Travelling with a disability
15 travel tips for seniors with various disabilities, so you can travel with ease and enjoy your time away.
Travelling can be a hardship for those with disabilities, making it tough then to consider going anyway outside of your own country. How can travelling be made easier?
Ageless Online talks to a former London lawyer Srin Madipalli, who launched an accessible travel website called Accomable, to share his 15 top tips. Srin, 29, has spinal muscular atrophy which is a genetic disorder that affects the control of muscle movement and has confined him in a wheelchair for his whole life.
Before you fly:
- Let your airline know that you have a disability when you make the booking, and tell them if you will be travelling with any specialist equipment, whether it’s a motorised wheelchair, hearing aid or a walking cane. It’s likely most of these items will need to be stowed in the hold, so double-check if this will count as part of your luggage allowance (and if not, what the additional charges would be).
- I also always let the airport know as far in advance as possible that I need special assistance to get to and board the flight. Many airlines can also do this for you, but you may appreciate the reassurance of telling both. The airport should always be able to supply a wheelchair and a trained person to help you check-in and board your flight on time and comfortably. I also remind the assistants at the check-in desk that I have booked special assistance for my trip. Once onboard the flight, it will be the trained air cabin crew, who are there to help.
- If you have any specialist equipment being stowed in the hold, make sure the check-in assistant clearly tags it with your name and end destination.
- As a useful precaution, I also photograph my wheelchair and any expensive equipment being stored in the hold before the flight, in case there is any damage which I wish to claim on insurance. Many older travellers I know simply take a cheaper, lighter-weight wheelchair on trips abroad or rent one (this has the added benefit of reducing any extra cabin baggage fees).
- For an easy transfer to your flight, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and pop any liquids into a clear plastic bag and have them ready in your carry-on bag for inspection at security (remember, you can’t take any liquid over 100 ml onto the plane with you).
- Make sure you have any medication on your person (and that any liquid medication is less than 100 ml). Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns.
- If you are planning to travel on your own and need assistance taking medication, eating or making trips to the toilet, you are likely to required to have a ‘safety assistant’ – someone over 16 years old, who can help you with these things, and help in case an emergency evacuation is called for. Double heck with your airline.
- Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance for your trip. There are several specialist providers for seniors, who will be able to advise you fully.
- If you have a mobility issue, I would certainly recommend using our website (www.accomable.com) to find accessible hotels and holiday rentals. I started this company because as a disabled traveller, I found it incredibly difficult to find good, accessible accommodation that I could trust would be suitable for my needs. With Accomable, we list and verify the accessible features of every hotel room and vacation rental on our site, whether you simply need step-free access or a roll-in shower, pool hoist and so on.
- If you can’t find what you’re looking for on our site, do let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re constantly speaking to new property owners from around the world, and would be happy to hunt for you!
- Seniors are often eligible for all sorts of discounts when travelling, whether it’s free transport, reduced-cost concert tickets or discounted city tours. Be sure to take any ID out and about to make sure you claim yours, and check the tourism board websites of your destination, to see what you might be eligible for.
- If you have a mobility issue, check the local tourism board website for information on wheelchair-friendly public transport (most major cities, particularly in Europe and Australia/New Zealand, should be good on this front), facilities and activities. There have been huge improvements to public infrastructure for people with mobility issues in the past 10 years making sightseeing easier and much more fun.
- You could also check to see if any disabled travel bloggers have been there (I find a quick Google search for ‘disabled travel blog + your destination’ works a treat) and what tips they give. Many will write guides on destinations, and their favourite accessible restaurants and sights. These blogs can really bring a destination alive, and make you feel more confident making a trip there.
- At Accomable, we also have a new community area and forum, where you ask questions about accessible travel, whether you want to know about the accessibility of a certain destination or know more about flight procedures at an international airport.
- Look forward to your trip, discover a new culture, relax, visit a world famous site, see family, treat yourself – have a wonderful time!
|SIDEBOX: Yet another question
Ageless Online asked Srin about being on airlines with a disability and whether people should opt for cruises instead, he shared: “Airlines have improved dramatically over the past 10 years for travellers with a disability, with better equipment (many good airlines now offer wheelchairs which can take you from the plane door to your seat and state-of-the-art hoists, if needed) and better service from trained staff at the airport and cabin crew. The key thing is to contact the airline as early as possible and explain your needs.”
** PHOTO CREDITS: Accomable.