A World of Possibilities for Disabled Travelers

Finally having the time and the savings to travel in retirement is one of the best perks of getting older but those living with disabilities may think their days of adventure are long gone.  However, with greater awareness and advocacy for disabled people, many more accommodations are available today allowing travel to be enjoyed by all people, including those who use a wheelchair or have vision or hearing loss.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.5 million Americans have a disability; with a little extra research and planning, people of all abilities can enjoy traveling the world in safety and comfort.


The key to a successful trip for older adults or other people with special needs is to plan ahead, making sure in advance that hotels, museums or tours are accessible.  Using a travel agent who has experience planning transportation, accommodations and excursions for travelers with a disability can be save time and help avoid frustration. 


Many airlines provide assistance for passengers who need help getting around the airport and boarding flights but check when booking a flight to be certain what services are available.  Seeing eye dogs or other service animals may accompany a traveller with a disability but must pass animal import regulations upon returning home.  Always allow for extra time to get through security and arrive at the gate when flying and avoid connecting flights unless using the restroom on board the airplane is a concern, then multiple shorter flights may be a better option.

Some airlines, particularly in Canada and Australia, may offer special rates for a companion who is needed for safety due to a severe hearing or vision impairment, physical or mental disability.  Check with airlines to find out what discounts are available.  Disabled persons traveling alone may want to consider arranging for a paid travel companion and caregiver.


Even with greater awareness about the needs of people with disabilities, in some circumstances hiring a guide can be a good idea, especially on trips where language may be a barrier.  Cruises can also be a good option for disabled travelers and some even will provide medical oxygen, wheelchairs or access to dialysis.   

Before taking a trip, disabled people and those with a medical condition should visit with their doctor to ensure all vaccines and medications are up-to-date and prescriptions filled.  It’s also wise to check with medical insurance to find out what care is covered abroad and consider purchasing supplemental health insurance if necessary.

To learn more about traveling with a disability, follow this link to the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality.  Accessible Journeys and Flying Wheels Travel are just a few of the growing number of travel agencies with experience planning vacations for people with disabilities, chronic illness or mobility problems.