I came upon this as a question on Quorum, earlier today, and as I answered, I thought, this actually needs to be a blog post.
Accessible holidays, disabled holidays, seniors holidays, however you term them, means to me, where some aspects of the usual infrastructure that serves the majority, needs to be adapted or different to enable seniors or disabled people to participate. There is a movement amongst those who need these adaptations that says disability is a social construct. This means you are ‘disabled’ by the lack of accessible ramps, accessible lifts / elevators, accessible toilets or roll-in showers, and NOT by any impairment or medical condition. I do tend to agree with this.
I’ve realised that the preparation issues I always considered for my disabled clients now also applies to Seniors’ travel. Issues of assistance with heavy luggage, with steps on and off coaches or planes, access to toilets with enough room to move, carrying medication, getting to the buffet etc.
MOBILITY IMPAIRMENT AND SUPPORT REQUIRED
I could write a book. Here’s a few ideas up front. You need to consider all stages of your travel and consider where the challenges will come and what facilities or services exist to assist you.
Before travel, what is the access like along the way and at the airports, not to mention the resorts? Check there are lifts if there are stairs or steps. Check if there are hearing loops. Do they cater for special diets? Is there a roll-in shower or a level shower tray? How high is the toilet from the floor level? How high is the bed? How will you deal with finding the disabled access toilet en route? Is there a place to hire mobility equiment?
How will you find your way if hearing or sight impaired? Are you disturbed by loud noises or crowds? Do you need to have lounge access and quiet time before boarding planes? Tell your airline carrrier if any of these is the case, they will offer assistance once you’ve checked in.
SPECIAL PACKING CONSIDERATIONS
Start with packing the case. What can you not live without or perhaps obtain at the resort? Medication. Many of use are on controlled drugs as painkillers or treatments and will need to take the medicine in the original, labelled, prescription bottle and it’s best to get a Doctor’s letter stating why you need these. Keep meds in HAND LUGGAGE, don’t check into the hold. Most Pharmacies can make up holiday medication into blister packs with all the labelling required and in an easy format for you to take at the appropriate time. This can be a great comfort while travelling.
Getting a transfer to an airport or coach terminal for instance requires planning. Will it need to take a wheelchair, can you transfer or are you walking? Is there someone to assist with bags or at least gettting a trolley? Unless you are very resourceful in other languages or getting what you want, transfers and transits need to be pre-arranged. Or you need a good reliable, local bus or train timetable and know the level of access.
One of the things to consider is that you may have to wait for special assistance at various points. It’s a fact of life. Be prepared with appropriate Sunhat, sunscreen, umbrella, waterproof cape, hydration, snacks, whatever you need. I said this to someone once and they said – just go to the cafe shop and buy something. Well, when you have very specific luggage, that may be bulky and are waiting for an assist, you don’t want to be caught in the shop when your assistant comes and finds you gone.
It’s useful to have photocopies of your passport and holiday insurance in different places in your hand luggage and on your person in case of damage or theft. Take copies on your phone as well. I’d recommend having your phone on a tether, a lanyard or wrist strap. Obtain details of the nearest Doctors, surgery or hospital to your resort and how you may need to use them and take the information with you. You hope you never need to use it.
IN RESORT OR AT YOUR ACCOMMODATION
When you get to the resort, have a conversation wih the concierge or manager about any specific things you may require assistance with. For example, wheelchair access to a table or the buffet. Would table service be possible, where self serve is usually the norm? Get them to show you the easiest route to various facilities.
Now some of you may think all this is excessive and you’ll just wing it. If you choose to, good luck but don’t complain when you can’t get what you want, when you want it or get to where you want to go.
After escorting people with particular needs, for 30 years on holidays, this post just scratches the surface. More to follow.