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Which Side of Accessible Travel History Do You Want to be On?

Updated: Mar 1

The Right Side of Travel History

As part of her education in getting her Certified Tour Professional designation, my friend, Shelbey, wrote a white paper entitled “History and Current Status of Disability Travel in the United States”.1 In it, she postulates the first reasons for people with disabilities to travel was likely due to a sense of urgency in seeking healing treatment and rehabilitation. She goes on to say prior to the American Civil War and extending long after, thousands flocked to bathe in natural mineral springs to cure what ailed them, and in the 1900’s there was an increase in disability travel of people seeking treatment for polio, at which point facilities designed specifically for rehabilitation started to crop up around the country. Further, other disability travel spikes can be seen after both World War I and World War II with a focus on injured veterans. At this same time there was a rise in organizations advocating and serving specific disability groups. The need for inclusivity then drove the political administrations of the time to draft and pass disability rights legislation over the decades that followed right on up to present day. This provided impetus for tour companies to focus on disability travel and the inclusive tourism market. As Shelbey puts it, “with legislation supporting accessibility, people with disabilities could travel more confidently and comfortably…..than ever before.” These are all interesting points.

Medical travel is nothing new – even the ancients would travel to bathe in hot springs and seek treatment from learned others to help alleviate their aches and pains. However, in the grand scheme of history, what is relatively new is the notion that those travelers who have disabilities should have specific accommodations for travel lodging.

A market survey conducted by The Harris Poll in 2020 on behalf of Open Doors Organization concluded the disability travel market now has a greater economic impact on the travel industry than ever before with more than 27 million travelers with disabilities taking over 81 million trips, spending $58.7 billion on their own travel during 2018 and 2019.2 With our aging population, and as baby boomers retire, it is projected in the years ahead that the disability demographic will increase significantly as will the need for travel accommodations. Disability travel, whether for leisure, sports, or medical reasons, is a niche market, yes. But It’s a sizable market, and we know it is underserved in the short-term rental industry. If you are a short-term rental property owner or manager, you should seek to understand this market and make the necessary changes your property needs to be more inclusive. Simply put, making your short-term rental accessible is good for those with a disability, and it’s good business for you. After all, on which side of travel history do you want to be?

More Information

For more information on accessible short-term rental properties, visit

1 “History and Current Status of Disability Travel in the United States”, Shelbey Morris, 2021.

2 “2020 Market Study on Adult Travelers with Disabilities”, Open Doors Organization, 2020.

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