When you're thinking about how to improve your guest journey, how often do you consider accessibility? Globally, there are over 1 billion persons with disabilities and over 2 billion more, such as children and spouses, with caregiving responsibilities. All in all, that means almost a third of the world's population may need to consider access when planning a trip with their loved ones.
As an industry, we need to take note. Making your attraction more accessible means creating a guest experience that works for everyone, from people with disabilities to pushchair users and older guests. This post will break down the fundamental barriers persons with access requirements face and provide actionable takeaways to help put your attraction on the map as an accessible destination.
Making a destination more accessible will improve guest satisfaction, encourage repeat bookings and boost positive word of mouth. 95% of people with access requirements look for accessibility information online and base their decision to visit on the information they find. No information = No visit. The Euan's Guide Survey found that 54% of people with access requirements avoid going to new places if they cannot find accessibility information.
But lack of online information isn't the only barrier people with disabilities face. Other common challenges include:
These barriers dissuade millions of people from visiting domestic and international attractions, representing a huge missed opportunity for operators. In the UK alone, the so-called 'purple pound' (coined to reflect the spending power of households with a disabled resident) is worth around £15 billion to the UK tourism industry.
Furthermore, travellers with access requirements spend 10% more on domestic trips than those with no special requirements. They're also more loyal too establishments that meet their needs, meaning repeat custom from this segment is highly likely.
According to Visit Britain, attractions wanting to become more accessible should adopt the principles of universal design. Universal design requires operators to consider the needs of all persons, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, when planning future developments to ensure that everyone can equitably enjoy the amenities.
In practice, there are many ways that you can start incorporating universal design principles on site. It could be as simple as providing accessible ramps and large printed menus or investing in powered hoists and accessible bathrooms. Alongside these physical considerations, you also need to consider how digital platforms (such as your website and app) fit in & how you can use them to enhance access.
Whatever changes you implement, adopting a clear communication strategy is the key to making your attraction genuinely accessible. We've already mentioned how guests with access requirements often review accessibility guides before deciding to visit an attraction. But what's surprising is that only 39% of people say this information is easy to find!
That's where your guest-facing mobile app comes in. By adopting a mobile app as part of your accessibility program, you can ensure that guests always have the information they need to feel comfortable, both before they arrive and once they join you for the day.
At Attractions.io, we pride ourselves on being the most access-friendly app in the market and are working hard to expand our branded apps with inclusive features. Below, we've shared the top 5 ways our guest-facing mobile apps help to create inclusive attractions that everyone can enjoy:
Operators can flag accessible facilities in the app's digital map, so guests can quickly check that you provide everything they need to make the most of their visit. For example, many of our customers mark disabled bathrooms and changing facilities, wheelchair and stroller rental locations, convenient food outlets and the best parking spots for guests with access requirements, helping them to plan their day before arriving. If you offer live entertainment, you could also mark which events support people with visual or hearing impairments if this is a service you can offer.
Once guests arrive on-site, they can use interactive wayfinding to identify the best routes for their access requirements. For example, users can go to the app settings and select 'avoid uneven terrain' to automatically find the most accessible way to their next ride, favourite animal or an upcoming show.
Suppose there isn't an accessible route available. In that case, the app can notify your guests so that they can decide whether to continue heading that way or pick another attraction they want to explore. For instance, you could warn guests that there is rough ground ahead and let them know that it's more challenging for wheelchair and pushchair users. Similarly, you can mark busy routes on the map, helping those that need to avoid the crowds.
Guests with visual impairments find it harder than most to find accessibility information, and this applies both during their visit and beforehand as they plan their adventure. People who require screen readers are often confronted with readouts like "empty button" or "image1.jpg" instead of the descriptive information they need to navigate.
Using your Attractions.io mobile app, you can overcome this barrier and offer readouts to help visually impaired guests navigate through the app. Best of all, you won't need to do a thing — there's no recording required as we leverage Apple's VoiceOver capabilities for our iOS apps and TalkBack on Android.
In a recent survey, accessibilityguides.org found that 63% of businesses don't promote the fact that they make provisions for guests with access needs, which is a huge missed opportunity if you ask us.
Creating an accessibility guide is a great way to communicate all the work you are doing, and often, it's the first thing guests with access requirements look for when assessing a new attraction. If you don't have one already, check out this free accessibility guide tool to get started.
If you do, make sure it's easy to find. You can create an accessibility area in your Attractions.io mobile app and add helpful information on ride access, car parking and ticketing, as well as including a link to your complete guide so that guests have all the info they need at their fingertips.
By pairing the physical changes you make to your destination with a clear communication strategy on your website and mobile app, you can provide people with accessibility requirements with the information they need to make the most of their visit.
By doing so, guests with access requirements are more likely to view your attraction as an inclusive destination, where they feel supported and confident that they'll have an incredible experience with their friends and family. In return, you'll gain the endorsement of an exceptionally loyal market segment, improve guest satisfaction, encourage repeat visits and boost positive word-of-mouth!
To learn more about improving access with a branded guest-facing mobile app, book a free consultation with our technology specialists here.