Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Travelling with Disabilities

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The opportunities are endless. Here, travelling the world with disabilities


Q. I’d like to take a trip with my sister but I need some help. We are both in our late 70s. I am a recent widower and she has been alone for years. I’ve always been the more adventurous one. She uses a walker at home and a wheelchair for outings. I realize we can’t go exploring ancient Rome or anything like that, but surely there must be other options and ways to see parts of the world. Getting her to overcome her timidity will be one of my challenges, but if I could assure her there are options that would accommodate her physical limitations I think I might have a fighting chance. I know we could have a wonderful time together and a trip would do us both a world of good. Life goes by all too quickly and I want to seize this opportunity with my sister.

Joyce, Niagara Falls


A. Have I got options for you. People with disabilities don’t have to stay home any more. There are endless opportunities for travel. Just ask Debra Kerper, the U.S.-based owner and founder of Easy Access Travel, who has spent the past 20 years planning individual and group trips for people with disabilities or mobility issues, like your sister’s.

Now into her 60s, Debra had one leg amputated below the knee when she was 29. She spent many years in a wheelchair and has undergone dozens of surgeries. But that hasn’t stopped her from seeing the world. She’s visited 30 counties, been on more than 75 cruises and she’s organized hundreds of trips for other people.

“Cruising is definitely the number-one choice for people with disabilities,” she told me, pointing out that most cruise lines now have fully-accessible accommodations in a wide variety of options and many of them are expanding their destinations with accessible shore excursions. But that doesn’t mean you would have to go the cruise route, although if your sister is timid about travelling that might be your best bet.

Your sister is also in a great position to travel because she has you to help her. That makes a trip a whole lot easier – and a lot more enjoyable. The biggest obstacle to travelling for a person with a mobility issue is in their head, not their body. Debra encounters this all the time. “It’s a very typical reaction to be afraid of the unknown,” she says, “and people can be embarrassed about their disabilities. They shouldn’t be, but it is what it is.”

Debra has seen paraplegics snorkel, people with electric carts travel to Europe and she has just organized a sold-out cruise for young adults with Spina Bifida. Travelling with a disability takes courage, planning and patience, she acknowledges. Knowing what questions to ask also helps. She suggests you approach your sister gently and assure her people her age with similar mobility issues are travelling the world every day in every way. Here’s hoping she seizes the opportunity and you both have a fabulous time.


Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.