BYOB  What is a disability? Not Every Disability Is visible.

So, who is classified as disabled?

What does this mean for traveling?


While many disabilities are visible and easily recognized, many others pre not so apparent. You can not see that I have significant vision problems just by looking at me. And you may not be able to tell that someone has an anxiety disorder and is prone to panic attacks unless you witness such an attack.

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.

If you really think about it, using that definition nearly every one of us has a limitation, a disability of some sort. We all have limitations. You may not be able to run as fast as your brother or hear as well as you did when you were twenty. This is a limitation but is not considered a disability.

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

The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

The KEY word here is Substantially. A vague term and one open to interpretation. But interpretatioon by whom? Since we’re talking about Disney here, I am glad to report that Disney seems to define Disability very broadly and accomodates, where possible, for all types and levels of limitation.

Further provisions under the Americans with Disabilities Act include:

  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. As it relates to employment, Title I of the ADA protects the rights of both employees and job seekers.

“According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person with a disability can with proper preparation travel. However travelers with disabilities, such as mobility limitations, vision or hearing loss, or cognitive disabilities may require special attention and adaptation of transportation devices.

CDC Yellobook 2020 “Travel with Disabilities by Cynthia F. Hinton, John Eichwald , Deborah Nicolls Barbeau, Gail A. Rosselot, Sue Ann McDevitt.

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

List of Disabilities

  • Physical Disabilities to include
    •  Altered Mobility
    •  Sensory (vision, hearing, tactile) Limitations,
    • Chronic Illness.
  • Mental Disabilities such as
    • Learning Disabilities/Developmental Delays
    • Autism,
    • AD/HD,
    • Anxiety,
    • Mood Disorders/Emotional Disabilities
  • Multiple handicaps – those with disabilities in motor, sensory, and mental/developmental areas
  • Diet Restrictions/Allergies
    • (Bolded items are those I added)

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

What does that mean for traveling?

Traveling with any kind of disability isn’t easy. To travel successfully, the decision to travel and where to go requires more planning. And the actual travelling may take more effort. Adjusting to both mental and physical/mobility issues depends on both the traveler ‘s and their companion’s (if they are no traveling alone) mental and physical abilities.

Know yourself

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 preparation. 

Know your rights

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define these rights. They aim to ensure 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.

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

This is a very important consideration for any of us with a disability and one we need to be honest with ourselves about.

For those with stable disabilities or chronic 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.

The world, at least the world of travel, just isn’t made for those of us with disabilities. Disabilities of any kind. Though many places and locations have made some accomodation for some disabilities.

Disney makes accommodation for all types of disabilities  to the best of their  ability within the constraints of the environment, wmeather, numbers of guests, costs, and personel.  They do a cery good job.

That’s why I think Walt Disney World is an excellent destination for those of us with a disability.

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 successful in our travels and enjoy the experience.

So Remember!

  • Planning is the KEY!
  • You need to do your research
  • Know your own limitations, abilities, and stamina

Next time I’ll go into just what accomodation you can expect. Stay tuned.



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