AccessibeTravel.Online was founded by Marlies van Sint Annaland. After more than a decade of gaining experience in improving accessibility in shopping areas, she switched full-time to travel, a personal passion. The concept of ATO, that started out as Hotelaccessibility.com, came to mind in 2009.
As a person without a disability she learned to bridge the gap between business owners and customers with a disability. When accessibility is not a ‘priority’ in a business, it is usually because of lack of awareness, knowledge and personal views. Listening to both ‘sides’, she learned to think how to make things work. If you want or need something, you might lose the other persons view. When it comes to accessibility, you need both sides. Focusing on what IS possible, rather than on what not, progress is made. Over the years Marlies met many travelers, hotel managers and accessible travel experts. She offers through ATO the opportunity for them to meet each other. Half way, or on either side.
Customers and Businesses
Marlies has learned about life stories of many people, using a wheelchair, having a visual impairment, an invisible disability, living life with an assisance dog. Each story brought more insight to improve the structure of ATO.
Over 15 years, she has met thousands of business owners, sharing information and tips with them about the need for and benefits of good accessibility in their business.
Whether in Amsterdam where ATO is based, or abroad, the existing problem causing the absence of (great) accessibility was the lack of bridges. She became a bridge builder.
To build a bridge, you need to think about many different things. Distance of the gap you need to cross, material, how to use it and how to make sure it is safe. Starting with a new way of thinking, she has build ATO.
Accessibility is not just the right thing to do to make you a better person. It matters to all. If you stop thinking, as many still do, the ‘I versus Them’ conundrum, for example businesses thinking of costs without realising the benefits, things will remain the same. Building a solid bridge that people would dare to cross, both ways, is quite hard. It needs good thinking. Without a bridge though, the gap will be there and people from either side will never meet.
To build, you need the right material. In this case, people on both sides of the bridge have a totally different view on what material is needed, or if that bridge should be permanent or used upon occasion. ATO has found a way to build the bridge.
Travel and Locals
When you have a disability and you love to travel, nothing should stop you. However, you need to go through various labyrinths, hundreds of rainforests, cross deserts where you find absolutely nothing and you need mountains of time. How to find the right information? How can you be sure it is true?
Embracing the online world combined with local experience and knowledge, ATO is the perfect bridge. Working with people around the world, who know not only the language and the culture of their country, but also the accessible highlights, museums, the best restaurants and parks, is the raw material the bridge is made of.
Combining a passion for travel, a long history of collecting stories from both sides and substantial knowledge of global political and cultural history, Marlies and the entire ATO team will build ATO to be a solid, internationally accepted, bridge for generations to come.
Photo credits Marlies van Sint Annaland