Back in 1999, my son, then 8, and I backpacked across Indonesia. Our plan was to start on the island of Timor and work our way to Komodo Island, famous for its Komodo dragons.
In planning the trip, I looked at the map and it appeared to be about 60 miles by bus. I thought it would be a relatively short ride, a couple of hours at the most.
The once-daily bus was scheduled to depart at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., a vehicle pulled up. The “bus” appeared to be a Winnebago with cutouts for windows painted a psychedelic metallic purple. The exterior was covered with a webbing of steel bars.
We piled in and grabbed the last two seats available in the back. Our seats were next to live chickens.
As the ride progressed, we met three Dutch nationals who had been traveling in Indonesia for several months and made fast friends. For the rest of our trek, they taught us how to navigate the country. To this day, my son and I fondly remember that ride, which, incidentally, took more than 12 hours due to less-than-ideal road conditions.
That trip represents much of what we believe at Sabre:
- Travel opens doors to unforgettable experiences.
- Travel is an inalienable right — everyone, regardless of their circumstances — should have the opportunity to experience something unforgettable like riding a bus from one side of Indonesia to the other.
- Travel can be very challenging and being able to take advantage of other’s expertise can improve the experience.
Following those principles, we’ve worked with the National Federation of the Blind to make Travelocity more accessible. We want the amazing experience of travel to be available to everyone — whether young or old, sighted or non-sighted.
We’re the only major online travel company and one of the first e-commerce companies committed to making our Web site fully accessible to blind people.
In just 18 months, we have transformed Travelocity. But we still have work to do.
We are in the midst of completing and releasing accessibility changes. Once in place, our hotel, vacation package and flight shopping will enable blind people to plan and book their next vacation using readers.
Our next milestone calls for cruise shopping and booking to be accessible by the end of 2012, just in time for the beginning of next year’s wave season when the cruise lines offer their best deals. We also plan to have other high-traffic pages accessible at the same time.
When all of this work is completed, we will be the first and only online travel company to make its site fully accessible to blind people.
One of our developers said it best: “I understand now how many different things can make travel feel difficult or can take the enjoyment out of the experience. There are so many more factors blind people need to account for when going through each of the steps to plan, book and take a trip. The best thing we at Travelocity can do is to try to make the booking process as easy and fast as possible.”
Accessibility for the Travelocity site is a journey, not a destination, and we’re committed to making that journey. We are making travel accessible to everyone and look forward to maintaining a strong partnership with the NFB.