Everyone needs a vacation, and summer is certainly a popular time to take a break and relax. In this week’s blog post from reader Emma Wilkins, she talks about some of the ways that people with disabilities are receiving better accommodations by the travel industry. Our own Wings for Autism experience at The Arc of King County demonstrated how the Port of Seattle and Alaska Airlines are interested in improving travel opportunities for people with autism at SeaTac. As we begin preparations for our next Wings for Autism, it is evident that people with disabilities will continue to have new opportunities to enjoy vacations of all sorts. Because what we want for ourselves, we want for everyone – and that includes a fun time to relax with family and friends on vacation!
Choosing a Vacation – Considerations for Individuals with a Disability
By Emma Wilkins
Although there is still much work still to be done to challenge discrimination towards those with disabilities, it is clear that the travel and tourism industry is now recognizing the rights and need of their customers with disabilities. Just a few years ago there was a profound lack of companies offering supported vacations for individuals with a disability. Slowly this improved with the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities act, and similar legislation in most other countries. These anti-discriminatory laws have helped people with disabilities to have the same experiences as everyone else. It appears now that some savvy companies realize this gap in the market, and now there are lots of travel companies catering for all types of vacationers.
What types of vacations are available?
With a just a little research, it appears pretty much anything and everything is possible! With a large range of destinations, both in the US and internationally, all types of adventure, sight-seeing, and cruise vacations are available. They offer various levels of support, enabling independence and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Advice for parents
Perhaps intuitive, the main piece of advice is to plan ahead—with your child’s needs in mind. Although you cannot plan for every eventuality, a little preparation will go a long way to minimize any problems you may have while away. Several companies cater to people with a range of abilities, so everyone in your group can enjoy the same experiences together.
Regardless of the travel company used, parents should notify them of any additional needs in advance. With advanced knowledge, many companies can provide extra services to assist individuals with special needs. Additionally, knowing what is and isn’t available in advance will give you realistic expectations before you travel, relieving stress and making the trip more enjoyable for everyone.
How are you getting there?
Whether it is a family trip that you are planning or some much needed respite care, there are many options and assistance available. Some organizations offer a door-to-door service for your convenience and peace of mind. You may want to consider how you travel to your destination in as much detail as the location itself. If travelling by air, you could consider smaller airports rather than the larger international ones. The homeland security website has advice on going through the security checkpoints, and they recommend calling 72 hours ahead to learn about special arrangements that are possible to minimize any problems. Travelling at quieter times of day, or avoiding peak seasons may also make your trip easier. Wherever possible, try and keep some ‘normal routines’ in place. For example, try to be consistent with meal times and bed times, and be sure to bring your child’s favorite games consoles, iPod, or DVD player. Additionally, items of special importance (such as a favorite stuffed animal) should be kept at hand to help diffuse stressful situations.
The same rights as anyone else to enjoy vacation time
Everyone, regardless of disability, has the right to enjoy the experience of travelling to visit new countries, climates, and cultures. The benefits and enjoyment of such experiences outweigh the difficulties of such an undertaking.
For many people their vacation time is precious and much anticipated all year long—a chance to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life. People with disabilities and their families are also in need of this special time to build new memories and distress together. It is exciting to see that the travel industry is embracing inclusion and providing a better experience for travelers with I/DD.