Travel

Tips for traveling with mobility issues

The Internet is your friend. Research online exhaustively your mobility issues. Many city destinations have maps developed for travelers like us. (We’ve had good luck in Jerusalem, Prague, Paris, Barcelona, and Vienna). Some have central resources to hire private guides that are knowledgeable about making locations accessible. Many cities also have organizations that can rent you wheelchairs, power chairs, scooters, and other medical equipment.

Use the telephone. Do research the old-fashioned way. Call people, even if it’s a general manager at a hotel that is located so far away that you are confused by the time zone. Ask questions about hotel rooms, showers, elevators, guides, airport transfers, and pickup possibilities. Spend your time and money in advance rather than waste precious travel time in avoidable frustration.

Be skeptical. Ask questions and more questions. Challenge authority and assumptions. Someone else’s view of “accessible” may not be yours. Have a Plan B in mind. Maybe you won’t visit that architectural wonder or dine in the hottest bistro. Maybe you’ll have to switch to another hotel. Pick an outdoor cafe. Smell the roses in the garden instead of climbing the turret. Be flexible and open to unexpected pleasures.

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Have an advance team. It works for us to have at least one member of our party be the scout. Check out where the curb cuts are on the next block, find the handicap entrance (challenging to find even at national museums and monuments), and identify which tables at which restaurants can work. If the host seems flustered or unreceptive to your needs, try the bistro next door.

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Be both generous and candid with your feedback. Give constructive feedback to hotel staff, simple suggestions to make a room, a bathroom, or entrance more accessible. Post nice reviews, when deserved. Use the same sites to warn future travelers about venues and locations that may be troublesome.

Admit when you are scared. This holds true equally for the handicapped person and the traveling companion. Fear is a smart travel companion. If something looks too steep, too dark, too uneven, too crowded, don’t go.

Never give up. Be inventive, never discouraged.

Louisa Kasdon