Travelling For The Disabled; Why Doctors Recommend It!

Travel does the heart good, but don’t take our word for it, listen to the experts! Recently, our wheelchair-bound expert, Rustom Irani, got in touch with his physiotherapists and they spoke about everything related to disability and travelling. Read on…

Ask the experts

Read on to find out why travelling is recommeded for the disabled

One perspective that I’ve always wanted to share with you, dear reader is that of a healthcare expert. Someone who deals with disabilities daily has a treasure trove of information that is not only insightful but practical specific to your own needs.

I’m fortunate enough to have an older sister who is a physical therapist and who knows my personal history much better than any medical professional could ever learn. The other expert has known me since I was 10 and has always encouraged me to take up tasks while providing workarounds for my limitations. Both are now based in the US having worked in India for over a decade.

As we explore the possibilities of expanding our travel goals, I decided to e-mail them about what we at Enable Travel are trying to accomplish and if they can share some insight on travel.

Bhavna Shah,an Occupational therapist for 30 years has dealt with neurological, orthopediccases, in/out patient, sub-acuterehab and nursing home facilities.

Giti Khosravi, is a senior physical therapist specialising in post-operative rehab since the past 25 years dealing with all age groups and believes in getting people out of beds and out into the world. She’ll also tell you that I go out into the world looking for more comfortable beds.

Without much ado, let’s get the ball rolling.

Since you mainly deal with getting patients back on track with their lives after injury or surgery how do you look at the term disability?

Bhavna: In my mind definition of ‘Disability‘ has changed over the years. After meeting and knowing personality traits of some of my clients who were wheelchair bound and had progressive degenerative diseases, I was amazed at their enthusiasm and zest for life to learn and contribute back to the community and world in their own way. ‘Disability’ term must be used for people who have everything and still don’t use their mind and body to achieve their goals. They are lazy and expect others to fulfill their dreams.

Giti: Three dimensions of disability are recognised in The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, known more commonly as ICF: body structure and function (and impairment thereof), activity (and activity restrictions) and participation (and participation restrictions). In simple terms, it focuses more on your functioning rather than the disease or disability itself. So, you can say it’s a measure of ability within a given task, performed by any human, able or otherwise, which is a refreshing perspective. This is where social interactions and activities play such a huge role, be it education, recreation or travel.

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I personally love to travel but one wouldn’t normally associate a lot of disabled folk to crave travel, would they?

Bhavna: I have realized over the years that ‘World has become small’ and there is so much more open communication and connection between different parts of the world, and One of the main reasons for this is the travel industry. Travel has opened Horizons for anyone and everyone and it has changed our whole outlook towards life and oneself.

Giti: “What is your dream vacation or what’s on your bucket list?” “Close your eyes and think of your favorite vacation place.” These are few of the common phrases I frequently utilize to help clam or relax some of my patients on daily basis being a physiotherapist. And very often it works wonders for patients to relax and change their state of mind from the distress and discomfort they are experiencing from pain, trauma or their disability. Abled or disabled everyone has their favorite exotic destination that they someday want to travel; however, it can be considerably challenging for people with disabilities both mentally as well as physically but it should not discourage them in taking the leap and fulfilling their dreams come true.

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However, travel does pose quite a few challenges for a disabled individual…

Bhavna: With the Hi technology gadgets available in the market to improve our daily living routine, travel industry has also provided a lot of modifications to accommodate whatever is necessary to have an easy, and comfortable journey to your destination.

Giti: There can be multiple challenges to travel being an individual with disability. Because disability is so widely classified it is different for individuals with various needs, so traveling in cookie cutter airline seats, hotel rooms and rental car fleets can be frustrating and challenging for person with disability to take the leap to go on their dream vacation. Also lack of assistance when traveling solo; there can also be challenges while conducting research on internet for planning your dream vacation because multiple search terms define accessible travel such as “handicapped”, barrier-free”, “disabled”, “reduced mobility” and “special needs”.

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The feeling of accomplishment on attempting and having travelled though is amazing, isn’t it?

Bhavna: You get an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone of home, family and regular routine.It helps you develop new skills for coping with day to day activities and make you realize skills which you never used. Listening to others travel stories,or watching movies/videos, is a far cry from experiencing the world yourself which will improve/change your perspective to look at life from a different angle. Travel gives you a sense of accomplishment when you return home with so many stories to share with your family and friends.

Giti: Getting away from your daily experience helps to put your life in crystal clear terms and allows you to redefine what you find important. Meeting new people will also invigorate you with new energy and you’ll learn the different ways that people accomplish the same goals, offering new ideas that you have never thought of before. A different social setting will be stimulating and invigorating too, and it will help you to appreciate your unique self and all you have to offer. Traveling keeps your mind and body young, fueled by new energy. A bonus for those traveling with a companion is strengthening the bond you share together.

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Any specific tips for our readers?

Giti: Your experts have been doing a great job and these are some more tips for the traveler with a disability

1) Choose the right destination

2) Do your research

3) Hire a pro

4) Prepare for air travel; biggest hurdles are flying; maneuvering large airports, carrying medical equipment and navigating security

5) Very important for those who are physically lifted during transfers. Avoid having people lift you using your arms and legs as these lead to dislocations

6) Always secure yourself and get the lay of the land

7) Book hotels wisely

8) Planning how to safely get around

9) Being flexible

10) Take your known caregiver

***

The experts have spoken! Still have doubts in your mind? Leave your questions in the comment section below and we will get them answered.

Till then why don’t you plan a trip with us? Enable Travel aims to make travelling accessible for every disabled traveler. Take a look at the special 70 trips we have curated just for you!

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Rustom Irani

Founder and Creative Head of MoniePlant Productions, Rustom Irani was confined to a wheelchair after a motorbike accident at age nine. Despite this disadvantage, he has travelled across four continents and believes that a vacation is something to look forward to rather than something that you need to avoid. In keeping with this spirit, Rustom is dedicated to offering solutions and making travel more accessible for disabled travellers.

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