How is the Business Travel Industry Catering for Needs of Disabled Travellers?

5 min read

Travelling for business alone can be a daunting prospect for any experienced business traveller, even more so if you have extra challenges or needs due to a disability.

The Business Travel Magazine recently reported that 7 million disabled people of working age is worth £249 billion to the economy. Here, we take a look at how the business travel industry caters for the needs of disabled business travellers…

Airports & Air Travel

The UK has over 40 commercial airports located in different places across the country with London alone hosting 5.

The CAA recently reviewed assistance facilities & services available at the UK’s top 30 airports with Humberside, Birmingham, Norwich, Glasgow and Prestwick all rated as “Very Good”. An additional 20 airports were scored as “Good” and 4 as “Poor” and needing improvement. From these findings we can see that airports have come along way in creating accessible and inclusive spaces for disabled travellers with a small amount needing to improve on their services.

Airports including Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Belfast and Dublin are working closely with OCS special assistance to provide hidden disability lanyards to travellers for those who may need assistance or extra time.

When it comes to Air Travel, passengers who require special assistance should aim to give their airline at least 48 hours’ notice of the help they require. Help is available from the moment passengers arrive at the airport and can cover the following areas of help:

  • Journey through departure airport
  • Assistance boarding the aircraft and during the flight
  • Disembarking the aircraft
  • Transferring between flights
  • Travelling through destination airport

Virgin Atlantic are leading the way when it comes to assisting disabled travellers. They have produced heart shaped aircraft badges for their passengers who need extra assistance or have hidden disabilities which can be worn, printed or carried on a mobile device recognised by crews worldwide. Not only this, Virgin also invite disabled people to experience a mock-up training aircraft for familiarisation prior to a trip and to create an improved experience. In addition to this Virgin (with help from visually impaired travellers) have developed a tablet which speaks to help a visually impaired travellers experience, when operating a touch screen entertainment system.

Rail Travel

When it comes to travelling via rail, all stations and rail companies offer assistance for any train journey. Advance notice for this assistance is a 24 hour time frame however, all stations will do their utmost to provide assistance

The rail company can organise for someone to:                                                       

  • meet you at the entrance or meeting point and accompany you to your train
  • provide a ramp on and off your train if you need one
  • meet you from your train and take you to your next connecting train or the exit
  • carry your bag (up to three items of luggage as per the National Conditions of Travel)

Wheelchair access/reserved seating is also available should this be a required.

Hotel Accommodation

Many suppliers now provide accommodation suitable for the needs of a disabled traveller. From B&B’s through to 5 Star hotels, here are just a few examples of hotel chains that can provide suitable accommodation within the UK:

  •         Premier Inn
  •         Mercure
  •         Ramada
  •         Thistle
  •         Radisson Edwardian
  •         Classic British Hotels
  •         De Vere
  •         Hilton
  •         MacDonald

Business travel consultants when booking accommodation for the needs of a disabled business travellers will ask the relevant questions to cater for an individual travellers needs. From step free access, automatic door opening, lift access or ramped areas, Business Travel consultants work as an extension of a company catering and tailoring each business trip to the specific needs of the traveller.

Hotel chains have made significant improvements to their facilities including:

  • wider entry and bathroom doorways
  • mid-height light switches and power outlets
  • lever type door handles
  • manoeuvring space on each side of the bed
  • walk in showers / wet rooms
  • wheeled shower chair and/or wall mounted shower seats and handrails
  • raised toilet seats
  • lower hanging space in wardrobes

For hearing impaired guests , some hotels have vibrating alarm pillows, flashing doorbells and fire alarms. The Radisson Blu Edwardian Leicester Square is aiming to have “the best disabled rooms in the country”