Travelling with a disability

We recently ran a competition where people with an intellectual disability wrote in with their biggest dreams. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of entrants wanted to travel.

Travelling is an incredibly popular thing to do, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.

Having a disability should never, and rarely actually does, hold people back from getting out and seeing the world. Sure, we might have to prepare a lot more, but even that can be kinda fun. In this blog, we’ll go through some tips for travelling with a disability.

But first - will the NDIS help?

There have been a lot of questions about this, and to set the record straight, the NDIS will not pay for your holiday.

That said, they may help fund additional supports that are needed because of your disability. The NDIS will pay for reasonable and necessary supports you need while on holiday (if you have this support budgeted for in your NDIS plan). Everything else, like planes tickets, accommodation, entertainment and food are what you will need to pay for.

The NDIS exists to close the gap between having a disability and not having a disability. It all comes down to what is reasonable and necessary.

It’s worth noting, that if you are bringing a Support Worker away with you, you will generally need to cover the costs of their travel too.

Tips for preparing

Get used to explaining exactly what you need

It’s really important to explain your disability, but in ways that are really easy to understand. Instead of just saying what your disability is when booking a holiday and let them piece it together, you are best to explain what you need. Do you need an accessible bathroom, an adjacent room for your Support Worker, or maybe to bring an assistance animal on the plane with you? The clearer you can be, the better your chances of showing up and getting what you need.

It’s also important to recognise that many people aren’t fluent in disability-lingo. For instance, they may not actually know what things like Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy are, and if there’s a language barrier – you’ve got no chance!

If you say to someone that you have a disability, nine times out of 10 they are going to assume you are a wheelchair user. You could have completely different needs so don’t shy away from spelling them out.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Many places may say that they are accessible, but it is often people who do not have a disability who are deeming it ‘accessible’. Surprisingly, accessibility isn’t regulated, so you can’t always trust that they can accommodate you. Never be afraid to ask them to snap a quick photo and send it through to you. Better to feel a little weird doing that than arrive and realise it doesn’t meet your needs at all.

When doing the ring around, our suggestion is to get out a pen and paper and write down all the things that you would need from the accommodation, tour, or flight. Make a list, and then go through it with them. You know your needs better than anyone.

Trawl some forums

One of the great things about living in the age that we do is that people can post about their experiences, and these reviews matter. It is so very helpful when it comes to finding out if something is accessible from the people who have been there before. Our tip is to go to popular sites like TripAdvisor and search reviews for what you are looking for. That way, you will be able to read testimonials from people who have already been there and done that.

Get insured and have a plan for if things go wrong

This isn’t so much disability-specific, but it is really important. If you foresee that something might go wrong, it’s a great idea to have a back-up plan ready to go. Do your research before you go, and if worst comes to worst, you’ll know what to do.

Going overseas?

Many of the tips mentioned are the same whether you are travelling in Australia or overseas. If you are going overseas, it is best to tell the NDIS so they can make any necessary changes to your plan while you are away from Australia (especially if it is longer than 6 weeks!).

If you’re taking a support worker, make sure you are on the same page

If you plan to take a support worker with you, it is wise to discuss some things with them before you go away.

Here are some topics that you may want to cover off with them:

What will the support expectations be while you are away?

It’s vital that you have a chat about what the support expectations will be. Maybe you need support through the night, or you will need a hand with things that your support worker generally doesn’t usually do when at home, such as ordering food or going shopping. It is essential that you come to an understanding of what you both can expect of each other while you are away.

What will the sleeping arrangements be?

You will need to have a chat about what the sleeping arrangements will be, especially if you will be sharing a room.

Who will pay for the support worker’s meals?

This is a grey area, and it’s best to be upfront about this, so there are no awkward moments when it comes time to pay the first bill.

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