Hit the Road for Your Next Accessible Travel Adventure

By Amanda Winstead

Astudy by the Open Doors Organization which focused on the travel patterns and spending of American adults living with disabilities revealed that "27 million travelers took a total of 81 million trips and spent $58.7 billion on just their own travel."

We're happy to see that despite accessibility challenges, the community is getting out there, enjoying all of what the world has to offer. when it comes to making travel more accessible.

Though there's a lot of room for improvement, there's a longer list of accessible travel activities and amenities available to choose from now than there was a couple decades ago. Consider all your options as you make the most out of your next travel experience.

Accessible Vacations: woman is hiking in the desert southwest in a pink wheelchair

Try a Road Trip

In their study about accessibility barriers in air travel, the U.S. Government Accountability Office revealed that "In 2021, DOT received 1,394 disability-related complaints, a 54% increase from 2019."

The face that the airline industry as been slow to address accessibility issues like access to onboard bathrooms, difficulty accessing wheelchairs and the complexity of navigating large airports has made air travel less and less appealing to people with disabilities.

Traveling by train or boat are decent alternatives, but what about going by car for an epic road trip? With proper planning, transportation and comfort amenities, road-tripping can be an accessible way to travel. It can provide some of the best travel memories you'll ever have, too.

Man is in a wheel chair in an epic road trip voyage. He is seen at sunset in a wheelchair drinking water near his accessible van.

Make Sure Your Vehicle Meets Your Accessibility Needs

In a recent survey, the Bureau of Transportation found that "Over half (57.8%) of all respondents with disabilities use one or more medical devices."

Walking canes (36.7%), walkers (22.9%), and wheelchairs (11.6%), made up the top three medical devices used.

If you're using one of the above or another medical device, ensuring it fits in your mode of transportation without issue is critical. You should be able to store it properly, and it shouldn't disrupt anyone's view, especially the driver.

Also, you should be seated comfortably in your transportation. If possible, consider getting an accessible RV. Not only can you sit comfortably, but you can also sleep, eat, interact with family and entertain yourself in ways that you wouldn't be able to in a standard car.

The right mode of transportation for you depends on your particular needs. Give yourself time to flesh out exactly what you need to enjoy a short and long-term road trip. Then, search for vehicles that meet your needs and go see them in person.

Accessible biking. Amputee off road biking in a forest trail area.

Don't Forget Personal Amenities Related to Your Disability

As fun as road trips are, they can be taxing on the body. For example, you may come away with neck and back pain from being in a certain position for so long. Slowed blood circulation, muscle cramps and knee pain are common too.

Ensure you bring what will help you stay comfortable while on the road. Consider bringing the following:

  • Seat cushions
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Sunshades for windows
  • Weighted or regular blankets
  • Braces and compression socks
  • Specialized neck and back pillows

You also want to think about amenities that will help keep your mind off the mild discomfort you may experience throughout your road trip.

For instance, you could install Wi-Fi in your car. You can connect all of your devices to the Wi-Fi and use them as you would at home. You can also make hands-free calls and access live traffic updates. Check with your vehicle manufacturer to see if your vehicle is already equipped with Wi-Fi or how it can be set up.

What would keep you comfortable and entertained on a road trip? Make a list of potential amenities and see if there's a way to have them while road-tripping.

Discover Accessible Outdoor Activities

There are vacations you take to enjoy nice hotels, restaurants and city-dwelling activities like visiting theme parks and museums. And then, there are travel experiences completely wrapped around the outdoors.

Despite what many people think, the outdoors is accessible. Not only are there outdoor activities that people with a broad spectrum of disabilities can enjoy, but nature has a certain healing power.

Nature's been proven to boost moods and evoke positive emotions like joy, creativity, and happiness. It can help soothe symptoms of depression and anxiety. Immersing yourself in nature and the outdoors is a therapeutic experience that can help you navigate life's hurdles.

If you want your next travel experience to be outdoors, consider making the following activities a part of it.

Adapt Camping to Work for You

"Over 50 million U.S. Americans above the age of six years old went camping in 2020 and 2021," according to Statista. People love how camping helps them relax and unwind. They also appreciate the opportunity to bond with family and friends, live simply and enjoy nature.

Adaptive camping is a viable solution. These accessible camping sites accommodate a wide range of disabilities with tools and resources that allow you to fully embrace the outdoors.

National parks and other public lands, for example, typically have well-established programs that ensure accessible restrooms, parking, pathways and trails are available.

Be sure to bring the proper gear when camping. Think accessible tents with wheelchair access, cots that make for an easier transfer in and out of them and mobility aids like all-terrain electric powered chairs to explore the trails.

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Other Accessible Outdoor Activities

Camping isn't the only activity that the Great Outdoors has to offer. How about these?

  • Wheelchair hiking
  • Visiting accessible beaches
  • Accessible hunting and fishing
  • Adaptive bicycling
  • Assisted horseback riding
  • Adaptive paddle sports
  • Adaptive skiing and snowboarding

Research whether these activities are available in the areas you're traveling to. Then, contact the organizations or facilities involved to ensure the activity is commiserate with your level of ability and find out what you'll need to do to book it.

Happy trails!

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