Lauren is a 22 year old travel writer with a passion for raising awareness around accessibility. From Victoria, she has cerebral palsy and has previously suffered a stroke, but it hasn’t deterred her love of travel. You can read all about her adventures here.
Traveling is one of the best things you can do, as it allows you to explore the world and gain a better understanding of different cultures. I know it has certainly enriched my life. However, I also know from personal experience that, for a person with a disability, especially a physical one, traveling can be daunting, with the extra challenges that we have to face and overcome. To ease these challenges, I have come up with a few tips that will hopefully make traveling a little less nerve racking.
If you have a carer at home, and you can afford to take them with you, or get them funded, do so! This is particularly important if you’re traveling alone as you will need assistance with personal care. However, I also recommend you take one even if you’re traveling with friends. I went away with a friend in February and although she did an amazing job of caring for me, she got quite tired and I felt guilty. It’s nice to keep your friends separate from your carers so that you’re not placing responsibility on them, but rather just enjoying their friendship.
If you’re with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), you may be eligible to get a carer funded to come on holidays with you. Leisure Options is a travel agency that is registered with the NDIS and can customise disabled holiday packages to provide a relaxing or exciting time for people with all ranges of abilities from the independent to those requiring one-on-one or full-time support. It’s worth investigating!
Communicating with foreigners can be tricky at the best of times, so if you have a speech impairment, take a communication device with you. There are even some useful apps that you can download onto your computer, tablet, phone, etc., such as Proloquo4Text.
Select your airline carefully when booking your flights. Whilst the budget airlines may be more appealing, they’re not always as accommodating as the other major airlines. For example, some only accommodate for prams and wheelchairs, so if you have another walking aide that you need to take with you, such as a walking frame, this may cause a problem.
When pre-booking your seat on the plane or if the plane is not completely full, request an aisle seat so that you have easy access if you need to move out of your seat during the flight.
If you have a package where you get a private transfer to and from the airport, ensure that you have a suitable car that meets your needs. There was a miscommunication between my travel agent and the transfers company which resulted in me being picked up in a sedan car that my wheelchair couldn’t fit into – stressful beginning to my holiday!
Physical aids and medical info
Choose your physical aides wisely! I found this to be super important. I was going to take my walking frame to the UK until it was pointed out to me that if I took my wheelchair, I could focus on exploring what’s around me rather than walking. This made a lot of sense and I’m so glad that I listened. I was able to take in so much more than what I would have if I was walking. It was also much safer as the UK has a lot of rough terrain which would have made walking in my frame extremely difficult. So think about where you are going and what you’ll be doing before choosing which walking aide (if any) to take.
Have all your basic medical information on a medical bracelet or necklace and wear it. If you get sick or there’s an emergency and you can’t communicate properly or at all, at least your medical information will be on you in writing so health professionals can still be informed of your medical history. This could help save your life!
When searching for accommodation, look for hotels that have disability friendly suites. It’s often the bathroom that is made accessible and it really makes a difference. Shower time becomes much easier for you and your carer. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for extras like a shower chair; good hotels will often supply these for you.
If possible, visit places during the more quiet times, such as in the mornings. You will have more time to navigate your way through the places and view things.
Another tip is to go in the opposite direction to everyone else if possible. Before we toured Windsor Castle in England, it was suggested that we begin by looking at the Crown Jewels, which are usually last to be seen if the general trail is followed, so that there are less people around. This made accessing the room and viewing the Jewels much easier.
My final piece of advice, and I think the most important, is to enjoy yourself. Don’t let your disability stop you. Embrace the little hurdles that you face. If you can’t do some tasks that others might be able to, it just means you have more time to relax!
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