YOU WANT to take a trip. Perhaps youre longing to go on a cruise, or your grandchild is getting married in another state.
You have the time, money and desire to travel, but you wonder if you have the physical ability to make a trip.
Travel often requires a great deal of walking, climbing stairs, long flights, dealing with luggage. Most people are willing to tackle these challenges in exchange for the positive rewards of traveling. But people with disabilities, including those which come with age, find the challenges of travel amplified and often intimidating.
It doesnt have to be that way, says Sharon Sloane, owner-agent of Continuum Travel, who specializes in accessible travel.
With thorough planning by someone trained to anticipate everything that a disabled person could need while traveling, those people can enjoy the wonders that the world has to offer.
Besides using wheelchairs, many people use other assistive devices such as canes and walkers. Trips must be planned with an awareness of wheelchair access, ramps, elevators, handrails and many other details, Sloane says.
Some mobility challenges are due to injury, such as a broken leg, in which case a wheelchair or crutches need to be a part of the puzzle.
OTHER IMPAIRMENTS that need to be considered for travel include :
Hearing: This ranges from a mild hearing loss to total deafness. Unless a person is using sign language, uses a service animal or has a visible hearing aid, you generally cannot tell if a person is hearing-impaired, Sloane says.
Vision: This can include everything from extreme near-sightedness or far-sightedness to total vision loss.
Speech or language: People with speech and language impairments can have difficulty with language, articulation and the rhythm of their speech.
Cognitive, learning or development: People of all ages can be affected by disorders such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimers and other acquired or inherited conditions.
Respiratory: Sometimes arrangements for oxygen rentals need to be made for a trip.
Medical: Sloane says some cruise lines can administer dialysis treatments onboard. The clients doctor and the ships doctor need to coordinate to make sure the ship can provide it.
IDEALLY, A person with a disability can travel with a companion, whether its a family member, friend or a traveling nurse. Even when this is possible, travel professionals like Sloane begin to network and find solutions through the airlines, tour operators, hotels and resorts to help challenged individuals make the trip on their own.
Sloane recalls one client, a quadriplegic who wanted to go to different destinations in Costa Rica. He had a companion who helped, but the trip was a success because Sloane was able to arrange for handicap-accessible transfers and find hotels that met all her clients needs.
Part of my job is to find out what their needs are. It is important to ask a lot of questions and listen, Sloane says.
Its all in the details: A client with MS cannot control his or her body temperature. We need to determine the best time of the year for them to go to certain destinations.
Other details include :
Is there medication that requires refrigeration?
How much leg room does the airplane seat have? How easy is it to transfer from a wheelchair to an airplane seat?
Sloane says that despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, the standards for accessibility are not universal. For example, many resorts have what they call accessible rooms, but the shower is not roll-in, she says.
Even if an older or disabled person is traveling with a family group, certain challenges such as mobility access, the pace of tours and even available shade need to be researched and resolved ahead of time.
Sloane asks whether the traveling family group should have a hotel suite or adjoining rooms. Should everyone be in the same villa or in the same section of the resort?
Sloane says that accessible travel in the US has greatly improved over the years.
Cruise lines have done an excellent job, as have airlines, hotels, buses and trains.
Riverboat cruises are becoming increasingly popular. Timothy Holtz, group travel coordinator for the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, says that traditional riverboats lack accessible transportation options or accessible cabins, and there are few on-shore tour options for those who have difficulty walking or use a mobility device.
Some cruise lines, however, feature fully accessible riverboats and on-shore tours.
Holtz says help may even be arranged for people who need assistance in their staterooms.
With thorough planning, scrupulous attention to details and asking a lot of questions, the phrase I cant travel anymore need not be valid.
Sloane sums up: Everyone has different needs and different goals. It is my job as a travel consultant to be sensitive to everyones needs so the appropriate arrangements are made for the client, and even to advise if the trip or destination is a good choice.
Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News