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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