Accessibility requirements can make holidays and outings more of a challenge and your choices may seem limited. But many families and carers will appreciate how rewarding it can be to facilitate leisure activities and holidays for those with disabilities. Yet a report by Premier Platform Lifts suggests that 82% of adults with disabilities experience accessibility barriers that prevent them from participating in leisure, social and cultural activities.
As a result, many disabled people are significantly less likely to have such good travel and tourism experiences. But with careful planning there is no reason why people with disabilities and those who care for them should miss out on new and exciting opportunities.
Each person with impairments will require different levels of care, and many are independant and do not rely upon others at all. However, there are estimated to be over 6.5 million carers in Britain. This article is therefore predominantly, but not exclusively, aimed at caregivers planning a trip on behalf of a disabled family member, friend or partner.
Whatever your situation, the following tips are designed to give you more options and help you plan a more accessible and inclusive weekend away.
Start by researching locations and attractions
When planning your trip away, it may seem logical to look at travel and accommodation first. But, sometimes it is best to decide where you want to go before moving on to specifics. This is because certain locations may limit your activity due to poor accessibility and transport links. If you can rule these out, your search will be simplified.
While most cities and tourist attractions cater to disabled members of the public, it may be helpful to choose from a list of locations that facilitate all of your accessibility requirements. If impaired mobility is a factor, for example, it may be beneficial to choose a location with fewer steps and hills. You can search the English Heritage website by location to find attractions that are easy to get around for wheelchair users. The description of each attraction provides information for disabled visitors.
In cases where vision or hearing are impaired it is worth choosing events that are known to use braille, audio-description or sign-language or search for events that specifically cater to your requirements. For more detailed information on accessible events, see The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain.
Particularly while planning longer trips it can be useful to plan some time to relax and be entertained. Whether that means finding local care centres, workshops or activity days, it could be beneficial to give yourself enough to do.
Weigh up all the travel options
Each individual will have different priorities when it comes to transport, particularly when it comes to accessibility. It is therefore important to plan travel according to your circumstances. Transport is often uncomfortable and costly for those with impairments, so it is important to consider a few different options.
Trains, buses and coaches often provide excellent additional support to disabled passengers who request it. You can also obtain disabled railcards and free bus passes, which will help to limit the amount you spend. But toilets and changing facilities can sometimes be an issue where public transport is concerned.
When hiring cars, taxis and mini-bus services you can make changes to your route and stop at service stations when necessary. This will make your journey more flexible should you require regular toilet breaks and the use of changing facilities. However, these may be more expensive than public transport.
If you have access to a car, you may wish to save money and have access to toilets and changing facilities at service stations, which can be factored into your route. In this case you might wish to consult the RAC route planner. You may also be eligible for a blue badge in order to park closer to your destination and in designated disabled spaces.
Check reviews before booking
When booking any event, service or accommodation, reviews are a useful way to learn what others thought of the event or experience you’re considering. Generally, these opinions are subjective and what is important to one person may not affect another. However, when it comes to disabled access, reviews will usually help you decide whether the hotel, for example, can cater to your specific needs.
Euan’s Guide is an excellent resource for those with disabilities, their families and carers looking for accessible attractions and accommodation. Here you can find helpful information about specific accessibility fulfillments in the form of reviews from relatives, carers and disabled people themselves.
It may even be worth researching organisations that provide specialist trips for people with disabilities and carers.
Look beyond physical accessibility
Businesses within hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors are expected to meet certain accessibility standards. But it is important to understand the limits accessible spaces and services sometimes have, particularly for needs beyond physical mobility.
While some accommodation and travel options are accessible to the majority of disabled people, they are often focused upon wheelchair users and those with physical disabilities. For those with mental, sensory or learning impairments these ‘accessible’ spaces and methods of transport may not be appealing or wholly accessible. It is therefore important to assess the importance of certain factors when planning your trip.
For example, some people may be sensitive to bright light, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It could therefore be beneficial to book transport with tinted windows to avoid the discomfort and disruption this could cause to a journey. Similarly, if you care for someone that likes to run around and explore you may want to ensure that the grounds of your accommodation are gated and situated away from main roads to ensure their safety and your peace of mind.