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Travelling with disabilities

Nowy Sacz, Poland
Destination Expert
for Poland
posts: 4,023
reviews: 42
Travelling with disabilities

I posted this for Heather, who needed some help and reassurance on how she and her husband could continue to enjoy a holiday in the sun. I thought I'd re-post it because, reading through it again, I think it's damned good advice and, though i'm in no way an evangelist, damned good advice to live our lives by, as age and/or disability starts to limit what we (think we) can do. With the love and help of my partner and the assistance of airlines, airports, tour guides and tour companies, I've had two wonderful holidays in the last three years - one touring in Japan, using the Shinkansen (Inside Japan), and one touring in Rajasthan by car (Delhi Magic). Knowing in advance that I'd covered all my bases and that my loving partner was by my side (or pushing from behind) has meant we can live a wonderful life, and continue to see more of this wonderful world.


As H has said, airlines and airports are very disabled-friendly and you can arrange a wheelchair via the airport or airline (could you walk from mini-cab to check-in?) If you would find a wheelchair helpful, they'll usually collect you from check-in and take you through the security etc to the departure lounge, then collect you again to take you to the gate and down to the plane. If your husband can push the luggage on a trolley from mini-cab to check-in, that's the last you'll see it till the other end. Or you could pick up a porter, curbside. (Maybe it would be worth visiting the airport in advance and talking with the porters and info desk about what can be arranged?)

At the other end, you'd again get a wheelchair to the arrivals hall and you could pick up a porter in baggage claim so all your husband has to do is identify your cases and they'll go with you through to arrivals. What happens in and after arrivals is down to what you've booked. Your husband may have to push the luggage trolley, and you walk, to your car/taxi/transfer bus. But the key point is to check who can arrange what, book it early and check it again just before departure.

Incidentally, I believe the right order of things in the UK is for you to arrange assistance via the airline, but for the actual assistance to be provided by the airport. Same process overseas, so you'd not have to arrange anything with the foreign airport - the airline will do it for you.

I think we all try to do too much, and not to see or consider or ask what help may be available (some of it free-of-charge, like wheelchairs and a pusher to get you through the airport, some at a cost, like porters). As we get older and/or less abled (I'm 53, but have to use a wheelchair, or crutches for short distances) we either draw back our horizons and accept a limited existence or we accept out limitations and plan to get the most out of things, whether it's arranging a wheelchair place at the cinema or theatre, accepting stares and being dealt with in the third person (and would he like a drink? Is there anything he needs? Well, asking me direct might be more polite, for a start!) or broadening your horizons, choosing a wonderful holiday destination, researching just how you're going to get there and how you'll get around, checking that you and your husband will be able to tackle what you must while others do all they can to help, and going for it. Don't forget, there is a worldwide industry which can come together to make your journey and holiday as easy as it/they can

Go for it Heather, the world really is still your oyster.

New York
posts: 17
reviews: 8
1. Re: Travelling with disabilities


My name is Kevin and I am an English guy living for the past 13 years in New York City and Brooklyn, New York. I thought I'd write a quick advice piece to those of you traveling to NYC who have mobility issues, so that you can enjoy your trip even more.

The first thing to say is that New Yorkers are kind and generous and used to seeing and dealing with disabled people. I once fell over in Oxford St London and two people stepped over me and kept walking. That would NEVER happen in New York. EVER. So, feel free to ask people for help here (using common sense precautions, of course)

Like all cities there are places in New York City you are simply not going to be able to access. Not all buildings have level entry and not all are accessible to wheelchair users.

The main tourist attractions, of course are. All of them. In this town, wheelchair users are normally escorted to the front of the line (queue) and as this is common practice, no-one will bat an eye or criticize you for this HOWEVER, do not just go to the front of the line by yourself - that will annoy people.

I am going to start my mobility guide to New York by talking about public transport and getting around.

Use the buses. Yes, the buses here are awesome, regular, clean and all buses have little elevators at the front door or middle door or ramps at the front to allow up to two wheelchairs onto each bus. Wheelchair users are supposed to pay their fare as normal, but most drivers won't ask you. However, have quarters (25 cent coins) with you for the fare, just in case.

Drivers will help you onto the bus, tie your chair down with straps and untie them again at the end of the journey. You must let them do this, it is the law. Offer the fare when you get onto the bus and put fare into the metal "bucket/container" as directed or if you have a Metro Card (recommended and available everywhere - ask your hotel or buy in deli/store) put that into the slot. A Metro Card will enable you to do multiple journeys on buses and on subways. Make sure you have enough credit on the card for your journey. They do have inspectors here. You WILL be fined if you don't have enough credit or don't have a ticket or the fare. Ignorance is not a defense. Also, a new generation of buses and bus routes - mostly in high congestion areas require you to buy your ticket at the bus stop itself before you get onto the bus. The idea being that it reduces congestion at the bus entry and people can get on and off more quickly.

Also, when boarding a bus all wheelchair users get on the bus first and off the bus first. People are used to this again and will make way for you to get onto the bus before themselves. Don't feel self conscious of this - it's the way it is here.

As I said, most wheelchairs get off the bus first. When you arrive at your destination, the driver will lock the door, leave his seat, untie your chair, go back to his chair, unlock the door, lower the ramp or elevator and you will roll out. This all happens BEFORE anyone gets on or off the bus. Again, don't feel self-conscious - it's the law. Now having said all of that, of course, there are going to be exceptions. Lazy drivers forget (you will be sitting at the front of the bus close to the driver so its worth reminding them you are there when you are getting close to your destination) and sometimes passengers also forget and will rush past you in their eagerness to get out of the door. Be patient. MOST New Yorkers won't behave this way. Just bide your time and you'll get off the bus and be fine.

OK. Subways. I would say avoid these if possible, unless you really know your way around. Why? Because MOST subway stations in NYC are NOT wheelchair accessible. Now you may find that the one you are getting on at near your hotel is accessible but you may well find that not the case when you try to leave the station. You can visit the excellent MTA Info online site to work out what is and isn't accessible, but again for safety's sake, avoid the subway if you can. MTA Info also has an excellent online "Trip Planner" where you can input your start and finish address and work out how to get their by cab, bus, train, car or walking or any combination of the above. USE IT.

Cabs: There are very few wheelchair accessible Yellow Cabs in NYC. If you use a chair and are fit and can transfer, you can flag down a Yellow Cab and hop into the back and the driver will, with your instruction, break down your chair, stow it in the trunk of the cab and take you to where you need to go. It is illegal here for a Yellow Cab to refuse to carry you because of your mobility issue. That said, some won't stop for you. The best place to get a cab will be your hotel or tourist site or main transport hub. Then you'll be OK and you'll be able to get to the front of the line and get a cab, but from the street it can be a problem.

Yellow Cabs used to be a law upon themselves, but are much more regulated now and there are little screens in the back that give you travel info, annoying commercials and messages from the city and details about your fare. ALWAYS tip your driver. Round up to the nearest whole dollar or bill note (if fare is $8.20, give $10, if the fare is $35.70, give $40)

Town Cars: Town cars or livery cabs are normally sleek, black nice looking cars that are normally run out of a regulated car service office. They will always be more expensive than a Yellow Cab BUT they can carry more people, making fare-sharing better) they can carry more luggage, are more comfortable, will have helpful drivers and so on. I use them regularly for airport runs or for client meetings etc as they look better and are more comfortable, but again they are ALWAYS more expensive than a Yellow Cab. One more advantage is that the fare is set PER CAR and in advance, so you know what you are paying - there are no meters (normally - some do, most don't) Tip the same as Yellow Cabs, but with a little more generosity. Round up to nearest big bill ($23 fare - $30 total etc)

As with any tipping in New York - tip two times the sales tax. This will give you a tipping rate of about 17%. Perfect for this tipping culture town. Sales tax is always on your invoice, ticket or bill before the total is given

Enjoy the Big Apple, Wheelers!

Trains: Over land trains are going to have disabled access cabins and access. However not all stations are going to be accessible. It is unlikely you will use these when in NYC but if you travel out of the city, you will. Check with the hotel or contact the train company you are traveling with and they will be more than happy to help.

So, this rounds off my guide to getting around New York in a wheelchair.

Next in my guide: Where to wheel around to get a real taste of this great city

More later: Kevin Fetterplace


London, United...
posts: 1
reviews: 1
2. Re: Travelling with disabilities

My partner is semi disabled uses sticks and electric wheelchair she would like to go Rhodes in Greece with private accomadation with whom I know out there do Thomson cater for these situations

Nowy Sacz, Poland
Destination Expert
for Poland
posts: 4,023
reviews: 42
3. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Not sure I understand, Stephen. Thomson, like all airlines, will accept a booking for a "typically disabled" person - here I'm thinking of anyone who needs some, but not total, care and assitance. They will pass on the booking for assistance to the airports in the UK and Rhodes who are responsible for providing the assistance - in this case a wheelchair or electric buggy from check-in to the plane door and from the plane to baggage claim ... or if your partner needs the chair to get to the plane, it will be taken from her thmere and put in the hold. I'd have thought it will need some sort of dismantling. She'll get her chair back at baggage claim in Rhodes. Same process coming back.

Check the Thomson website for specifics - like maimum weights, battery types and so on - as some electric chairs are not accepted and you need their info on dismantling or folding the chair. Some people have reported chairs being rejected because the parts are individually too heavy or otherwise unsafe for handling - check this. Maybe even do a trial run - take the chair to the airport you'll fly out of and discuss things with the local Thomson and airport staff. Except when they're really busy, they're usually happy to help.

At the plane door, your partner will either be abe to walk with her sticks to her chair or the cabin crew will take her to her seat in a little chair they can move around the cabin.

Sticks - I use elbow crutches - go in the overheads during the flight, so she can get to the bathroom and so on unaided, if she is able.

Nowy Sacz, Poland
Destination Expert
for Poland
posts: 4,023
reviews: 42
4. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Oh, and see this and related pages thomson.co.uk/editorial/faqs/disabled-passen…

posts: 3
reviews: 3
5. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Some might find my blog of interest , some missives regarding a villa stay in Florida plus Hotel in Portugal. http://onmybiketoo.blogspot.co.uk

essex, uk
posts: 2,503
reviews: 2
6. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Hi Stephan,

I am not clear if you are planning to stay with a friend/relation or are asking if Thomson has suitable accommodation for wheelchair users.

we visited Rhodes 2 years ago with Thomson, be aware that they cater for mass tourism and are no experts in disabilities. My husband has mobility problems following a stroke but is not a wheelchair user. On arrival at Rhodes airport there was no wheelchair to meet him and the very young courier expected my husband to walk from the terminal across a huge car park to the coach. My husband said he would wait for a wheelchair but the courier seemed unsure of who or how to organise this. Before booking the Ibiscus hotel we asked Thomson to confirm that the showers were of the walk in variety and not over a bath. This was a request too many, my local agent said they were not allowed to call the hotels themselves and could only request such a room with NO guarantee of availability on arrival, they did not seem concerned that a guest could end up with a 10 day holiday of sponge downs . We emailed the hotel ourselves who not only promised to keep a room with a walk in shower but as my husband would not be out and about all day long, promised to keep a room at the back where the sun shone on the balcony until sunset. The hotel and staff are excellent, the hotel is opposite a beach which has a ramp down to the beach and wooden walkways on the beach suitable for wheelchairs. The walk into Old Rhodes is approx. 15-20 mins, but the Old Town would be a challenge for a wheelchair of any description. Infact, one day I did help a tourist who could hardly push her husband's wheelchair over the cobbles. The dining room at the Ibiscus is on the lower ground floor accessible by a ramp and then you go down in a lift type piece of equipment for wheelchairs. However, it is small so I would contact the hotel to ask if it is big enough for an electric wheelchair.

This year we were given some holiday vouchers for Thomson. Again. we choose a hotel in Garda that suited us . Again we asked about the showers and number of stairs etc. This time at least we were put through to the special assistance department who said that their computer stated that none of the bathrooms were of the walk in type and there was no information regarding accessibility. However, again we contacted the hotel ourselves and have been promised a suitable room .

So my advice is to always contact the hotel with specific questions if you are using a mass market type company and ALWAYS book assistance with the airline in advance .

I hope you enjoy Rhodes as I am sure you will.

posts: 12
reviews: 96
7. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Since my husband is on an oxygen concentrator I really try to research everything that we will do on our trip to make it easier for him. Apparently I did not do enough for I was not prepared for the Kona, Hawaii airport. We arrived way early thinking that we could get all checked in and through security which takes awhile with his machine. We know that, no problem. He is always patient and courteous to TSA. We get there only to find the airport is open air. No AC so here we sit on a planter in the hot humid shade waiting for the Delta agents to arrive. When they do, they take five groups of travelers first even tho only one group was ahead of us. They took them cause they had boarding passes gotten online! We can't do that due to his machine. We have to go to an agent. So they took all the youngish able bodied people FIRST while he waits in the hot humid line. Then we have to lug our bags over to agriculture with the man saying "put your bag up here". It weighs 45 pounds and I have RA but I did it. Then on to security. Then to the inside. Guess what no AC it is all open air but there is no air. Only place to wait is a kind of AC café. No gate number on our passes said to look at the monitors but no monitors. Then we had to wait and wait cause we had gotten there early. No electrical outlets so he could charge up. He had extra batteries but that's why we go early to get all settled and he can recharge. Finally time to board. He had to walk up steps to the plane. Oh my! Here's the lady with a cane struggling in front of us. I thought my husband would need to be resuscitated by the time we got in. No one offered to help or anything in that whole airport! We will need to rethink next time we come to the Big Island. It was almost as bad at Honolulu except it had AC. No people to help, no train, no signage to where the train was. A long long, long walk from our flight to the Hawaiian air terminal. Again no offer of help. Just be aware that Kona airport is not set up well for disabled folks and the part of Honolulu airport we were in was not either.

Nowy Sacz, Poland
Destination Expert
for Poland
posts: 4,023
reviews: 42
8. Re: Travelling with disabilities

Thanks for posting that, cropsis. We really need to know when and where these issues arise.

I've PM'd you about our facebook group

New York
posts: 17
reviews: 8
9. Re: Travelling with disabilities

See all my reviews/messages througout this site for more on Traveling the World With Disabilities.

I have been to about 40 countries, lived on 5 continents and about to move to China, where I will be changing the perception of disability and trying to get more recognition for disabled person needs, and at one point I was traveling 140,000 miles a year for 5 straight years. All as a disabled man in a wheelchair... I've been there and done it. If you need advice - I am happy to help anyone who needs it as I am an expert in getting around the world in a wheelchair. There is little I haven't seen or experienced. Kevin F.

10. Re: Travelling with disabilities

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