The short answer is yes. However, there are many issues a person with a disability has to overcome. In case you’re new to my blog, I’m a German student with a passion for travelling… and I was born one-handed. More on my disability can be found in my post ‘Handy Guide to Amputees: Origins’.
During all my travels, I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a disability as openly visible as mine. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no travellers with a disability, it just means that I either haven’t met them or their disability was non-visible. Likewise, an overwhelming majority of travel bloggers and travel vloggers seem to be able-bodied. Again, this is just a superficial observation. As I’ve already stated in my blog post ‘Handy Guide to Amputees: Origins’, not all disabilities and chronic illnesses are as visible as mine. However, what can be said for certain is that a disability makes travelling more complex. As an able-bodied person, all you have to do is to book a plane, grab your luggage and you’re off. There is hardly anything you have to consider about your journey apart from money and visa. A person with a disability cannot do that. Depending on the disability, there is so much that needs to be researched and possibly booked in advance. Is the form of transportation suitable for my needs? Do I need to find out where I can get my necessary medication from? Is the hotel/hostel I stay at access free? The list goes on.
Lend me a Hand?
As a one-handed person, I can say that there are not too many limitations awaiting me in comparison to someone who is in a wheel chair for example. However, in my case, even the simple decision of what type of luggage to take can become an issue. During my trip to London in May this year, I used a suitcase for the second time in 10 years and I regretted it immediately. In the past, I’ve been using two backpacks for travelling: either my 75L Jack Wolfskin Agadir Women Backpack or my 32L Eastpack similar in style to Eastpack’s Egghead (mine is a few years old and no longer in stock), depending on the length of my stay.
The first time I used a suitcase was three years ago during my semester abroad in Cardiff, Wales. It was a five months long stay. I had an apartment and didn’t travel very often during that time and when I did, I used my beloved Eastpack. However, when I did use my suitcase back then, and this year in London, it was a real struggle for me. Being forced to drag a suitcase along with me, leaves no option for multitasking whatsoever. Now imagine you try to use the overrun London Underground, trying to use your Oystercard, dragging your suitcase, and trying not to be too slow, otherwise you end up being overran, all at the same time with only one hand. Also, no matter how little you have in your suitcase, it is always a struggle to drag your suitcase a staircase up and down. There we oh so many occasions where I was cursing to myself for having used a suitcase. Sure these are struggles many able-bodied have to face as well when having a suitcase, but it is an even greater struggle when you’re one-handed. Similarly, even the choice of my daypack depends on my disability. You’ll rarely see me using a backpack for a daypack when travelling. This is simply so because it proved to be too complicated and stressful trying to multitask with a backpack as daypack when travelling. All this is nothing in comparison to the struggles other people with disabilities have to overcome while travelling. However, if you’re travelling solo, even the choice of luggage can cause a travelling nightmare or two.
There are also many other issues that a one-handed traveller has to face. I cannot just simply hire or even buy a car when travelling. While I do have a driver’s licence (just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean that he or she cannot drive a car…), there are a few adjustments that need to be done in a car for me being able to drive it. Of course there are companies out there, although not very few, who offter access free rental cars, but they come at a price. So far I’m a budget backpacker, so getting a rental or even going through the hassle of buying a car and having it altered is not a financial option. Outdoor climbing or other activities of a similar kind? Not an option for me. Again, the list goes on.
I’ve tried to compile a list of travel bloggers with a disability as well as disability travel resources. However, in order to see that list, you have to wait until next week. So make sure to stay tuned!