Blindness and deafness are two of the most common sensory impairments, and it is estimated that about 1.3 billion people all over the world live with a form of vision impairment, while more than 5% of the world’s population has hearing loss.
But having physical challenges doesn’t mean that traveling is out of the question. In fact, those who have vision loss or are hard of hearing are still able to travel well, thanks to the efforts of major cities and destinations that are striving to provide inclusive experiences.
However, a lot more places have to step up to improve accessibility for blind and deaf travelers. From booking the trip to getting around, here’s what the travel and tourism industry can do to make traveling a more pleasant experience for the deaf and blind.
Create Accessible Websites
Hotels and airlines should revamp their websites to make them more accessible for those who are hard of hearing or have partial or complete vision loss. For instance, videos should have subtitles and captions, and alternative text should be provided for images. Form fields should also be positioned and labeled appropriately, and users should be alerted if forms were submitted or if payments have been processed properly.
Service Animals Should Be Allowed on Public Transportation
Some airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Delta Airlines allow pet and guide dogs to travel with blind passengers, providing they have been thoroughly prepared for travel.
Meanwhile, all U.S. air carriers are also required to permit dogs and other service animals to accompany passengers with disabilities when traveling within the country.
But while flying with a guide dog may be relatively easy, traveling within certain countries may prove to be challenging, as some lawmakers are trying to ban service animals from malls and other public places.
In the city of Wenzhou in China, the local government recently released a draft regulation stating that guide dogs are to be banned from taking public transportation, including buses and trains. Banning service dogs can be considered as an act of discrimination and doing so can endanger those who have limited vision or total vision loss. For equal travel opportunities and safety, service animals should always be allowed to accompany their humans wherever they go, including eating establishments, commercial buildings and tourist attractions.
Accommodations Should Have Features that Cater to the Deaf and Blind
Most hotels already have certain accessibility features that cater to wheelchair users or those with mobility challenges. However, there are very few accommodations that cater to the deaf or blind.
Providing amenities such as signaling devices – flashing lights to alert people to a ringing phone, for instance – hearing aids, and television sets with wireless headphones can all help those who are hard of hearing.
Meanwhile, instructions and menus in Braille will benefit those who have impaired vision. Hotel staff should also be trained to help deaf or blind guests to find their way to their room or other facilities during their stay.
Creating a satisfying travel experience for the deaf and blind should be one of the main priorities of the travel and tourism industry. Doing so will ensure that everyone, regardless of physical challenges, will get to explore the world and make memories that will last a lifetime.