Chicago based non-profit Open Door Organization estimates that Americans with disabilities make up a huge market that spends as much as $17.3 billion a year on travel. Travel blogger Cory Lee provides just one example of how accessible the world over really is.
With last week marking the passing of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – an act that opened up society to the full spectrum of needs, let’s explore ten expert tips on accessible travelling in Europe this Summer.
- Always plan ahead
Rome may have been built on seven hills, but it need not be a challenge! While there are certainly some accessibility difficulties throughout Europe, the best advice for travelling abroad is that the more research you do, the easier and more accessible your trip will be.
Your vacation need not be a struggle — do your homework and your trip can be filled with fully accessible accommodation, accessible routes, and ultimately, wonderful travel experiences. Plan your route; plan your hotels; plan your tourist attractions… plan as much as you can! It’ll only make things a whole lot easier once you’re there.
- Book hotels far in advance
Most hotels in City Centers throughout Europe have limited fully accessible rooms, so it’s wise to book early. Hotels are almost always cheaper the longer you book them in advance, so it’s a win-win! The best ones will, of course, be booked early… so make your reservations as soon as possible.
- Backup plan?
Of course nothing always goes exactly as planned! Even on the most perfectly planned vacation, something might go wrong. If it does… have a backup plan ready. If you can, travel with someone who can remain flexible and help you during your trip. With solid backup plans, you won’t have to put your vacation on hold.
- Accessible tours
There are many different city tours that operate throughout Europe – some for free, others at a fee. It’s all about asking the right questions:
- Is the guide a licensed professional?
- What route will the guide use? Is it accessible?
- Are there accessible bathrooms on route?
- Is it a private tour or will we be joined by others?
The majority of airlines encourage you to contact them 48 hours before you plan to travel, if you believe that you will need assistance either during the flight, or when boarding and disembarking the plane.
If you have a sensory, physical or learning difficulty, you have the right to assistance at all European airports. You are also permitted to travel with two pieces of mobility equipment free of charge. Additionally, in the UK for example, it is also compulsory for all airports to have excellent wheelchair accessible facilities.
Many car rental services, such as Europcar, offer excellent services that include Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs). Just one of the many ways to consider travelling, renting a WAV can be very efficient. Once again, make sure you plan ahead and book your WAV!
Traditionally subways and metros can often be inaccessible due to a lack of lifts. However, in recent years, subway systems have made a big push to ensure that their facilities are more readily accessible. The metro systems in both Berlin and Paris, and the famous London Underground all boast wheelchair accessible services across a growing number of stations. As always, ringing ahead is the best way to avoid disappointment.
Train travel throughout Europe is often stress-free when compared with the difficulties of lost luggage flying. Almost all train services are fitted with both wheelchair spaces and wheelchair accessible toilets. You can really reach the furthest corners of Europe on train services, and throughout most of the mainland prices are very reasonable.
- Taxis and minicabs
Taxis offer varying levels of accessibility depending on the country that you visit. In many cities around the UK, for example, it is now compulsory for all minicabs and taxis to be wheelchair accessible vehicles. (Additionally, some of the newer cabs are even fitted with induction loops and an intercom for hearing aid users). In other cities, however, you might find yourself with less accommodating drivers. Once again, plan ahead and find out the best taxi services in that locality.
- Enjoy yourself!
Most importantly of all… Enjoy yourself!
You’ve worked hard to plan your trip and so the one thing you can do now is enjoy the incredible experience. There will always be obstacles here and there, but try not to let them get between you and the vacation that you deserve.