Destination

Explore the best way to pick a holiday destination that meets your accessibility needs.

Does the destination have wheelchair access?

Going on holiday for the first time can seem like a daunting process after a spinal injury.

Going somewhere you have visited before

Before you became spinally injured, you may not have noticed if your favourite holiday destination even had wheelchair access. However, when you are living with a spinal injury, dipped curbs, smooth paths and accessible bathrooms become more important than whether a hotel is five-star or not.

When planning your first holiday after your spinal injury, consider going somewhere you have been before. It helps to have prior knowledge of the local culture and available amenities.

Researching accessibility online

After that, the research can begin. Googling phrases such as ‘wheelchair access’ or ‘wheelchair facilities’ is a good, quick way to get a sense of a location’s accessibility.

In general, the more results displayed about accessibility for a particular location, the more wheelchair access is available, or the more it has at least been considered.

Planning ahead

Of course, if your search doesn’t produce any results, this should not automatically stop you from going. Rather, just a little more planning and investigating may be required to ensure all your needs are met.

Is it more expensive to go on holiday if you are a wheelchair user?

It’s true that most people who use a wheelchair will see an increase in their travel expenditure. This occurs for several reasons:

  • Specialised equipment may be needed to aid mobility – A ‘‘FreeWheel” or a “Batec“-like device can be invaluable when travelling abroad, especially on uneven terrain
  • You may now need someone to travel with you – Friends and family are obviously the first choice in this regard. However, for solo travellers, organisations such as Origin can provide a companion to assist with any medical or physical needs you will have during your trip
  • Your insurance costs may have increased – You can obtain specialist travel insurance, from companies such as Fish or Chartwell. They offer cover for wheelchairs, for carers should they become injured or ill, and cover for your specific medical condition
  • If travelling by plane, you may need more legroom or space – If this is the case, you may wish to consider upgrading your class of travel
  • You may have to stay in more expensive hotels to guarantee good wheelchair access – Large, chain hotels are also more likely to standardise their accessible rooms. If you have stayed in one before, you know that they are likely to have the same facilities in their other hotels
  • You may have to use taxis, or pay for assistance when navigating your chosen city – This can be easier than travelling by foot, particularly if public transport is difficult. You may wish to consider private tour companies that specialise in helping wheelchair users, especially if your location is remote or off the beaten track

Can you travel independently?

Solo travel is certainly possible for people with spinal injuries. However, much will depend on the practicalities of your level of injury and how confident you feel.

Being assertive about your needs

You may have to be quite assertive in ensuring your needs are met, especially with people who are unaccustomed to dealing with disabilities.

For these reasons, totally independent travel is not always a viable option for everyone, especially if you want to see and explore all that your destination has to offer.

Using a personal assistance agency

If you would like to travel on your own but also recognise that you may need some help, a company like Origin could be useful.

Origin is a personal assistance agency that provides a helping hand to people with spinal cord injuries who are trying to live independent lives. For a fee, they will provide a carer for your trip, to assist with everything from your specific medical needs to accessing more difficult terrain.

Being practical about which friend you travel with

Should you decide to travel with friends and family, there are some issues you should consider, particularly if you are travelling with only one other person. These include:

  • Do you trust them to be responsible?
  • Are they physically strong enough to push or move you?
  • Are they confident enough to deal with any difficulties that might arise?
  • Are they able to adapt if things don’t go to plan?

What reviews are available for your destination?

Reading wheelchair users’ travel blogs

When you are in the process of choosing your destination, blogs from other wheelchair users who’ve travelled to the same place can be an invaluable resource.

Reading these blogs, ideally written by someone with a similar condition, is a good starting place for your research. However, you should still be mindful of your own requirements.

Being mindful of your own specific needs

Within the SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) community, there is a wide variance in different people’s needs and the way in which they’re managed.

This ranges from tetraplegics, who may require more comprehensive assistance, to those with a lower level of injury who are more physically able to push themselves. There are also people with a spinal cord injury who can walk and may have different needs.

Therefore, a restaurant with one or two steps, or a bathroom which isn’t completely accessible, may actually be suitable for some people with a spinal injury but not for a permanent wheelchair user. As such, it’s important to bear the author’s perspective in mind during your research.

Blogs from Curb Free with Cory Lee, Euan’s Guide or DisabledGo are helpful starting points for considering how you will manage once you have reached your destination.

 

 

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