Disabled Travel: Access all areas?

A disabled person can face many challenges when travelling – making it difficult to plan and enjoy a holiday if they’re unable to have access to all areas. Everyone deserves a holiday and people with limited mobility shouldn’t feel discriminated against.

Whether you choose to travel in taxis, buses, trains or planes, there shouldn’t be any barriers obstructing your travel plans. Yet problems can begin the minute you leave home if the chosen mode of transport isn’t wheelchair-friendly.

People with limited mobility should have access to comfortable travel, although it’s important to plan the journey carefully, so it can be completed in the least complicated way.

Wheelchair holidays

© WavebreakMediaMicro / Adobe Stock

If you drive, using your own vehicle is probably the most convenient means of travel, but it’s also the most strenuous. It may be more comfortable to go by train, or if you’re going further afield, it may be necessary to fly.

Also give some thought to getting to the airport or rail station – if you’re going there by car, clarify in advance where you can park while you’re away and how to get from the car park to the terminal or train platform.

Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, laws are in place to protect disabled travellers with reduced mobility, who are entitled to have access to the different means of travel.



Disabled passengers are entitled to free assistance in the airport before and after a flight, including accessing the airport, getting on and off the plane and assistance during the flight. This applies to all airports within the EU.

Contact the tour operator, ticket seller or airline at least 48 hours before your flight to let them know the type of assistance you’ll need. If a passenger experiences problems getting the necessary help, they should report this to the airline in question, or to the airport authorities.

The airline doesn’t have to provide a disabled passenger with assistance to eat or take medication during the flight. If this help is needed, the airline may stipulate that you must travel with another person.


Rail travel

As with air travel, disabled passengers must have access to train travel by law. They should be able to obtain information in advance from the rail company on all aspects of their journey. This includes accessing the station, the provision of passenger lifts and help on the platform in getting on and off the train for the person and their luggage.

Assistance should also be available during the journey, both onboard the train and when changing trains en route. Contact the rail provider in advance and explain that you need assistance. As with airplane travel, a disabled person can’t be denied access to a train due to limited mobility. Any problems experienced should be reported to the rail company or the railway authorities.


Bus and coach

Disabled people should have full access to bus and coach travel and are entitled to assistance with getting on and off the vehicle and at designated terminals on long journeys.

This help is free of charge, but the traveller must contact the bus company or tour operator at least 36 hours in advance to advise about the type of assistance they’ll need.

On shorter journeys, the driver will often help a disabled person to get on or off the bus. Some bus companies operate “helping hand” schemes, whereby volunteers will help disabled travellers. Contact individual bus operators to find out where the scheme is running.


Holiday accommodation

The challenges of travelling abroad and long-haul flights may seem daunting for some disabled people, taking them out of their comfort zone. It may be better to take a holiday in the UK if you’re a nervous traveller. Wherever you decide to go, always do your research in advance.

Consider everything you need in your home that enables you to live an independent life and then look for a resort or a hotel that can offer you similar facilities. Self-catering holidays are available through companies that specialise in short breaks for disabled people.

Simply check online and find out what facilities are available, such as a swimming pool with a hoist, or a roll-in shower. If you see somewhere you like the look of, give the holiday company a call and speak to someone directly.

One of the most important questions should be about the kind of access there is to the hotel. As a service provider, a hotel must have access for disabled people. All kinds of accommodation, including hotels and self-catering, fall under the Equality Act 2010.

Disabled people must have the right to access facilities, goods and services and must not be treated less favourably than any other customers. Hoteliers are required to make adjustments to their business to make it simpler for disabled visitors to use the facilities.

Disabled access can include automatic doors at the very least, so a hotelier may have to adjust the physical features of the property if it’s currently unsuitable. Anything that may provide a physical barrier to a person with limited mobility must be adjusted or removed.

A hotel may also provide an access ramp as well as steps, or a lift to another floor if reasonable. Find out before you book exactly what the disabled facilities entail – and if you’re not entirely happy with the responses, look elsewhere.


Be wary!

When you book a holiday, don’t base it on how you feel on a “good day”. If you’re more mobile some days than others, don’t assume you’ll feel fantastic on the day of your trip. Without being pessimistic, base your needs on how you would feel if you were having a bad day.

Be wary of taking anyone else’s word that accommodation is accessible – this means rather than reading review sites, check with the hotel yourself. One individual’s idea of what’s accessible will be different from another person’s opinion.

Another tip, if you’re unfamiliar with going on holiday as a disabled person, start small. Try a short holiday not too far from home and work up to that trip-of-a-lifetime to some exotic far-flung destination.


Holiday problems

All too often, there are reports in the media of disabled people whose holidays have been ruined as a result of access problems. In October 2018, it was reported that a holiday home advertised as being suitable for a disabled guest had been “seriously misrepresented” in the advert.

After being booked, at a cost of £3,000, it was discovered there were steps all over the property and it was impossible to get a wheelchair into the corridor to access the bedrooms, without removing the arms. It was also almost impossible to get a wheelchair into the bathroom.

In another case, reported in June 2018, a family suffered a “holiday from hell” after spending £4,000 on a dream trip to Turkey. It was booked as a special treat for their eight-year-old disabled daughter, prior to having spinal surgery.

The family had paid for a specially adapted room for their daughter, but on arriving, they were told it hadn’t actually been built yet. They were given a room with a bunk bed, so their daughter couldn’t get in, while the wheelchair had to remain in the doorway because the room didn’t have suitable access.


When you’ve gotta go!

One problem that disabled people can face outside their home environment is accessing the toilet. Thanks to the latest technology, easier access is assured with assisted doors, such as the Ditec Sprint toilet system. When the door is unlocked, both manual entry and assisted entry are available via the touch sensor.


Speak up

Don’t become one of the “holiday disaster” statistics. During your holiday, if you’re unhappy with any aspect of the facilities and services – complain! There are 14 million disabled people in the UK and their opinions matter.


Easy Access

Automatic Access installs high-quality automatic door systems (including automatic toilet doors) that are compliant with current disability legislation, making buildings fully accessible for disabled people. Please give us a call on 0330 4410 666 for information on our products and services for holiday accommodation.