Whether it’s booking a simple holiday overseas or planning a move to another country, it can be an extra anxious time if you have a disability.
Knowing whether your chosen destination offers things like accessible public transport and attractions, Braille signs and currency, and information around the general legal rights and welfare system is important.
People with disabilities understand the need for accessibility. Moving is already full of uncertainty, and not knowing whether your chosen relocation destination is accessible can only add to the stress.
Thankfully, there are a number of countries that are taking steps to make disabled persons feel more inclusive by implementing ways to help them navigate daily public life.
The Best Countries for Travelers & Expats with Disabilities
Where to Start
For disabled travelers and expats who are relocating, it starts with researching airlines that provide great specialty service.
You’ll also want to choose a car shipping company that can carefully relocate your modified vehicle, whether it’s been equipped with ramps, a wheelchair docking device, and/or special hand-controlled devices.
Knowing which countries offer the best services, facilities and accessibility is then important when selecting your destination. Here are a few of the top rated countries when it comes to catering to those with disabilities.
French residents with disabilities can request a carte mobilité inclusion which provides them with priority access to public transport seating as well as free parking when driving themselves. French motorways are also well equipped and some rental car companies offer modified vehicles to suit disabled persons.
Most of the country’s main airports offer free assistance to disabled passengers and city buses as well as RER are wheelchair-friendly. Many of the nation’s SNCF train carriages are also accessible to people with disabilities.
Popular cities like Paris allow disabled visitors and residents the ability to visit its many famous attractions like museums for free or reduced admission, and many landmarks including the Eiffel Tower are wheelchair accessible.
Many local business that offer special disability assistance or facilities display a special logo at their entrances to notify their status.
Public libraries often have audiobook readers and reading machines, while many restaurants provide specialized talking menus for those who have impaired vision.
Even French ski schools offer lessons for those with disabilities whether you’re suffering from impaired mobility, are deaf, or have impaired vision.
When it comes to employment, France requires companies with 20 or more employees to have at least 6% of their workforce made up of disabled persons. The government also provides a generous allowance for disabled adults.
Both the federal government as well as state and territory governments within Australia work together to ensure those with disabilities are supported and feel included in society.
There are a number of programs in place that allow disabled persons to enjoy fair access to employment, healthcare, education, transport, and housing. Recent stats show that roughly 94% of disabled persons say they are getting the support necessary to live in a private residence.
Australia works hard to ensure those with a disability maintain a number of rights and has reduced many of the barriers to finding employment when disabled. The Disability Support Pension (DSP) is the main income support available to those with a disability. There is also a Mobility Allowance that offers assistance for transport costs associated with work and school.
Most of Australia’s larger cities have highly accessible public transport systems in place, especially in Melbourne. Elevators lead to train platforms, there are low-floor trams, and accessible super-stops available.
You’ll also find wheelchair-accessible bus services providing on demand response service for disabled persons and ferries are often accessible with ramp access for boarding in places like Sydney.
Many cities are equipped with paths suitable for the vision impaired and offer thousands of tactile and Braille street signs.
Some cities like Sydney also provide special accessibility maps that outline where handicap accessible restrooms, mobility parking areas, and accessible public transportation can be found. Even national parks often offer things like accessible wheelchair viewing areas or fully accessible cabins.
There are also a number of organizations that provide travel-related support and aid to disabled persons. They can provide assistance in contacting wheelchair accessible taxis and finding hotels and restaurants that offer barrier-free access and special assistance to those in need.
The UK offers a number of financial and care support services like the Personal Independence Payment for those living with a disability. Medical treatment is also generally free under the NHS for residents of the UK.
The government is currently working on roughly £1.6 billion worth of funding to support those with disabilities, including a £300 million boost to supporting the special educational needs sector.
When it comes to transportation, London has what is probably the most wheelchair accessible taxi service in the world, with nearly all taxis providing ramps. Likewise, nearly all buses provide wheelchair ramps as well.
Many attractions and buildings, including historic ones, have wheelchair ramps or lifts installed, including the London Eye. Many businesses provide aids for the visually or hearing-impaired and there are specialist tour operators that specifically cater to disable travelers.
Most public transport in cities like London is fully accessible, and sidewalks are largely cobblestone free and wheelchair-friendly. Most hotels dedicate at least 5% of their rooms to guests with a disability.
The Act on Equal Treatment of Disabled and Chronically Ill People in the Netherlands gives disabled people the rights needed to enable them to fully participate in society. Boarding buses and trains in a wheelchair is generally easy and even canal boat tours are accessible in places like Amsterdam.
The Dutch Railways provides assistance for disabled persons at most stations, and adapted buses and vans can be booked in most cities.
Most businesses and attractions offer lifts or ramps, and provide disabled toilets. You can also readily rent modified bicycles to get around cities and beach wheelchairs are often available at popular seaside locations.
The city of Breda has recently won the Access City Award which recognizes cities who strive to make life easier for people with disabilities.
Things Breda is doing include pulling up and modifying cobblestones to make areas more wheelchair-friendly. Local hotels offer wellness and physiotherapy facilities for disabled guests in addition to providing conveniences such as lowered wardrobes and mirrors.
There are even reports that the Netherlands are considering or may already be providing subsidized sex for the disabled. Additionally, foundations such as the Handicap & Sexuality Foundation and Flekszorg provide specialized sex care for people with disabilities.
The organizations often work with doctors, sexologists, and hospitals in order to provide safe sex care from sex care professionals that are trained in providing sexually needs to disabled people.
Able Amsterdam also aids disabled people in seeking out wheelchair-friendly places in the nation’s capital, with information written in English which is helpful for travelers and expats.
For over 30 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has outlawed discrimination based on disability. The comprehensive anti-discrimination policy has helped to protect Americans with disabilities, but there is still a long way to go before America provides the necessary financial aid those with disabilities require.
That being said, a number of states provide a high quality of life for disabled persons, especially in terms of accessibility. Programs often assist with everyday functions, transportation, education, and employment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that nearly all businesses and facilities, as well as public transit, be wheelchair accessible. There are often programs in place to offer paratransit services and some cities even provide assistance with wheelchair breakdowns.
The level of services and support varies between the states, with northern states generally proving to be more accommodating than southern states. Meanwhile, states like Alaska, Nevada, and Mississippi offer up some of the lowest disability employment gaps.
Washington DC and Denver are two standout cities which seem to be making strides for the disabled community. Both have fully accessible metro systems as well as services like door-to-door paratransit and companies like ScootAround which provide scooters and wheelchairs to those with disabilities.
Most American tourist attractions and recreational amenities are accessible, with a great number of national parks offering wheelchair-accessible trails and lookouts.
Residents with permanent disabilities can also obtain a free, lifetime “America the Beautiful” pass which grants unlimited access to federal parks and recreation sites. You also gain discounted rates on things like camping and guided tours.
Telephone companies in America offer relay operators for the hearing impaired and banks provide ATM instructions in Braille. Most airlines in the country are really good about assisting those with disabilities.
Rental car companies in America often rent out hand-controlled vehicles and vehicles with wheelchair lifts for no additional charge.
While many countries including these mentioned still have a lot they can expand on to make life more manageable for people with disabilities, many are accessible enough for expats to live comfortably abroad.
We will no doubt see many more improvements in the decades ahead when it comes to providing the necessary financial needs, services, and accessibility for those with disabilities.