Support for disabled travellers – Showerbuddy

Support for: disabled travellers

In this guide, we outline some of the main supports that should be considered before travelling. Having these mobility supports prepared well in advance is going to make things go much more smoothly.

  • Travelling with a disability isn’t something that needs to be navigated alone.

  • In many popular destinations there are numerous ways to make the trip easier. But support also exists within your own family, friends, or carer. And your airline will be only too happy to support you to have a pleasant journey wherever you’re going.

    The objective of support is not to dictate what a mobility-impaired individual does on holiday, but to enable them to do what they want. Understanding what support is available can help to reduce any anxieties around travelling – and allow more time for planning for and going on incredible trips.

  • Travelling with: support

  • Going travelling with a companion or family member

    Perhaps the most important support anyone with a disability can have whilst on holiday is that of their family. This might be just one family member (such as in the case of an adult child taking their elderly parent away for a trip), or the mobility impaired individual might be going away with the entire family. Either way, having this loved one support and help make sure connections are made, activities enjoyed and personal needs are met is an incredible benefit to a disabled traveller.

    Family members who support an individual at home are best placed usually to help them access what they need while travelling. They can also adapt the daily routine on holiday, finding ways to bring some of this stability into the day’s events, such as:

    • Bathroom use
    • Meals
    • Rest and relaxation time
    • Rehabilitation exercises
    • Medication

    If there’s an option to travel with family, this may be a wise choice for anyone looking to get support navigating each step of the journey.

  • What to remember

  • What to remember with accompanied travel

    Whether a mobility impaired person is travelling with family or a professional carer, it’s important that both parties consider the role each plays in the process. Most importantly, the question needs to be asked – is this holiday for the mobility impaired person to experience the world? If this is the case, the control and decision making on what to do and where to go needs to be that of the individual and not their carer. If these wishes aren’t practical for any reason, this should be worked through before travelling. Sometimes travel may be for broader reasons such as a group family holiday away to a resort. In these situations, the family should help find out what accessibility help is available in the destination.

    Those accompanying someone on a trip should also take care not to ‘get in the way’ of the mobility impaired person’s experience. In as many opportunities as possible encourage the individual to take their time, and ‘lead’ the process of seeing and doing things. For example, going through an art museum in New York, navigating around Stonehenge, or enjoying the beach – should all be done at the pace of the mobility impaired individual.

    The key here is to be patient. Things will take longer, but if both the individual and their family or companion are patient, the experience will be better for everyone.

    Choosing the right travel companion

    Are you someone who lives with a mobility impairment and trying to work out who to bring along? As anyone who’s travelled multiple times, who you travel with can make a big difference to the enjoyment of the holiday. So when you choose who will not only share your experiences but likely be needed for support along the way, consider the following:

    • Does your travel buddy have experience supporting you or someone with mobility challenges already at home?
    • Do they rush through activities or have patience to take their time?
    • Are they strong enough to help with lifting you and assistive equipment in places where accessibility is lacking?
    • Do they have a calm, careful approach to working around unforeseen circumstances, e.g. missing a flight or reorganising an itinerary?
    • Are they interested in similar things as you? Ideally the trip is enjoyable to both of you!

    It’s best to travel with someone who you know and trust well. Don’t be afraid to ask them about how they like to travel ahead of committing to travel with them – future you will be thankful!

    Travel companions for children – things to know

    Children will need supervision when travelling in all situations regardless of any mobility challenges. If you’re intending to be the primary travel companion for your child, it’s worth planning the trip carefully ahead of time with their involvement. In some situations with a child who lacks mobility, the trip for the companion may largely be centred around protecting and helping the child have a special experience. The dynamic is less of a partnership and more of a caregiver, meaning that travel should consider the practicalities of each activity and destination for the child. This doesn’t mean caregivers can’t enjoy holidays, but they should approach the travel with the child’s needs as a priority. The advantage of going away as an entire family, is that supporting a child with a disability can be shared across the group.

On the: move

  • Airlines and getting to the airport

    Airlines are perhaps some of the most experienced and well-equipped travel providers when it comes to supporting those with a physical disability. You might have noticed at the airport previously that disabled passengers are able to board earlier than everyone else given they take longer to transport onto the plane and get situated in their seat.

    Planning your flight ahead with the airline

    The key to getting the most support from an airline is to clearly communicate that you have a mobility requirement as part of your booking (whether that’s you or someone in your travel party). If you select this option while booking, or contact them separately about this, the airline can provide clear instructions as to when you should arrive at the airport, where to check in and who is available to help.

    Transport to and from airport

    Get in contact with your local airline or airport to enquire about travel options to get to the airport. There are specific vehicles and drivers that collect mobility impaired individuals with appropriate space and seating for a wheelchair, luggage, other equipment – and passengers!

    Alternatively, you can look online for disabled transport / taxi options in your city or town. You may also already have a preferred provider who assists with transport you can help deliver your group to the airport.

  • Travel Agents

  • Working with a travel agent

    Travel agencies are an excellent resource for anyone looking for help with planning a successful holiday. In the case of someone with mobility requirements, a travel agent can take the load off researching and enquiring, by arranging this all themselves. They will consider the travellers mobility needs as part of their suggested holiday packages and will ensure that from start to finish you don’t need to worry about transport or access.

    Get the most out of your travel agent by:

    • Clearly identifying the level of mobility impairment
    • Providing access capabilities
    • Advising of any other health complications
    • Being upfront about what activities or destinations you’re most interested in
    • Giving them a budget to work with

    From here, a travel agent can put together a package that suits you.

    Destination support and guidance

    Travel agents are highly qualified to provide assistance on popular holiday destinations; many of them are well-travelled themselves, helping to consult on what activities are like from a personal perspective. A travel agent will act as a liaison between you and airlines, hotels and the main activities to ensure mobility needs are catered for throughout the trip. Accessibility is a hugely important factor for an increasing number of travellers, so this is a very common part of a travel agent’s role.

    The travel agent can also help to plan a trip where the smaller details like quality of footpaths for a wheelchair and baseline accessibility of a destination are taken into account.

    Organising assistance at activities or tourist spots

    The travel agent won’t just help to plan a trip that’s compatible with someone navigating a disability, but they’ll inform each booking ahead of time of assistance required. For example, a boat trip may be able to provide additional access support for a party where they know somehow requires this. A more common example is the connection from the destination airport back to the hotel; after a long period of air travel, the last thing you want to think about is finding a disability-friendly taxi to your accommodation. The travel agent will arrange this all for you.
    Alternatively, you can look online for disabled transport / taxi options in your city or town. You may also already have a preferred provider who assists with transport you can help deliver your group to the airport.

  • Insurance & support

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    Do your local health authorities provide any support?

    Before travelling, mobility impaired individuals and their family should speak with their OT, PT, doctor and health providers to ask about support available to travel. This may come in the form of equipment, guides on where to travel, and help with planning a successful trip.

    Insurance and travel

    Everyone who travels outside of their country needs travel insurance. Travellers can’t rely upon another country’s health system to help should they require assistance or have an accident. For someone with mobility challenges, the need for peace of mind through insurance is even greater with risks of unfamiliar surroundings and frequent movement.

    Speak to a good, trusted and reputable travel insurer about the options they have for someone with a disability. They can help to ensure your whole group is covered.

  • Research ahead of time

  • Doing your local research ahead of time

    Tapping into mobility support available is largely dependent on doing the research ahead of time. This means you’ll want to do some online investigation as to your destination’s accessibility-friendliness across a number of areas.

    What transport options are there?

    Getting around at your destination safely and comfortably can be achieved in a number of ways. First, you can look into taxi services for disabled people and find out which operators get the best reviews. You can also get in touch with these providers for a discussion around how they charge, what services they provide and their availability on the dates of your stay.

    Then, your travel group has the option of a rental vehicle (typically a van) with accessibility features such as an access ramp and carriage space for mobility equipment.

    Depending on where you’re staying, the mode of transport might include boat or train. Similarly to road vehicles, you’ll want to find out exactly what the access is like for these transport options and consider booking these in advance if you require special assistance.

    Which hotels have the best support in place?

    Researching hotels can feel like a long, arduous process; especially when comparing 20 or so equally-reviewed options. When travelling with a disability, the criteria needs to include how easily accessible hotels are. But you should also contact your shortlist of hotel options and learn more about how they cater with disabled guests – do they have rooms in closer proximity to the exit and restaurant, for instance.

    You should also ask about their facilities, particularly the bathroom and ensure these will accommodate the typical bathroom routine.

    You can read more about choosing accommodation for disabilities in our full guide.

    What things do you want to do in your destination?

    Knowing the support requirements for a mobility impaired individual is largely dependent upon the desired activities on the holiday. Each traveller is different, with some of us preferring a more relaxed trip with slow walks around amazing museums and others of us with a passion for being out on the water.

    Once you have a full list of activities, it’s a good idea to contact each provider, or look for information on their website about options for disabled customers. There’s far more activities available to mobility impaired people than ever before – travel providers are dedicated to bringing their experiences to as many people as they can.

    Find out what local disability support programmes are in place for tourists

    The challenge with travelling is that each country (or even city) has different levels of support in place for people with disabilities. Beyond your travel, accommodation and activity providers, look into local government information for resources for tourists with disabilities. Many governments provide useful information into their country’s readiness for disabled travellers.

    Remember, travelling doesn’t need to cost at every moment; in fact many of the best memories you create could very well be during free exploration of a new place.

Learn more about Showerbuddy’s: range for disabled travellers

Showerbuddy provides solutions for mobility-impaired travellers. Head over to our travel range page to explore our purpose-built travel shower chairs. A good bathroom mobility chair that can come on the road with you makes travel much easier.

Helpful Guides: Learn more in these related guides

  • Holiday ideas for mobility impaired travellers

  • Flying with a Wheelchair

  • Disabled Bathroom Tips while Travelling Abroad

  • Choosing Accommodation for Disabled Travel