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Resources for Travelers with Physical Disabilities

Written By: Rayleen Silva

One in four adults in the US have some sort of disability, according to the CDC. The same infographic claims 13.7% have a mobility disability, 5.9% have a disability that involves hearing, and 4.6% have a disability that involves sight.

These statistics are proof that there is a large number of people in the United States who have a disability. Not to mention, these statistics reflect the US alone, because about 15% of the world’s population has some sort of disability according to WHO.

If this many people have some form of disability you would assume there is a wide variety of accommodations for people with disabilities, however, people with disabilities still face many obstacles due to the world’s lag in resources for them.

One issue involving the lack of accommodations for people with disabilities involves travel for people with physical disabilities. People who have physical disabilities often need things like ramps, elevators, translators, etc. when traveling but far too often these needs are not met.

Everyone should be able to travel despite the world's lack of inclusion for those who are a part of minority groups-- like those with physical disabilities. Thankfully, there are various groups and individuals who recognize this issue and have created resources for travelers with physical disabilities.

Representation

People who are part of minority groups often don’t see representation of themselves in the media and that includes travel. Not many travel ads or campaigns are geared toward people with disabilities, and if they are they are most likely not created by someone who has a disability themselves. Having representation is extremely important, but making sure that representation is accurate is just as significant. This is why travel bloggers are so essential, because they personalize the experience of traveling, and if they are a part of a minority group then they help cultivate an accurate representation for that (often excluded) community.

Online Resources

Along with the inspiration and travel tips travel bloggers with physical disabilities can provide, there are also other online resources for physically disabled travelers. There are travel planning resources like travel agents, trip planning websites, or websites that are purely informational.

  • Travel Planning Resources
  • Informational
  • Safety

Apps

Thankfully we not only have online resources to aid disabled travelers but phone apps as well. These apps can be extremely helpful in different situations depending on one’s disability. Hopefully, at least one of these apps can be beneficial to you on your next trip.

  • Be My Eyes app helps connect visually-impared individuals with sighted volunteers who can help then navigate their way through unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Wheelmap is a great app that aids those who need to find places with wheelchair accommodations. The app allows you to find and mark wheelchair accessible restrooms, restaurants, stores, parking lots, etc.
  • Wheelmate is an app that can help you locate the nearest wheelchair-accessible restroom which is useful when traveling
  • Access Earth aims to encourage easy and equal travel by allowing you to search for places by accessibility (whatever that may mean to you) and you will be given a list of places near you that matches your search.
  • Seeing Eyes GPS and BlindSquare are GPS’s with extra features meant to help those who are blind-- like heads-up announcements and descriptions of intersections. The BlindSquare app also has indoor navigation.
  • Microsoft Soundscape is another app that can be helpful to anyone with a visual impairment as it is meant to create “ambient awareness”. The app can call out and describe your current location, what is around you, ahead of you, and even lets you know when you are about to walk near a road or intersection.
  • Right-hear is another option for those who are visually-impared or blind to help them get around safely indoors.
  • Click and Go Wayfinding is an app that is helpful for anyone traveling in an unfamiliar area that is easy to get lost in (college campus, bus station, airport, hotel, etc.), and it has other accessibility tools like Voice-Over.

Traveling and being in an unfamiliar environment is a difficult enough task, but if you add literal obstacles it can feel impossible. It is a sentiment that almost everyone shares and is constantly repeated, but everyone should be able to travel. For those who are members of a minority group, the world may make you feel unwelcome at times, but you should not let that stop you from exploring or doing whatever it is you want to do. So, until the rest of the world catches up and starts to be more inclusive of all groups, like the physically disabled community, here are some travel resources that will hopefully help you travel safely and easily on your next trip.


About the author:

Rayleen is currently a student studying Journalism at Cal State University, Northridge. Her passion lies with social issues, using writing as a medium to contribute and learn more about what communities are facing.