New research from the Valuable 500, conducted with Opinium, reveals that disabled travellers are paying 8,060 yen (US$58) more than non-disabled travellers for travel insurance, a significant premium compared to those without disabilities or medical conditions.
People with disabilities have to factor in extra costs while planning their holidays, and face discriminatory insurance quotes to ensure their needs are covered. The survey findings come at a time when inflation is placing undue pressure on those with disabilities, who already face significant additional costs in their day-to-day lives.
The research also looked at the other barriers disabled tourists face while travelling, including time inequity, digital accessibility, a lack of disabled representation, lack of inclusive design, and lack of knowledge of disability and how to meet the needs of customers with disabilities.
Four in five listed at least one challenge they faced while travelling due to the agent or provider they were using not being accessible to disabled people. One-sixth of disabled people reported feeling unsafe and scared when travelling.
As a consequence of this, feelings of embarrassment, isolation and being disregarded were also felt by a quarter of the 500 China-based people with disabilities that were surveyed and nearly a quarter felt ignored.
The findings raise questions around the accuracy of insurance algorithms for disabled customers – and whether they are providing disproportionately high quotes for those with declared disabilities.
The financial penalty of insurance that disabled customers must face to go on holiday is another example of how people with disabilities are overlooked and underserved by the travel industry, and frequently find themselves in desperate situations while travelling.
The travel industry should consider making small, achievable changes that have a big impact on their customers with disabilities, like ensuring their websites are digitally accessible for all, and providing staff with appropriate training to cater to all needs – including both visible and non-visible disabilities.
Caroline Casey, founder, Valuable 500 commented that the global spending power of people with disabilities is estimated to be $13 trillion annually, and “the business case for the travel industry to put accessibility first, and not as an afterthought is absolutely imperative”.
She added: “This can be rectified by putting disabled staff and consumers at the heart of the travel business. If you put inclusive and accessible design at the heart of the business, it not only gives access to the disability market but it’s better for everyone.”
Kathy Martinez, vice president for global disability inclusion at Expedia said the company is committed to creating a more open world and lessening equity gaps.
“Disability is a natural part of the human condition. Everyone should have the right to travel, no matter their ability.”