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Travelling the Globe with a Disability

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Many countries and companies are making exceptional strides in providing accessibility opportunities to those with disabilities who desire to travel.  I came across this video on YouTube that discussed Berlin, Germany’s focus on creating barrier-free environments when it comes to its museums, mode of transportation options, the social scene (the popular pubs), and being able to move about the city safely.  I was quite taken aback at how advance Germany’s accessibility systems were, and the fact that Germany is a leader when it comes to accessibility in Europe.

Though Berlin seems to be leading the charge to ensuring that both tourists and residents with disabilities are able to maneuver and enjoy the world around them, there are many areas for improvement in other countries in Europe.  When London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics, the city spent millions of pounds in preparation for the large number of individuals with disabilities who would travel to Olympic Park, but there were many hiccups experienced by wheelchair users during that time.  Many worried about whether they would be able to board the right bus stations that had wheelchair access or if the lifts would operate properly.  Some also experienced the unfriendliness of the public; sporadically did someone offer to assist when it was greatly (and at times, blatantly) needed.  Those kind of anxieties and harsh realities plague the minds of many who have mobility impairments, including yours truly (though I live in the U.S.)  (Let’s hope that the experiences of those who travel to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be a whole lot smoother.  I plan to keep an eye on accessibility successes and challenges reported by Paralympicans and tourists when the games begin in February 2014.)

Seeing countries like Germany take a stand to provide accessibility for all people is a great step in the right direction.  Many European and other countries across the globe have made travelling accessibility a priority, and this focus has allowed those with various forms of disabilities to travel within and beyond their domestic borders.  One valuable resource I’ve found for wheelchair users is Wheelchair Traveling, a website that discusses the domestic and abroad experiences of those who burn rubber while spanning the globe.  The stories shared paints very vivid pictures of what travelling to different states in America, and other countries is like for those on four wheels.  Reading the journals and transportation accounts, plus much-needed travel tips provide great pre-planning destination insight for those who have the travelling itch.

Websites like Wheelchair Traveling, along with travel agents who specialize in providing travel services to those with disabilities, can immensely assist in planning not only your next land expedition, but also your need to sail the ocean blue.  Royal Caribbean has an extensive array of services to accommodate different disability types such as mobility, visual, hearing, short stature, and other disabilities.  Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Carnival are a few other popular cruise lines that provide exceptional accommodations to fit the needs of those who board their ships.  Cruise Critic’s list of Top Ships for Cruisers with Disabilities is a great resource to review when planning your next sea adventure.

I want to know of your experiences travelling on land and by sea as a person with a disability.  What countries have you found to be “disability friendly” or “wheelchair friendly?”  What countries do you believe need more improvements in its openness to those with mobility limitations?  What travel destinations are on your bucket lists to conquer?  I know that I have a few domestic and abroad adventures I am eager to experience within the next couple of years.  Share your stories in the comments section below, or email them to me at Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com.  

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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