Disabled travellers

Going abroad can present new challenges for travellers with disabilities. Senior woman in wheelchair, posing for photo with her husband. © Peter Teller/Getty Images

But there are steps you can take with your transport, accommodation, driving and travel insurance to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.  

You should also read our Travel Checklist and check our Travel Advice for the country you’re planning to visit.

Booking your holiday

  • research facilities - consult a good guidebook and disability organisations in the UK and the country you plan to visit
  • consider using specialist tour operators
  • be clear about your requirements when you contact holiday providers, airlines and hotels
  • discuss your communication needs with the travel organiser, for example information in large print or Braille

Transport

You need to think about your needs over the whole journey:

  • try to book your seat and find out about toilet accessibility and special dietary requirements
  • find out what assistance is available, for example at check-in, moving around the terminal, or on boarding and disembarking
  • ask your airline operator about their policy for carrying on any equipment you need such as wheelchairs, portable machines, batteries, respirators or oxygen
  • if you have an assistance dog you may need veterinary certificates and identification documents.  Or the dog may be subject to quarantine regulations. See the Guide Dogs UK website for information on flying with dogs
  • try to check in early and confirm any arrangements you have with handling agents at the time of check-in
  • ensure that the cabin crew are aware of any potential problems or concerns you may have
  • when checking in your luggage, remember that crutches, canes, braces and small removable parts of wheelchairs (e.g. foot rests) may be carried as part of your hand luggage although these will be included in your weight allowance
  • If you use a wheelchair you will be asked to transfer to another chair at the airport so that your chair can be loaded onto the plane

Make sure you ask the crew for it to be made available at the door on arrival.
This is important because even if you give handlers instructions at the start of your journey, you may not be able to do the same with the handlers when you arrive.

Accommodation

Be specific about your requirements. Ask for whatever you need to make your stay comfortable. And ask for written confirmation that your requirements can be met.

Your travel agent or tour operator should be able to advise you. But you could also call the hotel, resort or cruise liner directly to speak to someone who is familiar with the rooms.

Driving abroad

Insurance

  • make sure you tell your insurance company about any pre-existing conditions you have
  • you may have to pay any medical costs you incur yourself if you don’t
  • if you have serious condition or a mental health problem, you may find that your best option is to seek cover from specialist insurers

Health and medication

  • most disabled people don’t need to get medical clearance before travelling. But some airlines may ask for proof that you are fit to travel and are able to attend to your own personal needs
  • if you have a medical condition you may need to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) with your doctor
  • take enough medication with you to see you through the holiday and allow for possible delays
  • always keep clearly-labelled medication and any medical documents in your hand luggage or in a place you can get to them easily
  • it may be essential to have a letter from your doctor stating your need for the medication just in case you lose your medicine or need to get more
  • your medication may contain ingredients which are illegal in some countries. Check with the nearest Embassy of the country you are going to

If you are a frequent traveller with a stable impairment you may be able to obtain a Frequent Travellers’ Medical Card (FREMEC).
This gives the airline a permanent record of your specific needs so you don’t have to fill in a form and make arrangements every time you travel.

See Also

Driving abroad

Travel checklist

Travel health

Useful Links

The Blue Badge Scheme (Direct Gov) - information on the scheme

Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee - advises the government on access for disabled people to transport and website has lots of info on all aspects of travel.

DTI factsheet on air travel for disabled people - factsheet on disabled travellers’ air travel rights from the Dept of Transport

Guide Dogs UK

IAM Blue Badge Scheme in Europe - provides information on parking in Europe

Royal National Institute for the Blind

 

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