10 Tips For Traveling With A Disability

This is a guest post from an amazing blogger friend, Dr Jessie Voigts, one-half of the team that runs the Wandering Educators site. Jessie, who has a Ph.D in education, is an active home schooling mum (or mom) with a passion for learning and travel.

Here, Jessie draws on her experiences in traveling with disabilities to share 10 travel tips.

As a traveler with several disabilities (mobility disabilities and an invisible disability with chronic pain), I know the importance of both travel planning and knowing the accessibility of the locations to which I’m traveling. What sort of travel accommodation people need will also depend on their disability – whether it is mobility-related, vision or hearing, traveling with chronic pain, etc.  Here are my top tips for traveling with a disability.

  1. Research. Do your research for accessibility on all aspects of your journey. This includes transportation, accommodation, activities, electricity options, and the general accessibility of the location. For instance, if you’re in a wheelchair, it isn’t a good idea to go to Venice – a walking city with lots of stairs. Read Candy Harrington’s Barrier Free Travel. It’s filled with excellent tips on traveling with disabilities. When you rent a house or apartment, be sure to get one that is ground floor, has bars in the bathroom, or has assistive devices if you need them. If you are renting a car, ascertain if the handicap placard from your home country is recognized in the countries/states you’re traveling to.

    A US disability placard is recognised in Ireland, making car hire there much easier for travelers with mobility problems. (Photo from www.wanderingeducators.com)

  2. Ask for help beforehand. This encompasses a wide variety of your research – ask for help with seating on airplanes, transportation within airports, your rental car, a rental wheelchair you may need, accommodation to be on the ground floor, and prearrange taxis or hotel pickup so you don’t have to wait for one that can hold your wheelchair while you’re so exhausted from the trip.

    Photo by ENTER vzw

  3. Figure out your technical/electrical needs. Make sure you have an adapter AND a converter if you are traveling with a CPAP device (that helps people with sleep apnea), electric wheelchair, or other items. Scout out locations for replacements or supplies before you head to a destination. Often, locations may have organizations that work with people with disabilities. You can rent a wheelchair or scooter, find cords or obtain assistance for other needs you might have with your equipment.
  4.  Plan ahead. One of the best books I’ve read about traveling with chronic pain is The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling with Pain, by Liz Hamill. Her website, Travels with Pain, helps travelers with hidden disabilities explore the world.  She advises on preplanning everything – from your medicine to your carry-on bag, from road trips to dealing with a pain flare.  If you do as much as you can to plan ahead, you’ll have a much smoother road when you’re stressed and dealing with the vicissitudes of traveling.

    Steps down to Oval Beach, Lake Michigan – not accessible. But some research shows that there’s a ramp to the beach further north of these steps. (Photo from www.wanderingeducators.com)

  5. Know you’ll have to change your plans. While you can do everything you can to plan ahead, you may not have known about the steps to get into a place, or that the sidewalks aren’t accessible, or that the taxis can’t fit your wheelchair, or that there is nowhere to sit and rest. The restaurant everyone reviewed so favorably on Urbanspoon may not be able to accommodate your dietary restrictions.
  6. Ask for help. Swallow your pride and ask for help – lifting your wheelchair up the steps to a temple, or finding an accessible room, or even looking for a bench to rest upon. Worldwide, people love to help. In fact, they take pride in it. Allow them to help you – and themselves. You’ll have a much better feeling of a place when you have kind and helpful interactions with locals.
  7. Carry medical information on you at all times. This can help you if you’re in an emergency, in serious pain, or unable to cope because of your body. Maybe you’re having a seizure – finding the right information and papers will help you get the appropriate medical treatment more quickly.
  8. Know your limits. You’ll want to see and do more than is possible – this is true for everyone, including able-bodied travelers. Know the limitations of your body, and you’ll actually be able to do more. If you don’t, you may push yourself too hard and then be in bed the rest of your journey. Better to take it slowly, explore as you can, and have fun.
  9. Remember, not everything will be enjoyable. You might get frustrated by a lack of accessibility, restaurants that don’t work for you, pain flares, people not understanding, and exhaustion. This is normal for healthy travelers. It’s all part of the equation when you travel to new places – and it is an important thing to do, for our lives, worldview, and sense of accomplishment.
  10. Be flexible, and keep an open mind. You never know what you’ll find around the bend! And we ALL know that travel is worth doing.

7 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.

1 Comment

  1. Jill says:

    Hi Barbara
    Thanks for including this topic. You would not believe the big fat void that is disability travel information…..

    Jill recently posted..The face of Cambodia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge