Plane wing flying through the clouds

How tech has changed travel for people with disability

September 27, 2018

Twenty years ago, there were no Google Maps, online forums or hotel review sites. Travellers used to plan their trips by picking up a copy of Lonely Planet and chatting to travel agents. These days, it’s easier to travel than ever before.

It’s no surprise that without Google, accessible travel wasn’t nearly as popular back then as it is today. Travel was often a bit of a gamble for people with a disability. They would have to arrive at their destination without much information about the accessibility of hotels, transport and attractions they wanted to see.

Today however, a simple Google search will tell you where the accessible entrance is at the Eiffel Tower or how to book a wheelchair accessible spot on the Eurostar train.

Thanks to technology and the internet, people with disability are finding it easier to travel than ever before. We’re taking a look at three tools which can help you plan your next trip!

1. Google Maps

In cities, often the best way to get around is by public transport, which can be a challenge for people with disability. Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair accessible can be difficult to find.

Earlier this year, however, Google Maps introduced wheelchair accessible routes in their navigation tool to make it easier for people with a disability to get around cities! Another great feature is Street View, which means people can take a look at a place they want to visit before they get there so they can see what the access is like.

In more good news, people around the world have also been adding accessibility information themselves into Google Maps – such as whether a place has a step-free entrance or an accessible bathroom.

2. Accomable (now part of Airbnb)

Accomable was an accessible travel startup that helped people with disability find and book accessible holiday accommodation.

Founded by Erin Madipalli and Martin Sibley, two childhood friends with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the company was purchased by Airbnb in 2017.

Now all of the great features you could search for through Accomable are available on Airbnb. You can search for accommodation with a wide range of accessible features, including step-free access, roll-in showers and mobile hoists.

3. Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects people who are blind or have low-vision with sighted volunteers through a live video connection.

With over 1,000,000 volunteers, users can request help in more than 180 languages.

Volunteers help with lots of different tasks such as reading restaurant menus, documents and elevator buttons.