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Guidance for Individuals

These practical hints and tips have been put together by individuals who have experience of travelling, either as a disabled person or in the company of a disabled person. Using them will help you to make sure that you receive the standards of welcome and service that you should expect from all the travel and tourism businesses you meet.

Remember that you can help businesses do better by opening up your conversation with them. Businesses who display the Tourism is for Everybody badge have made Commitments to improving your experience - they want to listen, learn and do everything they can to ensure your experience feels great.

Make a list of your requirements
By making a detailed list of all your requirements you will ensure that nothing gets overlooked and that you can give businesses and service providers a clear understanding of what you need. Remember, although some things may be obvious to you, you can’t assume that they will be obvious to others.

For example, if you use a large powerchair and need widened doors, make sure that you know the exact measurements of your chair so you and the business can be sure that you can be accommodated.

Do your research
Use all available resources (internet, brochures, telephone, e-mail, text), and make sure you take enough time to find out as much as you can about the travel experience you are planning, how suitable it will be for your requirements and what barriers you might encounter.

For example, when planning where to stay, contact the establishment to check out their facilities and their understanding of “accessibility”. (An “accessible” room in one hotel might be a larger room with a wet room, while in another hotel it might be a standard room with grab rails and a shower over the bath).

Online Services
There are a number of online services that can help with information about things to do and places to stay which may meet your requirements. These include:

OpenBritain – www.openbritain.net
DisabledGo – www.disabledgo.com
Euan’s Guide – www.euansguide.com

Specialist Organisations
Alternatively, joining a specialist organisation like Tourism for All (TFA) can take the hassle out of planning your travel experience. In return for a modest annual membership fee, TFA will give you a personalised information service which will find you things to do and places to stay which will meet your personal requirements - they can even arrange the hire and delivery of mobility equipment if required. What’s more, there is a range of members’ discounts available which could more than pay for membership. More details of TFA can be found at www.tourismforall.org.uk.

Look out for Accessibility Guides
Many businesses include Accessibility Guides on their websites or in their literature. The Accessibility Guide will give you key information about the accessibility of the business and will help you to decide whether it might be suitable for your requirements.

Always check the Accessibility Guide first and, if you cannot find it, ask the business whether it has an Access Statement and where it is located. If the business doesn’t have an Accessibility Guide, suggest that it produces one – it will make life much easier for disabled travellers and tourists and may even bring in extra customers.

Organise things in advance where possible
Travel and places to stay will generally be organised in advance, but consider whether there are other aspects of your travel experience where organising in advance could improve your experience or reduce the risk of inconvenience or disappointment.

For example, booking a parking space at the theatre can ensure that you have easy access and are not left with an uncomfortable or even impossible transfer from car to venue.

Allow yourself time to deal with issues
When planning your travel experience, try to build time into your schedule to cope with any emergencies or unexpected issues that might arise.

For example, if you’re staying in a hotel, book a late check out in advance. You may not need the extra time in your room, but if any issues do arise you’ve got that bit of flexibility to deal with them.

Let businesses know you are coming
Of course, in an ideal world it would not be necessary for disabled travellers and tourists to notify businesses and service providers in advance of their arrival.

Bear in mind, though, that letting a business know you are coming will help them to be aware of your needs and requirements and will give them the opportunity to plan in advance to provide the service you require.

Make sure you get the most from conversations with businesses
There are a few simple rules to make sure you get the best outcome from conversations with businesses, whether the conversation is by telephone, e-mail or text and whether the conversation is to enquire about facilities, to book or to comment or complain about service:

  • Make a note in advance of all the questions you want to ask or points you want to make and refer to this during the conversation – the detailed list that you have made of all your requirements (see Tip 1 above) may help with this
  • Make sure that you allow enough time for the conversation and that you are settled and comfortable
  • Ask for the name and position of the person you are talking to and make a note of this and the time the conversation is taking place
  • Make sure that your tone of voice (in telephone calls) and use of language help to establish a friendly dialogue
  • Express yourself clearly and succinctly and don’t over-use disability jargon or medical language – staff may not be familiar with specialised terms, so using simple language and being clear on what you can and cannot do will help them to help you
  • Be specific about the information you need and don’t rely on somebody else’s interpretation of your requirements – it is much better to ask “how far is my room from the restaurant?” than “is my room far from the restaurant?”
  • If you cannot understand the person’s accent (during a telephone call) or use of language, say so and if necessary suggest – in a friendly way! – that they find someone else to help
  • Make a note of what is said during the conversation
  • At the end of the conversation, agree with the person you are talking to what has been discussed and what any next action will be
  • Ideally, if the conversation was by telephone or text, send an e-mail to the person you have been talking to, confirming the key details of the conversation – this can be referred to later if required and will help to ensure that there are no misunderstandings

Never be afraid to ask for help
Many businesses provide disability awareness training for their staff (and certainly those businesses who engage with the “Tourism is for Everybody” campaign and uphold our Commitments do). But you can’t assume that staff will recognise your circumstances or understand that things like stairs, or carrying luggage, or getting from the car park to the front door could be an inconvenience or even an impossibility for you and could ruin your travel experience. Equally, in many cases where staff have not received training, they are not confident to offer help because they are unsure how the offer will be received.

In our experience, people are keen to help and only need to know what they have to do. So, by asking for assistance and telling the person you are talking to what help you may or may not need, you will not only empower them to help you (and improve your travel experience), you will also give them valuable tutoring which will help them to serve future customers better.

Take responsibility for your travel experience
Always remember that it’s your travel experience and that it’s your responsibility to make sure that you get the most out of it.

So, make a list of your requirements, do your research, organise things in advance where possible, let businesses know you are coming and never be afraid to ask for help. Accept that things will not always be perfect and, when they are not, help to find ways to get round problems where this is possible.

By doing all these things, you will help the travel and tourism businesses you meet to provide you with the standards of welcome and service which you should expect.