The travel population, comprised largely of Baby Boomers is aging, but they have no interest in cutting back or slowing down. Travel can present quite a challenge for those with disabilities, but there are things they can do and opportunities they can take advantage of to make travel possible and fun. Here are a few suggestions:
Wheelchairs: Normally you can use your own wheelchair as far as the boarding point of the aircraft, where you will transfer to a special aisle chair. If you are able to walk a short distance, you should request a seat near the entrance doors. Your wheelchair will then be stored conveniently for immediate availability on arrival. For your own convenience and that of the other passengers, the airline will probably want to preboard you, so arriving early at the airport is a good idea.
To request wheelchair assistance at the airport, inform the agent when booking the ticket. Request service for both departing and arriving destinations. Forty-eight hours before departure, call the airline to confirm the wheelchair request.
Kidney Disease: Individuals with kidney disease whose condition necessitates a low sodium diet should notify the airline or tour operator they are traveling with to requests low sodium meals or refreshments. The same can be arranged with cruise ships and hotels. Make arrangements well before departure, and double check with the travel provider before you leave.
Blind and Sight-Impaired: Blind and sight-impaired travelers are free to travel where they wish and when they wish on any form of public transportation. No company involved with carrying paying passengers in the U.S. and Canada and most other countries can restrict their right to travel or can make rules as to where they can sit. If you wish to travel by air you should notify your travel agent and/or the airline at the time of booking a flight of your disability and be sure that the information is included in your flight booking. This will ensure that the airline is able to offer you the services you need such as pre-boarding, a guided tour of the aircraft and large type menus for meals.
Diabetics: With modern methods of glucose control, persons with diabetes should be able to travel without problems. However, before undertaking a long journey or one which involves crossing several time zones, anyone with diabetes should have a full medical evaluation. Discuss with your doctor any problems, which may arise from changing time zones or your insulin supply, food and medication. Also check whether you can use finger-stick blood glucose tests during your trip. Check what medication you can use for diarrhea and nausea and what food and drinks to avoid. Make sure that any dental work you need is completed before your trip. Take an adequate supply of medication and carry several days’ supply in your hand luggage in case your checked luggage is lost or delayed. Bring a synopsis of your condition and copies of medication prescriptions.
Hearing Impaired: If you wear a hearing aid, pack extra batteries and a spare hearing aid in the event of breakage. Tell the flight attendant of your hearing impairment or deafness so that you will be notified of any emergency or other announcements. Notify hotel personnel of your hearing impairment so that you will be informed of any emergency, such as a fire alarm.
For those who cannot walk long distances, there are a growing number of tour companies using the Segway Human Transporter—the two-wheeled electric-powered scooter. There is a company in Honolulu that gives Segway tours of Waikiki.
Don’t let a disability keep you from enjoying a great vacation.