In today’s world, travel isn’t restrictive. Regardless of whether you’re fit and health, have a physical impairment, learning disability, or any other condition, there should be no excuse to avoid travelling. You’ll be able to visit even the most exotic of destinations to experience what our planet has to offer.
From South America to Southampton, there’s no need to be hampered by a disability. In this s ection of the resource we provide information on planning your next trip with a disability and how to enjoy the world hassle-free.
Planning & packing for your holiday
For any trip to be a success you need to thoroughly prepare for the adventure. As such, packing will be an important part of the process and you’ll have to double check you’ve everything needed.
Whilst preparing for your getaway, make sure to ask the following questions:
• What is the duration of your trip?
• Will the temperature or humidity cause any problems?
• What medication will you need to take?
• Do you have specialist equipment?
• What are the luggage restrictions on the plane, ferry or train you’re taking?
After these initial questions, you should be able to start planning properly for the adventure. For instance, check with your airline if a mobility scooter can be taken onboard and make sure to get enough medication prescribed from your doctor.
Now you’ll need to start making a list of everything you need for a safe and enjoyable holiday. This would include all the usual suspects such as clothes and toiletries, through to any specialist equipment and medication you may need. Consider the climate of where you’re travelling to as well – don’t forget the sun cream and hat if you’re going somewhere particularly hot.
If on the other hand, you’ll be expecting colder weather, consider a waterproof jacket, extra layers and a coat. You’ll also want a few warm pairs of shoes.
Medication will be vital to your packing. You’ll need to plan for the length of your trip and ensure you have enough for both the duration plus a little extra, in the event of delays. Whilst many countries overseas will have some brilliant pharmacies to stock up on your medication, there could be a language barrier that’ll prevent you getting your message across. If you do need to visit a pharmacy on your travels, make sure you know both the name of the medication and what it does – this should help you out somewhat in translation.
Whenever you’re travelling overseas you should always keep a doctor’s letter on your persons too. This will outline your disability, the medication you’re on and the conditions of your health. It will definitely help should you experience any difficulties abroad and need to receive treatment.
Depending on your impairment or disability, the airline may ask you to complete a form with your conditions and the medication you’re taking. This is known as a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) and varies from company to company. You should be able to print this off from the respective website though.
As mentioned in the first chapter, travel insurance will also be crucial. This safeguards you from paying out for medical bills and expenses because of a problem occurring overseas.
You’ll want to consider the equipment you require too. Whilst you wouldn’t think much of it at home, it’s extra luggage you’ll need to bring along for your travels. Make a note of everything you need and contact the airline to find out if they’ll have to make specific arrangements. For instance, those with a mobility scooter may need to remove the battery and have it stored separately during travel.
Transport & accommodation when abroad
Depending on where you’re travelling to, it should be pretty straightforward to arrange your travel and accessible accommodation.
Arranging transport abroad
After getting off the plane in your chosen destination, you could well be in a non-English speaking country. Therefore, if you have a disability and need to arrange transport to your accommodation, make sure to plan ahead and ensure everything’s in place for your arrival. First of all, you’ll want transport that has enough room for yourself, any fellow passengers and your equipment. Book ahead and arrange a taxi or minibus that can provide this.
Not only this, but ensure you have transportation to the airport in the first place. Let the taxi firm know you’ll need a larger space (if required), ensuring you get all your equipment onboard and don’t have to leave anything behind.
Whether you’re travelling to the airport at home or abroad, give yourself plenty of time for getting there. Plan to arrive three hours in advance, as this will give you a bit of leeway should you suffer delays or traffic on the roads. You should also make sure to know your rights as a disabled traveler, in the event you come unstuck when trying to board the plane at either end.
Planning your transport thoroughly should help the start of your holiday to be as hassle-free as possible. Give yourself plenty of time and arrange accessible transport for you and your equipment.
Booking accommodation for your holiday
When you book accommodation, you probably know just how important it is to find somewhere to stay that’s accessible. This should be your first priority and fortunately, there is a wealth of fantastic accommodation up for grabs that will be suitable for people with all disabilities.
For instance, depending on your disability, you may require ramps or lifts to access rooms above the ground floor. Although these are likely standard in most hotels worldwide, it’s always best to double check before booking. You could even ask for ground floor accommodation to help avoid difficulty.
Research the surrounding area and terrain before booking up a resort. Even if a hotel is accessible and can cater to all your requirements, the landscape nearby may not be suitable. Use Google’s Street View to get an idea of what’s local, including any shops or supermarkets.
The room’s facilities will also be important and you should be able to check these online. You could also try calling or emailing the hotel to find out if there are any accessible rooms you could stay in. Your disability may require hand bars, lower wardrobes and easy access showers. Make sure to book the right room and steer clear of complications when you arrive. An accessible room should be fitted with all the above, so it’s definitely worth making the call.
Also, if you have your heart set on a particular destination, it could be worthwhile checking out guides and resources to find the best places to stay in the area. Find out what services are nearby and book a hotel with excellent wheelchair facilities if applicable. This type of accommodation can be booked all over the world.
Day-to-day activities & emergency help
Travelling abroad isn’t about being cooped up in your hotel all day. Don’t let your disability or impairment prevent you from seeing the sights and wonders of the world. Of course, what’s feasible will depend on your condition, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to take part in snow sports, visit the pyramids of Egypt or discover Peru’s Machu Picchu.
If you’re travelling with disabled children, the options aren’t limited either. Depending on your resort, water parks and attractions are all accessible for travellers with a disability, so you can still visit as a family. Check what facilities are available before making a booking and ensure your requirements can be met. It’s possible do this by researching online and even contacting a resort you’re considering, to find out what can be catered for.
Remember, it’s not always the case that you’ll need to leave the country. There are some amazing destinations in the UK, so don’t think you’ll have to get on a plane to make lifelong memories.
Depending on the region you’re travelling to and what you plan to do when abroad, certain emergency situations may arise. Whether it’s calling local authorities or visiting a hospital for treatment, this can be stressful when you’re in a foreign country and can’t speak the language. As such, our first piece of advice would be to ensure staying calm at all times and keeping a level head when possible.
It’s also advised to find out where your nearest pharmacy and hospital are. This will save precious time if an emergency situation does occur. You’ll know exactly where to go and the best route to take in order to arrive safely.
Even if you’re not fluent in the language, if possible you should try to learn basic phrases that’ll come in use. For instance, you may want to find out the names of certain medical conditions and the medication you’re taking. This can certainly help when trying to talk to a doctor.
Note down the right emergency number to call too. This changes around the world and by knowing the right number, you’ll save time later on. Throughout Europe, the emergency number is 112, whilst in the United States you’ll need to dial 911.
Most accommodating cities for disabled travelers
Whilst a disability, impairment or medical condition shouldn’t play a part in which area of the world you visit, there are a number of cities around the globe that better cater for accessible travel. In this section you can find some of the best cities to visit with a disability.
The capital of the Netherlands is as good a place to start as any and this wonderful city fully caters with accessible travel. From the moment you arrive in Amsterdam there’s the opportunity to use specific caddies and wheelchair provision transport. Attractions in the city are also popular with disabled travellers and many of the buildings have been retrofitted to comply with your accessible requirements.
As you would expect from Germany’s capital, Berlin is rich with history and there’s much to see and do all over the city. This includes the Berlin Wall, Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. Fortunately, the city is very accommodating for disabled visitors too and wheelchair access is provided throughout. Accessible transport could be a little better, but this certainly shouldn’t put you off a visit.
As is much of Scandinavia, Helsinki has created an accessible environment to ensure visitors have the best possible experience. Whether you’re flying to Helsinki or visiting the Finnish capital by cruise ship, there are plenty of disabled provisions. Guided tours of the city can take you away from steps and certain experiences even have a 5-star accessibility rating.
Moving away from Europe and looking across the Atlantic, we have Canada and specifically, Vancouver. In Vancouver the hotels are notorious for being complete with accessible space, whilst the transport lines are excellent too. In fact, TransLink is one of the world’s leading providers of accessible transport, whilst the SkyTrain and SeaBus are both fantastic as well. Why not visit the beautiful city of Vancouver?
Sticking Stateside, we have the city of Seattle – named as the best city in the US for wheelchair access. The Emerald City offers a range of brilliant accessible transportation, including light rail, ferries, taxis and buses. Plus, there are plenty of great attractions to immerse yourself in, so you’ll never have a dull day. This includes the Space Needle Observation Deck, Seattle Aquarium and Experience Music Project.
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