How to Plan a Trip When You Have Special Needs
- Published on Friday, 18 May 2012 16:03
The most important thing to do is to make a checklist. This is important for anyone taking a trip. But it is even more important for a person with a disability because there are usually a lot more things to be considered and if they are overlooked the bad consequences can be greater. Go through your day and think of the additional challenges you may face. Think worst case scenario also. It's inevitable for these things to pop-up at this least convenient time.
Use these major categories, preferably in this order, when making your list:
Medical Equipment and Assistive Technology
Check the accessibility of:
Transportation to, from and while visiting your destination: wheelchair lift, bathroom facilities (size, location and how do you access it), aisle width, medical equipment storage, seating area (seat position adjustments and/or the size of wheelchair seating area, dimensions of area to access seating area), electrical supply and outlets, oxygen supply areas, port and pier accessibility early boarding, use of Service animals, special dining and dietary needs and special needs security screening.
Housing and Sleeping Accommodations: Bathroom (grab bars, toilet height, roll-in shower, etc.), bed height, door width, turning radius within room, accessing the bed, emergency communication devices, use of service dogs, is their a kitchen available to the guests.
Recreation venues: what places are accessible, amusement park and ride accessibility, transportation to and from, ticket policies.
Be sure to ask for the Accessibility office at each place of business. Most have one and they normally are more informed about your options than the rest of the staff, who may quickly and authoritatively tell you the services aren't offered. These services are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Unfortunately, there are still businesses that have not brought their businesses into compliance with the ADA, so it's "better to be safe rather than sorry" and call to be sure.
Its easy to get so used to our daily activities that we forget what it is we actually do. Thats why its important to really think critically about the task you perform each day. Go through every hour and every activity. Think about how performing those activities will be different to, from and while at your destination. Will the changes affect your ability or the time you can perform the task? If there will be changes how can you work around them. Talk to the facilities you will encounter to see how they can help. They may have encountered a guest with a similar situation or prepared for it under the ADA.
Do you normally perform these task independently or with help and will that change? If the changes will be great it may be a good idea to bring or hire a caregiver to help you. Call a nursing agency in the area you are going and tell them about your needs, they will be more than happy to accomodate you. There are also "travel companions" that will remain with you throughout your travels.
If you have limited mobility, it is also important to take special care when packing. Pack the things that you will use first at the top, then down from there. This eliminates the tiring and sometimes impossible task of scrumaging through trying to find what you need. Bring a large bag that can be used for dirty clothes. Once the trip is over the bag can be easily placed in the luggage.
Medical Equipment and Assistive Technology
For many with special needs, the use of medical equipment and/or assistive technology are essential for daily living activities and independence. Go through your day again and make a list of the items you use. Consider every possibility since there can be activities you dont perform everyday. If the equipment is reusable, ensure that everything is working properly. Any repairs needed should be done before you go. Because the equipment will be moving around and maybe even handle by others, that one broken piece that has been hanging on for so long may finally give out. If you have backup equipment that you use at home, consider bringing it along. Things always go wrong at the wrong time.
If the equipment is disposable, calculate how many times you use it a day/week and compare that with how long you will be on your trip. A good rule of thumb is to bring 1 1/2 times what you normally use, just in case.
Ensuring that your needs are fully met is important. The planning process can seem daunting initially. But a little extra planning will be the key to a relaxing, stress-free trip.