How to travel with a disability

Published May 1, 2019 • Updated Jan 14, 2020 • By Andrea Barcia

Almost 15% of the world's inhabitants, or one billion people worldwide, have a disability. However, many of them try their hand at the adventure of travel every year. Focus on the best tips for globe-trotting with your disability and/or wheelchair.

How to travel with a disability

What medical precautions should you take before traveling?

Before departing on your adventure, be sure to research your destination to identify any health and safety concerns that you should be aware of. Also, you should make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your primary health care provider at least a month prior to the departure date for a check-up, to ensure your health and medication is adequate for the duration and location of the travel, and to obtain any needed vaccines, medicines, and refills. If you are travelling abroad, it is also recommended to contact your health insurance to see if and what your plan will cover while abroad, in case additional health insurance is needed.

How to get around with a disability? With a wheelchair?

As a result of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination and most airports, train stations, and other public transportation facilities are adapted for, and fully accessible by, individuals with disabilities. However, due to policies and funding, predominately in more rural areas of the United States, some facilities may not be fully accessible, and it is recommended to call ahead to ensure the facility does provide such accessibility.

Additionally, airports, train stations (Amtrak), and metro stations also provide assistance to individuals with reduced mobility and/or reduced ambulation ability. On board planes and trains, many services are available without a fee; however, the service and fee may vary depending on the company. Some service examples: transfer chairs to take the passenger to the toilet on long-haul flights or free access and storage of a mobility device (wheelchair, scooter, crutches...). Additionally, while it is not necessary for most companies, providing advance notice to an airline, Amtrak, or other service may assist in the company being able to provide additional and better services. This advance notice generally consists of notifying them of a general nature of the disability/need, any service animal companions, mobility devices, etc.

Airport Signs

Since each company is different, where there exist options in the company chosen, it is highly recommended to contact and research competitors to find the one that best suits your needs.

Where can I find suitable accommodation?

The easiest way to guarantee comfort is to stay with an organization that specializes in serving those with disabilities. Disabled Friendly Hotels focuses on the needs and requirements of disabled travelers and may be of assistance. Their goal is to "encourage travel for the worldwide disabled community and remove psychological barriers such as worry, fear, anxiety." 

When traveling to hotels, or booking an Airbnb or similar lodging, it is highly recommended to call in advance to address any questions or concerns you have in regard to their accessibility and services provided. With certain companies, such information may also be available on their website. Planning ahead will help avoid any accessibility problems.

Also, there are numerous applications for your phone which will allow you to travel with more ease and less anxiety, you can find a helpful list by clicking here.

Accessibility: Some of the Top Disabled-Friendly Cities

Metro Station

Washington, D.C

Not only is it the capital of the United States, but D.C. provides large. wide sidewalks and pathways for individuals, making it ideal for wheelchair users. Also, the D.C. Metro is known to be one of the best transit systems for the handicapped.

Seattle, Washington

Not only does Seattle have many things to do, such visiting Pike Place Fish Market or the first Starbucks, its city design is extremely disabled friendly. Wheelchairtravel.org ranked it number one on their "Top 5 Most Wheelchair Accessible Cities in the United States." It also have wheelchair friendly ferries and taxis!

Denver, Colorado

Not only is Denver high above sea level and contains gorgeous views, but it also a very accessible city. The City's Metro is completely wheelchair accessible and people with disabilities are able to get priority seating. Additionally, the City's RTD Paratransit Services, Access-a-Ride, provides public transportation to individuals who have a disability preventing them from utilizing the bus or metro's fixed route.


How about you? Do you have any tips for traveling? How do you adapt for your vacations?

Do you use any Apps?

Let us know!


avatar Andrea Barcia

Author: Andrea Barcia, Health Writer

Andrea specialises in managing online patient communities and writing health articles. She has a particular interest in the fields of neuropsychology, nutrition and sport.

Andrea holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more


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