We live in a mobile society. Whether it’s for work or fun, we drive and fly everywhere. But there are many people for whom mobility is a challenge, and I’m not talking about learning to use the latest electronic device.
There are millions of people with physical and developmental disabilities that make traveling difficult, if not seemingly impossible. And if you don’t have a disability, you may be with someone who does. So do you have to stay home?
Not any more.
A world of travel opportunities is opening up for people with disabilities, and they aren’t just trips on tour buses and cruise ships.
Sometimes you need an expert to make the impossible possible. There are tour operators and travel companies that have designed adventures specifically for the disabled traveler. They make it possible to go on adventures like skiing, sailing, diving, swimming – you name it. All of these activities and more are accessible with specialized equipment and specially-trained tour guides.
In my research for this article, I thought I’d be lucky to find just a few companies dedicated to making travel possible for the disabled. I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of opportunities. There are organizations that will provide information and assistance on the how-to’s of disability travel, websites that list accessible tours, tour operators specifically dedicated to providing travel adventures for the disabled, and integrated adventures in which the disabled play alongside able-bodied travelers.
Here is just a taste of the variety and quantity of disability travel opportunities and informational websites.
DISABILITY TOURS AND ADVENTURES
Do you want to sail a tall ship? Be one of the voyage crew, haul up sails and climb the rigging regardless of your disability. The Jubilee Sailing Trust promotes the integration of people of all physical abilities through the adventure of sailing their two tall ships the Lord Nelson and Tenacious. These ships were purpose built to accommodate sailors of all abilities, including those in wheelchairs. I sailed on the Tenacious in the Canary Islands one Christmas and was so inspired by the strong spirits among the voyage crew. It’s a Christmas and a voyage I will cherish forever.
Disabled Adventures Hawaii provides information on a wide variety of activities on the Kona, Hawaii coast for people with limited mobility, including swimming with dolphins, surfing lessons, canoeing, scuba diving, horseback riding and whale watching.
Adaptive Adventures makes it possible for children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities to participate in sports activities along with their families. The wide range of opportunities includes snowboarding, alpine skiing, kayaking, sailing, cycling, rock climbing, scuba diving, waterskiing, and whitewater rafting.
Wilderness Inquiry conducts integrated wilderness trips in which the disabled participant is treated as an equal on adventures, such as canoeing, sea kayaking, horse packing, rafting, hiking, dog sledding and safari adventures. They also have trips specifically for veterans.
Accessible Journeys offers tours and cruises around the world for slow walkers and wheelchair travelers whether they’re traveling solo or with family and friends.
New Directions Travel provides vacations all around the globe for teenagers, adults and seniors with developmental disabilities who have brain impairments, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and autism.
Flying Wheels Travel is a full-service travel company that provides escorted tours, hosted tours and recreation destinations around the world for people with physical disabilities, chronic illness or difficulty walking. They will also customize individual travel itineraries. If you don’t have anyone to travel with, they can recommend experienced travel companions to assist you during your adventure.
RESOURCES FOR THE DISABLED TRAVELER
The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH) is a non-profit educational organization that helps to raise awareness about travelers with disabilities and works to remove both physical and attitudinal barriers to expand travel opportunities around the world. They also provide access information and travel tips for all kinds of disabilities.
DisabledTravelers.com provides a database of adventure vacations, cruises, travel agents and tour operators, all of whom specialize in accessible travel around the world. They have a list of travel companion companies and other disability travel resources.
The Opening Door is a great resource for finding disability travel agents and tour guides. It also provides other helpful information.
The TSA Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions webpage provides information to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The TSA Cares Help Line (call 1-855-787-2227) is a resource specifically for passengers with disabilities. Representatives are available to answer questions M-F 8:00 am – 11:00 pm EST and weekends and holidays 9:00 am – 8:00 pm EST. The deaf or hard of hearing may use a relay service or they can email TSA Cares at ContactCenter@dhs.gov.