in the national parks in more recent trips with their grandson Josh. The amazing accessibility at these parks caused them to shift their focus to the national parks and accessibility information at these locations. In addition, since the national parks are scattered throughout  the country they are locations within everyone’s range of travel.

Creating Awareness:

   The problem was identified through research that accessible information is not available to the population that needs it the most. The solution is to provide the many answers needed by a universal language – photographs. Granted photographs will work for the majority and with proper communication via a Forum, many more answers will be provided by this population to the providers of the travel industry and to the potential travelers.

   With proper funding, a fully operational web site will be produced that will provide accessibility information just for national parks, The Disabled Traveler which is a 501©(3)... not only for travelers, but also to aid surrounding communities also

Of Note:

  • People with a disability do not travel for fear of the unknown. What is waiting for them?
  • We will remove the unknown and provide the much needed information.
  • Several parks have already indicated they would like to be a part of our website.
  • A full web site may include the following features to assist travelers:
    • Overall information on all the National Parks
    • The "homepage" on the TDT web site would have an introduction for every park.
    • An individual would easily be able to go from park to park just on one web site, viewing all of the accessibility features.

TDT will photograph, measure, and provide descriptive information where applicable:

  • Accessible parking
  • Accessible trails
  • Accessible restrooms
  • Accessible campsites
  • Accessible amphitheater
  • Accessible locations for presentations
  •  In park shuttle system
  • Accessible visitor centers and retail stores
  • On park lodging regarding accessible rooms to be photographed and measured.
  •  Particular attractions pertaining to that park.

Website:

   We hope to build on the features of the site to continue to provide additional resources to individuals with a disability and/or age related difficulties regarding National Parks. Over the next five years we hope to continue to grow the list of featured parks on the site.

   A full web site may include the following pieces of information to assist travelers:

  • A Park’s “homepage” on The Disabled Traveler web site will have an introduction for every park via a map.
  • An individual would easily be able to go from park to park just on one web site, viewing only accessible information and features.
  • Visitors will be able to send e-mails and suggestions regarding a particular park which will be forwarded to that particular park.
  • Will be a conduit between millions of people and the national parks, providing a communication tool to bring both sides closer together regarding their travel experiences and laying a foundation concerning national parks for the next century.
  • Full screen photographs and measurementsof accessible paths.
  • Coordinate contents with each park

Social Media

   Utilization of social media to reach targeted audiences. “Nearly two-thirds of 50-64 year olds and 43 percent of those aged 65+ are now on Facebook -- which explains why your great aunt is poking you and potentially why the younger generation is decamping to Twitter”[4].

   Targeted ad campaigns managed through the TDT website with specific target audiences for regions surrounding specific parks, age groups and travel interests. Ads will also be targeted towards individuals who follow pages targeted at individuals with disabilities.

   Connect and share posts from the The National Parks Traveler[5]. A national Blog regarding national parks.

Goals

  • Secure operating expenses for of The Disabled Traveler through donations, sponsorships, and grants
  • Potentially establish a 5 million reader base between The National Park’s Traveler and The Disabled Traveler worldwide.
  • The Disabled Traveler will work closely with the parks to ensure only content approved by the parks is shared with the public. The Disabled Traveler will not rate or criticize accessibility at any national park attraction.

   Your website inspired us to check out Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. My husband experienced a brain aneurysm last year and although he is remarkable, it has slowed our very busy life down ALOT! It was amazing to get outside and enjoy life again. We were able to borrow the free sand wheelchair and enjoyed an entire day on the beach. I was able to get some great pictures I would love to share some time! Thank you!! Danielle

   The Disabled Traveler will be a conduit between millions of people worldwide and the national parks, providing a communication tool to bring travelers and their National Park destinations closer together. The Disabled Traveler will create enhanced awareness of the accessibility features of our National Parks, helping to provide improved and coordinated travel for millions of visitors with a disability or age related difficulties worldwide. These travelers will be able to have rich experiences in the National Parks, and as a result reduce their social isolation and lead healthier and happier lives.



[1] "Does the National Park Service have a youth problem?" retrieved on May 17, 2015 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/us/im-national-parks-older-visitors-morgan-spurlock/.

[2]"Unlimiting access" retrieved on May 10, 2015 from http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/Unlimiting-access/.

[3] “Baby Boomers Retire,” PEW Research Center, Dec. 29, 2010 retrieved on July 10, 2013 from www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/baby-boomers-retire/.

[4] "More elderly people using social media" retrieved on May 10, 2015 from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/elderly-people-social-media-article-1.1418755#ixzz2tga0jOqp.

[5] "'Disabled Traveler's Companion' Offers Valuable Accessibility Insights for Visiting National Parks" retrieved on May 10, 2015 from http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/02/disabled-travelers-companion-offers-valuable-accessibility-insights-visiting-national-parks5371

 

 


 

 
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