How to Travel with a Person with a Disability

Two Parts:Preparing to TravelStaying Safe During Travel

As travel becomes less expensive and the world gets smaller, many people want to explore their surroundings. If you are a person with a disability or will travel with someone who has a disability, you may want to have the same experiences as those who travel without any hindrances. Although you may encounter some difficulties, especially because different countries have different accessibility regulations, with careful preparation and a positive attitude, you or your travel companion can enjoy an accessible and safe trip.[1]

Part 1
Preparing to Travel

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    Prepare ahead of time. If you have a disability or are traveling with a person who has a disability, knowing that careful preparation of your trip is integral. This can not only help ensure that places you visit are accessible and travel is seamless, but also may provide you contingencies in the case that plans fall through.[2]
    • The more information you can collect and prepare in advance, the better off you’ll be.[3]
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    Gather tips from friends or disability organizations. This may be the first time you’ve traveled with a person who has a disability and you may not be sure what to do. Speak to a friend who understands disabled travel or contact a disability organization to get tips about how best to prepare and travel with a person who has a disability.[4]
    • Groups such as Mobility International offer websites with tips on how to prepare and travel with a person with disabilities.[5]
    • If you are traveling with a child who has disabilities, you can contact organizations such as PACER, which specialize in assistance to families with children that have disabilities.[6]
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    Understand that not every place extends the same rights to those with disabilities. It’s important to understand that every state and country has different regulations about accommodating disabilities. Knowing this can help you avoid places where travel may be difficult or impossible.[7]
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    Research places that you would like to visit or will visit. Conducting basic research on places you would like to visit or will visit can help you figure out the best sights and places to see. From travel guides to blogs, there are many different ways to get information about where you’d like to visit.
    • Most travel guides and even some travel agents or companies will offer separate sections about traveling with disabilities.
    • You may want to use websites designed for travelers with disabilities to inform your choices of where to go.
    • The United States State Department offers all kinds of information for travelers, including those who have disabilities. If you are traveling abroad, you may also want to contact the embassy or local consulate to inquire about how accessible the local area is.[8]
    • Contact possible hotels, airlines, bus companies, and attractions to inquire about their accessibility.
    • Read online reviews of other travelers with disabilities to help figure out the best and most accessible spots to travel.
    • Consider using mapping technology to your benefit. You can scope out attractions, hotels, and the local area with websites such as Google Maps and Google Street View.[9]
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    Book travel arrangements far in advance. It’s a good idea to make your specific travel arrangements as far in advance as possible. Not only can this help ensure that you have accessible amenities guaranteed for your travel, but may also prevent uncomfortable situations on the day of travel.[10]
    • Consider using a travel agent that specializes in disabled travel or has experience working with disabled travelers and their companions. You could also book a tour specifically designed for persons with disabilities and their companions.[11]
    • Book transportation over the phone or in person. Ask to speak to a supervisor or person who specializes in travel for those with disabilities to help ensure that your needs are met.
    • Try and book with major companies. They are more likely to make accommodations for and have amenities available to those with disabilities
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    Ask about special accommodations. Many places offer special accommodations, such as rooms or elevators, for those with disabilities. When booking, ask about any special amenities or service the company extends to disabled guests. These will differ based on each disability. The following are examples of needs that require special attention on a trip:[12]
    • If the person with a disability requires a wheelchair, then they will need airline seats, hotel rooms, coaches and sights with wheelchair access.
    • If the person with a disability has a service animal, you will need to book hotels and transportation that permits animals if traveling internationally.[13]
    • Note that under US law, it is unlawful to prohibit service animals or charge a fee for them.[14]
    • Book airport transfers ahead of time and make sure you have at least 90 minutes in between flights.[15]
    • If the your traveling companion is hearing impaired, then you will need to make accommodations for all sightseeing tours that are led by tour guides or audio tours. There may be videos or pamphlets that give the necessary information.
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    Read policies towards travel with disabilities prior to your trip. Keep a copy of the any requirements or regulations you may encounter, such as priority boarding or wheelchair access. This can help ensure you get the access you need in a busy travel environment.
    • Contact TSA Cares, if you are traveling by airline in the United States and have questions. This division supports people with disabilities or medical conditions. Call 855-787-2227 or email before you travel.
    • Make sure to check policies for every aspect of your travel from transportation to accommodations to tours.
    • Most travelers with disabilities are exempt from regulations on liquids in carry on-luggage if they provide proof of their need for the medication or product such as needles.

Part 2
Staying Safe During Travel

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    Plan your route carefully. Write a detailed plan for your travel that includes transportation, accommodations, and leisure activities. Make sure to be as detailed as possible, which can help confirm and ensure that you and your traveler with disabilities enjoy your time and have access to every place you’d like to see.
    • For example, you can break down a plan by day: “Sunday, January 5: Flight from Washington, DC to Berlin at 6pm. Accessible seat and airline transfers with cart booked and confirmed. Pickup by accessible van at Tegel Airport in Berlin. Transfer to accessible hotel.”
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    See you doctor. It’s important to visit your doctor if you are traveling with someone who has a disability. This can help minimize any discomfort you may experience or could prevent an emergency during your trip.[16]
    • Be as specific as possible with your doctor about the trip. She may be able to prescribe measure such as coping with long flights or dealing with limited medical facilities at your destination.[17]
    • Ask your doctor to write a succinct and articulate description of the person's disability and keep it with you at all times. There is not always time a lot of time to describe the full breadth of a traveler's needs.[18]
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    Carry emergency information at all times. If you prepare thoroughly, you may not encounter any difficulties, but it’s always good to carry a list of emergency information such as medications and phone numbers of in case an emergency arises. This may help people contact a doctor or administer proper treatment in a timely manner.[19]
    • Make sure to include a list of medications the person takes and any medical allergies they may have.[20]
    • Carry phone numbers for your doctor and other emergency contacts such as family members.[21]
    • You may consider keeping the number of a local doctor or hospital at each location.[22]
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    Bring an emergency aid kit and extra medication. Make sure to have an emergency kit and extra prescriptions for any contingency you may encounter during travel. This can prevent unwanted visits to a doctor or immobility because of broken equipment.[23]
    • Wheelchairs or crutches may require repair during the trip. Bring tools and the manual for the device so that your travel isn’t hampered by broken gear.
    • Make sure to have an extra supply of any medication. It may be impossible to get a prescription from a doctor who doesn’t know your condition. This can also help prevent problems in the event that you lose any of your medications.[24]
    • You may want to keep a first aid kit with antiseptic cloths, bandages, and gauze in the event of a fall, bite, or other emergency.[25]
    • Check and see if insurance covers your travel. If not, purchase travel insurance that can cover any medical expenses you may incur.[26]
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    Confirm reservations and accommodations. Before you depart on your trip, confirm any reservations and special amenities you’ve booked. Taking this step can help ensure that everything is ready for your arrival.[27]
    • Make sure to confirm travel, hotel, restaurant, and tour information. Call or email 24-48 hours in advance.[28]
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    Arrive early. Because accommodating a person with disabilities may require some extra time or rearranging amenities, arrive to scheduled parts of your trip as early as possible. This will help minimize discomfort for your disabled traveler and ensure that they have the best access possible.
    • For airline travel, give yourself 3-4 hours before your scheduled departure. For buses, trains, or rental cars, give yourself 2 hours.
    • If you are going on a tour, arrive 1/2- 1 hour early to help you get an accessible seat.
    • Make sure to ask restaurants if they have accessible restrooms or seats.
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    Register with local authorities or an embassy. If you are traveling to remote areas or in a foreign country, alert either local authorities or an embassy that you are there and your travel itinerary. Providing authorities with this information can prevent emergencies or may help find you if you go missing.[29]
    • Carry copies of every person’s passport or identification in case they are lost or stolen.[30] Report thefts to the authorities as soon as possible.[31]
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    Travel at a leisurely pace. Travel can be overwhelming even under the best of circumstances, so make sure to go at an easy and leisurely pace when you’re traveling with someone who has a disability. This can help ensure that everyone enjoys the trip and don’t get too tired.
    • Don’t schedule too much. Instead of packing a day full of tours or museums, see one or two that you don’t want to miss.
    • Allow ample time in between activities as well as time to rest. For example, if you are in Paris, consider taking time to sit in the Tuileries Gardens between visiting the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. People watching can be just as fun as running from site to site!
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    Plan for contingencies. You may run into difficulties during travel such as lack of elevators or difficult terrain. Formulating a backup plan for each place you visit prevent disappointment and help everyone have a continuously good time.
    • You may want to include two activities that are in close proximity for any plan you make. For instance, if you are in Berlin and there are lines to see the famous Pergamon Altar, you make a quick detour across the adjacent bridge and enjoy a cup of coffee while watching boats sail down the Spree.[32]

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Categories: Disability Issues