Traveling can be a challenging experience for people with disabilities

(Photo: Michaela Schöllhorn/
(Photo: Michaela Schöllhorn/

For people with disabilities, the challenges may begin well before starting the actual journey. When traveling, a handicap may make it more difficult to react rapidly. For this reason, it is recommended to consider in advance some of the problems which could arise. In this way, you will improve your chances of enjoying a trouble-free trip.

Whether you are traveling overseas or in your own country, the first thing to do is to find an adequate travel destination and the right accommodation. When choosing your destination, keep in mind that barrier-free may not always have the same meaning for everyone. Whether you book on Internet or through a specialized travel agency, you should be aware of your own needs. How wide do the doors need to be? Which minimal size do the lifts need to have? How many stairs am I able to walk up or down, in case there is no other option? Do I need a wheel-in shower, or is a bathtub with safety handles suitable for me? It is recommended to clarify all those questions beforehand with the hotel of your choice, and ask for a written confirmation. In this way you can avoid some unpleasant surprises upon arrival at your holiday destination.

Disability-friendly abroad

Disability-friendly may have different significations depending on where you travel. For example, Scandinavian countries may provide a good infrastructure, whereas other countries would still need improvement. Unfortunately, this is often the case in southern countries or more exotic destinations. The lack of an adapted toilet may then prove to be the least of your problems. For this reason, it is a good idea to ask other travelers for advice as well as identify your own specific needs.

Journey onwards

The journey itself has to be well thought through. The least complicated way to travel, but also the most strenuous, is most probably to use your own vehicle. The train might prove to be more comfortable. Some destinations can be reached only by airplane. Moreover, it is recommended that you also plan how to get to the train station or to the airport. If you need to get there by car, you should clarify beforehand where you can park it while you're away. While planning, you should also not forget to organize how to get from the parking lot to the train platform or to the terminal.

Boarding assistance must be requested and booked in advance. Air travelers are requested to carefully register any accessibility aid or disability-related luggage before departure. Rail transport does not require such arrangements. However, passengers are requested to make sure that any disability aids as well as luggage for oneself and for an accompanying person can easily be carried. People travelling abroad should also check if it is possible to find medication on site and where. However, it is always better to carry one's own medication along. Moreover, you should also have a written document from your doctor, in English and in German, proving the necessity of the medication.

Mobility on site

If you are not traveling with your own car, you should think about how you will get around once on site. Nowadays it is usually possible to arrange with your travel agent for transport to the hotel for an extra charge. However, when on holidays, travelers usually enjoy more than just accessible rooms, restaurants and beaches.

Therefore it is worthwhile to inform yourself beforehand about taxis or rental cars which are adapted for wheelchairs.

Increase your insurance coverage

Anticipating that some events could turn wrong might be called pessimistic; however, for a person with disabilities far away from home, such unexpected events might prove to be much more challenging than for any other traveler.

More than any other traveler, a person with disabilities or in a weakened health situation should inform himself beforehand about the coverage of his health insurance while abroad. In some cases, the coverage should be increased. This applies also to any accompanying person, should such a support be required.

Lost or damaged luggage is no good news. However, when an accessibility aid is lost or damaged, this usually signifies the end of the journey, unless one has previously inquired where to get help on site, should such an event occur.

You should also keep in mind that most insurance companies, for example of airlines, take charge of the costs only partially. In the worst cases, one may be forced to put an end to the journey because of a health problem or because some piece of equipment got broken. Should such an event occur, much trouble can be avoided if various return options have already been considered before departure. Ideally, the traveler has booked an additional insurance and has organized a contact person, who can take charge should something happen. Even if this insurance has not been needed while traveling, it is reassuring to know that it can be relied on. Then all that remains for you to enjoy is your passion for traveling.


Text: Justin Black 11/12
Photo: Michaela Schöllhorn/
Translation: CFontaine 12/12