July 22, 2021

Disabled-friendly Travelling Ideas

Written by: Marina Peric, M.D.

Now that the borders are finally slowly reopening after over a year of the Covid19 pandemic, many are thinking about hitting the road and charging their batteries up in an exciting travel destination.

But if you, a friend, or a family member of yours have some sort of disability, then you know how difficult finding the perfect place may be. Many popular tourist attractions and must-see cities do not have the proper infrastructure to accommodate a disabled person.

More and more cities and countries are making adaptations to overcome this problem, yet, many of them are still inapproachable for the disabled. To avoid your long-desired vacation from becoming a catastrophe, here is a list of some of the world’s most accessible countries and cities.

 

Say ¡Hola! to Spain…

 

Spain is a country with the most Access City Award prizes. Avila, Vigo, Malaga, and Bilbao are only some of the cities that earned at least an honorable mention, not to mention the two biggest and most famous cities of Barcelona and Madrid. Granada, Cordoba, and Seville are also must-visit places for all those who want to enjoy the rich culture, warm climate, good cuisine, and friendly people.

Spanish cities are not all fully accessible for the disabled, but much has been done to improve on the field. Most of the landmarks and museums, such as Bilbao’s Guggenheim, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, or Seville’s Alhambra, are adapted for visitors with impaired vision and hearing, as well as for wheelchair users. Tourist offices in Barcelona and Madrid offer special tours for those with disabilities too. Most of the newer hotels are wheelchair-accessible, and the same stands for transportation. Apart from some old metro lines, most of the metro platforms are wheelchair-friendly, and so are the busses and Euro taxis.

 

…and Olá! to Portugal


Tourism is one of the most important economic activities for this country with a vast historical and cultural heritage. In the past few years, the Portugal government put great efforts into making tourist resources more accessible, especially for people with mobility issues. As a result, when the World Tourism Organization established the “Accessible Tourist Destination” award in 2019, Portugal was the first country to win this flattering title.

All the airports in Portugal are adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities, and a service called MyWay can be booked with the flight for further help around the facilities. Most public transport is accessible, including taxis, and special services can help organize the journey if you have special requirements. Finding a place to stay when you’re a wheelchair user is not a problem, especially in the newer hotels. Over 200 beaches on rivers and on the coast are marked as accessible.

Access to the UK for All


The UK is probably one of the countries that have done the most to promote and support accessible tourism. Whether you want to have a quiet vacation in the countryside, spend some unforgettable days in a vibrant city, or chill by the sea, the UK can offer all of this – and all of it accessible.

The vast majority of famous attractions, including the Buckingham Palace, National Gallery, British Museum, Tower Bridge, Madame Tussauds, Kensington Palace, Tate Modern, and even the famous London Eye, can accommodate tourists with mobility, hearing, and visual impairments. But why stop in London? Head to the cities of Brighton, Lincoln, Nottingham, or Birmingham – all included in the Tourism for All charity program.

 Tourism for All offers guides, accessibility maps, and travel planners for people with all kinds of disabilities. With this, you can, for example, quickly find out which hotels have rooms with ceiling hoists or how to move through any city step-free. National program Wheels for All offers rentable adapted cycles, which are available in over 50 centers across England and Wales. In several centers, it is even possible to get a specially adapted, hand-crafted Wheelyboat – a boat designed for people with mobility issues - and have some fun on the water!

Learn to sail in Thailand


Sailing is an uncommon and adventurous sport. It requires and develops strength, good orientation, agility, and concentration and provides a unique experience every time. For people with mobility issues and other types of disabilities, for whom daily activities often pose a significant challenge, sailing sounds like a mission impossible. But if you think this way, you’ve probably never heard of Disabled Sailing Thailand!

Disabled Sailing Thailand is the first Asian sailing club for people with disabilities. It is based in two small cities in Thailand: Pattaya and Phuket. The club offers a six-week sailing course, after which the participants can even acquire an official sailor ID and take part in competitions! No matter where from, anyone with a disability is welcome. Paraplegic, quadriplegic, and amputee sailors push boundaries and show that, with effort and will, physical defects can be overcome.

Tour the States


The USA must be one of the most accessible countries in the world. Most of its big cities have wide and smooth sidewalks, pavements with dropped curbs, and barrier-free access to public transportation. Major airlines, airports, train and bus companies offer assistance for disabled travelers, and taxi companies offer accessible vans. Finding accessible accommodation, a restaurant, or a restroom, should not be a big problem in popular tourist destinations, as in 1993 it became obligatory for all the newly built buildings to be wheelchair accessible. Most of the sights and attractions are fully or partially accessible too, and services such as accesiblego.com can help you organize an accessible trip in the best way possible.

So go ahead and visit the museums and monuments of Washington D.C. Take a ride on the zip line, or try your luck in some of Las Vegas’ famous casinos. Enjoy the sight from the top of Seattle’s Space Needle. Have some fun on the famous Ferris wheel in Chicago. Swim with fishes and turtles in Honolulu. The options are numerous and disability must be no barrier to having a fun and enjoyable vacation!

References and further information

  1. https://www.spain.info/en/discover-spain/accessible-tourism-spain/
  2. https://www.visitportugal.com/en/experiencias/turismo-acessivel
  3. https://site.tourismforall.org.uk/
  4. https://disabledsailingthailand.org/
  5. https://accessiblego.com/home

 

Article written by Marina Peric, M.D.
Marina is a medical doctor from Belgrade, Serbia. She graduated with high honors in 2020 and is aspiring to become a pathologist. During her studies, she took part in several scientific researches, mostly in the pharmacology niche. She was also an assisting teacher at the Department of Histology and Embryology for 5 years (2015-2020). Marina has years of experience as a writer on health-related topics. Apart from English, she fluently speaks several languages, including Spanish, Russian, and Czech.

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