Tips For Support Coordinators When Organising Accessible Travel For People With Disabilities

Tips For Support Coordinators When Organising Accessible Travel For People With Disabilities

Travel for people with disabilities can be a daunting and fearful experience, but it does not need to be this way. In fact, it should be a joyful experience, and if you are entrusted with assisting a person with a disability plan their travel, be it for a holiday or for respite, here are some things to consider.


1/ By air, public transport or car?


Air travel can be challenging for a person with a disability, so it is important to ask the potential traveller if they have flown to a destination beforehand. If they are comfortable flying, then great.

But do communicate with the airlines about their unique needs, as they are regularly changing the goalposts.

Wherever possible, consider vehicle travel.

  •  It allows the participant to bring more luggage and equipment.
  • It is a visually appealing experience and an opportunity to explore the less traditional sights.  
  • For people with Autism especially, airports can be overwhelming from a sensory perspective.
  • Travelling by car allows the person to find a quiet spot and less of a sensory overload.

2/ Fear and anxiety

Start slowly for anxious participants.

Some people with disabilities either have never travelled before or are afraid to - following a new diagnosis. In these situations, I recommend a short overnight trip to test the waters and familiarise the participant with the joy of travel.

Recently a young man who hadn’t been apart from his family before, and part of his NDIS goal was to eventually live independently. We started with an overnighter, then a weekend then a week. He loves to travel now, but on the first go, he lasted only a few hours. He wanted to go home. Which is why we chose a destination close by. Then his mum accompanied him on the next stay. Soon after, his support workers and he had a ball at the beach for a week.

So we did it in stages.

This is especially useful if you are assisting an NDIS participant to gain independence, with the goal of living independently, so a holiday rental or an apartment was ideal for this as it mirrored everyday life living independently.

Familiarising oneself with the terrain, the layout of the accommodation and its accessible features brings a sense of security and reduces anxiety for novice travellers. As they return, their sense of confidence builds and then the opportunity to explore further afield.

Choose the same place for repeat stays until they are comfortable.


3/ Inaccurate information

As a person without a disability, imagine not being able to shower. Or get into the accommodation itself. How would that feel?

I recommend following the types of frequently asked questions we have for each and every listing. No two disabilities are exactly the same. Which is why we spent so much time creating 50 of them. The questions allow the participant to easily identify which property suits their needs and you can find them on any of our listings. Use those questions to discuss with the participant.  Show the participant the video tours on our listings so they can see for themselves if a place suits them. Involve them and empower them to decide.

Those questions enable us to identify the rating of a property for its accessibility.


Our three tiers:

Assisted walking – a walking frame or cane user.

Independent wheelchair user – if they can self-transfer to bed from chair and to toilet from chair.

Assisted wheelchair users. This is for high needs, who may need a hoist, electric bed and a commode.

Lack of planning

Another tip is to discuss locations with the participant. The more flexible they are with location and dates, the more scope and choice there is. All too often, come October, we are inundated with Xmas, New Year booking requests. Those dates are invariably booked 9 to 12 months ahead. And don’t get me started on the Taylor Swift Concert! Everything was booked the moment the tickets went live.

So planning is crucial.

Has an accommodation provider thought about disabled people when creating their services?

The most obvious sign is asking them if they have an accessible room. It is how they answer that question that determines whether they have given any thought to people with disabilities. Ask them to describe it. If they say “Step-free or roll-in shower”, grab rails, no steps to get inside, then stay on the phone and ask more questions. If they don’t, get off the phone because they just don’t understand, and it is likely the property is not suitable.

The second is whether they mention accessibility at all on their website. 80 to 90 per cent of accommodation providers do not even mention it. That speaks volumes.

Are they displaying our ACCESSIBLE QUALIFIED sticker at their entrance, next to their TripAdvisor certificate of excellence?



When reviewing travel agreements, what to look out for?

Before we started, NDIS participants had respite and were limited with their options to group home-style facilities. Now respite can be at the same destination as a holiday (resorts, houseboats, glamping and so on)

One thing to take into account especially if you are involved in NDIS STA and respite.

NDIS only pay on departure, which tourism operators would not accept. We set up a booking service with service agreements and policies to facilitate this, making it easier to book respite or STA.

If you aren’t using our booking service, here are some checkpoints to look for:

  • Upfront payment? If they are self-managed then maybe this is possible. If they are plan-managed, NDIS will only pay when they complete their respite. So our booking service will come in handy here.
  • Cancellation policy. Illness may prevent them from their travel.  Unfortunately, it is rare that an accommodation provider can fill a cancelled booking at short notice. And they have a business to run. For our properties, we do try to be as flexible as possible but it isn’t always the case.
  • If equipment is offered, and the person with the disability needs it then do ensure it is clearly communicated that you want specific equipment set aside as most items are stored and placed on request.
  • Ensure they have all scripts, medications and medical equipment for their trip. Yes, this seems obvious but it is an important part to remember.
  • Do they need a support worker at the destination or are they taking their regular support worker? (Mable is a great resource). Especially if shifts limit the amount of time a support worker can stay away.

Do take into account the family member who is their unpaid carer too. Especially if they are travelling with the participant.


What about unpaid carers (family members)?

Carer burnout is an issue I am passionate about after seeing the physical toll my dad experienced as an 80-year-old man pushing my mum's manual wheelchair.

If the carer (family member) also gets a break, they are better equipped when returning home.

Remember when you are flying, the flight attendant instructs you to put an oxygen mask on yourself before fitting loved ones? Because if you are breathing, you’re alive!! Then you can fit the oxygen to your loved ones.

It is the same here.

 I recommend talking to the person with the disability to come up with ideas for their carer, such as a massage voucher or a day to explore on their own. A support worker can stay with the participant.


Do get in touch with our crew who can assist you with your bookings. Email us HERE