Disabilities can hinder the enjoyment of travel, though they do not have to make travel impossible. Most high income nations have implemented strict requirements for accessibility by law in recent years and the US legislation on that topic even served as a model for a UN agreement. That being said, some places - whether through carelessness or lack of resources - are rather hard to access for people with disabilities. Be it sidewalks marred with potholes and poles protruding at odd angles that make walking a challenge even for the healthy and greatly inhibit mobility in a wheelchair, lacking public transit infrastructure or unthoughtful currency design (see below).
Blind and visually impaired
In general, travel should be planned for well in advance when traveling with a dog guide. As dogs can carry diseases, special testing, vaccination and paperwork is required in many countries, especially island countries. Countries with such requirements include Hawaii, the UK and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Many countries allow dog guides also where dogs are not normally allowed, while most developing countries don't have laws permitting dog guides in public places.
Deaf and hearing impaired
Paraplegic and quadriplegic
Keep the following in mind when travelling with or meeting a fellow traveller that happens to be disabled
- There is no need to talk loudly or slowly to a blind person, they can hear you well enough.
- Do not pat or otherwise distract a guide dog without first asking the owner's permission.
- Though ignorance, laziness and arrogance probably can be classified as disabilities, they are self-inflicted and does not qualify one to occupy a disabled parking space. These parking spaces are reserved to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair, or who uses crutches or a cane, to enter and exit a vehicle.
- At the same time, if you see someone walking from a disabled space alone with no apparent difficulty, don't jump to conclusions that the person is not qualified to occupy the space. Disabled parking permits are often available to many people who don't use wheelchairs, but have other conditions that seriously limit their mobility (such as a leg amputation, certain cardiac or respiratory conditions, or chronic severe pain).
- People all have varied interests and once practicalities have been taken care off a person's disability is seldom the most important thing in their life. Someone in a wheelchair may prefer to spend the day at a bird sanctuary rather than attend a wheelchair race, a blind person might prefer discussing the local culture and history of a town rather than the absence of braille on the museum exhibits.
- Most people rarely give a second thought to toilets because they are always there and easy to use, but for a disabled person using a standard toilet can be very difficult or even impossible. Check on toilet facilities before planning an outing.
- Be practical. Do not expect a blind person to enjoy an afternoon of birdwatching or someone in a wheelchair to go down the Sterkfontein Caves.
Wheelmap has information about wheelchair-accessible places in many countries. The information is rather basic with 3 levels: All rooms accessible, some rooms accessible, not accessible.
General awareness of accessibility issues is quite high, although in practice there are still many problems. Most public facilities and many private ones have arrangements for people with wheelchair or hearing aids. Anyhow it is a good idea to call in advance to check any special arrangements (such as entry by a locked back door) and have company that can help with unexpected problems.
Toilets designed for use with wheelchair are common where there is more than one toilet.
Dog guides are accepted also in e.g. shops, where dogs in general are not allowed. Many traffic lights have audible signals.
Where finding a parking lot may be hard, there are often parking space reserved for people with disabilities. There is a special permit to use these parking lots (foreign permits are recognized, given they have the international symbol).
The railways have cars accessible with wheelchair on most routes. Assistance can be ordered in advance. Local buses in e.g. Turku are equipped for wheelchair access (and using the buses is free, also for a person assisting).
The euro notes and coins are made to be easily distinguished one from another without seeing.
Metsähallitus, responsible for the national parks, gives information on accessibility for each destination, many of which have trails accessible by assisted or motorized wheelchair. The exhibitions at visitor centres are usually accessible.
There are specific regional SMS emergency numbers for those that cannot communicate by voice. These are not posted on the Internet. Enquiries to +358 295-480-112.
- HEART BARRIER gathers a database of wheelchair-accessible restaurants and shops all around Japan. They include details like slope width and slope, which are not included in Wheelmap.
See also Disabled travel in South Africa
- South African National Council for the Blind, 514 White Street, Bailey's Muckleneuk, Pretoria, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- South African Guide Dogs Association, 126 Wroxham Road, Rietfontein, Sandton, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Royal National Institute of the Blind, London, ☎ .
While the U.S. for the most part is very good at accommodating disabled travelers, one glaring exception is money for blind travelers. While coins can be distinguished relatively easily by the blind, the physical sizes do not change in lockstep with the denominations. Most notably, the dime (10 cents) is physically the smallest coin. The situation for currency (notes) is even worse for the blind. All denominations are the same physical size (unlike the euro, in which the notes increase in physical size as the denomination increases), and there are no tactile features that enable blind people to readily distinguish different denominations by feel. However, the next redesign of each U.S. note will include a tactile feature to better accommodate the visually impaired; the first denomination to be released will be the $10 note.