Disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions need special support and provisions from corporate travel managers.
Travel managers should always remain aware of their team members’ unique needs and circumstances — which means awareness of disabled business travelers and those with short- and long-term medical conditions.
Disabilities and medical conditions certainly affect the business traveler experience. But there are strategies for managing related challenges without straining a department’s resources.
In partnership with Booking.com, JTB Business Travel helped create an e-guide for traveler managers that addresses serving team members with disabilities and medical conditions. If you’re one of the many travel managers working with employees that need special accommodations, here’s a look at key considerations and best practices as shared in the e-guide below from Booking.com for Business and JTB Business Travel.
Making Reasonable Adjustments to Meet Duty of Care Obligations
Disabled business travelers generally don’t want or seek out special treatment. The same holds true of business travelers who have medical conditions. But travel managers have 2 key responsibilities that can’t be ignored when supporting these team members:
1. Making Reasonable Adjustments: Travel managers must always make reasonable adjustments to ensure the business traveler experience is no different for non-disabled and disabled business travelers, as well as those traveling with and without medical conditions. This is necessary from a risk management standpoint and for keeping the company insulated from anti-discrimination liability.
What strategies can help travel managers make reasonable adjustments while also living up to the duty of care obligation? Start with training for yourself, your team and any travel management companies or vendors you work with. Training will help ensure that everyone involved in the business traveler experience can provide service, no matter the physical requirements of individual travelers.
Also, take time to evaluate your in-house resources. If you feel that you and your team cannot make reasonable adjustments or live up to the duty of care obligation for disabled business travelers or those with medical conditions, seek outside help. Some travel management companies provide specialized service in these areas.
As part of your duty of care obligation, you may need to require pre-authorizations for disabled business travelers and any traveler with a medical condition.
Address Disabilities and Medical Conditions in Your Travel Policy
Your company should have in place a policy that regulates the business traveler experience. Make sure this policy includes 2 key provisions for disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions:
- Exceptions: In accordance with any traveler’s unique disability or medical condition, make exceptions that are noted in the traveler profile. These exceptions will allow travelers to make out-of-policy bookings when needed.
- Pre-Authorizations: As part of your duty of care obligation, you may need to require pre-authorizations for disabled business travelers and any traveler with a medical condition. Pre-authorizations are helpful with 3 things: 1) evaluating unique medical risks in specific destinations, 2) ensuring appropriate medical care is available in and around specific destinations, and 3) confirming that an employee is healthy and fit enough to travel to specific destinations.
Of course, exceptions and pre-authorizations should be used in a way that minimizes disruption to disabled business travelers and others with medical conditions. Always remember that the traveler experience should be as similar as possible for non-disabled and disabled business travelers, as well as travelers with and without medical conditions.
Keep Traveler Data and Information Updated
Many travel managers now have access to tools and systems for effective data management. The challenge as it related to disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions is keeping that data updated.
In order to ensure data is appropriately updated, consider:
- Procedures: Create a procedure that leads naturally to information and data updates.
- Incentives: Add incentives to your travel policy that encourage disabled business travelers to use your online booking system. Using the online system will help capture information updates as travelers create itineraries.
- Privacy: Always stress information and data privacy. The more you can demonstrate that privacy is a priority, the more willing disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions will be to keep their information updated.
Helping Disabled Business Travelers During Booking
While disabled business travelers may be reluctant to ask for special assistance, travel managers are uniquely positioned to ensure they get the accommodations they need. Unfortunately, there are no universal standards across airlines, rail providers, hotels, etc., which means booking can be an intensive process. Here are tips for how to handle booking:
- Airlines: Direct flights on larger airplanes work best. Direct flights eliminate what can be onerous layovers, and larger airplanes typically have better seating options and toilet accessibility. It’s also important to check if medications are allowed into the destination country, as well as to make arrangements for prescription refills if they are needed (always take along a copy of the original prescription). Make special requests at least 48 hours in advance.
- Rail Providers: Be aware that wheelchair-accessible seating may be available in first class only — but that most providers will charge only a second class fare for passengers using wheelchairs. Also, check if passengers need assistance getting off and on the train and with their luggage so that it can be noted at booking. Make special requests at least 24 hours in advance.
- Hotels: Encourage travelers to immediately get in touch should they need a more secure or appropriate room or location. For example, disabled guests may need ground-floor rooms, proximity to elevators, refrigerators for medication, accessible telephones and other special accommodations.
Always be prepared to assist disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions during their trips. It’s often helpful to have a hotline number that travelers can call should they need real-time assistance with airlines, rail providers, hotels or other accommodations. Be sure to ask your travel management company about this type of support — it may have a hotline number or other 24-hour customer service.
And, finally, follow up with disabled business travelers after their trips. Develop a sense of suppliers and providers that are good at accommodating disabled travelers, and always communicate reviews and feedback to your travel management company, if you work with one.
Booking Solutions for All Your Travelers
Booking is hard for all your travelers. They need to find flights and hotels that fit tight timeframes, and they need to do so while creating itineraries that fit into specific budgets.
At JTB Business Travel, we provide comprehensive booking solutions that support traveler managers and their travelers, including disabled business travelers and those with medical conditions. Behind every service we provide is a common sense approach to business travel.
Get in touch if we can help with your business travel, and learn more about supporting travelers with disabilities and medical conditions when you download the complete e-guide from Booking.com and JTB Business travel.