Travelling abroad if you have suffered a spinal injury can be an overwhelming experience. Even more so if you are finding yourself in the process of planning it for the first time, when everything, from deciding on a destination, to booking flights and accommodation can seem overwhelming.
So, what better way of making sure you’ve got all bases covered than with the expert advice of someone who has done this many times before and knows accessible travel inside out? Raquel Siganporia, who heads up Bolt Burdon Kemp’s Spinal Injury department, has helped to create a comprehensive guide on travelling abroad for those who have suffered a spinal injury. Here, she shares her top tips on the main considerations holidaymakers face when planning an accessible break abroad. Raquel, who became paralysed at the age of 11, is the Past-Vice Chair of the Spinal Injuries Association and an avid traveller. Raquel speaks regularly about accessibility issues for people with spinal injuries.
Begin with a destination you have visited before
Before sustaining a spinal injury, you may have not paid attention to whether your favourite holiday spots even had wheelchair access. However, when you are living with a spinal injury, lifts, accessible bathrooms or smooth paths become more important than ever. Try planning your first holiday to destinations that you’ve visited in the past. It helps having prior knowledge of the local culture and any available amenities.
Make sure you call the airline in advance to explain your needs
Understanding what to bear in mind when it comes to accessibility and flying, from booking to disembarking, is important. It’s also useful to check if the airline allows special assistance passengers to fly on their own or if it requires them to be accompanied. The airline may also request specific information related to medical needs ahead of travel.
Double-check with the hotel they are able to guarantee disabled access
Many online travel agencies, such as Expedia and lastminute.com, offer hotel and flight inclusive packages. It’s useful, however, to research carefully before booking one of these deals. Quite often, the website is unable to guarantee a wheelchair accessible room at the hotel and simply puts in a request. It can therefore be difficult to take advantage of these offers whilst guaranteeing that your needs will be met. To avoid surprises, it’s important to contact the hotel directly and enquire about facilities available.
Activities – learning how others managed
There are a few things to consider when planning activities for an accessible holiday. If you are a wheelchair user, most things are still possible with some planning and research. Having good financial resources will also enable you to do more of what you used to do before you became injured.
Often, the best resource is reading or watching videos of how other wheelchair users managed. You may be surprised to discover places are more accessible than initially anticipated.
The internet is a huge resource and YouTube can prove invaluable if you want to see how others have accessed certain locations, as well as which facilities are available.
Sometimes just knowing something is possible is all you need to investigate and explore a new place for yourself.
To learn more about how to make your holiday abroad as smooth as possible, including a checklist to help you get the most out of your break, head over to http://www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk/spinal-injury/accessible-travel-and-spinal-injury/