Accessible Travel Tips
There are a number of important aspects to remember to make your trip more memorable and less challenging. Here are a few we think are important to share:
Be specific and clear when describing a disability.
- Assume ignorance in all of your planning and preparation. Not all service providers know the “lingo” of accessible travel, or the medical terms for certain conditions.
- Give as many details as you can about what you can and can’t do. Don’t downplay the severity of your disability. The more information a service provider has, the better they will be able to accommodate you.
- If they promise you certain accommodations, get their promises in writing.
Make reservations for accommodation well in advance.
- In most countries the law requires service providers to accommodate travelers with special needs. However, most need some time to make the necessary arrangements.
- Mention your needs at the time of reservation – preferably in writing.
- Call the provider 24 to 48 hours before your arrival to confirm that proper accommodation arrangements have been made.
Know what you want to see or what you want to tick off your bucket list.
- Although there is much to be said for spontaneity and living in the moment, we don’t always have that luxury as a disabled traveler.
- Not all of the sights at the destination you plan to visit may be easily accessible or cater for disabled visitors.
- Avoid the disappointment of not being allowed entry due to your disability or of visiting a popular sight on a day that it may be closed. Ratanga Junction in Cape Town, for instance, is a popular amusement park but unlike Disneyland and EuroDisney, they don’t allow disabled visitors on most of their rides. They also only open on certain days that differ during and after local school holidays.
Consider using a specialist travel agent.
- Some agents provide stellar niche services. One might be very experienced in working with hearing-impaired travelers, while another is an expert with developmentally impaired travellers.
- Find someone who knows the ropes in terms of your challenges and travelling needs.
Book flights well in advance
- Choose airlines with a good reputation in respect of disabled passengers.
- Notify the airline in detail about your specific needs in writing when you make your booking.
- Be sure to request seats that will comply with your specific needs, eg. close to toilets.
- Get a written response from the airline confirming they can accommodate your specific needs.
Avoid connecting flights where possible.
- Wheelchairs are – supposed to be – the last items to be checked into the luggage compartments and thus first to be pulled off. Unfortunately that does not always happen.
- Flying direct can save you unnecessary time and hassle.
- If you have trouble maneuvering into airplane lavatories, long flights may become uncomfortable. In that case, a series of shorter flights might be a better option.
- If you do choose to connect, be sure to allow plenty of time between flights (at least 90 minutes or two hours if you need to go through customs or security) to get from one gate to the next.
Book or plan transport in advance.
- Make sure that accessible vehicles, transfers or excursions are booked well in advance.
- Check and check again that they are appropriate to your needs. Some adapted transport in certain holiday destinations may be limited or not appropriate for your disability.
- For more information and links to book transport in Durban visit our Transport page.
Pack your handicapped parking permit.
- If you have a government issued permit for special parking, have it copied and bring it with you.
- Routinely carry the permit with you and place it on the dashboard of any vehicle you use.
- It allow you to park closer to historic sites and it earns you extra attention and assistance from guards and other people at attractions like museums and castles.
- On a recent visit to Ireland Wanda neglected to display a handicapped parking permit, resulting in a hefty fine of €80! Luckily they could locate the local traffic police department where they explained their predicament. The fine was very kindly being nullified!
Be specific and clear when describing your trip to your doctor.
- Your doctor can prescribe measures for coping with an unusually long flight, limited medical facilities at your destination, the unavailability of prescription drugs and other pitfalls of traveling.
- Be prepared – in some cases, your doctor may question the advisability of travel.
Keep a doctor’s note and phone number with you at all times in case of emergency.
- Travel with a statement from your doctor, preferably on letterhead, covering your condition, medications, potential complications, special needs and other pertinent information.
- Have a number where your doctor (or another medical professional) can be reached in an emergency situation at any hour of the day.
Bring extra medication.
- Many experts advise that you travel with two complete packages of essential medication in case of emergency.
- Store all medications and other necessary medical supplies in your carry-on bag.
- Remember to keep your doctor’s note with your medication should airline staff or anyone else need it.
Investigate physician availability where you will be traveling.
- Your doctor, insurance company or local embassy can provide the names and contact numbers of physicians at your destination.
Carry medical alert information.
- Carry the informationin a place that a medical professional or anyone who assists you will find easily (wallet card, necklace, close to your identification).
Make provision for special equipment.
- You may need special equipment that you do not want to carry from home.
- Small towns and sometimes even larger cities in less developed countries often do not stock disposable supplies, lift-equipped rental vehicles, etc.
- Once in Rome, Italy one of Wanda’s permatubes perished. It was incredibly challenging and time consuming to find a new tyre for my chair – granted we were still very new to overseas travel!
For more information and links for suppliers in Durban, follow our useful links.