What are the Challenges that Affect Disabled Backpackers?

January 31, 2013

Everyone should be able to explore what the world has to offer

Should living with a disability, impairment or chronic illness prevent you from going on vacation? Should it stop you from hitting the backpacker trail?

No, of course it shouldn’t.

However, before you pack your passport it’s important you plan your trip carefully, making sure provisions have been put in place to accommodate all your needs.

Traveling  can be stressful for everybody if not enough planning has been done beforehand, and you can only imagine even more so when traveling with disabilities, so draw up a list of questions and issues you have and find out the answers before booking your holiday.

Whether you’re backpacking in India or touring Australia, anything is possible – providing you plan in advance. If you are flying then you need to liaise with your airline prior to booking your trip so they are aware of any special needs you might have.

Your right to travel

Since 2007 air travel for disabled customers has became a lot easier, thanks to the European law which now means anyone with mobility issues has the legal right to assistance.

To ensure you get the support you require, let your airline know that you will need help. This will enable staff to make sure you have easy access to the terminal, check-in desks and toilets, assistance with moving through the airport and help getting on and off the aeroplane.

If you require a guide or assistance dog, then it’s your responsibility to find out what the airline’s policy is about allowing a canine on-board. There may be quarantine restrictions in place, in which case you would have to adhere to the rules and carry out the necessary guidelines.

Being disabled does not mean you cannot go on holiday, but because of certain health and safety issues, most airlines insist you travel with a companion if you are unable to feed yourself and use the toilet without assistance.

Planning your trip

Before you embark upon your trip you should also find out whether your travel company requires proof that you are fit enough to travel. Most of the time this is not required, but it is always best to find out to avoid disappointment. Should your airline require evidence that you are able to fly, you will need to provide them with a Medical Information Form (MEDIF).

If mobility is an issue then make life easier for yourself by pre-booking a taxi that has disabled access so you do not have to wait around for a suitable vehicle once you arrive at your desired destination. Find out whether the places you are staying are able to accommodate your needs. Perhaps you would prefer to stay in a ground floor room, or have a shower instead of a bath?

Do not be afraid to ask for things that will help make your stay more comfortable and enjoyable. It’s always worth asking whether there is a disabled organization you can get in touch with in whichever country you are visiting, which might be able to help you plan your trip.

As with most things in life, nothing is certain, so it is important you take out a decent insurance policy to cover you financially should anything happen before or during your vacation. Some insurance companies will not agree to cover anyone with pre-existing medical problems, which is why finding a firm that specializes in disabled travel insurance is advisable.

Maintaining mobility

Specialist insurers like Chartwell offer mobility and travel insurance for disabled travellers and will cover any pre-existing medical conditions at very affordable prices. There are single-trip and annual multi-trip policies available, and the staff are experts trained in understanding your needs – and are happy to advise you on which policy would suit you best.

If you rely heavily on a mobility aid to get around, then you need a disabled travel insurance policy that will cover your piece of equipment. Specialist disability insurers understand how important a wheelchair, electric scooter, or walking frame is to you, which is why they offer up to £2,500 ($4,000) for loss, damage or theft should something happen.

A vacation for most people only comes round once a year, so give yourself that added peace of mind and buy a comprehensive insurance policy that will cover you no matter what.

About the author

Andrew Tipp is a writer, blogger and editor. He’s spent more than a year backpacking and volunteering around the world, and has previously worked as a travel editor for gapyear.com. His favourite places are South America and southern Africa.  

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