With an increasing number of disabled tourists hitting the travel scene off late, tourism industries the world over are sitting up and taking notice of this new and growing segment of customers. Before the Americans with Disabilities Act came into effect in 1990, the travel industry did not give much thought to the needs of the disabled vacationer. This Act, however, changed the scenario for the better with large numbers of disabled travelling every year for business and/or pleasure.
Of course, travelling when disabled requires a great deal of advance planning on your end, which isn't easy. Nowadays, several travel agents and tour operators offer special packages which are disabled-friendly and consider all their needs in their travel plan.
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Not everyone prefers to travel with tour operators though.
There's no doubt that planning an independent trip, especially if you're wheelchair-bound, can be challenging and exhausting. But help is at hand. If you're considering traveling independently for the first time, or are making a trip with someone who is disabled, it would help if you refer the following tips to make your sojourn a grand success.
Planning in advance gives you more time to think about your needs for the trip, thereby allowing you to take into account its various aspects. This means lowered possibilities of inconvenience.
Start making a list of the things that you're going to need from the moment you leave your home and come back to it. Research which airlines offer disabled-friendly facilities. Ask if they can allot you an aisle seat which will make it easier for you to access the toilet. Book your tickets well in advance to avoid last minute hassle. This applies to hotel reservations too. Call your hotel and find out if they offer specific amenities that you may be looking for.
To maximize the fun, you might want to invest in a Pride Mobility Go-Go scooter that gives you the freedom to move about on your own. That way you can do things on your own without having to rely on others. A mobility scooter is definitely a better alternative to wheelchairs, especially when travelling.
Know Your Destination
Thoroughly research your destination using the Internet. Refer websites wherein other disabled travelers have enlisted their experiences and testimonials related to travelling to the locations you're interested in. Find out about the accessibility options as this is going to be one of the most crucial factors in determining how you will get to that place.
Other factors to consider are the quality of infrastructure and roads, availability of disabled-friendly toilets, monuments and old buildings with or without elevators, transportation options (are the trains and buses easy to board? ), and so on. If you plan on using a wheelchair, you will have to be meticulous in navigating through various kinds of places.
It is always advisable to study the hotel that you plan to stay at in detail. Call them in advance and find out what services they offer to the disabled. Ask them open-ended questions about every facility and ask them to describe them in detail. Make sure you get all your queries answered for your peace of mind.
It would be great if you could get a written confirmation of the amenities they offer, since that would act as proof for what they commit to you.
Pack carefully and take clothing as per the weather at your destination. Don't put all your medication together in one luggage. Make it a point to keep some with you in your carry-on bag, just in case your luggage arrival gets delayed or gets lost. Also, make a note of the medicines that need to be kept under certain temperatures. Store such medicines in the minibar in your hotel room. Carry you prescriptions along, if possible.
Do not forget to take your mobility scooter along as it is portable and can be easily disassembled and put together again. That should make traveling extremely convenient for you. If you're travelling to another country, make sure you purchase a health insurance cover for yourself. Again, read the fine print and the terms and conditions of the coverage before buying it.
Make sure you check-in early to board your flight on time. Make yourself comfortable once you're inside. Ask the attendants if there is someone in particular who can help you out with your needs, in case you require something.
If you can, carry forearm or collapsible crutches along as they can be carried around conveniently and can be folded up and stored right under your seat for easy accessibility. These will come in handy when you want to visit the toilet.
I know you're excited to start exploring the new land as soon as possible, but take it one day at a time. Ensure that you do not overdo it. Trying to cover too many spots in a short span of time will only tire you out and your health might suffer as a result.
Often, other tourists around you will be more than willing to help you move your wheelchair as and when needed but might feel shy in offering their assistance. If you need help, ask politely and explain to them exactly how they can help you out.
As challenging as it is for disabled tourists to travel independently, it is also equally exciting. With careful planning and execution, you're sure to have a memorable time.