You Too Can Travel
by Fred Rosen & Bud Banis
So you wish you could travel? There are some things you can't do. That's the way life is when you have a disability. But chances are, you can do more than you thought you could.
Maybe things have changed a little since the last time you considered taking a trip. A lot has changed in the last several years for the traveler with a disability.
One is that there have been some new laws passed that give you some legal remedies if you are discriminated against. This includes the Air Carriers Access Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Now, this doesn't mean that everybody has to go to extraordinary measures to give you something extra, just that you are entitled to reasonable accommodations to get the same treatment as everybody else.
The second thing is that there is more awareness, and some economically incented compassion. According to American Express, there are 49 million Americans with classifiable disabilities; 36 million are termed "travel qualified". Of that number, about 12 million now travel. About 1 million of these travelers spend an average of $3,000 per trip, which represents a market of $3 billion. The interesting thing is that 2/3 of the people who could take advantage of improved opportunities are not yet traveling.
Many travel vendors are starting to take extra measures to help people who thought they couldn't travel. Many travel vendors have special service desks whose responsibility it is to care for the extra needs of travelers with a disability. Examples are Greyhound Bus Company, AMTRAK, and several airlines. Learn what's available. To take advantage of new opportunities, you should be aware of specific things related to your needs. For example, handling of oxygen cylinders, access for service animals, availability of assistive devices vary depending on transportation mode, specific nature of the facilities, and in some cases, whether the vendor is willing to provide extra services.
Things to consider when you travel that will help you know what to expect include:
What you can do is probably more than what you thought you could do. You just have to know who to call and what to ask for. Consider package deals. For the first-time or inexperienced traveler "get your feet wet" with the all-inclusive resort or a cruise. Everything is in one place -- from dining to entertainment. The accommodations are wonderful and there is something for everyone. Although a specialized tour operator might be more expensive, the extra cost is worth it. Everything is arranged for you, from transportation to meals. All you have to do is to sit back and watch the world go by.
Consider travel insurance, especially if you are risk of having some condition flaring up and causing unpredictable cancellation. Travel insurance isn't that expensive and it can help you past the risk concern and let you try again if it doesn't work out this time. It doesn't cost anything to use a travel agent.
The real key to knowing how to travel and making the best arrangements is learning about it and getting a good travel agent who specializes in travel for people with disabilities. Travel agents are compensated by providers, so it doesn't cost you anything extra to use this help. For this to work, you have to be honest with your travel agent about your needs. Make sure the agent fully understands your type of disability so he can arrange everything for you--from transportation to meals. With careful preparation you can help avoid something going wrong. AND before starting out, check and recheck to see if the arrangements made meet your needs.
You can travel. You can't do everything, but you can probably do more than you thought. You know that the world is not perfect. Something can go wrong. But by careful preparation and using a qualified travel agent, or a tour operator who specializes in arranging travel for persons with a disability, you can reduce that possibility. And then you can enjoy, to the best of your ability, all that the world has to offer.
There's a world's-worth of difference between living with a disability and letting life go by because you think of yourself as "disabled".
You too can travel, if you don't let the things you can't do get in the way of the things you can do.
Fred Rosen is a travel consultant who specializes in travel arrangements for people with disabilities. Fred has been an active advocate for over 30 years, originally stimulated by his first-hand experiences with his son's Down's Syndrome. Bud Banis, PhD, is a college teacher who also has personal experience with disability and a long history of community service related to disabilities. Bud is the founder of Science & Humanities Press which recently published Fred's book, How to Travel—a Guidebook for Persons with a Disability (ISBN 1-888725-05-2). The book reduces some travel unknowns by answering some common questions about dining out, renting vehicles, traveling with oxygen, traveling by bus, air, rail and ship. How to Travel can be purchased by sending a check for $12.95 ($9.95 plus $3 P&H) to Science & Humanities Press, P.O. Box 7151, Chesterfield, MO 63006-71511. Quantity prices are available.
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