Traveling With One Arm Tied Behind Your Back

If you travel want to travel but use a wheelchair due to a physical limitation, mobility limitation, or developmental disability, accessible travel can be problematic. Also, if you’re a senior traveler who just wants a slower pace, becoming more informed about accessible travel services and disability travel resources, will lessen the anxiety that often accompanies disabled travelers.

accessible travel

Planning in advance is key and you’ll find these resources are extremely helpful–Mobility International USA , the US Department of State, and Curb Free With Cory Lee.

The following travel tips, resources, and information for the disabled will help make travel much easier for anyone with a disability.

1. Plan your trip well in advance! Do you need to order additional medications or renew prescriptions, fix eyeglasses, get a physical, have dental work done, or get your wheelchair or tuned up, etc.?

2. Consider booking your travel through an agency that specializes in helping people with disabilities. Specialized accessible travel agents and tour operators for the disabled are knowledgeable and can save you some headaches. They can arrange for a wheelchair accessible hotel room, wheelchair rental, lift-equipped accessible van, full van, minivan, RV, handicap scooter, or any other handicap vehicle.

These travel specialists can arrange for transportation, and hotel rooms with handicap bathtubs, grab bars, or roll-in showers. Just tell them your needs. They can also help plan the best accessible cruise, give cruise line and cruising tips, arrange travel insurance, and take care of special needs.

3. In addition to taking along your travel agent’s phone number, you’ll also want to have the phone numbers for travel agencies that specialize in disabled travel at your destination, in case you can’t reach your own agent. Local travel agents may know how to solve issues that arise regarding your hotel, car, or van rentals, etc., even if you didn’t order your tickets through them.

4. Check out the local health and medical associations before you go. For example, if you have MS get the phone numbers for the local MS chapter. Local organizations usually know what venues and facilities are wheelchair accessible and where you can get emergency supplies or medical assistance.

5. If you plan to rent equipment of any sort, don’t wait until you get there. Organize that before you leave on your trip, and make sure you ask for specifics such as tie-downs, ramps, or hoists, etc. Consider what van, RV, car or auto insurance you’ll need prior to leaving.

6. Don’t leave anything to chance. Double-check all the arrangements your travel agent makes. Call the parties involved and verify the specifics. This is especially important if you haven’t used the agent before.

7. If you require special medical equipment, call airlines and suppliers well in advance of your trip. Start calling them as soon as you know you’re going to be traveling or taking a trip. Check multiple times with your travel agent and the airline before your flight.

8. Arrive at the airport early. This will eliminate some of the pre-trip anxiety you might feel and make for more leisurely travel. This seems like common knowledge but many people still arrive at the gate just in the nick of time.

9. In your carry-on bag keep copies of the prescriptions for your medications and eyeglasses, extra eyeglasses, sunglasses, all your medications and supplements, and a list of your doctor, dentist and other health professionals with their addresses, and phone numbers. Include your doctor’s fax number for prescriptions in case you lose your medications. Keep duplicate copies in your luggage and at home by the telephone. 

10. Memorize the names of your medications and what they’re for. If there is an emergency, you don’t want to say ‘a little yellow pill’ or ‘a white capsule’, etc.

11. If you’re traveling by air, tell the flight attendants when you board, of any medical problem you might encounter on your flight. Note the location of the closest restroom before getting seated. You may need an aisle seat for easy access to the restrooms. Discuss this with your accessible travel agent.

12. If you need someone to travel with you, ask your travel agent for ideas or suggestions. Call the local chapters of medical associations and ask if they can recommend a travel assistant or travel companion to help or accompany you.

There are national companies that offer traveling nurses or traveling companions to accompany disabled travelers or people with serious medical issues.

13. Make sure to take with you documentation such as medical cards, insurance policy numbers, and traveler’s checks. Keep photocopies in your luggage and at home by the telephone or someplace where someone has access to it in case you lose your own copies.

14. Be informed. Read disabled travel books, access guides, accessible guidebooks, disability travel articles and travel publications for the disabled traveler. Read the personal travel experiences of wheelchair users and others who have traveled with disabilities. 

These travel tips should help you have an easier, trouble-free holiday.

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