The husband recently traveled to Monterrey, Mexico on a business trip. He is also a wheelchair user so needless to say there were a few concerns with him traveling across the border to a city neither of us had visited before. His travel through the airport via American Airlines and accommodations at his Holiday Inn hotel were surprisingly some of the smoothest parts of his travel. His wheelchair arrived safe and sound and the hotel was even able to arrange a taxi service to and from business each morning and evening. The great part about visiting a large world city like Monterrey is that public transportation and taxis are widely available. Below are some more tips for those of us with disabilities that can help you find a way to get around any obstacles that may be holding you back from traveling to the destination of your choice!
Call ahead to the destinations, airports, hotels and facilities you know you are planning on visiting. Tell them you are a traveler with a disability and ask about accessibility far in advance. Make sure to ask specific questions. Often an able-bodied perspective of what is “accessible” is not a disabled person’s acceptable level of accessibility. Ask the airlines if they can arrange a “pusher” to help you through the airport. Label all the parts of your equipment, especially if your wheelchair, scooter or other equipment comes apart into several pieces. We have found that using mailing labels with our names and address on them works great just in case a piece goes missing.
Know where you are going.
Do your research ahead of time. Your nerves will calm and your trip will go more smoothly if you start researching information about your destination long before you’re boarding your flight. Think about planning a daily itinerary. This will help you stay on schedule and make sure you’re able to see and do everything you want during your trip without running out of time or feeling rushed. Once you arrive, talk to the locals. Your hotel concierge is a great point of contact willing to recommend local sights and give you inside travel tips. Keep your eye out for the free maps in your hotel lobby or airport that you can use when you arrive at your destination. Check the maps carefully and be flexible when you’re out and about. As my husband quickly learned one end of a sidewalk may have a curb cut while the other end had 2 steps down. Stay flexible and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Find a travel companion.
Consider choosing a travel spot where you have a personal contact or connection that you might be able to call upon during your stay. Local contacts not only have great insight to the fun spots in town but they can be a reassuring guide in case you find yourself in a pickle. They can give you pointers about the best accessible routes or some alternative ways of getting around.
Keep taxi, public transportation and emergency numbers handy.
Research these numbers ahead of time and program them into your phone. You’ll be thankful these numbers are fast and easy to access in case you should need them in an emergency situation. Make sure to keep a number for an accessible taxi at the top of your list. These can be few and far between especially in other countries.
For people with disabilities, there may be a lot more planning we have to do, but it will pay off in the end. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. There’s a whole world out there!
*photo courtesy flickr creative commons