Craig Grimes today launched the world’s first instant online booking engine for disabled travelers: www.accessible.travel. Grimes, who is a seasoned traveler and a paraplegic, has spent the last few years living in Nicaragua navigating the country’s inaccessible roads and stores via a wheelchair. It hasn’t been easy for Grimes, who broke his back 12 years ago. But, if anyone can do it — Grimes can. The British-born advocate already operates the travel-guide websites AccessibleNicaragua.com and AccessibleBarcelona.com, two ventures that he began after realizing the dire lack of information about accessible adventurous vacations.
The need is definitely there. It’s a $13.6 billion annual market in the US alone, according to a study by the Chicago-based advocacy group Open Doors Organization. A separate study by the group revealed that 21 million US adults with disabilities traveled for business or pleasure in 2003-04.
Grimes hopes that www.accessible.travel will serve as a “Travelocity for disabled travelers,” according to an article in The Christian Science Monitor. The booking engine will allow travelers with disabilities to search handicap-accessible hotels by city, price, and levels of accessibility, then book their rooms directly online. Users can also book airport transfers in specially equipped vehicles, mobility equipment, guided tours, and museum passes, among other services. The site will list in-depth information and hotel descriptions for people with disabilities, and will eventually allow visitors to view virtual maps of hotel bathrooms to make sure the dimensions and specifications meet their needs.
At first, accessible.travel will start by offering booking options for eight cities around the world: Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Oslo, Paris, Prague, San Francisco, and Melbourne. Once the page starts generating revenue, Grimes hopes add at least one new city to each month.