Sadly, prior to 1990 and the implementation of the American Disabilities Act, few people with physical and/or cognitive limitations were accommodated in public settings. Curb cuts, door with accessible buttons, grab bars, or handicapped restroom stalls were not yet common features. Navigating restaurants or grocery stores posed tremendous challenge and traveling for pleasure seemed like an unattainable dream.
Fortunately, fast forward 22 years. While accessibility in public restrooms, among public transportation, and other community features has improved tremendously, obstacles and barriers persist. Similarly, while going on a vacation as an individual with mobility limitations is no longer impossible or impractical, it still poses a great challenge, requiring careful planning, logical consideration, organization, and knowledge.
Traveling close to home may be a great starting point. This can develop your confidence while not being overwhelming. Once you’ve experienced a weekend away you can begin planning for longer trips. Consider the pace and activity level you can maintain for several days or a week, and incorporate extra time for traveling a longer distance and its impact on your energy.
As you begin to move into longer vacations, consider your personal needs for travel. Perhaps you may need to rent a scooter, or you require a refrigerator to store medication. Contact the hotel in advance to ensure your needs can be met with a wheelchair accessible room, refrigerator or whatever requirements you have. There are rental options for wheelchairs and scooters. www.wheelchairgetaways.com and www.scootaround.com are two companies offering equipment rentals.
Guidebooks and travel agencies are available to help in planning. www.abletotravel.org is a travel agency offering accessible leisure and business travel, or contact a local travel agency to find out if they can assist you with accessible travel. Two helpful guidebooks that can assist in planning vacations are Fodor’s Great American Vacations for Travelers with Disabilities and also Barrier Free Travel by Candy Harrington. Both books can be found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
The Can Do MS webinar, “Travel and Multiple Sclerosis,” is a good resource for finding more information on planning a comfortable vacation. The presenters navigated vacation planning books, websites, companies, and other resources to provide you with the concise tools to vacation with ease. Information about hotel accommodations, what type of bathroom equipment you can expect at a hotel and other equipment you may want to pack are a few examples of information that are discussed. Transportation options, including air travel, bus travel, car/van travel, and cruises and the advantages and disadvantages each form of travel offers are explored. The goal is to review the steps to help you plan and embark on the many opportunities to travel that the world has to offer.
Don’t let your mobility challenges be the obstacle between you and a relaxing vacation. There are many available options to make travel easier and more enjoyable. Bon voyage!