The Universe Isn’t made for Tiny Tim!

At least that’s the way it feels sometimes.

The world, at least the world of travel, just isn’t made for those of us with disabilities. Disabilities of any kind.


Perhaps my use of Tiny Tim as an analogy for individuals with disabilities isn’t quite PC. But, Tiny Tim is someone almost all of us know and, well, he was disabled. True he was ‘fixed’ in the end which isn’t an option for most of us. But he is viewed by the world as disabled. He did have limitations he had to live with and deal with on a daily basis, as most of us PWDs (Persons with Disabilities) do.

So I think he is an appropriate symbol for the rest of us with similar problems.

Getting around in general is difficult for me and for most of us with disabilities. Traveling with a disability is difficult even at the best of times and nearly impossible at the worst.

The who, what, when, and how of it!

To explore this further, let’s get down to just what a disability is and why it is I say the Universe juust wasn’t made with us in mind. For traveling in particular.

Who is classified as disabled?

According to the online Oxford languages dictionary a disability is defined as ‘a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Photo by Rob Hobson on Unsplash

If you really think about it, using that definition nearly every one of us has a limitation, a disability of some sort. Unless you’re superman or something.

But by law the definition is a bit different. According to the American Disabilities act enacted in 1990:     :

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

What is a disability

As you can see from the definition above disabilities come in physical or mental limitations. I would extend and expand the definitions to include several more categories

  • Physical Disabilities to include
    •  Altered Mobility
    •  Sensory (vision, hearing, tactile) Limitations,
    • Chronic Illness.
  • Mental Disabities such as
    • Learning Disabilities/Developmental Delays
    • Autism,
    • AD/HD,
    • Anxiety,
    • Mood Disordersties/Emotional Disailities
  • Multiple handicaps
  • Diet Restrictions/Allergies

All of these come in varying levels of impairment and that have varying impact on an individual’s ability to fuction, perform daily activities, and respond to and enjoy the world around them.


What does that mean for traveling

Traveling with any kkind of disability isn’t easy. To travel sucessfully the descesion to travel and where requires more planning and the actual traveliing may take more effort. Mental and physical mobility depends on both the traveler ‘s and their companion’s (if they are nor traveling alone) mental and physical abilities. It’s important to know yourself; your specific needs, abilities, and limitations. You’ll need to allow more time for planning and more pre-trip prepartion. 

Know your rights

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define these rights. They aim to insure that any traveler with a disability and their companion have the freedom to travel equally. Examples of rights under the ACAA and ADA include:

  • Service animals are allowed to accompany people with disabilities.
  • Entrances, doors, ramps, and elevators must have accessible routes.
  • Accessible building elements such as signs, toilets, parking spaces, and loading zones.
  • Adequate time to board on all modes of public transportation.
  • Aircrafts with over 60 seats must provide an accessible lavatory and onboard wheelchair.

(I will add a post soon that will go into the process of Planning is further explored.)

When is it possible and whenisn’t it for those with disabilities to travel? 

For those with stable disabilities or chonic conditions traveling, though difficult, should be possible. Of course, you need to take into account such things as the particular location, weather, season, and the availability of medical facilities.

When not to travel? When your health condition is acute rather than chronic or when you have new or unmanaged issues.

Final Thoughts

Travel is possible for those of us with disabilities of all kinds, even if it isn’t easy. Because the world outside our homes wasn’t designed with us in mind we have to make special preparation in order to be sucessful in our travels and enjoy the experience.

  • Planning is the KEY!
  • Need to do research
    • Accessibility – wheel chair ramps, accessible transportation, elevators
    • Accomodation – accessible restrooms, hotel rooms, restaurants
  • Know your own limitations, abilities, and stamina

In conclusion

If I can do it (and I have). So can you. Do you homework, make your plans, and tell the Universe you’re coming.

Join me next time when I tell you more about the planning process.



Introduction to the ADA

ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Come along with me on my journey.

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