I have Cerebral Palsy, a physical disability and travel a lot for both business and pleasure. Throughout my travels, there has been a big pain point – finding an accessible hotel room that meets my needs. As a technology consultant with my MBA, I set out to solve this problem.
Let’s start with a story. In November 2016, I had a business trip to San Francisco to work with one of my clients. We booked an accessible room and called the hotel to ensure I would get a roll in shower. The hotel ensured us this would be no problem and made note of it in my reservation. I arrived at the hotel, checked in and went up to my hotel room. I immediately checked the bathroom like I always do – I have a bathtub, no roll in shower. I return to the front desk and soon find out that this hotel has no room with a roll in shower. They find me a room at another hotel around the corner. I go check into that room, the room is very small but has a roll in shower! The room is so small that when the rollaway bed for my personal assistant was open, I couldn’t access the bathroom. We slept here and the next day we found a room at the third hotel that worked! Third time is a charm!
Unfortunately, this is the norm and not an isolated story. According to the Open Doors Organization’s 2015 Market Study, 46% of hotel guests with disabilities experience obstacles during their hotel stay. As a national disability advocate, I am not okay with this status quo. Travelers with disabilities need to be able to travel without having to worry about not having appropriate hotel room when they arrive at their destination. Solving this problem is very tricky because reliable hotel accessibility data doesn’t exist and hotel staff are uninformed.
I knew I was the right person to solve this problem. With that in mind, I entered Bellingham’s 2016 54-Hour Startup Challenge and pitched this problem. Throughout that weekend, I worked with a team of three others to find a business model to solve this problem. We worked around the clock and created a business model, the foundation for AbiliTrek. We pitched our solution to the judges and we won first place! It was February 1, 2016 and the journey started!
I dedicated the next 14 months to making AbiliTrek a reality. I networked my way to the partnerships required and hired staff to develop the product. I juggled my IT accessibility consulting job along with running a startup until I went all in at the end of February 2017 and quit my consulting job. We went live on April 25, 2017. I funded the product development myself and soon after launch secured a small investment from the Bellingham Angel Investors.
Now I need your support. AbiliTrek’s goal is to empower the disability community with the Ability to Trek without boundaries. I have dedicated my life these past 18 months to solving this issue and making this solution a reality. To accomplish this goal, the AbiliTrek platform relies on accessibility reviews of hotels by its users. We need our users to help us, help you. The data from user reviews will be available in our hotel search for the next user. We need to get the word out to build up the AbiliTrek user base. The more reviews we get, the more informed our users will be about which hotels meet their needs – improving their travel experience. We also need you to book your hotels through us. Hotel bookings provide us with the funding to keep AbiliTrek going. Anyone can book their hotel stays through AbiliTrek, so please go ahead and book your next hotel now at abilitrek.com.
I have dedicated the last 18 months to revolutionizing accessible travel by making the AbiliTrek platform a reality. Now I encourage you to join in the AbiliTrek community. Please reach out to me with any ideas you have that could take AbiliTrek to the next level. You can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (888) 625-2010. Thank you in advance for your support to solve this important issue!