Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the world is now more accessible than ever before and how I am now an accessible travel advocate certified by Special Needs Group. I suggested that if you think you might benefit from using some special needs equipment while traveling, it is important to take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. Remember, too, that many people who do not use special needs equipment at home on a regular basis use aides such as wheelchairs and scooter rentals only when traveling.
In this issue, I will talk about the importance of planning. In future issues I will recommend what questions to ask and go into more detail about the wide variety of equipment available to assist you in your travels.
If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it is important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Are you allowed to bring oxygen? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so that there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.
Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen equipment. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. You are never allowed to bring oxygen aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions. Again, documentation and paperwork are required.
Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel, or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations, or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. Early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.
Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bar, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area, and other amenities. Are there TTY phone devices if needed? Are there flashing lights to accommodate the hearing impaired? Braille room numbers? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there grab bars in the shower? Is there a rubber mat in the shower to help prevent you from slipping?
Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TTY kits, and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.
Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.
When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised. Remember most health insurance policies only cover you while you are in the United States, not when you are in a foreign country.
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