Italian tourism website provides holiday accommodation for people with disabilities

An online platform has been created in Sicily, Italy, to help disabled people find and book accommodation that caters to their special needs. The site encourages fair, non-discriminatory access to tourism and culture.

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The internet home page of Bookingbility ©Bookingbility Srls The internet home page of Bookingbility ©Bookingbility Srls

" The portal ensures there is accommodation with appropriate access to culture and tourism for visitors with disabilities or special needs, such as the blind, the deaf and the elderly. "

Aurelio Buglino – the platform’s director and analytics developer

Booking accommodation online and in real time is almost impossible for those who are disabled or have special needs. Such individuals often have to spend much time ensuring their holiday accommodation has proper accessibility and will work for them once they arrive at their destination.

The platform bookingbility.com was set up to tackle this problem and manages information on the accessibility and special facilities the tourism industry offers people with special needs. The website enables people to book in real time. It was created with a custom-developed algorithm that catalogues accommodation according to accessibility, giving clients targeted responses. 

Available in English and Italian, the platform offers a dual service by providing geolocations and cultural attractions in the area near the chosen accommodation. This allows people to find nearby recreational activities such as guided tours, and restaurants, which cater to their specific needs. 

Accessibility

The idea for the website evolved in 2015, when project partners tried to book a hotel online, searching for useful information on rooms for the disabled. They realised that websites allowing them to determine the accessibility of hotel rooms simply didn’t exist. Most booking sites did not provide information on whether specific rooms could be used by someone in a wheelchair, for example. 

As a solution to this, the platform details, in a standardised format, information on the accommodation on offer. An algorithm catalogues accommodation in line with Italian rules on accessibility and universal design guidelines, to make the information as objective as possible.

Fulfilling needs

The project provides for people with various requirements. This includes those in wheelchairs, but also children, the elderly, mothers pushing strollers, slow-moving individuals, those who cannot see or hear, and people with allergies or dietary problems. 

It seeks to combine tourism and the ability to respond to hospitality needs requiring extra care, dialogue and technical knowledge so that those with special needs have enough accurate information to select the alternatives best suited to their requirements. 

The project has won numerous awards, including the 2015 Startup Weekend Tourism Edition in Palermo and the National Service Sector Innovation Award in 2016 organised by the Confcommercio Imprese per l’Italia. In 2018, the French Ministry of Tourism granted the project permission to use the ‘Tourisme & Handicap’ label.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Bookingbility” is EUR 298 153, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 162 791 through the “Enterprises and Competitiveness” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Information and communication technologies”.