Tips For Travel With Special Needs

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By James Daw, Freelance Writer

Toronto, ON (Oct. 8, 2013) – You can see mountains without hearing, hear birds without seeing, ride a gondola without the use of your legs, or hit a hole in one using an oxygen tank to breathe. So why let pre-existing medical conditions stop you from travelling? Just make sure to heed these helpful tips before you start your trip.

It all begins with careful choices and frank discussion

Choose your transportation, hotel, and activities with your limitations in mind. Then call or write to declare your special needs. If you plan to take a battery-powered wheelchair, a service animal, or assistant, say so. Request other help if necessary.

Warn airport security if you need to avoid a metal detector, and ask for any physical search to be performed in private. Ask for help to enter and exit, lift luggage, and escape during an emergency if need be – whether it’s an airplane, train, ship, or hotel.

Ask the hotel to guarantee a safe and accessible room on the second or third floor.

Not Accommodating

Senior Tours Canada Inc. of Toronto told Donna Austen in 2012 it could not meet her needs and expectations: an aisle seat near an aircraft’s front washrooms. Company representatives blamed Austen’s cranky personality for telling her to go away. But arbitrator Ruth Carey of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled September 24, 2013 that Senior Tours committed hurtful and illegal discrimination against a disabled person. Austen had disclosed an anxiety disorder, claustrophobia, and irritable bowels. Carey ordered the company to pay Austen $5,000, plus interest.

Seek help with your travel plans

Frederick Travel Waterloo advertises that it has arranged travel for disabled travellers going anywhere, from a cruise to an African Safari. The agency says it works with travel advisers around the world who cater to travellers with special needs.*

You can look for tips from others living with a disability by visiting Trip Advisor’s online Traveling With Disabilities Forum. Helpful brochures such as Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities are available on the website of the Canadian Transportation Agency. Explore also the Government of Canada’s travel website. It addresses such topics as travelling with disabilities, as well as travel with a service animal, a medical device, and medications. Transport Canada provides a list of travel countdown tips as well.

* Try to stick to travel agencies for your travel plans, and licensed travel insurance agents for your coverage needs. Be wary of travel agencies who offer travel insurance as part of a package deal. Typically the insurance they offer is a one-size-fits-all type of coverage, whereas travel insurance companies offer multiple plans and can help you find the plan that best suits your special needs.

Visit a travel medical clinic

All travellers are advised to consult their physician or travel medical clinic weeks before departure. Take along your record of vaccinations to be sure the protection is up to date, and obtain a seasonal influenza inoculation. Ask about any other vaccinations the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends for travel to certain countries, plus medications to counteract malaria, high-altitude sickness, motion sickness, travellers’ diarrhea, pain and fever, allergies, or stomachaches.

Pack medical supplies and documents

The Government of Canada’s travel website warns that some medications prescribed in Canada are illegal in other countries. So it’s suggested you discuss medications with the local embassy or consulate office of the country you plan to visit. Their contact information is available at the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada website. Other advice on the website includes carrying more than enough medication – whether prescribed or over the counter – to cover both your expected time away, and a potential delay.

Use a special carry-on bag to store medications. Keep them in their original, labelled containers. Also take a copy of your doctor’s prescription, with both the generic and trade names, and a written explanation if you must carry needles or syringes. For trips longer than 90 days, arrange for more supplies to be delivered by mail.

Pack a travel health kit with a thermometer, tweezers, scissors, adhesive tape, gauze, bandages and blister pads, tensor bandages, anti-bacterial cream or spray, antiseptic wipes, and disposable latex or vinyl gloves. Liquid medications may be carried onto planes if you declare them. A bag holding only medication and a health kit will not be counted as carry-on luggage. You will get through security faster if you use the family and special needs line.

Buy the right travel insurance

Count yourself lucky if your employer offers group medical insurance that includes travel insurance. Just make sure to ask about coverage exclusions such as a recent illness, a referral for medical tests, or a change of medication. Even a small change (e.g., a reduction in your medication dosage) could mean that your pre-existing medical condition is considered unstable, and is therefore not covered. If you retire or change jobs, promptly ask about a conversion plan. It may offer more coverage than an individual medical policy and cover pre-existing conditions without a medical questionnaire or examination. But don’t delay – typically, you need to apply for a conversion plan within a certain timeframe (e.g., three months after the expiry of your group benefits) for you to be eligible without having to complete a medical questionnaire.

If you don’t have existing travel insurance through a group plan, or if your existing travel insurance doesn’t provide sufficient coverage, you may require individual travel insurance. When shopping for individual travel insurance, seek advice and the best coverage to suit your medical history or disability. Do not risk having a claim denied for failing to disclose your medical history, for travelling while your health is unstable, for being impaired by alcohol or drugs, or for trying dangerous or illegal activities.

Even for travel within Canada, be sure to protect yourself. An air ambulance from some remote locations could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Ingle International of Toronto markets insurance for conditions such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or physically disability, including plans that require medical underwriting. Medically underwritten plans may be more expensive, but help reduce the risk of a claim being denied.

Return home safe, sound, and satisfied.

Bon voyage.

About Ingle International

A trusted name in the industry since 1946, Ingle International provides customized insurance solutions for anyone studying, working, or living anywhere in the world. Representing insurers worldwide, Ingle International will find the right insurance product to suit the unique travel needs of groups and individuals.

This article, written by James Daw, is provided by Ingle International. Ingle International has partnered with Insurance-Canada to provide Canadian travellers with the right travel insurance and the information they need for safe and healthy travels.

Source: Ingle International Inc.