Every disability is different and therefore every disabled traveller’s needs will be different. However, there are some things that many of us who have disabilities need to think about before we travel, whilst we are travelling, and whilst we are away on holiday.
This is essential. You will need to do all the usual things that apply to everyone such as consulting your doctor about immunisations etc but you’ll also need to make sure you have any medical equipment you may need, prescriptions to cover you for the duration of the trip including a few spares for emergencies and possibly contact details for nearby hospitals if you may require their services whilst away. You will need to talk to your travel agent about what special assistance the hotel, tour company or transport company can provide you with, specialised accommodation that you may require, specialised car rental or organised seating on planes, coaches etc. It’s always worth asking about local disabled facilities that are in place where you will be staying too. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your wheelchair is serviced before you travel too. In short, the more advanced preparations you can do, th easier your holiday will be, and the less likely you are to encounter problems.
Flying with a disability
Flying when you have a disability need not hinder your journey. Many people automatically assume that because someone is disabled it will automatically restrict their opportunities for travel but this doesn’t need to be the case. Yes, if you are disabled then flying can be slightly more complicated, but airlines are now set up to assist disabled travellers.
On the day you travel, arrive early – having extra time to organise things can make a real difference. Manual wheelchairs can usually be transported as hand luggage these days, but powered chairs will need to go in the hold. This means that you’ll need to make sure a chair is ready for you when you land so it’s advisable to speak to a flight attendant and ask them if they can radio ahead and arrange for your chair to be ready as soon as you disembark, particularly if you have a connecting flight to reach.
Think about what facilities you’ll need aboard the aircraft. Is there disabled access to the toilets, do they provide telecommunication devices if you’re heard of hearing, what documentation is required if you travel with a guide dog or service dog (remember even these dogs are subject to quarantine laws). Will you be required to have an attendant with you due to mobility impairment, severe hearing or vision impairment or mental disability? Airlines should always be able to answer these questions and be willing to provide you with answers.
Travel insurance is vital if you have a disability – if you’re travelling in the EU then you can receive basic medical assistance if you carry an E111 card, but this only entitles you to the quality of health care which is provided in that country as standard and the standards are not the same in all countries.
Be aware that many policies sold by tour operators don’t cover individuals with pre-existing conditions so you may need to arrange your insurance independently, making sure it covers any specialist equipment you require and that if something like your wheelchair is stolen or damaged you are covered.
Whilst You Are Away
There are a number of things which you may need and want to check out before your holiday that relate to the time you spend there. This includes everything from accommodation to day to day activities. If you don’t check things you may find yourself severely restricted by what you have available to you.
• Are there excursions you want to take and will they cater for your disability?
• How close is the nearest beach with disabled access and facilities?
• How accessible are the facilities at the hotel? – is it just rooms that are accessible, or all areas including dining, spa, children’s play areas etc.
• Are hearing loops in place in your hotel?