Are your parents reluctant to travel because they just don’t get around like they used to? Well they’re not alone. According to a 2012 US Census report roughly 30.6 million people have difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of people over 65 have at least one disability, according to the US Census Bureau.
But that doesn’t mean travel is out of the question for these folks. In this day and age, with a little advance planning and consumer education, people are able to travel no matter what their disability. Additionally, many travel agencies now provide accessible travel products and services; and as Baby Boomers continue to age, more and more companies are jumping on the access bandwagon. With that in mind, here are some tips to help folks with mobility issues get back on the road — or in the air or on the sea — again.
- Even if you can walk, reserve an airport wheelchair if you tire easily. Some airports are huge and you could easily put on several miles while in transit, and then arrive at your destination exhausted.
- You are not required to remove your shoes at the airport security checkpoint if you are physically unable to do so. Just tell the Transportation Security Administration agent that you can’t, and they will hand wand you and swab your shoes for explosive residue.
- If you need wheelchair accessible transportation from the airport to your hotel, choose a hotel that has a free airport shuttle. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if the hotel provides free transfers, they must also provide free accessible transfers, even if they have to contract out the service.
- Cruises are a great accessible vacation choice, but new cruise ships are huge and it can be very tiring to walk from one end to the other. If fatigue is a factor, rent an electric scooter and have it delivered directly to your stateroom. Check with the cruise line for their approved vendors.
- If you drive to the port, remember that parking is free at all Florida cruise ship piers for cruise passengers who have permanent accessibility modifications installed on their vehicles.
- In Europe, remember the first floor is not at street level, so if you want a room at street level, ask for a room on the ground floor. Many small European hotels only have stairway access to the first floor.
- Don’t forget to pack your accessible parking placard with you whenever you travel. It’s good everywhere in the US (except for New York City), Canada and Europe.
Finally, encourage your parents to do extensive pre-trip research, and expand their horizons. There really are a lot of accessible offerings out there and the internet is a great place to find updated access information.