5 easy ways you can be an ally to disabled travelers

Oct 2, 2021

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If you are an “able-bodied” traveler, there are many things that you can do to help improve travel for those of us with disabilities. After all, it could also be of tremendous value to you in the future. Anyone, at any time, can join the disability community, so by making the world more inclusive now, you can help future generations as well.

Did you know that approximately one in four people have a disability? By encouraging destinations to be inclusive of all travelers and speaking up if accessibility is limited in a tourist site, you are not only potentially helping yourself for the future, but you are also helping your extended family, friends, and everyone in general.

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Below is a list of ways you can be the best ally to disabled travelers. As a wheelchair user myself, I thank you for taking the time to read this article and taking the actions below.

Support legislation that improves accessibility

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination by air carriers against individuals with disabilities. The ACAA has provided regulations for 35 years, but it is in need of an update. Currently, the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act is trying to be passed in congress. It would strengthen enforcement of the ACAA, require airlines to meet accessibility standards, and most importantly, improve the safety of air travel for passengers with disabilities. You can ask your members of Congress to support this bill by filling out this simple form online.

The airline industry is very aware of the rights of disabled passengers, but as stressors arise in the airport, there may be times that fairness is overlooked. If you are on a plane or in an airport and see someone in a wheelchair being treated unfairly, remind the airline of the ACAA.

Support organizations that are working to make travel more accessible

All Wheels Up, for example, is an incredible organization that is pushing for wheelchair users to be able to remain in their wheelchair during flight.

Currently, the wheelchair is stowed beneath the plane and the wheelchair user has to be transferred from their wheelchair into a small “aisle chair” and then again transferred into the plane seat. This makes the flight very uncomfortable, as most wheelchairs are custom-fitted. The wheelchairs also are often damaged during flight (an average of 29 wheelchairs are damaged per day on flights), which not only causes the wheelchair user days, weeks, or even months of discomfort and immobility, but also costs the airline millions of dollars every year in repairs.

Related: A day in the life: What it’s like to travel through an airport and on a plane as a wheelchair user

By donating to organizations like All Wheels Up, travelers of all abilities will one day be able to enjoy flying without the stress of being manhandled by the airline crew members or having a wheelchair damaged. Every dollar that is donated to All Wheels Up goes toward improving the air travel process for wheelchair users.

Speak up when you see inaccessibility while traveling

You’ve probably heard the phrase “When you see something, say something,” right? Well, this is one of the best and easiest things that you, as an able-bodied traveler, can do to help improve accessibility in the destinations you visit.

For example, if you are walking up stairs into a restaurant, ask a worker if there is another entrance for wheelchair users. You may get them thinking about accessibility for the first time just by asking that simple question. They may have never even thought about this scenario before. Often, the workers will even say, “Well, we never have customers in wheelchairs here, so we really do not need a ramp,” but remind them that wheelchair users may have tried to visit, but cannot due to the inaccessibility.

Related: These are the most wheelchair-accessible cities around the world

By speaking up about accessibility in a kind manner, you could be the reason why a restaurant, shop, or attraction becomes accessible.

Share accessibility insights online

When writing about your travel experiences post-trip, whether on TripAdvisor, Yelp, your own social media pages, or somewhere else on the internet, always include info on accessibility of the location you’re writing about.

Accessible travel information is often extremely difficult to find online, but even if you just put one sentence saying that whatever attraction you visited had a ramp to enter, that could be a huge help. You don’t have to go into full accessibility detail, but any bit of information is super helpful.

Related: Planning an accessible trip? These travel resources can help.

The more accessibility information that we can make available online, the easier trips will be to plan in the future and the more mainstream accessibility will become.

Use accessible travel companies to plan your own trips

Use accessible travel booking platforms like Handiscover to book hotel rooms or use accessibility-focused tour companies to help support them. Sure, sites like Handiscover do specialize in accessibility, but they also allow you to book standard rooms.

Likewise, many companies that offer accessible tours also offer tours for non-disabled travelers. However, the opposite is not usually true. By supporting tour companies and booking platforms that cater to all travelers instead of spending your hard-earned money on discriminatory companies, this puts more money in the pockets of inclusive companies and therefore, they will be able to provide better accessible features to accommodate wheelchair users.

Related: 10 wheelchair-accessible tour companies that are changing the travel industry

As you can see, there are multiple ways that you can be an ally for disabled travelers and none of the above scenarios take away from your own travel experiences. They are just helping to improve travel for people of all abilities. By being an ally, you will not only improve the lives of others, but it could also improve your outlook on travel and enable you to have a more fulfilling trip.

Photo by Carlo Prearo/EyeEm/Getty Images

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