Travel Accessibility and Tips for Travelers with Disabilities

Written by Bonnie Gringer

Disabled travelers may need special services and accommodations to travel safely and successfully, and they have a right to these services by law. Depending on the destination, accessibility may be a challenge, especially when traveling internationally. Because everyone has unique needs, providing accessibility will require different things from person to person. However, with advance planning, it’s often possible to travel where you want to go with a disability.

Travel Tips

  • Plan in Advance: Research your destination so you know what accommodations are available for you. Book hotels in advance, and plan travel routes carefully. Service providers in the tourist industry must provide accommodations for disabled travelers, but this might take time in some cases. Always call a provider at least 24 hours prior to your arrival to ensure that the destination is ready for you.
  • Create a Backup Plan: Even after careful planning, issues can arise. Create backup options in case plans fall through. If the weather interferes with your schedule, your wheelchair breaks, or your flight is delayed, you’ll have a “plan B.”
  • Communicate Clearly: Describe your limitations and completely and explain exactly what you can and cannot do to ensure you get the assistance you need.
  • Get Physician Recommendations: Get your doctor’s input as you plan travel. Your physician may be able to provide suggestions for flying or for traveling by car. Request a statement from your doctor that outlines your condition, medications, possible complications, and other special needs. Include the physician’s phone number in the statement.
  • Travel with Extra Medication: Bring an extra set of your medications with you in case of emergency. Travel with all of your medication in a carry-on bag.
  • Explore Physician Availability: Check out doctors at your destination prior to traveling.
  • Bring Medical Alert Information: Travel with a necklace, bracelet, or wallet card to identify your medical issues.
  • Use a Special Travel Agent: Find a travel agent who specializes in assisting travelers with additional needs.
  • Special Tours: Consider a special tour guide to help you manage your vacation. Make sure your tour guide is experienced, and research what to expect on the tour.
  • Travel Direct: Whenever possible, avoid flights with connections. Flying direct is usually less complicated.
  • Check in Early: Always arrive at the airport early enough to get through security and find your gate.
  • Know Your Rights: Travelers with disabilities may have specific rights regarding airport security.
  • Communicate with Flight Attendants: Make a plan for disembarking with the flight attendants before you land.
  • Arrange Transportation: The transportation you arrange to and from the airport needs to have the necessary accessibility options.

Be Flexible

Barriers can be frustrating, but a can-do attitude does wonders for handling challenges. While being flexible is important, expect and demand equal access during your travel, but have a positive attitude about it.

  • Devise methods for the greatest independence so you can manage things yourself. For example, using a lightweight wheelchair when traveling may help you manage without having assistance.
  • Be prepared to handle needing to use the bathroom when the bathrooms aren’t accessible.
  • Learn a few key phrases in the local language if you’re traveling internationally.