market. As noted above, as the 77 million baby boomers become senior citizens, the use of wheelchairs will skyrocket. Businesses that want to attract this market, will have to become wheelchair friendly. Many American firms do not have a choice because of the ADA.
Ray and Ryder (2003) studied the travel needs of individuals who were mobility impaired. They found that the mobility impaired are definitely interested in travel and sports and do not sit at home; moreover, they were quite skeptical of travel agents who did not truly understand their needs. This is why it is important to hire disabled people to market one’s products and services. The disabled use the Internet and word of mouth to make travel plans.
The Ahnafield Corp. modifies vans so that disabled individuals including quadriplegics may easily get in and out of them and also drive them. The vans can be modified with voice-activated mechanisms so that individuals without the use of arms and legs can drive them. Remote controlled ramps and dropped floors permit easy access to those in wheelchairs. The firm also manufactures a “drive by wire” joystick so that a disabled person with the use of only a hand can control a vehicle; zero-effort steering wheels are made for those with limited arm use (Donhardt, 2005).
The demographics of America are rapidly changing and it is estimated that by the year 2050, approximately fifty percent of Americans will belong to various ethnic groups, mainly Hispanic/Latino, African American, and Asian American. Many U.S. companies are aware of this and are targeting ethnic groups using multicultural marketing (Burton, 2005). The disabilities market is another story. This paper focuses on this market and demonstrates the importance of paying attention to this market. The best way to create products for individuals with disabilities is to ask the disabled directly what they need. This is one reason companies must hire the disabled (Friedman, Lopez-Pumarejo, and Friedman, 2006).
Greg Smith, a radio host who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 13, and subject of a PBS documentary (“On a Roll”) made the following observation: ''The difference between racial discrimination and disability discrimination, is that racial discrimination is based more on hate, and disability discrimination is based more on fear, awkwardness, stigma, coming to terms face to face, flesh to flesh, with your own mortality, your own vulnerability to becoming one of them” (Gates, 2005). Companies must understand that diversity goes beyond women and ethnic minorities. To be truly diversified, firms have to be concerned about the needs of the disabled. This includes those in wheelchairs, the deaf, the blind, and the mentally ill; true workforce diversity is vital for firms that desire to thrive well into the future. Ideally, every product or service should be tested by every kind of disabled person, i.e., those with mobility, vision, hearing, or speech impairments and the obese, and the mentally challenged. Those who were not born with a disability should bear in mind that they have a very strong chance of developing a handicap before retiring. In theory, we are all an accident away from becoming disabled. Even without