Successful businessman Brett Heising travels extensively on business, a sign of 'living the American Dream.' However, Mr. Heising travels with a disability. This dream can soon become a nightmare.
Business travelers generally have assistants or even company specified specialists arrange their travel, including hotels, flights and more. They don't need to give any thought to the process once they've submitted their business itinerary. For Brett, the process is similar: his assistant arranged his travel plans and advised the hotel that he used a wheelchair. No problem right? Well... no.
As Brett discovered during his many business and personal trips, people in wheelchairs very often don't get the accessible rooms with a roll in shower they need, regardless of who makes the reservation or how many times the hotel is called to remind them. Often, upon arrival, the traveler with a disability finds the room they are booked into is not what they were led to believe they were reserving or confirming. As Gillian Muessig, COO of brettapproved points out, "Depending on your accessibility requirements, the difference between having a room with a roll-in shower and a room with a tub with a grab bar is the difference between being clean or not for an entire conference!"
When Brett arrived at one particular hotel in San Francisco, he found that his room did not have a roll in shower and he could not shower in preparation for his morning business meeting. "I know there is consensus that messy hair is in, but not when you are to present yourself in a business meeting. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the bedhead look, no one is a fan of showing up for a business meeting without a shower, clean clothes, and a 'look' with which they are comfortable," says Mr. Heising.
As Brett began to think about his scenario, a question began to brew... how many others were experiencing these problems on the road? Was this mismatch of hotel rooms an odd occurrence? Was he just unlucky, or was this the norm? To answer his own question, Brett began to delve further. Astonished by the stories of travelers with disabilities of all kinds, supplemented by private and government statistics, and shocked by the lack of information about this fast growing and highly valuable target market among hoteliers and venue owners, Brett began brettapprovd.com - a community of travelers of all abilities that now numbers in the thousands. Along with Gillian Muessig, (cofounder Moz), Brett founded brettapproved.com, a travel and entertainment website that helps anyone with a physical disability or mobility challenge 'travel confidently '.
brettapproved® is the world's first algorithm-driven, scalable rating, review, and booking website devoted to serving the needs of travelers with disabilities and their families and friends. The site began its test market in Phoenix AZ and, with some Angel funding is now fast becoming a go-to place for people with disabilities to ﬁnd suitable venues, share experiences, and book travel - locally or globally -- with conﬁdence. In short, brettapproved.com serves as TripAdvisor, Yelp and AAA for disabled and mobility-challenged travelers.
"Whether you're traveling around the corner or around the world, brettapproved.com provides the information and services you need to travel confidently, "say Brett Heising, CEO of brettapproved.
The statistics tell the story; by 2020, approximately 25% of the global population - 1.7 billion people - will have some form of disability. "It's time to stop thinking of 'ability' and 'disability,' Gillian says. "All humans live with abilities that lie somewhere on a continuum. Think of it as having decathletes at one end and Stephen Hawking at the other. People at both ends of the spectrum have huge value on this planet and all of them deserve to experience as much of life as possible. That's why brettapproved exists. We're a community of travelers who share our knowledge and experience to help others replicate or expand on our experience of local to international travel."
Within the next 10 years, the numbers of Americans over the age of 50 will increase by 40%, and by 2030, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will exceed 70.3 million. Consider that 30% of all Americans will have some form of disability and they hold the nation's purse strings, controlling more than 50% of all buying power, 75% of the nation's asset's, $150 billion in annual discretionary income, and more than 80% of all luxury travel.
"Accessibility is a central element of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy. It is both a human rights imperative, and an exceptional business opportunity. Above all, we must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs; it benefits us all."
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General
Clearly, brettapproved has hit a nerve and is riding a trend. One thing is certain, serendipity, or perhaps destiny, has made Brett Heising 'The Most Accessible CEO' in both the startup space and in the travel industry.