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Welcoming the Disabled Spa-goer

The Royal Caribbean cruise line follows the lead of the ADA accessibility guidelines for land-based facilities, resulting in leading-edge spas that are available for all clients, disabled or otherwise.

By: Naomi Serviss
Posted: September 28, 2012, from the October 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Liz Henry of San Francisco is an avid spa-goer, despite a chronic pain condition that makes it painful for her to lie face down on a treatment table. “I’m not in a wheelchair, but I have difficulty walking,” she says. “I love spas and go regularly to Kabuki Springs, a day spa in San Francisco. It has a lift to get you past the stairs, and it has an accessible bathroom. The main spa room is big, and the staff is very attentive and always brings you things.”

A sauna and hot tub fan, Henry also enjoys reflexology treatments. “What I like about the staff in another spa”—Natalie Salon in Redwood City, California—”is that there aren’t any jaded therapists,” says Henry. “People ask if you need help, like taking off your socks, and they really listen. They don’t act like it’s a big pain to help,” she says. “Everyone is very positive and helpful. And I like the spas that advertise their accessibility, especially on their websites.”

Bruce Schoenberg knows full well the importance of encouraging the disabled consumer to spend quality time in his spas. “When I first entered the spa industry, I became aware that there were so many kinds of people attracted to spas,” explains Schoenberg, the owner of three Oasis Day Spas in the New York City area. Among them is the disabled community.

“There is a huge range of potential clients, whether they are physically handicapped or not,” says Schoenberg, who has a family member with a disability. “The key is making everyone a future client and making everyone feel welcome.”

Approximately 54 million Americans are disabled—19% of the population—and they have an estimated disposable income of $175 billion. The baby boomer generation (born between 1946–1964), one of the most influential age groups in the country, will soon be adding big numbers to the disabled demographic. Discretionary spending from boomers has understandably attracted the eye of those in the skin care, spa, health, wellness and travel industries. By the age of 65, statistics show, two-thirds of the U.S. population will have at least one chronic disease or physical ailment. As baby boomers age, some will require a wheelchair or other navigational equipment.