One of the many questions to rise out of this year’s Paralympics is: are we treating disabled travelers with the facilities and care they deserve? Wheelchair users are entitled to the same level of transport access as non-disabled users, however, easy access is by no means there yet.
It would be unfair to ignore the improvements in this area over the past few years, but disabled travelers are still facing discrimination and difficulties when it comes to travelling. Recently, it was publicized that a guest was turned away from a hotel, because they required a guide dog – this behavior in 2012 is frankly shocking, and only serves to highlight the fact that the system has many pitfalls.
How Can We Change to Support Disabled Travelers?
Barry O’Connell, a 66 year old campaigner for disabled rights, suggested that the best way to adapt public transport to the needs of wheel-chair users is to ask them for their opinions, or even better, get their transport staff to navigate the trains and airplanes of Britain in a wheelchair – they would soon see where the problems lay.
There have been calls for staff training in disability awareness: all the easy-access facilities in the world cannot make up for the ignorance of staff, who sometimes make the mistake of sitting disabled passengers in window seats or not providing truly accessible exits.
Hotels have also been asked to step up their game by providing in-depth information of disabled access and accommodation, with extra pictures. There have been complaints that hotels may offer only one or two wheelchair-friendly suites at extremely high rates.
Even more useful and logical would be to put all the travel information in one, simple website, so wheelchair users don’t have to spend hours researching. Hotels and travel companies are losing out by their lack of support, with approximately 11 million British people having a disability, and around 8% of those are wheelchair bound – they’re missing out on a large demographic.
What Should You Do If You Are A Disabled Traveler?
- Know Your Rights. If you are receiving anything less than the expected standard of care, then don’t be afraid to complain.
- Always Call In Advance. This can be a bit of a pain, but calling ahead and explaining the severity of your disability can help travel attendants do their job.
- For Long Trips, Consult A Doctor. When it comes to flights especially, your doctor may be able to make things easier for you with prescribed medicine. Take your doctor’s details with you for an emergency and take a statement with a description of your condition, your special needs, and what could go wrong.
- Say No To Flight Connections. This isn’t always possible, but a direct flight is the best kind of flight. The exception to this rule is exceptionally long flights, it might be more comfortable for you to take several short flights so you can have rest breaks and use the facilities if the toilets are hard to get to on the plane.
This guest post about disabled travelers has been contributed by freelance writer Zoe on behalf of So Switch.