Travel by people with disabilities is commonly referred to as “accessible travel” and “disabled travel”. There is a lot to consider when traveling with a disability. Proper research, planning, and preparation are crucial. In the past, traveling as a disabled person seemed like an overwhelming and sometimes impossible task. However, with travel agencies specializing in disabled travel, the inclusivity movement, and the rise of mindful accommodations, travel for disabled people is more accessible than ever.
Consult With Your Physician
Before the travel planning begins, it is necessary to get approval from your doctor. Be sure to include an accurate picture of the entire trip, including location, means of travel, climate, potential activities, etc. This is especially important because it’s possible to overlook a factor that can be a potential risk to your health. For example, traveling to higher altitudes may not seem like a risk factor. However, due to the lower concentration of oxygen, it can be dangerous for someone with a lung condition or compromised breathing. A thorough conversation with your physician is the first step to safely planning disabled travel.
In addition to ensuring your destination and plans are safe, your doctor can also help plan for medical needs during your trip. They can ensure that you have access to any medication you may need, prescribe measures for ease of travel, and even provide a medical statement to carry in the event of an emergency.
Know Your Rights
When planning for disabled travel, it is important to know the rights of people with disabilities. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has procedures in place for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. It is wise to understand these procedures before getting to the airport.
Airport assistance is available for disabled individuals. To request assistance, you can call the TSA helpline at 855-787-2227. They can also answer questions about procedures, screening policies, and security checkpoints.
It’s important to note that rights vary in different countries. If you are traveling out of the country, it is advised that you speak with a travel specialist who is familiar with the rights in your desired destination.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can also provide information about laws for people traveling with disabilities. Unfortunately, many employees of airlines, theme parks, cruises, and other travel destinations don’t know the disability laws, so check for information ahead of time.
Planning ahead is the most important tip for a disabled traveler. The easiest way is to hire a travel agency specializing in accessible travel. These agencies check for specific accommodations for travelers with disabilities and special needs.
If you are planning your own travel, begin early. First, research and create an itinerary for your trip. Websites can offer information about accessibility and services offered. Even with the ease of websites, calls should be made to schedule the necessary accommodations. This includes hotels, rental properties, transportation services, rental cars, excursions, and activities. Clear communication is essential. Be detailed when describing your disability so everyone understands what needs must be met.
Travel provides a great opportunity for adventure and spontaneity. But this does not mean you should disregard your day-to-day needs or routine. For example, if your disability causes you to tire in the afternoon, then schedule activities in the earlier part of the day. Or, if you usually take a nap after lunch, then schedule a daily nap into your plans.
Traveling is exciting, and it can be easy to push our limits or overdo it. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of your needs and normal routine to avoid excess stress on the body or potential worsening of medical conditions.
Prepare for the Worst Case
Even with proper precautions and planning, travel doesn’t always go as planned. So while we hope for the best, it is vital to be prepared for an unexpected event.
Some of the most common woes of travel are flight cancelations, delays, and lost luggage. If you are traveling by plane, make sure you have extra medication and any necessary supplies in your carry-on. If you are separated from your luggage or become stuck at the airport, you want to ensure your health needs are taken care of.
Should you become ill during your travel, you want to be aware of resources in the area. Research physician availability in your travel area. That way, you are prepared and know where to seek care if necessary. Healthcare Abroad is a helpful resource. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the healthcare resources available, it’s smart to keep your medical alert information and primary physician’s contact on you during travel. When traveling with a disability, you want to take extra precautions regarding health and safety.
We are so fortunate to live in a time when travel is accessible for most people. Even with a disability, taking the proper precautions and appropriately planning can open up a world of possibilities. If you find a property or service that does not accommodate people with disabilities be sure to contact a special needs or elder law attorney regarding your rights. No matter where your destination may be, travel well and enjoy every moment!