Travel From a Wheelchair User’s Perspective!

Accessible tourism is defined as tourism and travel that is accessible to all people, with disabilities or not. Including those with mobility, hearing, sight, cognitive, or intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, older persons and those with temporary disabilities or traveling with a wheelchair.

Evidence shows that making basic adjustments to a facilities, providing accurate information, and understanding the needs of disabled people can result in increased visitor numbers. Also, improving the accessibility of tourism services increases their quality and the enjoyment of all tourists.

We interviewed Aaron Busch, one of our talented travel consultants here at guide me away, and an avid traveler, to get his intake on accessible travel and traveling with disabilities.

What are some steps to consider before traveling?

Having traveled without a wheelchair when I was younger and mostly with one these days, there are a lot of precautions that I take prior to traveling. Also, as my fiancée is fully wheelchair dependent, there are a lot of things that I look for when we travel together. 

This involves looking up the destination I’m headed to, taking note of the type of terrain, the indoor amenities and facilities, transportation to, from (and around) our destination, tours and excursions available, etc.

What are some challenges you face while traveling in a wheelchair?

The typical problem that I find while traveling with a wheelchair (and this will tie directly into questions 3/4) is how the Airline handles the wheelchair. And that’s the difference of having an amazing experience for the trip that you’ve paid for, or spending most of it stuck in your Hotel or stuck using a rental that isn’t your own. 

Other challenges people could face might be a lack of accessibility in their accommodations. Or that their room lacks the proper functionality, or that the transportation to their Hotel, or as part of the tour package isn’t accessible. It could be that the family has paid for a tour without looking at whether that tour offered is fully wheelchair-friendly. These are all questions that need to be had with the client and the Supplier.

Whenever someone with a wheelchair asks me what they should do when booking a flight, I tell them this:

Does their wheelchair have a dry, wet, or gel-sealed battery? Is anything on their chair removable or collapsible? These are components that can potentially break when the luggage staff are handling it. Removing the headrest will phenomenally reduce any potential problems of loading it into the plane. 

They also need to obtain the dimensions of their chair. Height, Width, Length. This is information that can be passed on to the Airline. They have all the specs for the cargo doors on their Aircrafts. They give this information to me every time and if the cargo door is smaller than my wheelchair, I ask to be put on a larger, more accessible plane. There is usually no cost for this exchange. 

In regards to seating, the Bulkhead section is exclusively reserved for people with disabilities. There was one particular Airline that reserved a few choice comments for what their Bulkhead section was reserved for, but after a few conversations with the appropriate people, I was able to quickly resolve this.

What are some of your best accessible travel destinations?

I’ve never been outside of North America, albeit I have been to the Caribbean and Mexico. These were both on various cruises when I was younger. A recurring place I tend to visit with my fiancée is Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Pre-Covid, we typically traveled down there in the Winter. It was also on the second visit that I proposed to my fiancée, Amelia at the California Grill. We were supposed to have our wedding last year, but that has been postponed.

Not every destination is as accessible as Disney though. I’ve been on some experiences like Alaska and Jamaica where there were no accessible sidewalks. I was on a Cruise where I was flat out refused to leave the ship because they didn’t have an accessible means of reaching shore. This was many years ago before I actually started taking a pre-meditated initiative to start asking all the right questions.

How different is the experience when you travel alone VS with others?

Of course, when you’re traveling with friends and family, these are all hurdles that can be overcome with their aid, but sometimes there are just circumstances that friends/family can’t help with. An inaccessible travel experience can be very upsetting for the person with the mobility challenges. And can also be upsetting for those accompanying him/her and such challenges should be resolved well in-advance.

Did you know that here at guide me away! we offer dedicated accessible travel services? Our travel expert, Lia Hershkovitz is a certified autism travel professional. You can read more here.

Contact us now to help you plan your next accessible travel adventure!


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