Travelling with a person who requires a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or walker may be uniquely different, but not impossible.
Keep reading for tips to help you prepare for travelling with a person who has mobility issues.
- Prior to your trip, get medical clearance in writing from a doctor. Some airlines need advance notice of any medical conditions or special needs, so be sure to ask your travel agent or review the airline company’s website to see what they require. Remember to carry medical clearance forms with you at all times in case an emergency occurs and medical assistance is required.
- Contact the airline, hotel, and any tourist attractions that you are planning to visit in the planning stages of your trip to learn what their policies are around service animals. Most places are happy to accommodate a service animal but it’s always good to be certain before committing to anything.
- If possible, try to book your accommodations at least six months ahead of your trip. Not all hotels are fully accessible for people with mobility issues and may only have a few barrier-free rooms available so they typically get booked quickly. Before you commit to a hotel, do some research into the neighbourhood where the hotel is located. What’s the point in staying at a barrier-free hotel if the area presents other mobility issues? (E.g. the hotel is located on top of a steep hill, or the nearby restaurants don’t have wheelchair ramps.)
- Do some research into the tourist attractions that you want to visit in order to eliminate other potential mobility problems. You might be surprised at how accessible popular tourist spots, facilities, and guided tours can be for guests with special needs. This will help you plan your route carefully to avoid mobility challenges such as cobblestone streets, steep hills, flights of stairs, or venues that are not wheelchair-friendly.
- Try to arrive early, whether it’s at the airport, or a meeting spot with your tour group. This doesn’t mean you need to rush around and potentially miss out on your surroundings. On the contrary, being early means you can take your time going through the check-in and security procedures at the airport, and avoid the crowds at popular tourist attractions.
- Let the screening officer at the airport know about mobility issues including vision, hearing, speech, medical, or other special needs that the person you’re travelling with has. Knowing this information helps airport staff assist the person you are taking care of in the most efficient and unobtrusive manner as possible. Let check-in staff know if you need help lifting carry-on baggage or getting the person to his or her assigned seat.
- Have a backup plan in case circumstances change at the last minute despite all of your careful planning. You may not be able to stop these circumstances from happening but having a back-up plan can help you avoid delays and disappointment along the way. Cancellation insurance will help recover some (if not all!) of the money paid when the trip was booked.
In order to break down the barriers that not too long ago would have made travelling difficult, if not impossible, the tourism industry has since found ways to offer services and amenities geared towards those who travel and have mobility issues.
Even the Grand Canyon, with its rugged and steep terrain, is accessible – proving that the adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is true.