How it started
As we discovered there is so much information out there, waiting to be shared with the world, yet unfound in the eternal internet jungle, our focus changed to offering a more complete package to travelers with a disability.
The website added accessible tours, accessible travel products, country guides and a great blog. It seemed quite difficult to find accessible accommodation that actually is accessible. All of that is way too much work to be doing all alone. So we started looking for companies at the same frequency.
Accessible Travel Online – our logo
We like to make a statement about our views on accessibility – when we share info about accessibility it has always to do with physical accessibility (buildings, parks, museums, accommodation, train stations, airports). This is information that can be checked, and monitored. Second, we do not share wheelchair accessibility only, as the ATO logo shows.
The circle is the ultimate expression of inclusivity and infinity. Smaller circles were added to the bigger circle, to express the variety of meanings, when you discuss accessibility. The largest groups of people referred to in these symbols are represented in the accessibility logo; there are many many more groups of people when it comes to disabilities, extra needs.
It will take at least one generation to build and lift the accessible travel world to a professional level. Today, it is like an active volcano, lots of smoke and fire, every day activity and at the same time a raw and unexplored place to visit, including all dangers in misinformation.
Today, you find quite a few bloggers, vloggers and Instagram Influencers sharing their experiences at tourist highlights, hotels, city trips or outdoor adventures.
Social media are a great tool to share all these images, videos and experiences. Their stories absolutely give inspiration, courage, self confidence and wanderlust to those who have never traveled before, too uncertain of what they might, or might not, expect at the destination of their choice.
However, it is not contributing in a consistent way to bridging the gap between businesses in the tourism industry, using (international) accessibility standards, or professionalizing the accessible travel industry as a whole, because it is mostly a personal experience they share. They are the trailblazers the accessible travel industry needs to become aware.
Accessible Travel Industry
Our experience over the years, and knowledge gained via our extensive network has taught us that accessible travel will be a professional, accepted niche market in the tourism industry within a business network.
AccessibleTravel.Online connects these islands you can find all over the world, offering the best tours and most awesome experiences. The traveler of today using the internet to plan travels, expects a one-stop-shop to have a booking experience like any other tourist. It saves time and customers like to have as much choice as possible. It is crucial though, that information offered is reliable and up-to-date. This is why we build global, and work local.
Birth stones of ATO
There are two fundamental reasons why ATO has been founded.
The first is to help save time as much as possible. When you do not have a disability, it is actually possible to book a getaway to your favorite city anywhere in the world, including a great hotel, city guide and maybe even discount coupons to local museums or themeparks in less than an hour.
If you are a traveler with a disability you need at least 3 months to sort everything out, from budget to accessibility info and flight information. Not too mention travel insurance, assistive devices rentals or that accessible van for your road trip. Doing all that, does not give you any guarantee things will be sorted upon arrival and your holiday will be without worries.
It is like jumping in the pool, not knowing whether you can swim or not. That sounds odd, but it is the best suitable comparison in the given situation, which brings us at reason number two.
We figured if we do share accessible travel information, it has to be reliable. Otherwise, there is no point in sharing. People question the amount of information – over 3400 pages so far – we share at AccessibleTravel.Online. That might be a chicken and the egg story. We love to share lots more, but, we need to check it first. It has to be reliable. If we had to do that on our own, it would take decades. The ATO network has been growing to 9 offices within half a year.
Offices on 4 continents
The only way to be able to share information about cities, tours, museums, hotels or restaurants, is not via these businesses themselves. If you need independent, reliable, checked information, there is only one way: a local is the only one who can share accessibility information.
We quickly found companies to work with us, from California to Australia to Morocco, Romania, Spain or Uganda. In our team there are researchers, travelers, travel agents, assistance dogs and golf players. Some have a disability, some not.
Hotels, beaches, airports
We know that if you are planning travels, you want to save time AND you want the information you find to be reliable.
This is why our offices have such an important role. Questions we receive via email or social media can be directed to the offices, who can answer questions in Dutch, English, French, Romanian, Spanish and Arabic.
Mission and ambition
It is our mission to have many more offices around the world. The added value of a network is not only the local presence, it is about working together, sharing experiences and knowledge that would otherwise not be disclosed.
We check before we share
The biggest challenge in making the world a more accessible place is to make businesses aware of travelers with a disability, knowing they are their customer like any other.
The range and variety of services and products needed to implement accessibility is enormous. The ATO network can be a starting point, to find this knowledge and experience.
Travelers want to have as much information, and choice, at one online location. At AccessibleTravel.Online you can find accessible travel products, accessible events and accessible tours.
Research and expos
As the accessible travel world is young, there are a lot of studies and research done. At ATO we share these studies and projects, to inform and encourage students around the world.
Expos and conferences are a great place to know more about accessible travel, which is why we aim to share as many possible here at AccessibleTravel.Online.
In the coming years, we will work towards a bigger network with even more information about travel, travel products and events around the world.
Accommodation listed at AccessibleTravel.Online has been checked. One of our goals is to ignite that international standard by working with lots of local travel agents, who know their city or region best. They can make the change.