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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Planning to go away

With any trip or holiday - in Britain or abroad - it's a good idea to do some planning for the travel part of your trip. If you're a disabled person, there may be a few extra things to think about before you leave home.

Communicating your needs

It's important to remember that countries differ and not all services and facilities will be available or accessible to you. If you need a particular service or facility, check that it's available before booking your trip.

Often an impairment is not obvious to other people, so make sure you explain your particular requirements clearly. Don't assume that staff at travel agents, travel offices or airports will automatically know or understand your needs.

This is particularly important when booking by phone, post or over the internet.

Finding out information

In the UK, information produced by travel agents, tour operators, airports and airlines should be clear and simple to use.

They should also take reasonable steps to make sure that their information services are accessible to disabled people, for example that information is available in accessible formats, such as Braille, large print or on audiotape.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 aims to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. Part 3 of the DDA relates to service providers', which include travel agencies, tour operators and businesses that provide accommodation and other leisure services.

Service providers have a duty to make sure that, as a disabled customer, you're not unjustifiably treated less favourably than other customers for a reason related to your disability.

More detailed information about access rights, including 'reasonable adjustments', can be found in 'Access to everyday services'.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and accessible air travel

Travelling by air is not covered by the DDA. However, the Act does apply to the use of services in the UK, like booking systems and airport facilities and services. For example, shops and check-in facilities in the airport are covered but in-flight services and entertainment on the plane are not.

Since July 2007, it has been illegal for an airline, travel agent or tour operator to refuse a booking on the grounds of disability, or to refuse to allow a disabled person to board an aircraft when they have a valid ticket and reservation. This applies to any flight leaving an airport in the European Union, and also to flights on European airlines arriving in the EU.

The law also covers people with reduced mobility, including those with a temporary mobility problem.

In very occasional circumstances these rights may not apply - for example, where there are legitimate safety or technical reasons why a disabled person cannot board an aircraft. In such cases, you must be told the reasons and offered a reasonable alternative.

To avoid things going wrong, if you need assistance at the airport or on board the aircraft, it is important that you make this clear at the time of booking (or no later than 48 hours before departure).

Travelling in Europe

The 'Your Europe' portal gives individuals practical information about their rights in the EU. It focuses on real-life, cross-border situations, such as British citizens wishing to travel in another country in the EU.

Overseas travel advice

The travel section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website contains country-specific travel advice for anyone planning a trip overseas.

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