AccessibleGO Aims to Get it Right, Reaching 53M With Disabilities

by Harvey Chipkin, Columnist at MediaPost, February 26, 2024

It takes a different kind of approach to reach the 53 million Americans with disabilities — but Miriam Eljas, CEO of AccessibleGO, thinks she is getting it right. Launched in 2017 as a hotel booking site built exclusively for people with accessibility needs, the platform recently added flights, rental cars with hand controls, wheelchair van rentals, mobility rentals and concierge ride services for wheelchair-accessible vehicles, all in one place.

According to Eljas, that 53 million include 30 million with a mobility disability, eight million vision, eight million hearing and 11 million cognitive (the total is larger than 53 million because many have multiple disabilities.)

It may seem like a no-brainer to reach out to this sizeable segment — and many do. But according to Eljas, it’s not that simple. The difference is in the follow-through. With every booking, AccessibleGO staff will reach out to the supplier to confirm that the accessibility request will be fulfilled.

For flights, AccessibleGO will contact the airline directly to insure that requests can be accommodated. For car rental, they’ll verify that there are hand controls and spinner knobs; and for hotels that the accessible room is actually available and has the special features that are necessary – like bathtubs with grab bars, refrigerators for medicine, visual fire or smoke detectors and more.

That kind of service may sound like an expensive proposition, but Eljas said a 30% repeat booking rate and retention of lifetime customers compensates for the time investment in making sure that accessibility features are, in fact, in place.

There is a significant awakening happening about accessible travel, said Eljas, with more companies publishing their accessible rooms online and so forth. But the follow-through and execution are often lacking – and that makes for unhappy customers who will not be back.

The biggest issue for many customers, said Eljas, is the lack of trust in the experience. “A traveler will often show up late after a long flight and their accessible room has been given away. We make sure that doesn’t happen.”

In addition, according to Eljas, travelers who ask about accessibility may have to wait a week or so to get a response. For almost all of AccessibleGo’s listings, booking is instantaneous, except in the case of van rentals and wheelchair accessible rides when there is an answer within 24 hours.

AccessibleGO markets itself in traditional ways — with paid advertising, social media and a lot of word of mouth. Also critical is a community forum that, said Eljas, is “the heart and soul” of the operation, with users posting continually with questions and answers about their experiences. “This is a community where people offer support and motivation to those who haven’t traveled in a while or who have recently become disabled.”

If marketers are interested in getting a greater share of this large but complex demographic, the bottom line is that, while honesty and follow-through are always key in a marketing promise, in the world of disabilities they are paramount.

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