The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has made traveling easier for the 40 million Americans with a permanent or temporary disability. All hotels, modes of transportation, and cruise ships in American waters are required to be in compliance with the ADA and provide appropriate accommodations for disabled travelers. Nevertheless, traveling with a disability can pose challenges. Here are tips to keep in mind when you plan a trip.
Many people suffer from some form of travel anxiety. For a disabled individual, it can be especially concerning if there are any uncertainties about travel timetables and accommodations. A lot of anxiety can be alleviated simply by gathering information and knowing what to expect. If you are nervous about flying or have other anxiety issues, you should consult with your doctor to see if there is a temporary solution for you.
Today, there are more travel agencies than ever that specialize in travel arrangements for individuals and groups with disabilities. An experienced travel agent can make special arrangements, such as having grab rails installed in hotel showers or finding disabled-accessible transportation. Knowledgeable agents can also identify sightseeing destinations that are disabled-accessible. It’s also helpful to know what foreign cities are the most disabled-accessible (for example, all cabs are accessible in London). So, do your homework before purchasing those airline tickets.
Be aware that “disabled-accessible” labels may have different meanings in different countries. For example, “accessible” in one hotel may be totally inadequate for a disabled person who’s wheelchair-bound. And just because a wheelchair can fit through the door of a hotel room doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to maneuver adequately once you’re in the room, so make sure you call ahead for room dimensions and special bathroom arrangements, such as a roll-in shower.
Airline security precautions can make the check-in process especially slow, so allow at least three hours if you’re traveling internationally. Take full advantage of the airlines’ special assistance for passengers in wheelchairs or those who have other mobility restrictions. Make sure the airline’s check-in personnel know that you require wheelchair assistance, as they can assist with luggage, help everyone in your travel party get through security faster, and help everyone pre-board. Ask for an aisle seat near the bathroom and be aware that passengers in wheelchairs are the last to de-plane.
Take advantage of any discounts made available for travel, accommodations or sightseeing. If you’re traveling in North America, Amtrak offers discounts of up to 50 percent for passengers in wheelchairs and one other traveler, though it’ll be necessary to show proof of your disability (an identification card or a doctor’s note is generally sufficient). The Greyhound bus line also makes discounts available for disabled passengers. If you’re going abroad, the train systems in cities such as London, Singapore, and throughout Japan offer reduced fares for those in wheelchairs.
As part of your pre-travel research, find out the extent of travel coverage available in your destination country. The US State Department offers a list of options, so review it carefully because some plans don’t cover medical needs.
Be very thorough in your travel research — ask for the same accommodations you would expect at home and keep looking until you find them. Anything less would be a disservice to you and will detract from what should be a pleasant experience.