The Reality Of Going On Holiday As A Wheelchair User

Between cheap home-rental websites, cut-price airlines and about a zillion airports to choose from, travelling for our generation has never been easier.
If you're a wheelchair user, though, you might find that navigating your home turf is tough enough – let alone taking a trip abroad.
Just a few weeks ago, 20-year-old wheelchair user Niamh Herbert found her holiday to London compromised when her plane from Dublin actually took off without her, after she was asked to walk up the stairs by staff for "easiness' sake". She eventually caught a later flight but says the airline's staff barely spoke to her in the interim.
Sadly, travel problems for wheelchair users don't stop there. Once you arrive at your holiday destination, they can multiply. Lifetime wheelchair user Srin Madipalli is aware of this. A few years ago, he wanted to branch out in his travelling but was unable to find accommodation to suit his needs. "I'd often turn up to hotels or rentals and things weren't accessible when they'd claim to be" he says. "I still managed but it always cemented in my mind that it didn't HAVE to be that difficult."
And so he created Accomable – a sort of Airbnb for people with particular accessibility needs. The site now lists over 1000 properties around the world in 60 countries – fully vetted, and fully transparent in what access and aid they can offer. This access covers everything from ramps into the pool or sea, roll-in showers and height-adjustable beds to full-time, fully trained carers.
Suzanne Glover, a wheelchair user from Northern Ireland, was an early subscriber to Accomable and used it to find an adapted apartment in Barcelona, enabling her to go on the rite of passage that is the girls' holiday with, she says, "very little complication or worry".
She told Accomable that the fact that the accommodation had been road-tested by someone with similar needs to her own was a "reassurance". Another big help was knowing she could rely on "back-up support to assist me with my care or general accessibility advice to get around a new city." Thanks to the apartment's special design spec, even the light switches were placed at her height. "To be able to shout 'I'll turn the lights off' for the first time, while rushing out the door to explore Barcelona's nightlife was amazing!" she says. "Sometimes the simple steps to independence are the best."
In fact, Barcelona is one of the better places to holiday with disabilities, Srin says. "I think the local government and tourist authorities have done an amazing job to try and help facilitate accessible tourism." He adds that Germany and Flanders in Belgium also excel in this area.
Also, look out for specific hotel chains that have made a real effort. "IHG, who own Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, are light years ahead of everyone else," Srin says. "They have worked with us to help photograph all of their adapted rooms to give our users peace of mind and, secondly, a lot of their hotels will give you a free, interconnecting room if you're travelling with a care assistant. It's just going that extra mile for people that matters."
Here's a few of the ace places Accomable has to offer.