Accessible Relocation: do you know where to start?

Supporting people with disabilities and their families during international relocation

With over 1.3 billion people in the world having some form of disability, it’s unsurprising that many relocations include disabled people. But with around 90% of disabilities being invisible, would you even know if one of your clients had specific needs?

It was the core of this that Eleonora Censorii of Destination Everywhere Accessible Travel addressed during the final ABRA member meeting of 2023. An expert in the needs and experiences of disabled people when travelling, she had invaluable insights for all present.

Missed the meeting? Don’t worry, we’ve taken the key points from Eleonora’s foundational presentation and put them right here for you.

The truth is that many of these problems and negative experiences can be resolved with two simple things; thought, and education.

Picking up your whole life and moving to another country can be incredibly stressful. But if you or someone in your family is disabled, the stress is compounded by uncertainty. What are the facilities for people with disabilities like in the new country? Will access to services be possible?

With many relocation agents untrained in supporting these clients, it’s too easy to miss the signs of someone in need. That said, if we do notice an issue, many feel uncertain how to approach and offer help around someone with a disability.

This isn’t helped by the low expectations that many disabled people have when using services not designed for them. Simply put, they are so frequently overlooked or uncatered for, that they see that as the baseline of service. In fact, this happens so often, that many disabled people don’t mention, or even hide, their disability from service providers.

We can all agree that this isn’t how it should be.

The truth is that many of these problems and negative experiences can be resolved with two simple things; thought, and education.

For example, asking someone if they’re disabled can be confronting. However, asking if they have any particular needs relating to facilities or accessibility will allow someone to discuss what you can do to help, rather than what their “problems” are.

Similarly, if a client is insisting on ground floor accommodation, taking the time to ask whether this is a personal choice or an issue of accessibility gives an opportunity to disclose, rather than an intrusive challenge.

When it comes to showing accommodation, ensuring that you know what accessibility features are available at each property will save time and show your awareness of different needs.

Changing the way disabled people are seen to shift focus from the disability to the person behind it is essential. The best way to do this is with a standard toolkit within your business to upskill your team to support disabled people through education.

A toolkit is best developed by asking disabled people what they need. Establishing needs and preferences of real people who use your service. Then using those experiences to refine your processes and service offering for future users. Constantly evolving, developing and improving.

So, aside from a warm feeling of helping people, why should a business invest time, money and resources in making such a big change to your business?

It’s just good business, that’s why. Much of our industry works on good word of mouth. With disabled customers being so poorly taken care of, being one of the only companies offering them a professional, considered service will improve your reputation and attract more clients.

Additionally, many relocation agents work with HR teams who have diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements. By being able to include services specifically aimed at disabled customers, corporate clients will find your business a much more attractive and acceptable partner for their staff relocations.

Taking a stand to support disabled people is not only the right thing to do, but it will also help your business grow and give you a whole new set of services to offer. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a great idea!

Throughout 2024, we will be featuring a number of Industry Updates created in partnership with Destination Everywhere Accessible Travel. Together we will discuss some of the key concerns and challenges which disabled people face before, during and after relocation.

If you can’t wait for the next one, we recommend you reach out to Eleonora to see how she can help make your business a more disability supportive experience.

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