Traveling is never easy. Traveling with a disability requires extra planning. Here are some ideas to make your next trip smooth sailing.
Consider booking as much as possible in advance so that you leave fewer things up to chance. Let the airline know in advance that you will be traveling with a disability. TSA has a help line and a website dedicated to travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, and they address everything from diabetic travelers to travelers who have difficulty waiting in lines or have difficulty being touched. Experienced travelers recommend that travelers with disabilities arrive about an hour earlier than suggested, know your rights and be assertive – many travelers recommend bringing airline policies with you to just in case you need to reinforce your rights, such as the ability to bring a guide dog or liquid medications. Just as many travelers will mark their bag with a bright ribbon for easy identification you might want to mark your wheelchair, cane or crutches so that they’re not mixed up with the airline’s equipment. Travelers recommend keeping your own chair with you as long as possible to avoid mix-ups.
When selecting a hotel, be sure the receptionist knows that you need an accessible room and be sure they know which accommodations you need. Visual fire alarms or visual door knock indicators? Is there a Braille room service menu? You may want to ask if the bathrooms, in particular, are accessible. Does the room have a roll-in shower for travelers using wheelchairs? What about a transfer seat? You may want to make sure the elevators are large enough for a wheelchair, if necessary, especially in Europe.
Although it’s certainly a good idea to have all necessary medications and supplies with you – in the original bottle with prescription information – many pharmacies will let you temporarily transfer a prescription from one pharmacy to another. This means that if you forgot something, you could call your home pharmacy and they can likely transfer the prescription to a nearby pharmacy. Also, if you’re concerned about traveling with medications that require refrigeration you could simply transfer the prescription to pick up at your destination.
Remember that your hotel’s concierge can help book your tours with various accommodations such as a taxi with a wheelchair lift or museum tours with audio/visual aids. However, the truth is once you’re sightseeing you have less control – this is where creativity is key. Some travelers bring a different wheelchair (lighter with pop-off tires) and bungee chords in case the chair won’t fit in the trunk. Some travelers that don’t normally require a wheelchair might benefit from renting one while on vacation. You can also rent accessible cars or hire a driver to take you in an accessible car. Many times public transportation has a special lift or a carriage ride through the park that is accessible – calling ahead can help get details ahead of time and book a reservation. Is there an audio tour available? What about braille guides? Also, sometimes when an older tourist attraction doesn’t have a public elevator there might be a freight elevator – it’s worth asking.
You may want to keep in mind that what one country deems accessible might be totally different than what another country considers accessible. Sometimes you’ll find a creative solution to an accessibility issue and other times you’ll make new friends who have solutions. If you plan ahead, keep an open mind and keep your sense of adventure you’re sure to have a great trip.