Necessity has driven humankind to strategise, design, create and innovate (some of these humans are featured in the ‘Australian Of The Year’ monument pillars along Lake Burley-Griffin. See featured pic). This need has resulted in contributions, both beneficial, and at times detrimental because we have always strived for ways to fulfil a real or perceived need.
We live in an ableist world that is slowly recognising that people of all abilities have very similar needs when it comes to the desire for other experiences. People with physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities move around the globe, and this has resulted in significant advancements in the acknowledgement of, and adaptations required to facilitate every traveller.
As a follow up to my recent blog, You Can Travel With A Disability, I am excited to share further helpful ideas, and knowledge learned regarding the necessities for disability travelling. The information offered here, from my travels and that of some generous contributors, will hopefully, make your disability travelling that much more enjoyable.
- I, and so many people I talk to about disability travelling, cannot stress enough the importance of emphasising your needs and asking questions until you get your required answers.
- Get ALL acknowledgements of accommodation, hiring and mode of travel in writing and check the day or week before you leave.
- When flying, make sure the airline has all your specifications and notes regarding:
- how you need to be transferred.
- dimensions, when adjusted to fit under the hold, and weight of your devices.
- whether your device is to be checked onto a connecting flight.
- The type of battery; should it be taken on board or disconnected (and if so how to disengage it). Can it be left on the device? Check with your wheelchair manufacturer.
- How to recline, or fold down the wheelchair or scooter to fit it into the hold.
- Anything else the airline request that you specify. We have mostly used QANTAS and have still encountered hiccups in their internal communication. We would not have left Melbourne if we had not made sure to speak to the ground staff ourselves on the day of departure to explain how my wheelchair reclines and what height and length it then becomes.
- Always request Special Assistance to enable you to move through the terminal easily when you are flying.
- When travelling with someone with intellectual disability, label EVERYTHING. Include a nametag lanyard if possible.
- Ensure your intellectually disabled charge has their phone securely with them at all times. Apple tracking features and devices are popular among carers of people with intellectual disability.
- Bed risers are terrific when we encounter those impossibly low beds when semi-ambulant or requiring direct transfers using a slide-board. They take up little luggage space, and some accommodation places may provide them for you too.
- Portable suction grab-bars. It’s best not to use if there’s a chance that your full weight may bear down on them, but for helpful balancing, I found them invaluable when travelling.
- Those, like me, who have a bony tuchas or get back pain carry an extra cushion at all times. Your comfort ensures a better quality of enjoyment and energy levels.
- Compression socks when flying may be life-saving to those of limited mobility and circulation issues. Check with your doctor to see if you could benefit.
- I discussed device chargers in the last blog. Chargers and back up blocks for smartphones and communication devices are also vital to remember.
- If, like me, you have continence issues and are contemplating limiting fluid and food intake to limit toilet stops check with your urologist. You may be pleasantly surprised at the non-invasive options available that allow much greater ease of travel.
- While we’re there – sometimes a spare empty bottle can be quite useful.
- Don’t be a hero – If you have a condition in which you can’t consistently rely on your capabilities, it might make sense for you to have a collapsible walking stick or rollator on hand. I loved my foldable, lightweight walking stick. A useful rubber stopper at the bottom makes loose surfaces not so scary, and nowadays most sticks come in various colours and patterns for accessorising.
- Tablet/iPad – (fully charged with battery block back up) activities for intellectually disabled are a vital distraction. Paired with essential earphones/earplugs, they can be a must-have, rather than a convenience.
- Carrying Allen (Hex) keys and spanners is advisable. We have adjusted my headrest, tightened footplates and headlights at various times.
- If you are planning a trip where you will be sightseeing in your powerchair for long periods, it may be helpful to check for charging stations. The RECHARGE Scheme™ is a valuable place to check out when travelling in Australia. If there are similar schemes in other countries, please comment below for others to learn about them.
- I travel in our converted Kia Carnival with rear entry ramp and harness points. We take as much of my equipment as possible when driving, and have invested in a roof pod. The cost is worth the convenience of extra storage. We save on hiring costs and have the comfort of familiar devices.
- Good sleep = sanity + vitality is a truism for us all. The delightfulness of using your pillow should not be understated for many of us. The same goes for hiring or providing your air-mattress. Planning for the right mattress can be the difference between waking refreshed or not.
- I LOVE my tray tables. I use them at home and when out and about. They substitute for an actual table when your chair will not get under one when dining or writing or using your laptop. I have used the humble tray table for applying make-up, reading, crafting, and so much more. And ideal when my arms need elbow support to be raised.
- EarPods and headphones allow more private phone communication if you can’t easily use your arms. They also enable listening to audio or watching inflight movies more enjoyable and provide much-needed distraction for those with mental health or intellectual challenges.
- A lightweight magnifying, portable mirror is a necessity in my book. This ode to vanity has been a brilliant solution when a bathroom mirror is too high, too far from the bench, or not positioned in a well-lit spot. Even for the able-bodied, this can be a problem.
Disability travelling – you’ve got this!
Whether you choose to drive, sail, fly or train on your next accessible travel experience, I hope that some of this information will assist you in living in the moment and experiencing everything on offer.
Link’s of interest
- wheelchair travel.org for seriously comprehensive information from a serious serial traveller
- What is accessible travel, and why should we be talking about it?
- East Hotel, Canberra: Accessible Review