Traveling With A Disability This Summer? Know Your Rights.
Summer is here, and it’s a great time to plan for an amazing getaway! While people with disabilities are able to travel just about anywhere in the world, the travel and hospitality industries are increasingly aware of the specific needs of disabled travelers, opening up more and more destination options for disabled adults, known collectively as “Accessible tourism.”
WHAT IS ACCESSIBLE TOURISM?
Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavor to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities, or age.
Accessible tourism enables people with access requirements, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities to function independently and with equity and dignity. It is inclusive of all people, including those traveling with children, people with disabilities, and seniors.
TRAVELING WITH A DISABILITY: UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHTS
In July 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights which clarifies and updates the Air Carrier Access Act created in the 1980s.
The Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States also requires that travelers with disabilities receive equal treatment under the law. Different countries have different laws regarding disabilities, however, so it’s important to do research about available accommodations before traveling to another country.
WHEELCHAIR TRAVEL RESOURCES & TIPS
Airline seats, hotel rooms, and rental cars aren’t always compatible for every need, so here are some important things to consider before heading off to a new destination!
Specialized Travel for People with Disabilities
There are niche travel companies and agencies that work with people with all types of disabilities. Travel for All, EasyAccess Travel (for cruises), PlanetAbled (for the more adventurous traveler), Wheel the World, and Tapooz Travel are some examples.
Vacation rental companies like VRBO and AirBnB have accessibility filters and features for travelers with disabilities as well.
Do Some Research in Advance
Do some initial research about your destination’s accessibility, available accommodations, and any other information that pertains to your particular needs. Even when information is available online it’s a good idea to call ahead before you book, as advanced notice is sometimes required to make needed accommodations and you want to be sure your desired travel dates are available.
No Detail is Too Small
Be as specific as possible when describing your needs to a hotel, rental agency, touring provider, or other travel services provider. Not all people understand terms typically used in the disabled community (and may be hesitant to say they don’t understand), so it’s important to be as clear and specific as possible. Whenever possible, get the agreed-upon services in writing from the provider.
Availability of Medical Care
Especially when traveling to a more remote destination, It’s important to know health risks and how to access healthcare providers and resources in that area. Your doctor, health care provider, and/or insurance company can provide the names and contact numbers of physicians at your destination. The CDC has a global, location-specific directory and other resources that provide up-to-date information on health risks and resources.
WHEELCHAIR TRAVEL - PLANNING AHEAD
Book All Transportation Needs in Advance
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to book all transportation needs - to/from the airport, tour bus arrangements, rental cars, and public transportation - in advance, or at least have as much information as you can about accessibility for getting around once you arrive at your destination.
Spare Parts and Tools
Be sure to bring along any spare parts or tools you may need for potential equipment repairs, especially when traveling to a more remote destination. You may be required to dismantle a wheelchair for certain flights or activities; make sure you and your traveling companions know how to do this and have what you need.
Medical Alert Information
It’s a good idea to carry all medical and medical alert information with you - ideally on your person - at all times while you’re away. Make sure it’s someplace easily accessible or visible to any emergency medical care providers, and that your travel companion(s) know where it is, too!
Take photocopies of any important medical documentation with you and leave the originals at home. Include emergency contact information as well, even for people traveling with you as they may not be with you if it’s needed.
Travel with a statement from your doctor, preferably on their letterhead, that describes your condition, medications, potential complications, special needs, and other pertinent information. Be sure your doctor’s phone number is included in this information, including an emergency number where your doctor (or a facility) can be reached at any hour during the day.
If you use an electric wheelchair, look into whether you'll need a plug adapter and/or a voltage converter. You can also investigate the possibility of renting a battery charger.
Bring plenty of extra medications, and talk to your prescriber well in advance of your trip to ensure these extra medications are available (either at your destination or by your prescriber). Make sure that all medicines you are taking are allowed in the country you're visiting, and follow any travel rules for transporting medications so they aren’t confiscated.
FLYING WITH A WHEELCHAIR
Flying with a wheelchair can feel intimidating, especially if you have never done it before, but with some planning and preparation, airline travel can go smoothly. Here are some important things to consider:
Connecting Flights or Changeovers
When traveling with a wheelchair, flying direct can save you a lot of time and hassle. One exception to this, however, is if you have trouble maneuvering into airplane lavatories, as long flights may become uncomfortable. In this case, a series of shorter flights may be a better option.
If you do choose to connect, be sure to allow plenty of time between flights (at least 90 minutes is recommended) to get from one gate to the next without feeling too stressed and/or rushed.
Consider Travel Insurance
In the event you are unable to go on your trip - for medical reasons or otherwise - travel insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure you don’t lose the cost of the entire trip.
Adults Traveling with a Disability on an Airline - Know Your Rights
TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
There are a lot of resources that can help you plan and enjoy your trip! Here are some you may find useful:
- Accessible Travel Solutions: Company providing accessible tours and other services for travelers with disabilities
- TravelStride: Travel tours specifically designed for people with disabilities.
- Wheel the World: Listings of accessible accommodations and travel experiences for travelers with disabilities.
- Wheelchair Travel - a guide to the most wheelchair accessible cities in the world.
- Wheelchair Traveling - a site with destination and transportation recommendations and other resources for travelers with disabilities.
- World on Wheels - global travel destinations, tips, and resources.
- The Thrive Community by Enemeez®: Craig Kennedy, and other Thrive Advocates discuss traveling with ease, and are available for questions you may have
JOIN THE THRIVE COMMUNITY!
The Thrive Community Facebook Group is a private space for any disabled adult, as well as caregivers and healthcare providers who touch their lives. Our purpose is to provide a safe, educational space for group members to ask every question, connect with their peers, and empower each other through communication and connection. Our conversations are led by incredible individuals who themselves are living and thriving. For more enlightening resources, information, and discussion join the ENEMEEZ® Thrive Community today.
Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Quest Healthcare, A Division of Quest Products, LLC, does not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2023 Quest Healthcare, A Division of Quest Products, LLC.
- Disabled World Travel: Accessible Disability Travel Information (disabled-world.com/travel/)
- 6 Tour Companies Dedicated to Wheelchair Travel and Other Disabilities | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)
- Flying With A Wheelchair: Guide To Air Travel For People With Disabilities (wheelchairtravel.org)
- Pressure Mounts for Improving Accessibility for Air Travelers with Disabilities | Frommer's (frommers.com)