Vacationing With A Disability


Hi, this is Connie again.  You may remember me from the article I wrote on this blog about Direct Funding for personal care for people with disabilities.  Right now I would like to give you some information and tips on vacationing and travelling with a disability. First of all, I would like to mention that Direct Funding does allow up to three weeks a year for vacationing and travelling with an attendant even outside the province and country.

There are many organisations and agencies, including, travel agents, out there specialising in planning and accommodating people with disabilities.  There are also many articles written by people with disabilities on their trips to various locations (for example, Abilities Magazine). March of Dimes Canada is a great organisation for offering holiday packages (including transportation, hotel, accommodation, day/night excursions, and personal care) within the province, country and abroad; camping holidays within the province; and day trips within the province and city.  Access 2 Entertainment is another program in which one can obtain a membership card allowing his/her attendants to get free access to different entertainment venues and theatres throughout the country while accompanying the person with the disability (for example, the CN Tower).

There are also various discounts and services available from transportation groups within this country, like Air Canada, Via Rail, and of course privately accessible transportation vehicles or taxis both for travelling within a province or state and city.  Many boats and cruise ships are also accessible to people with disabilities.  All Canadian airlines offer free airfare to any destination within Canada to an attendant travelling with a passenger with a disability.  Air Canada also offers a half-price discount on the ticket of an attendant travelling with the person with a disability outside of the country.  Upon completing a medical form Air Canada offers you total assistance from checking in your luggage, to using the aeroplane aisle chair, to being escorted through baggage and out the airport upon arrival to your destination.  Via Rail which travels to many Canadian cities also offers free travel tickets to an attendant accompanying a person with a disability.  Once within the destination of your choice paratransit or bus or accessible taxi can easily be accessed and often discounts,  like ADA discounts in the U.S., or discounts for attendants can be given; however, making these arrangements along with any necessary applications should be done well in advance of the travel date.  You may also want to consider travelling with a folding manual wheelchair for easier access to a vehicle without a lift or ramp.

Prior to arriving at your destination, you must ensure that your accommodation, for example, a hotel is accessible to the standards that you need.  In the U.S. major hotels are required by law to ensure that a wheelchair accessible or ADA room meets all necessary standards, for example, roll-in showers, elevated toilet seats, grab bars, wide doorways, etc.; however, in whatever country you are travelling in it is always a good idea to describe to management what you are looking for before booking the room.  You can also inquire if you can bring additional items of your own, like portable lifts or bed grab bars, or if they can be rented out from a place nearby the hotel.

The two most recent trips I took were to Lake Muskoka and New York City.  The Lake Muskoka trip was on a steamship and was a trip arranged with fully accessible accommodations for all events by March of Dimes.  The day trips and holiday vacation packages arranged by March of Dimes, although fairly priced, can be costly because all travel, accommodations, and excursions are arranged by them to include accessible access and can include attendant care (for the holiday vacation packages).  To be more cost-effective, you can plan trips as outlined above, as I did for my New York City trip. You will find that travelling within the U.S. to be very accessible because of their ADA law and disability discounts for you and your attendant are often offered in many entertainment venues that you can inquire about.  Wherever and however you do decide to travel you will find it a very worthy endeavour and a chance to learn more about the accessibility of different societies.



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  2. Do these offers only include physical disability or mental as well? I’m asking because I have a son with mental retardation.

    • It would be best to discuss this matter and your son’s level of functioning with a Direct Funding intake specialist at the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT).

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