Traveling differently abled has never been better. ADA legislation coupled with ever growing consumer demand has greatly improved the opportunities for quality accessible travel in the USA and abroad. That said, as someone who travels as often as possible while managing FSH muscular dystrophy, I find that the following measures best ensure successful accessible adventures.
Plan to plan
The readiness is all. – Shakespeare (Hamlet 5.2)
Whether you’re going to a state park or Stratford-upon-Avon, advance planning pays off, often literally. Popular destinations with ADA accommodations generally book up early, so the sooner you decide to make (cancellable) reservations, the most likely you are to get an ADA accessible room and at the best rate. (More on hotel bookings below.) Sure, last minute deals occasionally happen and spontaneous trips have their charms, but nothing beats happily anticipating a vacay knowing that your special needs are already addressed.
Go beyond filters
Given flexible travel dates, find available ADA accommodations first. Run-of-the-mill travel websites have a “facilities for handicapped guests” filter option (or should!). Cross check your findings with websites that specialize in accessible travel, such as accessiblego, Accessible Travel Solutions, and of course Red Scooter Diaries. Sites like these offer far more awareness about the needs of traveling differently abled, candid reviews, targeted ideas for where to go, what to do, where to stay, and even discounts and booking assistance. Boost the economic power of accessible travel with your clicks, shares, and dollars.
Join a group chat
Several Facebook groups inspire and comment on accessible travel with gusto. You’ll be amazed where and how your group friends spin the globe. Check out: Accessible Travel USA/Canada, Accessible Travel Club, Wheelchair Accessible Travel Advice, and access the globe.
Prefer to cruise? Join Wheelchair Accessible Cruising or Accessible Cruising.
Tap the search icon to quickly pull up posts from within the group to learn about your intended destination or how fellow travelers handle a special concern.
Making a list and checking it twice
Hotels vary in the degree to which they may or may not be “wheelchair accessible” or ADA compliant. Before solidifying a booking, call the hotel directly and ask specific questions about your ADA accommodations.
Here’s my list:
- Does the room have a roll-in shower? A detachable shower wand? Grab bars?
- Are there grab bars next to the toilet?
- Is the room on the ground floor?
- Is there a place I can recharge my electric scooter?
- Does the pool have a mobility lift?
- Can you send me a picture of the room?
- What is the cancellation policy?
Nipping potential hiccups in the bud greatly reduces pretravel anxiety. Plus, answers to your questions best ensure you’re reserving ADA accommodations that maximize safety and comfort; signal what additional equipment may need to be requested or packed (i.e. an extension cord, walker, shower chair, cooler for medicines, etc.); and allow you to keep searching for better arrangements if necessary.
Before the challenges of muscular dystrophy set in, I could easily take on the demands travel naturally incurs. Not so now. Fatigue is a factor that must be considered when planning any excursion, near or far. Allowing extra time to rest is an accepted determinant for many travelers who are managing medical conditions. When possible, strategies such as extending a trip an extra day so as not to skip on naps, or attending matinees instead of evening performances can buoy energy levels. The point is: make plans based on your physical and emotional thresholds and enjoy yourself.
Travel with a helpful companion
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or trusted caregiver, an extra pair of hands to ease caregiving responsibilities can positively impact travel success. Trial a short trip, and build from there.
Everyone’s caregiving needs and financial situation differ. Given my condition, we offer our caregiver a set day rate, shared accommodations, transportation, meals, and tickets to events in exchange for her professional assistance. It’s a win-win for both parties.
When a tour or venue is not accessible, get creative. There are often alternative solutions to seeing the sights. For instance, the Harry and David Factory Tour (Medford, OR) was accessible, but the tour van was not. (Go figure?!) So, we were permitted to follow the van in our own vehicle and park curbside right behind it at all stops. Similarly, Breaking Bad RV Tours (Albuquerque, NM) was not accessible (the operator told us when we called ahead). Undeterred, my friends looked up the self-guided tour of the filming locations and we drove around ourselves. Our own tour (easily ranking five stars!) included playing the show’s online trivia quiz and stopping at Garcia’s for a meal, while saving each of us the $75 tour fee on TripAdvisor(!). Staying determined and adaptable paves the way more times than not.
Making Accessibility Happen
Accessible travel for people who are differently abled is becoming big business. Speak with your dollars, your vote, and your voice to let commerce know what’s working, and what’s not.