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Guest Blogger Leanne from ‘Leanne’s Wheel Life’ shares her 9 Tips On Travelling With A Disability to make your next trip easier.
Travelling is all the rage now. And tourism has been a burgeoning industry for a few decades. Is it that we have more leisure time and so many options for vocational recreation that suit any budget? Our form of travel and destination can be as unique or as common as we are. And if you’re able-bodied, your budget and length of time away are your two main priorities, as you prepare to snub your current surroundings for relaxation and adventure.
Not so for the estimated 3.4 million disabled tourists*, and their companions (carers, family and friends), that face another challenge – that of accessibility.
Prior to my adult-onset disability, I was hugely fortunate to participate in many tourist travel excursions, as a couple, with my family, and on very special trips courtesy of my husband’s previous working life. All as an able-bodied woman.
Since my many flights, using a mobility device of some description, and more recently a wheelchair, I have realised just how charmed my previous life was when it came to booking, organising and generally preparing for any type of travel.
My learning and lessons have been quick and many. I’d like to share some with you.
If you are not a natural planner or list maker – learn or find someone who is!!!! I can’t emphasise that enough, having a process will make all the difference. Be it an excel spreadsheet or a unicorn glittery A4 or A5 notepad, start making lists and notes and ticking things off.
Daily life is plain exhausting for many carers, parents and people with disabilities alike. So, planning any trip is not something you can easily fit in or have the brainpower to cope with. I had my daughter step in a few times to liaise with a couple of accommodation and car rental organisations while planning our Hawaii trip. Salvation!!! This is so often so hard for us to do but there are people; friend’s, acquaintance’s, and family that truly wish, and would probably feel honoured to assist in providing any sort of relief for you.
You, and your family have the right to be treated equitably and be comfortable. Don’t leave things to chance. If you are not sure of a flippantly advised answer from, say, a bored sounding airline employee who does not seem to get it, talk to their manager or call again and get it in writing. Or if you are simply not sure of anything don’t be shy to ask for clarification. This is your journey. Miscommunications can be made.
In my book, this is a necessary evil, especially if you have a medical condition that may preclude you from receiving medical treatment overseas – whether your holiday malaise is related to your condition or not.
Disability or not, global catastrophes can, and certainly do occur as we all know – virus’s, volcanoes, war outbreaks… you will not be covered if you don’t have insurance taken out at the time of booking the first of your flights and accommodation, car hire and tours. Refunds cannot be guaranteed but if you choose a travel policy that suits, you will hopefully be ok. Sure, the chances of using it may be slim. I think of the expense as another holiday expenses – just not as tasty or pretty or exciting as other holiday purchases.
Some credit cards offer travel insurance, but these are often very limited. As with everything I share – please do your own research to suit your circumstances. When heading out around our glorious continent you might want to check a roadside/ emergency repair insurance for your mobility aid.
The L-word again – list your required mobility and other equipment. Are you able to easily transport your personalised aids? If not, research mobility equipment hire companies at your destination. Or, view any listing on Accessible Accommodations site, where they provide details of hire places nearby. Ask to see photos if none are available on the hire company’s website – not all stand hoists are created equally – trust me!! Make sure the hiring company can deliver to your place of accommodation – they generally can.
Our mobility aids are a vital extension of ourselves – don’t leave anything to chance. After our first overseas trip with my power chair, we found the much-depleted battery wasn’t charging. Although we had an adaptor (Powerpoint plug) suitable to the country we were in and had brought a transformer (actually changes the voltage to current supply) to use with our 240V charger, this combination would have taken days to charge. The solution is if you will be travelling a bit, to purchase a multi-voltage charger, 90-260VAC. This should work all over the world.
Check with your wheelchair manufacturer first.
List (again that word) your medication, ensuring you have enough, and more again, and put the excess and repeat scripts in separate luggage. Do the same for other consumables such as masks or continence supplies. Don’t leave your well-being (or your undies) to the vagaries of a misappropriated suitcase. I divide those personals always. If travelling overseas, have a signed letter from your GP, and check out that countries requirement’s regarding carrying medication.
Deciding on your accommodation is made so much easier with the internet. But many accommodation websites are not inclusive, and you will almost definitely have to call to ask if they can accommodate your requirements. A pictured wheelchair just doesn’t cut it!!
Accessible Accommodation has a comprehensive guide that they make available whether you are booking one of their listed properties or not.
If the property isn’t listed on their site, and you have no choice but to book directly, here is a tip: When booking directly through a holiday venue make sure you see pictures if you need to and get measurements. Don’t get told that they can’t right now – everyone has a smartphone, and a tape measure isn’t that far away. If you don’t know what to ask, use and of Accessible Accommodation’s list of FAQ’s in their listings such as this one.
Our wheelchairs and scooters are quite genuinely the only means for physical independence and comfort. This vital concept can be difficult for a person who has little to no dealings with any disability to comprehend. So, you must, once again, be firm with your requirements and follow all airline guidelines, getting written confirmation of your arrangements along the way.
Most airlines advise you to call first when making an accessible (or my less preferred term – special needs ) booking and will have instructions on their website as to what information they require and any forms that you may need to fill out and provide.
Ensure that you can stay in your chair right up to the plane. This gives you independence right to boarding and the airline can accommodate this. Depending on the airline and whether you are boarding from the tarmac or aerobridge you may have the choice of various lift devices. Ask ahead and find out what they will use for you so that you can prepare yourself-especially for your first trip.
Laminate and attach an A4 sheet to your chair with your name, flight no. and instructions on wheelchair folding, battery type, and power disengagement. This, hopefully, stresses to the relevant staff that the utmost care MUST be taken.
Accessible Accommodation is currently running a Change Org petition on this very subject, calling on Airlines to allow chairs inside the cabin itself. Click HERE for more information.
Travelling with a disability can be done and will be a more profound experience for that little extra effort involved. I promise.
CASA – Travelling with a disability guide. Click HERE for more.
AIR TRAVEL FOR WHEELCHAIR USER – Ebook, click Click HERE to download.
Bon voyage, Leanne
P.S. What tips do you have to share?
I have a neuromuscular condition called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. The symptoms of which have progressed over the last decade.
I use my experiences and my newly acquired knowledge of living in an ableist world to advocate for social equity and justice for people with disabilities and their support networks. I write and speak, support and contribute through various groups and committees to promote greater awareness as to what it means to live as a disabled person. My goal is to improve understanding, empathy and quality of life for all. A truly inclusive world for everyone can be a reality.
Read more of her excellent blogs HERE
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