Advice From An Expert: Disabled Travel
By: Brian Gage
In our modern world, countless locations can seem exceedingly difficult to visit for those with motor disabilities.
In many cases, cities or other places that may seem easy enough to navigate for some people can provide a huge barrier for those bound to wheelchairs, or with other motor impairments.
What many people who are lucky enough to have full use, and control, of their motor functions, never consider is the wide array of challenges that become apparent once one is no longer able to fully access their body's full functionality.
These challenges can cause seemingly everyday activities for some to become massive undertakings for others in different circumstances.
With this in mind, less regular pursuits, such as traveling the world, can seem out of reach or pose a huge challenge to a disabled person.
Fortunately, there are some companies whose sole mission is to provide the physically disabled with the opportunity to experience international travel without the struggle of having to plan an entirely accessible trip all by themselves.
I recently learned about John Sage, the founder of Sage Traveling "The European Disabled Travel Experts", and his efforts in making big trips more attainable for disabled people. John suffered a serious injury from a skiing accident in 2001, yet has since gone on to visit over 40 countries despite his predicament.
John sustained a T-4 incomplete spinal cord injury and while he still has some sensation, he finds it easier to get around with the use of his wheelchair.
However, John chose not to let this injury affect his outlook on life and has since visited Europe 16 times and seen over 140 cities.
Throughout his early travels, John discovered how difficult it can be to find information on the accessibility of many of his potential destinations, so he decided to take matters into his own hands and found Sage Traveling in an attempt to provide disabled or otherwise motor impaired people with a more streamlined choice when considering their prospective trips.
He has spent years researching the accessibility of all aspects of several popular locations, from lodging and museums to sightseeing opportunities, and has used his own experiences traveling to many of these places as guides for his research.
Now, Sage Traveling's main goal is to help plan fantastic trips to gorgeous and exotic destinations for people with disabilities.
A few days ago I had the exciting chance to ask John a few questions about his experiences and if he could offer any advice for people thinking about following in his footsteps. While he was on his way out the door to leave for a much-awaited excursion for Alaska, I was very thankful that he still took the time to answer me before his departure.
Challenges vary depending on the destination. However, in general, these are the main challenges:
The best destinations for people with new disabilities is somewhere within driving distance of home where they can put any mobility equipment (e.g. shower chair) into their vehicle.
When they're ready to travel abroad, London, Barcelona, and Berlin make for good first-time European destinations.
These three all have a good selection of accessible hotels with roll-in showers and grab bars in the bathrooms, are fairly flat and easy to navigate, and offer several popular tourist sights/highlights that are wheelchair accessible.
Cruising is a good option too but they will need a specialist to provide their accessible shore excursions to avoid getting stuck on the ship when in port.
Treat it as an adventure. It might not always be easy, but if you have the right information and the right support you'll be amazed at what is possible. Plan ahead to avoid spending your valuable time worrying and overcoming challenges when you’re traveling.
Be skeptical of search engines, outdated discussion forums etc. Accessibility information changes with time, and may not have been vetted sufficiently.
Brian Gage is a resident of Amherst, Massachusetts and a lover of all things outdoors. He enjoys traveling to exciting new locations, attempting to take in the most beautiful natural sites he can see. He is an avid hiker and climber and can be found at the Hadley Central Rock Gym on many of his free days.