Discover Kalamazoo received their full ask of $57,500 to fund a community accessibility audit of Kalamazoo County. The destination marketing organization submitted an application for the Accessible Traveler Grant in the fall of 2023 with the partnership of Wheel the World and Disability Network Southwest Michigan. Discover Kalamazoo will be using the grant, along with matching funds, to engage Wheel the World and local experts Disability Network Southwest Michigan to map at least 130 locations across the county. Sites will be selected based on their connection to the tourism sector in Kalamazoo County and will cover a wide range of locations that visitors frequent including attractions, lodging, restaurants, and transportation facilities. For local business that wish to be considered, a request form is available online here. “Wheel the World is thrilled to partner with Discover Kalamazoo on this groundbreaking initiative,” said Yoel Waisberg, Head of Destination Verified at Wheel the World. “Together, we’re shaping a more inclusive travel landscape by mapping Kalamazoo County’s hotels, restaurants, and experiences for travelers with disabilities. As proud members of the Destination Verified program, we look forward to making Kalamazoo County an accessible destination of choice for all adventurers.” Learnings from these site visits will provide several benefits for travelers, local businesses, and residents. Following each audit, the business will receive an insights report identifying their accessible offerings and ways to enhance accessibility for their guests. Business listings will be created on both the Wheel the World website and Discover Kalamazoo’s website to aid travelers with accessibility needs in their trip planning. Online training programs on accessible travel will also be offered to all business partners for employee education. These benefits to visitors also extend to residents in the area as they will have the same access to the listings online and share in enhanced guest experiences. All of these initiatives are aimed at creating more accessibility for visitors to Kalamazoo County and directly tie to Discover Kalamazoo’s vision of sharing Kalamazoo with everyone. “Visitor spending in Kalamazoo County has been steadily growing, and for this growth to continue we need to encourage more potential travelers to consider Kalamazoo County as their destination,” said Jane Ghosh, President and CEO of Discover Kalamazoo. “This work will help us attract and welcome visitors with accessibility needs, who make up a significant portion of travelers. The Michigan Strategic Fund, under the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), approved grant funds to be distributed to 16 destination marketing organizations around the state, including Discover Kalamazoo. These funds were awarded through the Accessible Traveler Grant that will support local destination marketing organizations in their tourism efforts to provide a more accessible experience to all. Per the MEDC website, the recently awarded funds are part of a 10M+ EDA State Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation grant that were “allocated to Michigan in 2021 for statewide travel and tourism marketing and advertising efforts to help the travel industry rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The support for the Accessible Traveler Grant is one aspect of the MEDC and Travel Michigan’s commitment to improving accessibility across the state.