According to the Association of British Travel Agents, (ABTA), under European law (regulation 1107/2006), all passengers who have a disability can receive assistance when they fly, free of charge. Travel operators are obliged to meet accessibility standards.
Garry Nelson of AllClear, a specialist in medical travel insurance gives some top tips to minimise risk and maximise your holiday enjoyment:
Plan ahead – whether you have a mobility issue, a visual impairment or any other disability, you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure you get the right service for you. If you have a wheelchair, for example, ask whether the aeroplane, boat, bus or train has wheelchair accessible areas, and if you have a carer, where he or she will be seated.
Speak to your healthcare provider – if you feel the journey might be uncomfortable for you, speak to your GP or medical healthcare provider and see whether they can suggest anything to help make the journey more comfortable. If you take medication for your condition, ask for a prescription to cover the time you’ll be away, as well as a little extra in case your flight is delayed. Ask about taking medication when crossing time zones. If your airline requires a ‘fit to travel’ note, or a letter from your doctor authorising you to carry certain medications, arrange this with plenty of time to spare.
Research accommodation – it’s important to thoroughly discuss all your requirements with your travel company, and don’t feel you need to stick to staying in hotels. Many lodges on safari, for example, feature fully accessible and adapted rooms, and even some tented camps are suitably modified.
Follow the FCO advice – the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) provides travel advice on some 225 countries or territories and gives best advice on where/where not to travel. The Travel Health Pro and NHS Fit To Travel websites are other useful sources of information.
Remember, you will not be covered on your travel insurance if you travel to a country or area where the FCO advises the public not to travel.
Help for hard of hearing – for travellers hard of hearing, airlines should provide telecommunication devices for the deaf, or text telephones.
Find the right medical travel insurance – Specialist travel insurance will provide reassurance that if anything should happen while you are on holiday, you’ll be fully covered. It is vital that you declare everything so your insurers have accurate information on all pre-existing medical conditions.
Obtain an EHIC card – an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) can provide low cost, or even free, healthcare if travelling within the EU. A card can be ordered at no charge via the NHS’ website. It’s important to note that this card IS NOT a substitute for comprehensive medical travel insurance.
Know your destination – Do some research on your holiday destination – just in case. What is the availability and affordability of private healthcare? Does the country offer a free healthcare system? Is English widely spoken in hospitals? Are there any specific health risks or diseases associated with a country that you should be aware of? What vaccinations are required? And is there good availability of standard prescriptions? The chances are you won’t need to consider any of these things while on holiday, but it can’t hurt to be prepared.