Amidst a considerable increase in “disabled travel” or “accessible travel,” which simply alludes to travel by individuals with disabilities, it is imperative for the travel industry to wake up to the special needs of travelers with disabilities by giving greater accessibility.
Traveling can turn out to be arduous when you have mobility restrictions. You are likely to feel a bit uneasy before heading out of the comfort of your home. As if that weren’t enough, many individuals with disabilities find walking long distance difficult, while some are unable to walk on their own at all.
Having central core disease didn't stop Jackie Witt from visiting France and Ireland. “Because of my disability, I want to know everything I’m going to be faced with while traveling, which obviously isn’t possible,” she said.
Witt recalls one of her most challenging travel days when she was waiting for a ferry in Ireland during low tide. Reaching the boat required her to take a dangerous slide across moss-covered stone steps that didn’t have a railing.
A fellow passenger and her mother stayed on either side of her while she crossed the moss-laden path. A crew member pulled her up and shifted her onto the deck.
A 2015 survey conducted by ODO (Open Doors Organization) indicates that 3 out of every 10 Americans with disabilities traveled outside the continental United States. Just as the boomer generation ages, experts predict a considerable upsurge in the need for accessible travel.
Regardless of how prepared you are before stepping outside of your home as a traveler with a disability, there are a few obstacles you can't really prepare for. Nevertheless, it is still possible to minimize them with circumspect planning. Let's take a gander at a few tips for traveling with a disability.
Select an Appropriate Destination
The group travel coordinator for Flying Wheels Travel, Timothy Holtz says, “People might be surprised to learn you can take an accessible trip to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon rainforest.” Flying Wheels Travel is an agency that focuses on accessible trips.
On one of his recent travels, Holtz noticed the inclusion of ramps at places of worships in Japan. He also saw a wheelchair stair climber lift added at the Acropolis in Athens and an elevator at the Roman Forum.
A considerable number of destinations are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to become barrier-free. Lining with this, a nationally-launched accessibility standard and certification program was introduced in Germany a few years ago. The country is tediously calling attention to nearly 185 places to visit and accessible things to do in its online brochure dubbed, "Enjoy with Ease."
Old cities are less likely to be navigate-friendly for travelers with disabilities. Do not assume a destination is inaccessible without first consulting with a travel agent, particularly when you are planning to make a cruise or multi-country trip. Always Do Your Research
If you prefer planning your own trip, it is imperative for you to ask certain questions. For instance, what is the span of hotel elevator doors? Some are not broad enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
Thoroughly check the cruise line's policies regarding accessibility before booking a cruise as some insist upon a companion for passengers with disabilities.
You can find out more details about destinations by heading straight to their official tourism offices online. Also, bear in mind that the nomenclature differs from one place to another.
Try a variety of keywords including "barrier-free," "disabled," "handicapped," "reduced mobility," and "special needs” while conducting internet searches.
Appoint a Professional
Planning a trip abroad is no child's play. In order to expedite your trip preparation, appoint specialized travel agencies that can help you with booking flights, accommodations, cruises, tours, transportation, and shore excursions.
There are a few travel agencies that can provide a travel companion, the purchase of travel insurance and rental of medical equipment. Also, find out about accessible travel agent's experience before hiring him/her.
John Sage, who is the founder of two accessible travel agencies, spends a lot of time exploring destinations. One of Sage's travel companies, Sage Traveling is located in Europe, while the other, Accessible Caribbean Vacations is located in the Caribbean.
A snow skiing accident rendered him wheelchair-bound for life, but this didn't stop the adventure enthusiast from visiting 42 countries on four continents.
According to Sage, there are a few common barriers that travelers with disabilities are likely to encounter in foreign countries. These include the absence of narrow bathroom doors, lack of steps at the entrance to buildings, and ramps at curbs.
Thanks to his exploration experience, he can tell travelers exactly how far their hotel from the nearest bus stop is, provide details about routes that don't have cobblestones and how can they access Eiffel Tower's elevator.
Get Ready for Air Travel
Large airports pose a serious challenge for people with limited mobility. Maneuvering the colossal airports, carrying medical equipment and navigating security can be strenuous.
If you need extra assistance, inform the airline when you book a reservation and also when you arrive at the airport.
Book Hotels Carefully
Reserve room at hotels that are located in the city center and are not far from major sights early.
“You are competing with the rest of the people who have disabilities from around the world for a handful of rooms. The longer you wait, the worse the location and you’ll have to take a bus or taxi to see the attractions,” says Sage, whose Sage Traveling company usually books European hotels nine months in advance.
Find Out How Will You Manoeuvre
Usually, carrying a mobility device from one place to another requires traveling in an accessible vehicle. The black cabs in London have small ramps that are built into the floorboards, and this facilitates boarding an accessible taxi.
There is a possibility that other destinations may not have enough accessible taxis, which imply you may have to book it at least 24 hours if not days in advance.
Wheelchair users should normally avoid subways since elevators are either absent or inoperable. However, some cities have accessible city buses that have ramps.
It is absolutely OK to ask others, including strangers, for help. “Having a disability makes you resourceful and you learn to adapt to your physical environment,” Witt said.
"Now, she knows traveling requires pacing herself. Sometimes, she opts to stay on the tour bus and view the sights from afar. I’m stressed before I go, but I feel really good when I get back — I’ve seen the world,” she added.
(Image Credit: 27707 / Pixabay)