Traveling with disabilities and special needs

Having a disability can make everyday tasks daunting or difficult, so the possibility of traveling can seem out of the question. How can you wander the cobblestoned streets of Venice or hike to Macchu-Picchu when you are navigating your electric wheelchair or dragging a portable oxygen tank à la Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars? Traveling with loved ones with disabilities can seem daunting, too; it can often be difficult to balance your enjoyment with the enjoyment of your travel partner, and this is intensified when you are of different abilities.

The key to any sort of travel, but especially travel with disabilities, is research. Look up ahead of time what sort of activities are available at your destination. Create an itinerary and make sure to look up such details as whether the public transit is wheelchair-accessible. It may seem paranoid or unsavoury to think about, but you may want to look up if there are medical facilities nearby in case of emergencies. Try to communicate with everyone involved ahead of time, for example, notify the airline, hotel manager, and any tour guides of you or your loved one’s disability. This is especially important if the disability in question is hidden.

Image source: Wikipedia

Also, it may be necessary to determine whether the destination is appropriate for the specific disability you are traveling with. For example, if you or your loved one has a mobile disability, you will want to find destinations with good transit and road access, like a big city, but if you are traveling with a neurological condition such as autism, you may want a place that is less crowded, such as the countryside. If you are blind or deaf, having a good tour guide or dog-friendly destinations may be important.

These days, there are many disability-specific websites to help you on your journey. Abhishek Behl, creator of the website “Traveling With MS”, began to address difficulties associated with disabled travel when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Despite his condition, he travels often with his wife, and his website is dedicated to helping other people with MS to overcome difficulties associated with traveling. Similarly, Margalit Francus is the author of the website “Autistic Globetrotting”, which she created as a guide for those traveling with autistic family members (though her website is geared more towards parents of children with autism, and assumes that the individuals with autism will not be planning the trip).

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Disabilities can sometimes seem to overwhelm your whole life, but don’t let them stop you from traveling! Right now, one of my friends with Cystic Fibrosis is on a backpacking trip with her boyfriend in Europe, having an incredible time. Traveling can be an enriching experience for anyone, and with a little planning, can change your life for the better.

Image source: flickr

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