Whether you’re exploring the historic cobble-stone-paved streets of France or relaxing beachside, traveling is supposed to be a time of liberation and relaxation as you explore new parts of the world—for everyone. Unfortunately, those with disabilities can have a difficult time finding a truly pleasant travel experience. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act and Air Carriers Access Act were created to make it easier for disabled people to travel, they often face obstacles, confusion, and misunderstanding when seeking those accommodations already established for them.
If you plan on traveling with a companion who requires the use of a wheelchair, here are five things you can do to make traveling easier for you and your fellow adventurer:
- Make Requests Ahead of Time: Need to reserve a seat close to the bathroom on an airplane? Or arrange for a rental car to be delivered to the airport terminal? Be sure to call your airline, hotel, car rental service, etc. in order to let them know in advance that your friend will require certain accommodations. If you book weeks in advance, be sure to follow-up and call 24-48 hours in advance to make sure everything is ready for your arrival.
- Over-communicate the Disability and Needs: When making calls to prepare for your trip, fully explain the extent of the disability to avoid misunderstanding. It’s a good rule of thumb to assume that most people don’t understand the medical terms and implications of certain disabilities. Be specific about the handicap, and what kind of accommodations your companion will require.
- Research: Thanks to the Internet, you can do tons of research on wheelchair accessibility at your destination and learn ahead of time any possible obstacles you might face during your trip. See what others have to say about their experiences getting around places such as Rome, London, or Africa. Whatever you discover, you’ll learn valuable information you can either utilize or simply store away for later. For example, people shared stories about how both the Coliseum in Rome and the Eiffel Tower in France have elevators inside to accommodate people with disabilities, yet London’s public trains aren’t wheelchair-accessible.
It’s also helpful to research other details of your trip, such as where you’ll be staying. Some hotels offer free wheelchair-accessible shuttles to and from the airport, which would eliminate the worry of getting on a bus that may or may not have a wheelchair lift.
- Be Patient: Legal rights may be in place for people with disabilities, but that doesn’t mean employees are always prepared to help. It’s important to stay mindful when dealing with workers anywhere you go, and simply continue to explain your companion’s situation as much as possible so you can find a solution.
- Take Care of Yourself: Helping your friend travel can be physically exhausting, so it’s equally important to prepare your body for the trip. One man who bases this recommendation off personal experience suggests bringing gloves to prevent hands from blistering from pushing the wheelchair, wearing non-slip shoes, and taking extra caution when moving the chair up and down stairs.
Do you have any suggestions to share with our readers?