We arrived at the hotel in Orlando at midnight. It is only a 5-hour flight from San Francisco, but for someone like my dad who has a severe brain injury and is a wheelchair user, it was a long journey. My dad has been in a wheelchair for nearly 25 years, but the trepidation remains the same when I enter a hotel room wondering if all the phone calls and preparation that I put into finding a hotel room suitable for him paid off. The bathroom, which is always my main concern, was perfect. The roll-in shower was truly barrier-free and the grab bars were in the perfect places for my dad. What I didn’t anticipate to be a problem was the luxurious bed. It was too high for my dad despite strenuous efforts from his two caregivers and my husband and me to pull him into it. I called down to the front desk to see if there were any other options for us. Despite the late hour, within minutes, the manager of the hotel showed up with two men from maintenance. They assessed the situation, took out a bag of tools, and started disassembling the bed so that my dad could get into it comfortably. I think I may have hugged them when they were done. What I really wanted to do was shout from the rooftop, “The JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes has excellent customer service! They are willing to go above and beyond for their customers with disabilities.” Enter accessibleGO.
accessibleGO is a website that has reviews, travel tips, and booking capabilities so that people with disabilities finally have a platform that addresses their travel needs. Our idea is simple. Let’s give a voice to people with disabilities. Our members want to know the best hotels to stay in, the best attractions to visit, and the tips that are going to make their trip successful. American travelers with disabilities spend US$17 billion annually and yet, are frequently an afterthought in the world of travel. We want to create a community to share their travel experiences to help other members. We want businesses to hear how they can make their services better for our members. We also want to highlight businesses that do a great job, so that more of our members can patronize them. Did I mention that if you’re a nonprofit that we partner with or you have a disability parking placard, you can be a member in our Traveler’s Club where you can get hefty hotel discounts not available to the general public? In short, we want to make travel more inclusive. There is a platform that celebrates travelers with a disability and that is accessibleGO.
My reason for leaving my 13+ year career as a lawyer and joining accessibleGO as the Vice President of Partnerships is actually quite selfish. I want to open up the world of travel to people with disabilities, and that includes my dad. As we are a start-up, we are working furiously to add partners, members and website capabilities to meet the needs of our members, but one day in the very near future, I’m going to book an entire vacation for my dad and his four grandchildren using the many features on accessibleGO. There will be no unpleasant surprises and there will be lots and lots of memories.
So if you have a disability, if you know someone who can benefit from our website, or if you are united in our belief that traveling should include people of all abilities, share our website and/or sign up to become a member at accessibleGO. We invite nonprofit organizations serving people with disabilities to join us in our mission of creating positive accessible travel experiences for everyone. Come and see the best places to vacation. Check out what hotels are accessible. Share your good experiences and your bad ones. We have a voice and accessibleGO is giving us the platform to be heard.
Oh, and if it wasn’t obvious, stay at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. They have great customer service.
Olivia Milliken is a lawyer turned startup executive whose wanderlust has brought her to over 40 countries. She can be reached at olivia@accessibleGO.com.