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Taking a holiday is not a frivolous luxury. It can make all the difference to your outlook on life and the way in which you cope with the rest of the year. Everybody benefits from a break and people in employment take it for granted that they will be entitled to at least three or four weeks’ holiday a year, returning to work, hopefully, refreshed and recharged. Disabled people, whether in employment or not, are no different - nor are people who are caring for a disabled person - both will benefit from the break in routine and the chance of fresh experiences.

A growing amount of holiday accommodation in this country and abroad has some degree of access and, in the UK at least, this is likely to increase as the Goods and Services provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act take effect, whereby service providers are required to make reasonable provision for disabled customers (see Discrimination for further details).

Public transport, too, is becoming increasingly accessible to the majority of disabled people and should no longer be a deterrent to travelling further afield.

Tour operators, travel agencies and transport operators are increasingly aware of the needs of disabled travellers and it is often possible to take advantage of general package holidays.

Many cruise ships have some facilities for disabled passengers and an increasing number are making full provision. Some cruise lines require some form of medical clearance before accepting a booking, however, and most will insist on your being accompanied by a non-disabled companion.

If you need a specially designed holiday, a number of organisations can make arrangements both in the UK and abroad. Facilities are available for people who need assistance or care, or who want to take group holidays or special interest holidays.

If you do not wish to go on a package holiday or to a place which provides care, but still require some assistance, then it may be worth contacting the British Red Cross and the British Nursing Association for details of their hired companion schemes.

Planning a Holiday

First of all, decide on the type of holiday you want. This will include whether you want to be on your own, with family or friends, or if you wish to join an organised group. It will also include the choice of staying where meals are provided or in self-catering accommodation; which general area you would like to visit; and what you want to do when you get there. These are all a matter of personal preference, although the effects of your disability may also have a bearing on your eventual choice.

Find out as much as possible about the area you wish to visit. Local general tourist publications will often give an indication as to the suitability of an area and, sometimes, more specific information for disabled visitors. Access guides exist for a number of areas and for these, as well as other useful publications to local areas, contact the local or national tourist board, travel agency, or local disability groups.

Booking a Holiday

Be completely honest in stating your disability and its effects. You are the expert on this, but some accommodation providers may be inclined to make assumptions about prospective disabled guests. It might be annoying to be asked seemingly irrelevant questions, but this is probably better than not being asked anything and certainly better than an unwillingness to provide you with the information you need.

Point out the facilities you are looking for at your destination. It might be useful to separate these into those which are absolutely essential and those which are desirable. Facilities can include the physical accessibility of the premises and surroundings, the availability of equipment or the provision of services.

Make arrangements for transport to and from your holiday destination. As much notice as possible to transport providers, giving details of your special requirements, is essential if you are to have a smooth journey (for further information see Public Transport).

Travelling Abroad

See travel section

In addition to the above, you should also be aware of the following points before travelling overseas.

Medical treatment. If you become ill or have an accident abroad, you will probably have to pay all or part of the cost of medical treatment. This is a major reason for ensuring that you have adequate insurance cover for the full period of your holiday (see below).

"Health advice for travellers" is the title of a leaflet issued by the Department of Health giving advice on areas for which vaccinations or other advance treatment is required, and many other matters affecting health and medical treatment abroad. The leaflet also contains a form E111 which must be completed and stamped in order that you can make use of reciprocal health agreements with a range of other countries, particularly in the European Union. The leaflet is available from Post Offices and travel agents.

Regular medication. If you use, or are likely to require, any regularly prescribed medicines, dressings, etc, make sure you take an adequate supply with you, including sufficient to cover any unforeseen delays. These should be packed in your hand luggage so that they are available during the journey, and so that they can be readily explained to Customs Officers or other officials. It is useful to have a note from your GP explaining your need for them.

British Airways Travel Clinics can provide up-to-date information and specialist advice from staff who have been trained in travel medicine. They can carry out essential immunisations and they stock a range of health care products. Appointments are recommended and are often available at short notice. Although they are not widespread, there are over 30 clinics in major cities throughout the country: check your phone book or phone Talking Pages free on 0800 600900 for the location of your nearest clinic.


It is essential to take out an adequate holiday insurance policy.

In many countries the cost of medical treatment in the event of illness or accident has to be met in full and can be frighteningly high. Even in some of the countries with which Britain has reciprocal arrangements for health care, part of the cost of treatment still has to be paid. Insurance may also be required to cover the cost of property that is lost or damaged while on holiday, or to recoup money if the holiday has to be cancelled, or to provide some compensation for delays. Holiday insurance is generally associated with overseas travel but it is also available, and should be considered, for holidays in the UK as well.

Although some of the problems that used to exist for disabled people are fortunately no longer common, it can still be difficult for some people to obtain the policy that meets their requirements. Before opting to take out the insurance offered by a tour operator or travel agent, check that it does not exclude people with "any pre-existing medical condition": either in general, or one that is relevant to you. You might also need to check that there is adequate cover for any equipment or other property you will be taking with you because of your disability. If the travel agent or tour operator cannot fully answer your questions, contact the insurance company itself. Bear in mind that insurance cover is not normally available for people who are travelling against the advice of their doctor.

Some voluntary organisations can assist their members, or people with the condition with which they are concerned, to obtain appropriate insurance cover which might otherwise be difficult.


Holidays can be a major expenditure and at times when there may well be other calls on your finances it is tempting to decide against taking a break. There are, however, some sources of financial assistance.

Any disabled person, or family with a disabled member, is entitled to approach their local social services department with regard to taking part in a holiday organised by the department, or receiving financial or other assistance in making independent holiday arrangements. If requested to do so, the social services must assess your need for a holiday and, if it accepts that the need exists, must ensure that appropriate arrangements are made to meet it. This can include applying to Trusts or Benevolent Funds on your behalf.

Other organisations which will sometimes consider providing financial assistance towards holiday costs include Age Concern, the British Red Cross, Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, the Round Table and the Salvation Army. The addresses and telephone numbers of local branches will be in your phone book. In addition, national organisations, or their local branches, concerned with your particular disability may be able to offer a small grant.

Further Information

RADAR’s Holiday Fact Packs contains information on insurance companies, basic transport details, items for hire which may be useful for holidays, such as bedding, wheelchairs and mini-buses, useful organisations and holiday providers, possible sources of finance and specialised accommodation. RADAR also publishes two books which carry a wealth of information for disabled holidaymakers: Holidays in the British Isles and Getting There: a guide to long distance travel.

The Holiday Care Service produces a series of information sheets on specific holiday needs, and the English Tourist Board uses the recognised access symbol to denote accessible accommodation.

Carers association

We are indebted to RADAR for providing the information for this section.