AQA

Accessible travel checklist

24.10.22 11:32 AM By Dan

AQA’s Naz Erdem and Josh Hose share a comprehensive travel checklist, drawing on their many years of travel while playing professional rugby.

By Naz Erdem and Josh Hose

This guide covers the following topics:

  • Air travel
  • Accomodation
  • Medical supplies
  • Medication
  • Personal care
  • General

Dip into the sections that are relevant to you, or cover all your bases with the full guide. Either way, travelling when you have a physical disability requires preparation, so be sure to assess your personal needs and understand what access and assistance you will require.  If you do this, your holiday will be a holiday.

Air travel
  • Manual wheelchairs can be taken right to the airplane door; power wheelchairs are checked in with baggage.
  • Sealed dry cell batteries only.
  • Tape removable parts to wheelchair e.g. headrest, joystick etc.
  • Lithium batteries must be in their protective cases, with the battery pack or wire harness disconnected from the mobility device and all connectors taped over.
  • Take your cushion onboard. Strongly consider sitting on your cushion for pressure relief (if you sit on an air cushion be sure to let some air out as the air expands when the plane gains altitude).
  • You’re required to transfer onto an Aisle Chair to board the airplane. 
  • Check at seat allocation to see whether your seat has moveable armrests for an easier transfer.
  • Some airlines provide a hoist or slide board (check when booking your flight and you’ll need to bring your own sling).
  • Before boarding be sure to empty your bladder or drainage bag.
  • You’re usually the first to be loaded into the plane and the last to disembark.
  • You’ll need to travel with another person if you’re not independent on the flight, e.g. transferring, eating, toileting etc.
  • It pays to know the airline's policy regarding transporting people with disabilities. 
  • Bathrooms may be very tight and impossible to get into so be prepared to use a urinary device e.g. closed system catheters, drainage bag, plastic bottle etc.
  • If you don’t have good balance, ask the hostess for a harness that will assist you to stay upright when landing.
  • Put labels / tags with your address and mobile number on all luggage and equipment.
  • Airlines may require medical certificates.
  • Ensure to carry enough catheter supplies in your carry-on bag to last you until you get to your destination (plus a few extra), in the event that your checked-in luggage is misplaced.
  • Bring spare pants in your carry-on luggage.
  • Ask if you need to forward any information to the airline.

Accommodation

  • Make certain to book accommodation well in advance as many places have a limited number of accessible rooms with a roll-in barrier free shower (or wet rooms).

  • Develop your own specific checklist which will also help when asking the staff to make a booking. This may seem a hassle, but it can save many headaches. Everybody has a different interpretation of the word 'accessible'.

    • Is there step free access (level, ramped and/or lift access) to main entrance and room? 

    • Is there a step free path from carpark to the room?

    • Does the bathroom have a roll-in barrier free shower (or wet room design)?

    • Height of bed (recommended 470mm)? 

    • Am I able to get a hoist under the bed?

    • Distance beside bed for transferring (800mm)?

    • Are the light switches accessible from the bed?

    • Is there enough room between the wall and toilet to fit a commode (150 - 200mm)?

    • Is there enough room to self-transfer beside toilet (800mm)?

    • What are the height of hand rails in the shower and beside the toilet (800 - 810mm)?

    • Is there a hand-held shower hose?

    • Are there any lips or dips into the shower recess?

    • Is the door width 800mm or wider? Are the door handles lever type?

    • If checking in late, will reception be open?

    • Has the hand basin got space underneath so you can get a wheelchair under it?

    • Is there a self-transfer fold down seat or shower seat with rubber non-slip feet?

  • Ask the accommodation employee to email a photo of the entry, bathroom, bedroom and other areas before finalising the booking. This will provide you with most of your answers to your checklist.

  • Reconfirm your reservation for a guaranteed accessible room a few days ahead.

  • If bathroom access is tight, many places will take the bathroom door off.

  • Beds and chairs are going to be different from those at home so take care against pressure areas;

    • Consider bringing a high-temp medical sheepskin for pressure care. 

    • Electric blankets can burn your skin or have ridges that can leave pressure marks.

  • Bring a waterproof bed sheet (motels can charge for mattress and electric blanket damage).

  • If the shower is enclosed most bathrooms have a central drain. Plug your shower hose into the basin taps and shower in the body of the bathroom.

Medical supplies

  • Always pack extra catheters. Your journey home may be delayed that cause your need for more catheters. Consider travel catheters like closed system catheters.

  • Bring antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.

  • Always pack extra suppositories / laxatives.

  • Disposable gloves (make sure to bring along extra packets).

  • Spare leg bags, connectors and/or tubing.

  • Night bags (handy to plug into leg bags to empty in planes, cars, etc.).

  • Blueys.


Medication

  • If going overseas, be sure to ask your Doctor to provide you with a letter and list of prescribed medications. Check for legality within other countries.

  • Ensure you have enough medications to last the time you will be away plus an extra week in the event you’re delayed. Pack strong pain medication if prone to dysreflexia.

  • A personal emergency kit can be useful (e.g. betadine antiseptic, tape, bandages and other assorted supplies).


Personal Care

  • Beware of hot water temperatures when showering.

  • If possible, pack a rubber shower hose and head with slip-on rubber tap fittings in the event you can’t get into the shower and there’s a central drain in the bathroom floor.

  • Commode if needed (if hiring make certain it suits your needs e.g. side opening, self-propel etc.).

  • Use your own wheelchair for a shower if necessary and ensure you dry axles and inserts afterwards.

  • Beware of using plastic chairs in the shower (chair legs can buckle from the hot water or even break whilst transferring). 

  • Extra towels can be handy.

  • Note: when on holiday you will most likely change your diet and this can affect your bowel care.


General

  • Spare cushion cover.

  • Disability parking permit.

  • Consider using non-puncture tyres, otherwise best to pack a spare tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, portable tyre inflator.

  • If using a power wheelchair, other countries use different power levels and plug outlets (e.g. America uses 110v AC), so you will need to assess your wheelchair charger requirements.

  • Keep a verification of compliance certificate for your battery with all your travel documents as some airlines require them. You may also require written approval from the airline before the flight specifying the type of battery, voltage (V) and battery amp hour (Ah) rating.

  • Luggage bags that you can preferably wheel/tow around yourself. Your travelling companion can only carry so much and they’re on a holiday too!

  • Backpack that hangs on the back of your chair (beware, however, of people stealing things out of your bag. Turn it back-to-front or use a combination lock or padlock to hold the zips together).

  • Travel insurance with cover for pre-existing medical conditions (read the fine print and it’s important you’re open and honest about your pre-existing medical conditions, because if you don’t declare your conditions you may invalidate your policy).

  • Trips can cost more because of the need for specialist facilities / accommodation.

  • Equipment and medical supplies create the need for extra luggage.

  • Research your route and local knowledge is invaluable. If going overseas or interstate, travel information may be obtained on the internet or through disability organisations e.g. AQA Victoria, TravAbility etc.

  • Organise your trip well in advance.

  • Remember Murphy's Law... be prepared to think laterally.

Read about how Josh found the right accomodation on a recent trip to Italy.

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