Many people consider their travel adventures to be among the high point of their lives. Whether it is for business, sporting competition or holiday, you can travel successfully with a spinal cord injury, but you will need to do some careful preparation.
Preparation before you go
The first and most important thing is to assess your personal needs and understand what access and assistance you will require. If you do this, your holiday will be a holiday.
- Develop your own specific check list. For example, measure the width of your wheelchair. This may seem a hassle, but it can save many headaches. Everybody has a different interpretation of the word 'accessible'. This list means that you know what to ask when you are speaking to accommodation places.
- Prepare and book well in advance, as many places only have one room with facilities for people with disabilities.
- Understand that your holiday may cost more if you need any specialist facilities.
- Equipment may create the need for extra luggage. You may need to pay for extra kilos taken on the plane.
- When you make a phone call to an accommodation facility to establish accessibility and the proprietor responds, 'Yes, we have had people in wheelchairs stay before' beware. Ask the questions that have come from your checklist, for example about stairs or lifts, and doorways. Are the doors wider than your wheelchair? Is the shower enclosed and does it have a hand-held shower hose? Can you get a commode over the toilet?
Items to take?
- Electric: Charger adapter plug, sealed dry cell batteries, spare tube, puncture kit, phone number of your wheelchair manufacturer/agent.
- Manual: Rear wheel axle, spare tube, tyre levers, puncture repair kit, or non-puncture tyres.
- General: Spare cushion, cushion cover, gel or Roho cushion, small pump.
- Disability parking permit.
- Take a rubber shower hose and head with slip-on rubber tap fittings.
- Roho or gel cushion can be used without covers in wet areas.
- Use your own wheelchair if necessary, but make sure you dry axles and inserts after shower.
- Extra towels can be handy.
- Beware of transferring onto plastic chairs in shower recesses (chair legs can buckle from the hot water or even break).
- Beware of changeable water temperatures when showering.
- If bathroom access is tight many places will take the bathroom door off if you ask
- If the shower is enclosed most bathrooms have a central drain. Plug your shower hose into the basin taps and shower in the body of the bathroom.
- If going overseas, be sure to ask your Doctor to provide you with a letter and list of prescribed medications. Check for legality within other countries.
- You might want to consider precautionary medications for travel such as the flu shot.
- Ensure you have enough medications to last the time you will be away.
- A personal emergency kit can be useful (e.g. Betadine antiseptic, tape, Vaseline and other first-aid items).
- Suppositories/laxatives (always carry more than you think you will need).
- Disposable gloves (make sure to bring along extra packets).
- 'Bluey' plastic sheet(bowel care on bed).
- Always stay hydrated (decreased fluids can affect your bowel routine).
Caution: When on holiday you may change your diet and this can affect your bowel care.
- Spare leg bag.
- Night bags (handy to plug into leg bags to empty in planes, cars, etc.).
- Waterproof bed sheet (motels can charge for mattress and electric blanket damage).
- Urinary devices (always take extras).
- Spare connector and tubing.
- Hyperflexia card may be useful.
Tip: Take a few pairs of absorbent pants for times when you cannot change if your urinary appliance comes off (aircraft).
- Mobile phone (don't forget the charger).
- Bags that you can wheel/tow around yourself. Your travelling companion can only carry so much, and they are on a holiday too!
- Backpack that hangs on the back of your chair (beware, however, of people stealing things out of your bag. Turn it back to front or use a combination lock or padlock to hold the zips together).
- A net for under your chair.
- Extra towels.
- Travel insurance (if you take out disability travel insurance read the fine print... your travelling companion may be required to take it out too).
- Mirror to check your skin.
Many places are wheelchair accessible and friendly.
- Romantic getaways/Bed and Breakfasts.
- Cabins/Camping grounds.
- Youth hostels.
- Specialist accommodation houses.
Modes of travelling
- Always keep a personal survival pack in your vehicle (e.g. urinary devices, drainage bags, suppositories...) you never know when you may want to stay somewhere unexpectedly.
- With hand controls if you drive
- Check to make sure it is wheelchair accessible front and back.
- 4 Wheel Drive
- Local cruises, houseboats, Murray River paddle steamers, Tasmanian ferry.
- Ocean cruises
General travel tips
- Research your route. Local knowledge is invaluable. iIf going overseas or interstate travel information may be obtained on the Internet or through disability organisations e.g. AQA Victoria.
- National and State Parks in Australia may allow vehicle access or have accessible paths/facilities. Pre-arrange with rangers.
- Beds and seats are going to be different from those at home so take care against pressure sores.
- Organise your trip well in advance.
- Remember Murphy's Law, and be prepared to think laterally.
Travel resources within Australia
- NICAN provides a free information service Australia wide on accessible accommodation, tourist attractions and tour operators. You map your trip and they can send out a list of accessible accommodation options. NICAN also administers the Carer Concession Card. Card holders receive a 50% discount on their standard full economy and business class domestic travel, in addition to 50% off their carers fares (conditions apply). Please note that the Carer Concession Card does not apply to already discounted fares.
Contact Nican at P.O. Box 407 , Curtin, ACT 2605. Freecall: 1800 806 769. http://www.nican.com.au
- The Wheelie's Handbook of Australia by Colin James. Published by Colin and available at the Wheelie's Handbook of Australia website (Go to Order Form Page). Other resources are listed in the Handbook.
- Wheelchair Accessible tracks in the Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia... available from Grampians National Park Centre. Phone (03) 5356 4381. http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au
Accommodation check list
You will need to ask a lot of questions. This could be over the phone, or via email. Some of the information you will need to know includes:
- Do you have access to the check in office? Are there any steps, and will you be able to open the door?
- Is there a curb/step between the car park and the room?
- Is there a step into the room?
- What number is the room? Are you able to park outside the room upon arrival (very handy if you are travelling by yourself)?
- Height of bed (recommended 470mm) Am I able to get a hoist under the bed?
- Distance beside bed for transferring (800mm)?
- Are the light switches accessible from the bed?
- Bedside bed lamps often have push through switches that can be difficult to operate.
- Electric blankets can burn your skin or have ridges that can leave pressure marks.
- Is there enough room between the wall and toilet to fit a commode (150 - 200mm)?
- Is there enough room to self transfer beside toilet (800mm)?
- What are the height of hand rails in the shower and beside the toilet (800 - 810mm)?
- Are there any lips or dips into the shower recess?
- Is there a hand held shower hose?
- Is there a self-transfer fold down seat or shower seat with rubber non-slip feet?
Note: Don't use plastic outdoor furniture as chair legs can buckle from the hot water or even break whilst transferring.
- Has the hand basin got space underneath so you can get a wheelchair under it?
- Is the toilet door hinged or sliding?
- Is the mirror adjustable or low enough for a person in a wheelchair to use?
- Is the door width 800mm or wider? Are the door knobs round or lever type?
- Will reception desk be staffed to allow entry
- Can you have an additional key for an attendant to gain access to your room?
- Is the TV remote controlled?
- Will the motel fit your waterproof blanket?
- Is there knee space under the bench in the kitchen?
Visit AQA Victoria, Australia.
Contact AQA by phone at (03) 9489 0777
Email Information Service