People who have a physical disability have it much harder, but they too deserve a break from their everyday lives. Today, I ask that we take one step back and think about those of us in our lives who have not been able to travel because of a disability. This is a guest post from Josh Hansen, the Marketing Executive of Vitalise, a charity dedicated to facilitate travel to those who are on a wheelchair or have other physical disabilities. Please share this list with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or in person to spread knowledge of such resources available to those in wheelchairs who wish to explore the world, just like everybody else.

Why it Matters

Traveling can be fairly stressful at the best of times, but traveling with a wheelchair can feel outright overwhelming. The good news is that recent developments in legislation, technology, and public awareness are making it easier than ever to get around. Here are ten tips to make wheelchair travel go as smoothly as possible:

 

1) Give Your Chair a Check-Up

It is advisable to carry out, or have some else do, maintenance checks on your chair before you leave to prevent any nasty surprises. If your chair isn’t reliable or if you just want to be extra careful bring a repair kit or spare parts with you, so you can make your own repairs if necessary.

 

2) Plan and Arrive Early for Flights

If you’re flying, be sure to notify the airline as soon as possible that you have a wheelchair and let them know if you have any special requirements (more on this below). Generally they’re more than happy to be able to organize any necessary assistance. It is important to remember that you need to arrive even earlier than normal to the airport as passengers in wheelchairs are usually allowed to board the plane first.

 

3) Learn Your Airline’s Wheelchair Policies

It’s always important to check your airline’s official website to get up-to-date information about their policies regarding wheelchairs and assistance for disabled passengers. Generally, when flying, your wheelchair will have to be checked into the hold. Many countries require airlines to provide this service free of charge for passengers by law.

Although airlines have experience with wheelchairs, you should still take precautions. If you have a foldable, manual chair, experts advise binding it with duct tape to assure it stays shut. If your chair has detachable parts, remove them and take them with you in the cabin (size permitting of course). It’s also important to check the airline’s policy regarding wet-cell batteries.

 

4) Ask for Your Chair After the Flight

If you need your wheelchair immediately after the flight, tell the airline so you don’t have to use their temporary wheelchair at the other end.

 

5) Learn About Trains in Your Destination

As not everyone flies everywhere, it is important to familiarize yourself with other forms of transport, especially trains. If you’re staying in Great Britain, National Rail has excellent information about accessibility, including detailed information about accessible stations and facilities on trains.

Unfortunately, not every train company offers these resources. For details about different types of trains and their accessibility around the world, check train company websites, speak with travel agents, or consult guidebooks. Website The Man in Seat 61 is another good resource, with detailed descriptions of trains around the world and, in some cases, information for disabled travelers interested in taking them.

 

6) Can you get around by ground?

While taxis in most large developed cities are wheelchair accessible; they, and other road transportation, (buses, shuttles…) can vary widely in other countries. Check the Tourism Board’s website for information, or contact local taxi companies directly. You may also want to carry the number of a private car service that offers accessible transportation, just in case – that’s a wise thing to do anyway as trusted taxi companies abroad aren’t always easy to find.

 

7) Take to the Forums

Disabled travel forums can be a major help offering all kinds of practical advice and tips by people who have actually been there. You’ll be able to read comments from fellow disabled travelers and you can participate and ask questions of your own.

Trip Advisor has an active forum featuring a wide range of topics and questions. The Disabled Travelers website have also compiled a list of online forums that you might find helpful.

 

8) Make an Emergency Phrase List

Although many people around the world speak English, that isn’t always the case and it’s especially risky if you may require specialist assistance. Therefore, before traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to write down a few phrases in the local language that could be useful in an emergency, or to help with any wheelchair-related questions or problems.

 

9) Take advantage of helpful resources

There are many ways you can get information, help, and answers to your questions. If you’re reading this, you’re already online, so here are a few resources to start with:

  • Gov.uk has excellent information regarding disabled travel around the UK. There is also a list of other countries and advice for disabled travelers planning to go there.
  • 1800Wheelchair is very useful for further general information about travelling with a wheelchair. The Christopher Reeve Foundation’s website contains a wealth of information, including this small collection of personal travel stories from wheelchair travelers.
  • Vitalise is a charity dedicated to helping disabled people travel. It is also a great source of information and has friendly advice and support.

 

10) Don’t focus only on the difficulties

No one’s travel is completely without problems, but in the end, exploring more of the world does wonders for all of us. Have a wonderful trip!

 

Make sure to check out Vitalise if seek further information. Their site is filled with great success stories and has possibilities for volunteering or donating. You can also like them on Facebook too!

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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7 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Traveling with a Wheelchair

  • May 28, 2016 at 4:34 am
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    I would have never considered doing maintenance checks on a wheelchair before travel. It’s best to prevent any problems that not having maintenance would cause. In the repair kit that you keep with you to fix your chair on the go, it would also be a good idea to keep an angle finder in case the caster falls out of angle.

    Reply
  • June 22, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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    Great tips, I agree to the point that you can state the flight attendant or the flight crew to have your chair ready because When you land you might feel very uncomfortable in the temporary chair they will provide you so calling them upfront will be good.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 7:40 pm
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    Newly my wife and I are planning to take an international trip. However, our son is in a wheelchair, and we have not traveled to another country before. I want to make sure all of his needs are met before we go. It didn’t even cross my mind that we could look for a wheelchair rental from different medical supply stores. I know that some places can be difficult to take a wheelchair to. Hopefully, we can find some rentals for him so that he can enjoy the whole trip.

    Reply
    • August 16, 2018 at 4:45 pm
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      The charity who wrote this article could help you too. Try contacting them directly!

      Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 5:19 pm
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    My mother has been trying to determine whether or not she should take a wheelchair. Her only hang up is that it might make it difficult for her to travel. I didn’t know that it was still doable! I’ll be sure to let her understand. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • August 16, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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      I saw that charity on another site and asked them to promote themselves on this blog because I thought it could be helpful to someone someday. Im glad it helped. A lot of the services are free too because they are a charity. Best of luck to your mother!

      Reply
  • September 10, 2018 at 7:49 pm
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    Great tips. A portable wheelchair ramp is also a great idea, even when you are going somewhere that is wheelchair-friendly

    Reply

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