Disability Travel Advice
Travelling With Disabilities
Airports are busy places where everyone seems to be rushing around, seemingly without a care for anyone else, so you need to be fully prepared before you get there to help ease the stress and make things move along more smoothly.
Here is some information from the Civil Aviation Authority to give you an idea of what to expect at airports. Have a read through and you will have a better idea of what to expect and understand some of the terminology that is used as you pass through an airport.
So, my aim here, by writing this article, is to help you to get as much knowledge before you actually travel and hopefully empower you, before you embark on your next exciting adventure.
Let me begin by giving you some pointers. Firstly, it is all about the preparation, as I mentioned earlier!
Try to Prepare as you would any other event in your life, by following some of the recommended advice that I am going to share with you, this should hopefully help a little to make things run a little more smoothly for you.
Firstly, you have booked the holiday. Was there any advice given by the travel agent? Probably not! So what now?
Well, let us start with getting the Disability checklist
This can be accessed on the link shown below.
This will give/show you a list which you need to complete/fill in to highlight your requirements while travelling.
It is worth making several photocopies to be able to handout as you travel, if not before, to those that are helping you through the airport. Always saving a master copy.
You can inform the airline, tour operator, hotel, taxi company or anyone else you feel would benefit with this advice. This basically saves you the need to keep repeating yourself over and over again, which I know can be tiring in itself.
It is also worthwhile contacting the airline you are travelling with and explain your disability, and this must be done as soon as possible to make them aware of your requirement.
It is worth remembering that airlines are obliged to carry two pieces of mobility equipment free of charge.
Information you need to present to the airline before travelling
Do you need assistance to the aircraft? Do you need to sit near to a toilet? Are you travelling with medication? If you are, don’t forget to get a letter from your GP to say how essential this medication is. Will you need oxygen onboard? Are you fearful of flying? Do you have a CPAP machine?
These are some of the things that the airline will need to know.
If you are Diabetic remember that the insulin must not go into the hold for two reasons:
a) because the temperature in the hold can affect the insulin
b) because your suitcase could go missing. Either of these is not going to help you at all.
Then you could obtain a medical device awareness card, if required. Usually used for Insulin pumps or glucose monitoring device.
Here is a list of airlines and airports special assistance details/contacts for you to keep safe for future reference. It is worth taking a photocopy if your journey means flying with more than one airline.
If you are taking a wheelchair, you must do the following:
- Inform the airline, at least 48 hours before you fly, the sooner the better.
- Let them know the dimensions of the wheelchair, make, model and size and weight.
- Take the instruction booklet with you.
- If the wheelchair has a lithium battery, the airline will need to know as Lithium batteries are classed as dangerous goods and need to be handled and stored in a certain way.
Airlines must be prepared to carry two items of mobility aids free of charge.
If you have informed the airline of your disability, the cabin crew will be aware of it, so that they will be able assist you, should you need any help during the flight.
You may be asked for a fitness to fly certificate, if the airline has any concerns about you travelling.
Don’t be worried if they ask for this, it is just a standard and normal request that they may need to know more about your condition to ensure the flight crew/cabin staff are made fully aware before you board the aircraft.
What is a Hidden Disability?
Some disabilities are classed as Hidden Disabilities, Autism, Dementia, and mental health issues. Hidden disabilities are entitled to a “Sunflower Lanyard” which is a new initiative aimed at helping those who have disabilities that may not be as obvious to those around them.
These are available from most airports before you fly. Usually most airports have an assistance desk where you can get one from, this will enable a smooth ride through the airport and Security process. This signals to the airport staff that you may need some special assistance as you pass through the airport. Therefore, making the whole experience easier and allowing you more time to go through the security scanning process.
Even the airline cabin crew will be able to recognise this lanyard. No one during the airport transition will ask you what the disability is, so rest assured there won’t be any need for an explanation, just very supportive staff throughout.
Also, some airports have quiet rooms and they are there for when the airport experience gets overwhelming. It is worth asking beforehand if your airport has this facility and its location. Do you need to pre book?
Being ill onboard during the flight
There is normally a variety of medical equipment onboard an aircraft to anticipate any medical needs because at 35000 feet above the ground, every eventuality has to be covered, from a De Fib to a Sharps box for used needles. From handing out pain killers to burns and bandages, you name it, there is usually something onboard for every ailment.
The cabin crew on the flight are fully trained on medical issues and a level of trust must be placed in them to deal with any situation that arises. The inflight medical training they receive is very thorough. It is updated each year.
Travelling around the airport
Also try to allow plenty of time and plan your stops, including toilets en-route to ensure you arrive at the airport in good time to prevent the need to rush around.
To help with planning your journey to the airport, I can highly recommend AccessAble who are a fantastic organisation who help to survey many places around the UK, including airports, to reassure and ease the anxiety of going out.
They also do a fabulous airport guide too, with information such as where the toilets are located, widths of doorways, hearing loops etc. The list of advice they cover is invaluable.
Download their app here before you travel.
All in all, travelling should be an enjoyable time but for many it is sometimes harrowing and testing and fraught with the unknown.
For any more advice or guidance you can find us on facebook:
We are also launching a new chat group called Travelling with a Disability, on our facebook platform, this is aimed at introducing members to other members who can offer advice to many situations that you may face, when travelling. Join the group now and start sharing your experiences with others.
Travelling with a Disability - certain precautions to take
NHS direct fit for travel
They offer advice on most topics regarding your health and safe travel abroad. Its constantly being updated. Worth checking about vaccinations and requirements for where you are going.
Passport services for disabled
Fitness to Fly
There are so many conditions, it is impossible for us to cover them all on here, but I have included information on the three most popular.
- Legs in a plaster cast
Limbs in a plaster cast
Check with your airline first. Depending on when the plaster cast was put on, there may be restrictions for your travel. You may need to have the plaster cast split before you fly.
Some airlines restrict travel for 24-48 hours after the cast has been put on. (This is due to the swelling that can occur either because of the injury or problems with blood pooling in the limb itself.) Also, it’s worth noting, that you are not allowed to sit next to an over wing exit if you have a cast on.
It is also best if you ask the hospital/GP for a letter to carry with you, with the details of when the cast was put on. The airline may ask for this information.
Always carry any medical notes on your person, if you are returning from resort after having x rays!
The airline may ask for a fitness to fly, this is completely normal and they are just checking that you are ok to fly.
Once you are over a certain stage in your pregnancy, its usually around 28 weeks, most airlines will require a letter from your GP. This is usually to confirm everything is progressing normally, that there are no problems and your due date. Please check with your airline.
You can fly up to week 36 in a single pregnancy /week 32 in a multiple pregnancy. This date is the return date of travel.
One thing that does get overlooked is travel insurance. Don't forget to inform your travel insurance provider that you are pregnant.
Consider taking a copy of any medical notes:
- Don’t pack the insulin in your hold luggage as the temperature in the hold can affect the insulin, or incase your suitcase goes missing.
- You may need a letter from your GP to say what you are carrying and that it is essential for your travel
- Airlines have a sharps box onboard for you to dispose of your needles.
- Always inform your airline that you are travelling, so they can offer support to you.
- Take into account that when you are abroad measurements may be different to what you are used to. Always double check
As with any illness, medical condition or disability, airlines must be informed as soon possible but no later than around 48 hours before you fly.
European Health Insurance Card. EHIC
You can apply online for one and it is valid for 5 years. Having one of these entitles the card holder to state healthcare in other EEA countries at reduced costs or in some instances for free. Some insurance providers insist that you have one.
You must have valid travel insurance as well. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal your EHIC may not be valid. So check before you travel. You will need all your personal details and your National Insurance number CHI (Scotland) Health and care no (Northern Ireland). Every family member must have one. They are not valid in Turkey. They are not valid on cruises.
For more information on travelling with a disability we cover this on a different page.
When you arrive in your hotel, it is always worth making a note of where the local hospital is and the local GP contact details. Keep a copy of your travel insurance details in your safe and always carry a copy of the phone number on you of who to call in an emergency.
If you need anymore information on any health queries, please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help and guide you in the right direction.
NHS direct fit for travel - They offer advice on most topics regarding your health and safe travel abroad. Its constantly being updated. Worth checking about vaccinations and requirements for where you are going.
Check with the NHS what vaccinations are required
Another good organisation is the World Health Organisation (WHO). They provide many factsheets for many health conditions.
A medical examination is always a good idea if you are returning from any area and have suffered with a temperature or a dodgy tum. Don’t ignore it. Get it recorded and checked.
Being ill on holiday is never pleasant and there are certain precautions you can take to ensure you are doing your best to avoid the most common illness.
Always follow strict guidelines to food safety whilst abroad. Things like avoiding ice in drinks in some countries and checking meat is cooked properly are two of the most common things that can lead to an upset tum. Even the most innocent of food poisoning can go very wrong and turn into complications. It is also important to record any sickness with the hotel if you are ever ill in resort.
Food poisoning can be so easily avoided.
The World Health Organisation offer this advice.
Check out whether you need any vaccinations before you travel. For Yellow fever you will need to visit a special health clinic. These vaccinations are not free and you may be given a certificate. Keep the certificate safe as some countries require the certificate as proof that you have been vaccinated. Remember just as a pre health check should be important. This should be done around 4-6 weeks before you travel.
Pre holiday checklist
A post holiday check up should be just as important, just in case you have been ill whilst you have been away, always check out any fevers, and upset tums.
Stay safe from any injury or violence abroad
Most airlines refer you to Travel health pro. This is the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)
On this website you can find a full list of country information, details of outbreaks of illness, yellow fever information. General health advice and much more.
They were set up in 2002 and the broad aim is to protect the traveller, inform the GP and work alongside the government to offer the best health advice possible.
If you do have a pre existing medical condition, we always advise you to find out where to find your local GP and what the procedure is in the hotel, if you need to see a GP during your stay. Keep the number handy in your room.