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Archive for the ‘Accessible Travel Web Sites’ Category

The AMS Vans blog posted about a new phone hotline for travelers with disabilities today:

http://blog.amsvans.com/travelers-with-disabilities-now-have-toll-free-hotline-to-assist/

You’ve gotta read the whole post to get the number, which I’m going to stick up here for your convenience. The number is 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY). Hours: 9am-5pm Eastern Time, Mon-Fri.

Yeah, those hours suck. Usually when I’m having a travel problem, it’s not in Eastern Time’s biz hours, boys and girls. Must be nice to have a government job. 

I plan to give ’em a ring to discuss my experience with Prospect. I’ll report back here.

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Wanna go on Safari with pain? Apparently, Ecocta Tours and Travel can hook you up:

Women’s tours 

Disabled tours

The Women’s tour section describes travel options for women with special needs as well.

I don’t know this company personally–I’ve never been to Africa, though I’d like to visit sometime. My husband was born in Zimbabwe. I’m interested in some volunteer and cause travel–specifically helping women gain greater education, greater professional and personal power.

If I can, I’ll follow up with Ecocta to dig deeper into what kind of accommodations they can make for travelers with pain and hidden disability. They seem to have thought seriously about more than just wheelchair accessibility. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to take one of their safaris…

It’s good to dream.

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At long, long last, the web site for The Imperfect Traveler is live:

http://imperfecttraveler.com

It’s small and simple so far, but look for it to grow as I add new pages and pieces to it. Most importantly right now, The Imperfect Traveler’s Guide to Traveling With Pain will be released on April 15. I’m so excited–this will be the first travel book written specifically for people with chronic pain. Please consider buying a copy! The book contains lots of new and different information–it is NOT just a copy of posts from this blogs. It’s a quick, easy read, lightweight and handy to carry while traveling. It’s also perfect for the back of the john. I don’t mind, so long as you’ll buy it!

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Dr. Sandra Rhodda, PhD is doing two surveys on travelers with hearing impairments both inside and outside of New Zealand. If you’ve got any hearing impairment, please take a moment to fill out the survey that applies to you:

Tourism and hearing survey

If you don’t have any hearing loss or impairment, check out Dr. Rhodda’s work as the head of the research program for accessible tourism at the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute. I just love the fact that New Zealand takes disabled travelers seriously enough to fund her research.

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In preparation for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a new web site for travelers to London has launched. Check out this fab article by Access Tourism New Zealand:

London Government Backs Launch of New Website Which Allows Visitors With Disabilities to Plan Accessible Visits to London

I’ll be in London this June–my family is taking the trip to celebrate my dad’s XXth birthday. (He’s so cutely sensitive about his age.) Given that, I’ll take this golden opportunity to test out InclusiveLondon.com and see how well it works for travelers with pain and hidden disabilities.

So far…hm. You know what we don’t have? We don’t have any symbols. There’s no international symbol for “chairs with backs.” Nor is there one for “enough stalls in the ladies room to keep major lines from forming.” I’m going to think about that a while…suggestions welcome. Symbols for different accessible characteristics exist only because somebody once thought they were needed and put pencil to cocktail napkin.

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Me and Bill at dinner on formal night

This article comprises the talk that Bill Forrester, founder of accessible travel agency and tour operator TravAbility and deadpan sarcastic awesome Aussie dude, gave at the SATH congress. The numbers he provides tend to be for Australia and New Zealand.

 

A Turning Point in the Future of Accessible Travel

Those numbers don’t include all of us with hidden disabilities. Imagine adding folks with diabetes, arthritis, fibro, endo, Crohn’s, etc–there are hundreds of millions of us to add to these lists. And many of us work, earn good money even in the Great Recession, and possess discretionary income we’d like to spend on travel. That calculates out to billions of dollars we can/should/do pump into the travel industry each year.

I couldn’t agree with Bill more, and that’s why I’m writing The Imperfect Traveler’s Guides and starting The Imperfect Traveler* as a for-profit business. It’s my unshakeable belief that we who are the hiddenly disabled community have places to go, people to meet, and money to spend. When I start speaking to groups of mainstream travel agents, tour operators, and hoteliers, the first thing I’m going to emphasize to them is the bottom line. Hiddenly disabled travelers can increase their profit margins, period. And the better they take care of us, the more likely we are to return to them, becoming regular repeat customers.

What do you think? If you’ve got money, do you want to spend it traveling? If you don’t have money now but get your hands on some, would you spend some of it on traveling?

 

* Why no, the web site for The Imperfect Traveler isn’t up yet. Look for that to change by the end of this month.

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That's Nancy on the right and me on the left

Whenever possible, I certainly prefer to travel with a buddy. My fiance is my favorite traveling companion, though I also love to drag friends and family members along whenever I can. Part of my problem when I had that little mishap in Atlanta last week was that I was alone. If I’d had a companion, at the very least I wouldn’t have caused such a ruckus at the airport.

 

Some people with hidden disabilities shouldn’t try to travel alone. These include folks whose hidden disabilities cause cognitive impairment, either constant or episodic; people who’ve recently had surgery; people whose conditions can cause problems by flaring or spiking under stressful conditions, and people who have conditions that require care they can’t give themselves.

But not every traveler is so lucky as to have a partner who can travel with them all the time. My fiance can’t always travel with me–I’m a travel writer and he’s not. He needs to be home so he can work while I’m off touring midpriced motels and visiting local museums filled with creepy life-sized dioramas. Most of my friends and family work too. And to be honest, if I’ve got a problem with my bladder that requires someone to help me in the bathroom, my father will not be the person I ask for that particular type of assistance.

The answer: rent a traveling companion! Ironically Nancy, my shipboard stateroom-mate at the SATH congress, works as a professional traveling companion for Linking People and Places*, a division of Community Solutions Limited. While the company’s in Ontario, Canada, they’ll work with most anyone who wants to travel in North America. They offer different types of travel companions based on the needs of the client–you can get everything from a simple companion up through an RN to assist you with the confusion and chaos of getting through airports, checking into hotels and getting set up in rooms, wheelchair transfers, help in the bathroom, medical appointments at your destination, and pretty much anything else you need while you’re on the road. In addition to providing companions for clients’ individual trips, Linking People and Places offers a variety of annual getaways for their clients–things like trips to the Ottawa Tulip Festival and a week-long trip to Disney World in Orlando.

Nope, it’s not cheap to rent a travel partner. Frankly, I don’t know exactly how much it costs, and obviously the cost is going to vary radically depending on the length of trip, destination, and type of companion you require. I’ll get some info from Nancy about this, and add it to an upcoming post about budgeting for traveling with a hidden disability.

But if you’ve got the money, there are several awesome things about hiring a travel buddy. first, it gives your regular caregiver a break from his/her responsibilities, whether or not she’s come with you on the trip. That kind of break can seriously help a spousal relationship. Second, with an experienced professional traveling companion, there’s a level of impersonality to it that makes certain needs easier to deal with. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so comfortable with the idea of asking my dad (or my friend’s husband, or my male cousin) help me in the bathroom. Third, traveling with another person is just flat-out more fun that traveling alone most of the time. You’ll not only have a helper and caregiver, you’ll have a genuine companion you can share the experience of traveling with. Nancy tells me that it’s common for travelers who use Linking People and Places to request the same companion repeatedly, because that companion has become a friend.

If Nancy had still been with me in Atlanta, the whole incident would have been much easier to deal with. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have collapsed at all, because I’d have told her that I was having trouble and needed her to wait for me in the bathroom, and she’d have been able to help me immediately. Why wasn’t she with me in Atlanta? Because I hadn’t hired her to travel with me–she was just my cabin-mate for the conference we both attended. But she quickly became a friend, and we had a blast. I hope I get the chance to travel with her again. If you ever decide to use Linking People and Places–request her!

* I’m not affiliated with Linking People and Places or with Community Solutions Ltd, and make no promises, guarantees, or warranties of any kind should you choose to use their services. However, if you are or have been a client of theirs, I’d love for you to comment here about how your trip with them went!

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