By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
accessibleGO.com is a full-service accessible travel platform providing search, reviews, and bookings of accessible hotels, cruises, transport and destinations worldwide. With timely insights, comprehensive resources, and a dynamic traveller community, accessibleGO is quickly becoming a valuable travel resource for planning accessible trips.
They're looking for more content regarding Canadian hotels and destinations. Right now, the website lists many Canadian hotels — information gained since they are members of the Priceline Partner Network — but only a handful have ratings and reviews. For example, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Toronto Airport West garnered four stars, while the Albert at Bay Street in Ottawa got five.
“We started in 2017, and we do a lot with non-profit organizations,” CEO and co-founder Miriam Eljas Goldman told CLN in an interview. “My mother had MS; that's how we all got involved. My mother was a wheelchair user and anywhere we went had to be accessible. There were so many places that weren't accessible locally, and when someone is travelling…”
Everything came together when she attended a hi-tech conference and had a casual conversation about a travel platform for people with disabilities. While the corporation itself is three years old, the launch with a fully-committed team began a year and a half ago.
Eljas Goldman, along with co-founders Jeffrey Schlanger (CTO) and Galia Kut, VP strategic planning, founded accessibleGO in 2017 to solve the travel problems that millions of people with disabilities face, from difficulty finding accessible hotels to unpleasant surprises at attractions that claim to be accessible.
For example, one guest checked into what was supposed to be an accessible room in Hawaii. But they couldn't enter the bathroom using a wheelchair. The guest was told they could used the bathroom in the lobby… and was not impressed.
accessibleGO worked with the Priceline Partner Network, obtaining access to their hotel inventory, which is listed on the website. Now they are working to collect hotel accessibility information from the hotels directly.
Hotels can make use of their free service listing accessibility features their hotel has, by going to the website go.accessibleGO.com and filling out a form. They are also interested in reviews, specifically about accessibility.
“I'm in Jerusalem,” Eljas Goldman said. “There's a big startup scene in Israel, and a lot of the resources there facilitated the startup. Co-founder Jeffrey Schlanger is in Florida, and co-founder Galia Kut, who is also in Jerusalem, is originally from Toronto.”
Even though she lives in Jerusalem, “we're focusing on North America as all the laws are in place and there is a larger market. All of our services are based in the U.S. as well.” Initially, the site is focusing on the top 30 U.S. cities and gathering content for each city. For example, for Las Vegas they have listings, plus an article on the Top 10 accessible hotels and the Top 10 attractions.
“Unlike other mainstream travel sites, we take five minutes to actually contact the property and make sure they have the services the guest needs. We send the customer an email to confirm their requests have been accommodated, following the phone call to the hotel. We call the customer if there is a problem.”
The corporation also uses materials prepared by Open Doors Organization to offer 30-minute online workshops that can familiarize staff with ways to handle different disabilities. This feature will be going live on the site in the next few months. For $500 U.S., hotels can become certified if their staff take the workshops and send in images to show that they meet the required criteria. “Then we can promote them on our website,” Eljas Goldman said.
On the guest side, membership used to be available only to those who were members of accessibleGO's partner organizations. Recently, that has changed and guests can become members provided they can prove membership in any accessibility-related organization. Member benefits include special rates that are 10 to 60 per cent lower than public rates.
While many of the entries on the site deal with physical or wheelchair-related disabilities, the site is also aimed at those with hearing or vision problems, and those with autism.
“Our Accessible Trip Resources will change the way people with disabilities travel, offering extensive on-the-go travel resources that solve problems like finding immediate local wheelchair repair or hiring a local caregiver,” the website says.
“Our Accessible Travel Ideas section offers hundreds of inspiring travel stories like top ten accessible attractions and recommended itineraries for exciting and memorable trips. Our booking engine will enable your travel arrangements, offering accessible solutions.”
A Celebration of Bill's Life will be held on Feb 10 at the Delta Toronto.