Travelling with a disability: The organisations making the world more accessible

This Global Accessibility Awareness Day (18 May), find out who is leading the way when it comes to making the world more inclusive...

5 mins

"More hotels in London invite dogs to stay in their rooms than they do disabled people,” Richard Thompson, founder of Inclu, explains. It rings true; I’ve seen the press releases and marketing campaigns to confirm it. And while it might be incongruous for an industry based on hospitality – showing kindness to others – to be so slow off the mark, that means some 14.6 million disabled people in the UK alone are currently being ignored.

Richard believes tourism needs a mindset shift. After breaking his neck in a skiing accident, he became tetraplegic; he can walk but cannot use his hands. It’s something that he has learnt to control and live with, and it doesn’t stop him travelling as passionately as he did before his accident. But he needs the travel industry to catch up with him.

“Most disabled people don’t identify as ‘disabled’, and so the default marketing about ramps and accessible hotel rooms doesn’t resonate. What disabled travellers need is inclusion and for businesses to listen to their needs and be willing to adapt,” he continues.

Victoria Kruse, director of sustainability & wellness at Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences, agrees. She says: “The magic always happens when you listen to the needs of guests, whether they have additional needs or not. Our guest preference form is gold here.”

Amilla is located in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll (Shutterstock)

Amilla is located in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll (Shutterstock)

At Amilla, this means noticing that someone is struggling at the breakfast buffet and offering to help them with tongs or carrying a plate, setting aside a table at a distance for a guest who is immune compromised, or finding an inclusive activity in the kids’ club for a child with a learning disability.

Listening to the needs of others is a recurring theme in sustainable travel, and creating an inclusive travel experience is no different. One tour operator that knows this is InsideJapan, which has spent the last decade creating accessible versions of their trips. By working with paraplegic travel blogger Josh Grisdale, the company were able to better understand the needs of disabled travellers. This led to the creation of a Wheelchair Accessible Golden Route in Japan, a library of resources, and the assigning of an ‘Accessible Travel Guardian’ to each destination branch.

Canopy & Stars, specialists in glamping and nature-based stays, also did plenty of listening before setting up their ‘Accessibility Hub’, which launched in October 2022. Alongside working with disability consultant Sophie Morgan on an ongoing basis, the company provides compulsory disability awareness training to employees and have formed an internal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Accessibility team.

The ‘Accessibility Hub’ provides guests with the information needed to identify the best places to stay to meet their needs, such as Wonham Oak, a cabin surrounded by woodland and with an outdoor bathtub. It’s one of the portfolio’s more accessible options, but getting that kind of information hasn’t always been so easy for travellers. It sounds like a simple idea, but as Richard alludes to, inclusivity is about everyone feeling like they belong. Laying out the welcome mat is just the start.


Read next 10 things every traveller with a disability should know

Sophie Morgan said the Maldives are becoming a more wheel-chair accessible destination (

Sophie Morgan said the Maldives are becoming a more wheel-chair accessible destination (

Sophie Morgan is an award-winning TV presenter and disability advocate. She picks her favourite travel moments and tells us about who is getting it right.

“My most recent visit to Amilla Maldives was unforgettable and one of the best trips of my life. The island is picture-perfect, and the people who work at the Amilla resort made my stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible – I was even finally able to learn how to scuba dive with the help of their dive school. As a paraplegic, I never thought I’d find myself in the Maldives, as it’s not the most wheelchair-accessible destination, but the team there are changing that. It’s beyond exciting. Another wonderful experience I had was in California, where I took a road trip on an adapted three-wheeled motorbike called a Ryker. It’s by the company Can-Am, for whom I’m a very proud ambassador. The ride from Los Angeles to San Diego was epic – there’s nothing like a bit of ‘wind therapy!’ This year I also filmed the second series of my show, Living Wild: How to Change Your Life. This took me all around the UK, visiting some of the hardest places to access, including small remote islands off Scotland and Ireland. Over three months, we covered hundreds of miles and met some extraordinary people. The series airs on Channel 4 in 2023.”

Four companies leading the way for disability-inclusive travel

Amilla Maldives

Located in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, Amilla was the first resort in the world to be verified by Inclucare, the UK-based experts in accessible and inclusive hospitality. Adaptive yoga classes, beach wheelchairs and calming spaces for those on the autism spectrum are just some of the services on offer.

Morocco Accessible Travel

With its epic mountains and deserts, Morocco is not the most accessible of destinations, but dedicated tour operator Morocco Accessible Travel offers trips tailor-made to meet disabled travellers’ needs, covering everything from city tours and hot-air balloon rides to camel treks

Rough Guide to Accessible Britain

The ninth edition of the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain was launched in the summer of 2022. It includes details and reviews of over 200 UK destinations and places to stay, with entries written by reviewers who have a disability themselves.

Tropical North Queensland

After consulting local disabled organisations, Tropical North Queensland has added an ‘Accessibility Hub’ to its Cairns & Great Barrier Reef destination site to assist travellers with mobility impairment in selecting activities and itineraries.

Sophie snorkels alongside a manta ray in the Maldives, where she also learnt to scuba dive (@soulseapixels)

Sophie snorkels alongside a manta ray in the Maldives, where she also learnt to scuba dive (@soulseapixels)

Reality check: Let's all drive change

As Sophie Morgan says: “Travelling as a disabled person is not easy. The greatest barriers we face are in transport. Flying can be terrifying for many reasons, but if we (and our assistive technologies) are lucky enough to arrive somewhere in one piece, the world is opening up. There are more and more destinations making great efforts to be inclusive. Travellers and consultants, such as me, have a responsibility to promote the destinations that are doing so already, or we apply pressure to those who aren’t. The industry needs to be reminded that the appetite is there; we all want to travel, and it’s not hard to implement small changes that make a huge impact on guest wellbeing.”

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