HAVING chosen your holiday destination, if you haven’t booked an all inclusive one then there is the matter of travel and accommodation to be taken into consideration.
There is a variety of travel facilities on offer to cross the channel and a wide range of accommodation accessible to disabled people; but the final choice depends on each person’s personal needs.
Many hotels are now equipped with lifts, have generously sized bedrooms which allow manoeuvrability for wheelchairs and bathrooms with disabled facilities.
Self-catering accommodation or gites are popular due to the flexibility and independence they offer. Gite owners now realise the need for more properties which are accessible to the disabled and which offer added facilities, such as adapted kitchens, extra wide doors, ramps, baths with transfer facility and swimming pools with hoists.
For example, Domaine de la Coume, near Carcassonne has two gites which are disabled friendly and wheelchair accessible. They meet all of the above criteria and the owner speaks excellent English.
Camping has always been an inexpensive and flexible way of taking a holiday. Those who once enjoyed the freedom offered by camping may feel they have lost this opportunity, but campsites are now realising that disabled people want to enjoy camping as much as anyone else. With flat sites and adapted facilities, a disabled family member can join in the fun along with everyone else.
Just as important as your accommodation is arranging your travel, which will depend upon your destination and personal needs.
Eururostar is extremely popular, especially for those travelling to Paris and there is staff on hand to help people with mobility problems. Should you require help with boarding or disembarking they request you arrive at check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure and request assistance.
A special wheelchair user fare enables you to travel in your own wheelchair, in a special part of the train, with one accompanying person travelling at a reduced rate.
The most popular form of travel is undoubtedly flying, especially for long distances. If you require assistance you need to plan your trip very carefully as airlines have different arrangements. Before booking your ticket check whether the cost of assistance is included in the price and inform the airline in good time of your particular needs.
If you want to use you own wheelchair to the aircraft door check the airline policy. Also bear in mind you may need assistance within airport buildings as there are often long distances to walk. Travel-Care, an independent charitable agency, offers advice to anyone with a problem at Heathrow or Gatwick.
Ferries and the Channel Tunnel provide fast and easy access to France from Great Britain. Ferry companies should be given ample notice if you need help boarding and disembarking as they can arrange for the car to be parked as near to lifts as possible and wheelchairs can be made available.
Ferry companies also need advance notice if you are a wheelchair user, blind or partially sighted and they prefer you to travel with an able-bodied companion. Whilst most modern ferries have wheelchair accessible toilets, check with your travel agent or the ferry company before booking.
Also, check first if you are taking an assistance dog, as some companies only allow dogs to travel if they remain in the car. More information about travel with a guide dog can be found at www.guidedogs.org.uk, but don’t forget you will need to follow the usual procedures for taking a pet abroad so ask you vet.
For taking the strain out of crossing the Channel nothing is more simple or as fast as the tunnel. Driving onto the train and staying in the car makes life very easy. You don’t need to notify Eurotunnel beforehand, you just follow the disability signs and a marshal will direct you into a designated lane.
Usually cars with disabled passengers are boarded first so they can be kept together and in the case of evacuation Eurotunnel has its own wheelchairs.
With just a little prior organisation the strain can be taken out of travelling as a disabled person.
This is the second in a series of articles by Coral that will look at holidays, travel, holiday accommodation and more for people with a disability in France.
Related article: Advice for disabled travellers in Paris