10 Tips for Deaf and Blind Travelers

Families can accommodate deaf or blind travelers with these must-know tips and trip ideas.

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Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanut allergies are among the most severe, yet peanuts are synonymous with in-flight snacks. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts–check the airline website for policies–though other passengers may bring peanut snacks aboard. Airlines such as Southwest will not serve peanuts if contacted a few days before the flight. Speak to a gate agent before your family's flight and ask to pre-board in order to wipe down the seat and area where your family will be seating to remove any peanut dust and particles. Flight attendents can also make announcements before takeoff asking passengers to please not open peanut-containing snacks during the flight.  960 1280

Hero Images  

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

If you travel with more than 3 ounces of liquids, such as almond milk, peanut butter or apple sauce, it's helpful to have a doctor's note to present to TSA agents, if necessary. Give yourself extra time in security for additional screening of items, but you shouldn't have any trouble getting an exception. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Epinephrine Injections

Epinephrine Injections

The TSA considers epinephrine injectors a medical necessity, and allows them to be carried aboard flights. Epinephrine injectors should be bagged with other carry-on liquids for inspection. At least two injectors should be available (consider one injection lasts for about 20 minutes), and if you're traveling alone, notify your flight attendent where your injectors are should you go into anaphylaxis. Make sure they are clearly labled and accessible. Airplanes carry at least one epinephrine injector in the onboard medical kit as well, and flight attendents are trained in their use.
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mario loiselle  

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Devices such as Nima Portable Gluten Tester will enter the market this year, allowing travelers to test food for gluten and other ingredients. Nima uses one-use capsules that are $5 each, and hopefully prices will come down as more products come on line. 960 1280

JPM  

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

It sounds obvious, but many people get caught off-guard by flight delays, lack of restaurants that accomodate special diets and other hiccups while traveling. Pack more diverse, safe snacks then you think you'll need, or even full meals such as those from GoPicnic. For kids, pack extra special treats as something to look forward to during the travel day.  960 1280

Kolett  

Helpful Apps

Helpful Apps

Apps such as Find Me Gluten Free, Happy Cow and Allergy Eats are invaluable for finding restaurants that accomodate food allergies. Familiarize yourself with the apps before you travel and contact restaurants in airports and destinations that seem safe beforehand. 960 1280

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Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Familiarize yourself with medical facilities near your destination that can treat an allergic reaction, if necessary, and have your doctor transfer any prescriptions that you may need filled when traveling ahead of time. Consider how you would replace EpiPens used during a flight, for example. 960 1280

takasuu  

Translate Your Needs

Translate Your Needs

If you're not fluent in the language of your destination, create a translated card beforehand you can present at restaurants that lists ingredients you need to avoid, along with a brief explaination. Be aware that foods with which you're familiar with at home may use different ingredients abroad, such as types of flour or nuts. 960 1280

Anna Bryukhanova, iStock  

Don't Leave Anyone Out

Don't Leave Anyone Out

It can be hard on young travelers with food allergies to sit by and watch family members enjoy eating purchased airport food. Safe money and bring meals for everyone who's traveling, and enjoy eating all together later at vetted restaurants. 960 1280

Jim Arbogast  

Reach Out to Local Groups

Reach Out to Local Groups

Many destination cities have organizations that share information about local restaurants that accomodate dietary needs, such as the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group and the Gluten Free Bay Area Meetup Group. Incorporate finding exciting diet-sensative restaurants into your travel plans, and reach out to people with similar dietary concerns for advice and recommendations. Locals are more than happy to share their knowledge with visitors, and you may even make new friends. 960 1280

  

Plan in Advance

Plan in Advance

Whether you’re traveling with someone with a permanent or temporary physical disability, the challenges remain the same. The U.S. Department of State is a good general resource, while The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) details what accommodations should be made. Even though U.S. hotels, transportation, and cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters are required to be ADA-compliant, don’t assume that the foreign equivalent will be. If transportation, a cruise, hotel, or other lodging (such as Airbnb) isn’t ADA-compliant, call ahead to discuss what accommodations can be made.

Other planning resources include Mobility International USA, which has helpful articles on charging wheelchair batteries and taking a service animal abroad. Curb Free with Cory Lee blogs about traveling the world in a wheelchair, and is a comprehensive guide to everything from the most accessible destinations to the pros and cons of bringing a wheelchair.
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Alija  

Try to Replicate the Home Routine

Try to Replicate the Home Routine

Timothy Holtz is the group travel director of Flying Wheels Travel, an agency specializing in trips for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. When planning an itinerary, for example, he emphasizes the importance of factoring in the stamina of the person in the wheelchair. If that person has more energy in the morning, then plan sightseeing around that. Holtz says to avoid doing too much in a day. He adds that some people are resistant to taking naps while on vacation, even if they regularly take them at home, but that decision can make or break a trip due to fatigue. “If you require it at home, plan on requiring it in a vacation schedule as well,” he says. 960 1280

andresr  

Make Sure Travel Insurance Includes Medical

Make Sure Travel Insurance Includes Medical

Some travel insurance plans only cover financial losses, and Medicare doesn’t cover overseas travel. Check the U.S. Department of State for a list of recommended medical providers. Be sure to choose one that includes medical evacuation, or medevac, in case of an emergency; that option could be cost-prohibitive if insurance doesn’t cover it. 
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alexandrumagurean  

Use a Specialized Travel Agent or Company

Use a Specialized Travel Agent or Company

Nowadays, everywhere from Bali and Turkey to Russia and India are accessible for independent and group travelers with physical limitations. A knowledgeable agent can craft an itinerary that works for everyone, advise on whether or not a hotel is fully accessible, and arrange private transportation in a less accessible destination. Holtz says he’s taken people to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and more, and made adjustments in places that aren’t ADA-compliant, such as modifying rooms by adding grab bars in the shower. Agents also have firsthand knowledge of accessible destinations. For example, Holtz says London and Barcelona are among his top picks for independent accessible travel. Both cities are sensitive to special needs since each hosted the Olympics and Paralympics. Further, all cabs are accessible in London. Holtz says Italy is popular for group travel, “but you really have to know what you’re doing.” He notes that even Venice is accessible if planned right, since it has accessible wheelchair boats—plus an accessible Gondola just opened this year.

In addition to Flying Wheels Travel, other companies that run trips for those in wheelchairs include Accessible Journeys. The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality is another resource for finding agents and companies.
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bluejayphoto  

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The U.S. Department of State offers STEP as a free service that allows you to share trip information with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate of your destination; this way it’s easy to be notified in the event of an emergency. More importantly, there’s a section under Traveler Information that allows you to enter any relevant information about a physical limitation. 960 1280

  

Arrange Accessible Accommodation

Arrange Accessible Accommodation

If you're planning an independent trip, Holtz says to consider what you typically need to do at home. For example, if you have a roll-in shower at home with a shower bench, look for that in a hotel. ADA-compliant hotels should also contain grab bars. Holtz cautions that when contacting non-ADA-compliant hotels, “many people don’t understand what fully accessible means,” such as not realizing that one step can be a barrier to someone in a wheelchair. Other considerations to ask non-ADA-compliant hotels are whether a wheelchair can fit through the room and bathroom doors, and if there’s enough room to maneuver a wheelchair once in the room. 960 1280

kiko_jimenez  

Arrange Assistance While Flying

Arrange Assistance While Flying

Holtz says to allow at least two hours for domestic and connecting flights, and three hours for international flights. He also recommends arranging wheelchair assistance with the airline ahead of time, and double check 48 hours beforehand. At the airport, remind the check-in counter that you need wheelchair assistance. Holtz says family members should allow assistance, since agents can help with luggage and get everyone through security faster. At the very least, review TSA guidelines for special procedures. Remind the gate agent that you need assistance so that everyone in your group can preboard.

If someone is traveling with their own wheelchair, Holtz says to remove and take everything from the wheelchair that could fall off and get lost during storage, including the foot rest, head rest, and any cushions. On board, every U.S. airline that seats more than 60 and is equipped with an accessible bathroom is required to have an aisle wheelchair. Holtz suggests always requesting an aisle seat close to the bathroom. Finally, he notes that those in wheelchairs are last off the plane, so factor in that time and allow help through customs, if applicable.
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Gizelka  

Decide Whether to Bring or Borrow a Wheelchair

Decide Whether to Bring or Borrow a Wheelchair

This depends on the nature of the trip and the needs of the user. The pros of bringing one include the known comfort level of the person using it, and not having to worry about arranging one for every step of the journey. On the other hand, if it’s electric, for example, you will have to factor in power outlet access for charging it. If you're flying, review the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Air Carrier Access Act for rights on U.S. airlines. It’s also important to understand the laws for where you’re going. 960 1280

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Take Advantage of Discounts

Take Advantage of Discounts

For example, Amtrak offers discounts (from 15%-50%) to wheelchair users and a travel companion. You must show proof of your disability, such as a doctor’s note or transit ID card; visit the site for a full list of approved documents. Reduced fares for those with physical limitations are also available on buses (such as Greyhound) and trains both here and abroad, including Japan, London, Singapore and more.

The National Park Service Access Pass is free for U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities and grants access to any of the national parks, monuments, historic sites, and more. Museums, zoos, and theme parks are some other attractions that typically offer discounts.
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tonda  

Don’t Forget the Needs of the Caregiver

Don’t Forget the Needs of the Caregiver

If a wheelchair user is in a manual (as opposed to an electric) wheelchair, Holtz says the needs of the caregiver pushing that person are often forgotten. He advises against seeing too much in one day to account for the stamina of both people. Holtz also advises considering the amount of care someone needs, which affects how much energy the caregiver has to expend. For example, if the caregiver has to get up early to help the person in a wheelchair get ready, then both people might need a nap in the afternoon.

Flying Wheels Travel offers travel companions on both independent and group tours, which gives the caretaker or spouse a vacation as well. 
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Susan Chiang  

Think Small

Think Small

Start with small trips close to home. As alluring as far-off places can be, sometimes all you need is short trip to quench your thirst for wanderlust. Think state parks instead of national parks for this one. An added bonus is they are significantly less crowded and have cheaper entrance fees. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Day Trips

Day Trips

It's easy to lose ourselves in the dreams of multi-day backpacking trips or plane rides halfway around the world, but when it comes to working a nine-to-five, chances are this isn't going to happen often, so try a day trip instead. You'll get out in nature, hopefully explore something new and still be home in time for dinner. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Travel With Friends

Travel With Friends

Solo trips are fun and rejuvenating, but bringing friends along can ease the burden of travel. Other people can bring new ideas for trips and different outlooks on how to travel to the table. Having an extra person or two to drive and split the cost of gas is always a big help too. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Travel for Work (If You're Lucky)

Travel for Work (If You're Lucky)

Unfortunately this is not something that my job allows but many people do have jobs where they travel. Friends of mine who have been bitten by the travel bug do their best to tack on an extra day to business trips so they can use that time to explore a new location. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Take Advantage of Long Weekends

Take Advantage of Long Weekends

Veterans Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day — these holidays offer most of us an extra day off from our desk jobs. Take this time to drive to that location that you've always wanted to go to that just seems a bit too far for a standard weekend. Don't worry, the couch will still be waiting for you on Tuesday. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Combine Locations

Combine Locations

Just because you can spend weeks at some national parks and still not see everything they have to offer doesn't mean you have to. Combining locations that are close to each other is a good way to make the most out of a limited amount of time. Not only will you still be able to see the most noteworthy sights, but the variation in landscape will leave you feeling more fulfilled in a short period of time. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Do Your Research

Do Your Research

Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations from the people who spend their time in the place you're visiting. Whether it's a local resident at a gas station or a park ranger, get the inside scoop on where to go and what to see from those who know the area best. This allows you to maximize your time during a short stay.  960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Be Cheap

Be Cheap

Yes you heard me. Buy plane tickets well in advance. Consider hotels, motels and cabins a luxury while traveling, relying on campgrounds or finding a friends couch to crash on instead. As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned, and if it means the difference between another trip or not, then it is well worth it. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

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