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Top Tips for Accommodating Disabled Travelers on a Tour

Just because some of your group members are restricted to a wheelchair, doesn’t mean they too don’t yearn to see the Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu. Though the task of group travel with disabled travelers may seem like an intimidating proposition, the world has never been more accessible before.

With careful research beforehand and a little flexibility, your disabled members can join your next group tour without any trouble.

Here are the top five tips for planning a group trip with disabled travelers.

1.) Research your destination

Don’t assume that a destination is beyond your members reach. Accessible trips to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Acropolis in Athens and the Roman Forum are possible. More and more ancient sites that used to be impossible for wheelchairs have made huge strides to accommodate everyone.

And if your site does present challenges, there are usually ways around them. For example, it is possible to avoid bridges in Venice. Another example is choosing an alternative site that is similar, but accessible, such as touring Herculaneum, which is nearly identical to Pompeii, but is wheelchair-friendly.

2.) Prepare for air travel

Seemingly endless airports can seem daunting for disabled travelers. By calling head to research, however, you can prepare your travelers for what lies ahead.

Let your travelers know what is involved in a security check, so they know they may have to take off their shoes and go through a pat down. Call the individual airline they are flying to discuss special accommodations. Each airline has different policies regarding disabled travelers, which can change frequently.

Give your traveler a heads up for any prescription they may need, such as a prescription for oxygen and a doctor’s letter of approval for air traveler. Most airlines board wheelchair users first, but let them exit the plane last, so allow at least 90 minutes to catch connecting flights.

3.) Select hotels carefully

Book your hotels earlier than you normally would to ensure your disabled travelers stay in a hotel near the city center, main sites or in an accessible part of town, if your schedule has any built in down time. For example, your wheelchair-bound traveler won’t appreciate free time in a cobblestone street area. So research the surrounding neighborhood, as well as the hotel itself.

Make sure that you choose an accessible hotel with wheelchair ramps and accessible rooms. Many hotels only have one or two accessible rooms, so the earlier you can book those, the better.

4.) Know your route

Whether by motorcoach, cruise or sans vehicle, make sure you know if the routes covered on the tour can be easily maneuvered by your disabled travelers. Avoid stairs, steep hills and elevators not wide enough for wheelchairs.

Contact the various tourist attractions and tour guides you plan to visit to make sure they can accommodate your disabled travelers. Use Google Maps for any street views you need to figure out, so you aren’t met by any surprises.
5.) Have a back up plan

What do you do if part of a traveler’s wheelchair breaks in Florence? What happens if your planned accessible route is closed for construction in Berlin? Think through potential moments that could go wrong and have a plan b ready to go. Perhaps bring spare wheelchair parts or keep an accessible map of the city on hand.

Also be ready at a moment’s notice to call for any assistance, whether it be a backup accessible motorcoach or the nearest hospital. With any tour company you hire, ask questions of them to make sure they know what to do in case plans go awry.