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TRAVELERS WITH DISABILITIES: THE AMERICAN MARKET. Kostas Zografopoulos Kostas Z Foundation, Open Doors Organization. 2 nd International OSSATE Workshop Athens, Greece, 9 September 2005. Introduction/1.

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travelers with disabilities the american market


Kostas Zografopoulos

Kostas Z Foundation,

Open Doors Organization

2nd International OSSATE Workshop

Athens, Greece, 9 September 2005

introduction 1
  • Kostas Z Foundation--a Chicago-based non-profit organization whose emphasis is on individual support, organizational support and accessibility measures both in the United States and in foreign countries. The foundation initiates and supports information campaigns, conveying the message of full participation and integration among people with disabilities.
introduction 2
  • Open Doors Organization (ODO)—a Chicago-based non-profit organization founded in 2000. ODO is dedicated to teaching businesses how to succeed in the disability market and making their goods and services accessible to people with disabilities, while also working to empower the disability community.
introduction 3
  • Until 2 years ago the travel industry in the US and abroad could only estimate the size and economic impact of the American disability travel market from U.S. Census Bureau data on disability status, income and employment
  • Open Doors Organization (ODO) perceived the need for specific, reliable data. In 2002, ODO commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a nationwide survey of adult travelers with disabilities. The ground-breaking study was released in January 2003.
introduction 4
  • Among the salient findings…that American adults with disabilities spend $13.6 billion on travel each year
  • In 2005, ODO sponsored a second nationwide study, conducted again by Harris Interactive using the same methodology.
  • The 2005 ODO Survey data on international travel is being released today for the first time at OSSATE to underscore the importance of this initiative to develop Accessible Tourism Information Services in Europe.
  • The Open Doors Organization commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a quantitative study among U.S. adults with disabilities (aged 18 and older) to identify the general travel habits and patterns of adults with disabilities.
    • The development of the study was preceded by focus groups among people with disabilities as well as executive interviews with representatives from the travel industry.
    • The study was undertaken in response to the growing population of adults with disabilities. Assuming that incidence rates by age remain the same, by 2030 nearly 24% of the total U.S. population will be disabled (and over 15% severely disabled). The total disabled population will increase by 30.9 million and the severely disabled population will increase by 21 million, when compared to 1997.*

*This data on the incidence of adults with disabilities was obtained from a study published by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2001, based on 1997 data, called Americans with Disabilities.

  • Key objectives of the study are to:
    • Measure general travel behaviors including how often adults with disabilities are traveling, how much money they spend, and which sources of information they rely on to make decisions;
    • Gauge experiences with airlines, airports, car rental agencies, hotels, and restaurants;
    • Determine the obstacles that adults with disabilities encounter with airlines, airports, hotels, and restaurants;
    • Estimate the current and potential economic impact of the disability community; and,
    • Compare 2005 findings to the 2002 study conducted for Open Doors by Harris Interactive to uncover possible trends and differences over time.
sample and methodology
Sample and Methodology

For the 2005 Study…

  • Total sample includes 1,373 interviews among adults with disabilities:
    • 871 interviews were conducted online (using The Harris Poll Online Database)
    • 502 interviews were conducted by telephone (using a prescreened sample of adults with disabilities from The Harris Poll)
  • Disability was defined as having blindness, deafness, or a condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting or carrying. Respondents were screened based on this criteria using a variation of the 2000 Census question.
    • 15% of the general adult population (or more than 31 million adults aged 18 and older) defines themselves as having one or more of these characteristics.*
    • Data were weighted to represent the populations with these disabilities aged 18 and older.
  • Interviewing was conducted between February 8, 2005 and February 28, 2005.
  • Interviews were an average of 21 minutes in length on the telephone and 16 minutes online.

*This data on the incidence of adults with disabilities was obtained through The Harris Poll (February 2005) and based off of the 209,128,094 people age 18 years and older in the U.S. population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

executive summary
Executive Summary

General Travel

  • 69% of adults with disabilities (or more than 21 million people) have traveled at least once in the past two years.* This includes:
    • 3.9 million business travelers
    • 20 million pleasure/leisure travelers
    • 4.4 million travelers who combine business and pleasure
  • This number has remained fairly constant since 2002: 71% had traveled at least once in the previous two years (5.6 million business travelers, 21 million pleasure/leisure travelers, and 5 million combination travelers).
  • The overall number of trips that adults with disabilities are taking has not changed from 2002: they take 2 trips every two years (or approximately 63 million total trips), the majority of which are for pleasure.
  • As reported in 2002, there continues to be a subgroup of more frequent travelers in the disability community – 20% of all adults with disabilities travel at least 6 times every two years.

*This data is based on the 2000 U.S. Census which estimates that there are 209,128,094 people age 18 years and older in the U.S. population. The data on incidence of adults with disabilities was obtained from The Harris Poll (November 2002).

executive summary11
Executive Summary

General Travel

  • Three out of five adults with disabilities who are online (62%) have traveled outside the continental United States at least once in their lifetime.
    • The vast majority of those who have traveled outside the continental United States (85%) have visited other North American destinations. Of these, Canada (56%) is most popular, followed by Mexico (52%). One out of four have traveled to Hawaii (25%).
    • More than two out of five of those who have traveled outside the continental United States have traveled to Europe (44%). The most visited countries in Europe are Germany (28%), England (26%), and France (25%).
    • Almost one out of three (31%) who have traveled outside the continental United States have traveled to the Caribbean.
  • Over the course of two years, 16% of online adults with disabilities traveled outside the continental United States. The typical international traveler spent almost $1,600 on this travel, which means current international travel expenditures among the disability population top $7 billion over the course of two years.
    • The heavy international spender* within the disability population has one or more of the following characteristics: household income of $35,000 or more; over age 50; at least some college education; and/or married.

*Heavy international spenders are defined as adults with disabilities who on average spent $1,000 or more on travel outside the continental United States within the past 2 years.

International travelers with disabilities who are online who have traveled outside of North America have most commonly visited Europe.

Places Traveled To Outside Continental U.S.

Q405: To which of the following places have you traveled?

Base: Online adults who have traveled outside the continental U.S. (n= 603)

executive summary13
Executive Summary

General Travel

  • When planning a trip, the Internet is an important resource for adults with disabilities.*
    • Half of those who travel (51%) use the Internet to book their trips.
    • Almost half of travelers (43%) say they consult the Internet to support their disability-related travel needs. For these travelers, the top ways they use the Internet are:
      • Finding and/or booking accessible hotels (57%);
      • Finding accessibility information about airlines (47%); and,
      • Finding accessible activities, tours, and attractions at their destination (47%)

*According to the Travel Industry Association, 40% of travelers in the past year used the Internet for actually booking something related to their travel.

executive summary14
Executive Summary

General Travel

  • Adults with disabilities encounter a variety of obstacles when dealing with the various aspects of the travel industry (airlines, airports, and hotels) and restaurant industry. These obstacles manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including:
    • Physical obstacles such as cramped seating areas and long distances between gates at airports, unwieldy doors at hotels, and restaurant dining rooms with tables that are too close together;
    • Service-related obstacles such as long lines at airports, and a general lack of availability of preferred, accessible accommodations on airplanes, at hotels and at restaurants; and,
    • Communication-related obstacles such as announcements that are difficult to hear at airports, and difficulty communicating with airline, airport, hotel, and restaurant personnel.
executive summary15
Executive Summary


  • 31% of adults with disabilities have traveled by air in the past 2 years (or 9.6 million air travelers in total).
  • This number has held strong since 2002: 30% had traveled by air at least once in the previous two years (9.4 million air travelers).
  • Air travelers typically take 2 flights every two years, as they did in 2002, and they spend $302 on air travel per trip (or $2.9 billion per year for the entire airline industry), compared to $349 per flight in 2002.
  • The vast majority of air travelers (84%) encounter obstacles when dealing with airlines – and the issue of cramped seating areas tops the list: 
    • Physical obstacles (67%):
      • Cramped seating areas (52%)
      • Difficulty navigating the narrow aisles (38%)
      • Not enough room for carry-on luggage (25%)
    • Service/personnel obstacles (60%):
      • Long lines at ticket counters (42%)
      • Difficulty reserving their preferred seat (20%)
    • *Expense-related obstacles (37%):
      • Expensive tickets (33%)
    • *Communication-related obstacles (28%):
      • Difficulty hearing announcements (17%)

*Note: Within the expense- and communication-related obstacles, the items shown were far and away the top choices. All other responses fell below 15% in these categories.

executive summary16
Executive Summary


  • Four out of five air travelers (82%) experience obstacles when they are at the airport. The most common obstacles overall are the long distances to or between gates, and the long lines:
    • Physical (72%):
      • Long distances to or between gates (63%)
      • Inaccessible shuttle system within airport (16%)
      • Difficulty finding my way (16%)
    • Service/Personnel Obstacles (69%):
      • Long lines at the airport (48%)
      • Difficulty getting assistance with baggage (23%)
      • Airport personnel’s lack of awareness of services provided for travelers with disabilities (22%)
      • Inadequate time to board or exit planes (22%)
      • Difficulties with the Transportation Security Administration (22%).
    • *Communication-related obstacles (27%):
      • Understanding which baggage carousel to go to (17%)

*Note: Within the communication-related obstacles, the item shown was far and away the top choice. All other responses fell below 15% in this category.

executive summary17
Executive Summary

Car Rental Agencies

  • Twenty percent of adults with disabilities (or 6.2 million people) are likely to rent a car or van when they travel. Those who rent cars typically spend $40 per day on car rental.
  • Half of adults with disabilities report that they would be more likely to rent a car if it were delivered to and picked up from them (50%). More than a third say that the presence of a Global Positioning System (GPS) would encourage them to rent a car (34%).
    • Over a third of adults with disabilities say that they would pay more to rent a car if it were delivered to and picked up from them (36%), and nearly a quarter would pay more for a car rental with a GPS (23%).
executive summary18
Executive Summary

Hotels, Motels and Inns

  • 52% of adults with disabilities have stayed in hotels, motels or inns in the past two years (or 16.3 million hotel users), and 56% of their trips involve hotel stays. The typical hotel user spends $76 per day on accommodations when staying at hotels.
    • The percentage of adults with disabilities staying at hotels has not varied significantly from 2002, when 55% had stayed at hotels, motels, or inns within the previous 2 years (17.3 million users).
  • Hotel users generally stay in hotels 3 times every two years (or 48.9 million visits).
    • The median number of hotel stays has increased from 2 stays every two years in 2002.
  • Overall, satisfaction with hotels has increased since 2002.
executive summary19
Executive Summary

Hotels, Motels and Inns (continued)

  • Three out of five hotel users report that they encounter obstacles when staying at hotels (60%) – most frequently, doors that are heavy or hard to open.
    • Physical Obstacles (48%):
      • Doors that are heavy or hard to open (36%)
      • Not enough room to maneuver in hotel rooms and/or bathrooms (20%)
      • Inaccessible shower or bath facilities (19%)
    • Service/Personnel Obstacles (45%):
      • Lack of availability of convenient rooms, such as on the first floor or near the elevator (36%)
      • Hotel personnel not aware of services provided for people with disabilities (17%)
    • *Communication-related obstacles (15%):
      • Difficulty communicating with hotel personnel (10%)

*Note: Within the communication-related obstacles, the item shown was far and away the top choice. All other responses fell below 8% in this category.

executive summary20
Executive Summary


  • Adults with disabilities generally patronize fast food restaurants once per week, and casual restaurants and more formal restaurants less frequently. Typical personal expenditures for those who eat out once a week or more range from $5 for fast food restaurants to $20 for more formal restaurants
  • Two-thirds of adults with disabilities encounter obstacles when eating out at restaurants (64%) – the most common being the lack of room between tables.
    • Physical Obstacles (62%):
      • Not enough room between tables (40%)
      • Entry doors that are difficult to open or maneuver through (33%)
      • Steps at entrance or within restaurant (28%)
    • *Service/Personnel Obstacles (27%):
      • The most common service-related obstacle is the lack of availability of desired seating (20%)
    • *Communication-related Obstacles (22%):
      • Menus not posted on website so that I can decide ahead of time what I want to order (9%)
      • Difficulty communicating with restaurant personnel (9%)
  • The travel market among adults with disabilities is considerable.
    • More than 21 million adults with disabilities have traveled in the past 2 years, roughly the same as in 2002.
    • They have taken more than 63 million trips in the past 2 years, about the same as in 2002.
    • On air travel alone they spend about $2.9 billion annually, about the same as 2002.
  • Despite their market strength, travelers with disabilities face a number of obstacles in airports, airlines, hotels and restaurants.
    • Among air travelers, 84% encounter obstacles when dealing with airlines
    • Among air travelers, 82% encounter obstacles at the airport;
    • Among restaurant customers, 64% encounter such barriers
    • Among hotel guests, 60% encounter physical, customer service or communication barriers;
  • In the 2005 ODO Study, as in 2002, approximately 20% of adults with disabilities, more than 6 million individuals, are shown to be frequent travelers, taking more than 6 trips in the past 2 years.
  • The study also reveals that 7% or more than 2 million adults with disabilities spent heavily on international travel, typically spending more than $1600 on a trip outside the continental U.S. in the past two years. This segment of the market should be particularly attractive to travel suppliers.
  • As the travel and restaurant industries grow and change, decision makers will have the opportunity to address the needs of this important population.
    • For airlines, providing assistance to help travelers with disabilities navigate the lengthy distances between gates and the long lines, and providing guaranteed preferred seating
    • For airports, improving transport to and between gates, reducing wait time and presenting information visually as well as verbally
    • For hotels, guaranteed rooms, close to elevators, entrances and restaurants, and more accommodating staff
    • For restaurants, more accommodating staff, guaranteed preferred seating, and more space between tables to better allow movement within restaurants.
    • While some of the obstacles would require long-term changes, many of these obstacles can be removed with immediate changes.
  • The importance of the Internet in reaching travelers with disabilities cannot be overemphasized.
    • As both a resource for planning accessible trips and as a booking agent, the Internet has become an indispensable tool for this market.
    • Among adults with disabilities, reliance on the Internet for both planning and booking trips exceeds that of the general public, according to statistics provided by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).
Any citation of this material should credit the Open Doors Organization.

To order a copy, visit ODO online: