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Our Advice Sheets

Holidays and travellers with disabilities

The Equality Act 2010 protects those people with defined 'protected characteristics' from unlawful discrimination. One of these protected characteristics is disability. Service providers such as tour operators, travel agents, airlines and airports must consider how travellers with disabilities access their services and make reasonable adjustments so that travellers can use services in the same or similar way to those without disabilities.

Whether or not you are a seasoned traveller, you should research your potential destinations before committing yourself to the booking to ensure they are suitable for you and your particular requirements

In the guide
The Equality Act 2010
Choosing your holiday
Travelling by air
Travelling by rail
Travelling by bus and coach
Travelling by taxi
Travelling by car
Travel insurance
Medical matters
Useful contacts

The Equality Act 2010
This Act protects those people with defined 'protected characteristics' from unlawful discrimination. One of these protected characteristics is disability. Service providers such as tour operators, travel agents, airlines and airports must consider how travellers with disabilities access their services and make reasonable adjustments so that travellers can use services in the same or similar way to those without disabilities.

Choosing your holiday
Whether or not you are a seasoned traveller, you should research your potential destinations before committing yourself to the booking to ensure they are suitable for you and your particular requirements. You should check a range of information sources to build up the most accurate picture of the destination. You should have access to information in a range of formats such as audio or large print.

The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (the 'Package Travel Regulations') state that the travel agent and tour operator must provide you with clear, accurate information. All traders are required to comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which prohibit commercial practices that are unfair to consumers. If a trader misleads you or engages in an aggressive commercial practice and you make a decision to purchase a holiday which you would not otherwise have done, they may be in breach of the regulations. Before you book, you must always inform the travel agent, tour operator, airport or airline about your disability and your requirements to ensure that the prospective holiday is suitable for you and that you are not misled. If you fail to inform the service provider of an essential requirement and make it part of the holiday contract, you may not be entitled to make a claim afterwards in the event of a dispute.

When considering your destination, pay particular attention to:

  • the location - what is the terrain like? Are the hotel, beach, shops and places of interest accessible?
  • the climate - note the temperature and likely weather conditions for the time you are considering going on holiday
  • transport - is transport accessible? How easy will it be to get around your potential destination?
  • access to medical facilities if required
  • whether any equipment you need can be accommodated
  • travel insurance
  • repatriation arrangements in the event of an emergency

When considering your accommodation, pay particular attention to:

  • the provision of assistance on the journey and at the resort
  • the location of your room, such as ground floor. Ensure requests of this type are an essential term of the holiday contract
  • the dimensions of your wheelchair if you use one - give the travel agent/tour operator the dimension and ensure that you can access the accommodation and that you have sufficient space to manoeuvre around the bedroom and bathroom
  • the bathroom - is it accessible and suitable?
  • arrangements that are in place to assist you if you have a sensory impairment
  • whether there are lifts in the accommodation and which areas are accessible only by stairs
  • whether any specialist dietary requirements you may have can be met

Some service providers specialise in providing accessible travel holidays and whilst there is still an onus on you to give accurate information on your disability to the provider, there is a greater legal obligation on them because they are specialists to ensure the holiday is suitable for your disability requirements.

Always make sure that your requests and the arrangements you have made with the tour operator are in writing on the booking form and the confirmation as part of the contract.

Please see our 'Holidays' leaflet for more information on your rights.

Travelling by air
EC regulation EC 1107/2006 sets out the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air to protect you from discrimination and to ensure you receive assistance.

A tour operator, travel agent or airline cannot refuse to accept a reservation for a flight to which the regulations apply or to deny you embarkation at an airport if you have a valid ticket and reservation, unless it is on safety grounds or if the size of the aircraft doors makes boarding or travel physically impossible. You should be informed of the reasons for refusal in writing.

You must inform the tour operator, travel agent or airline of your request for assistance at least 48 hours before the departure time of your flight. You can expect to find clearly signed in accessible formats designated points of arrival and departure within the airport where you can obtain assistance. Your right to assistance comes with obligations to comply with conditions such as presenting yourself at check-in within a reasonable time or at the time stipulated in writing to you.

Airports are responsible for providing assistance to you to get onto your flight and should have trained staff available.  You have the right to be compensated if your mobility equipment is damaged and there is a complaints procedure that you can follow if the service providers fail to comply with the regulations.

Please see the Civil Aviation Authority website for more information.

Travelling by rail
You may need to check that the station has disabled facilities and you should inform the train provider of your request for assistance in advance of your journey. Train providers are legally obliged to produce their Disabled Persons Protection Policy if you request it. This sets out how they assist travellers with disabilities to use their trains and stations.

Travelling by bus and coach
The driver is legally obliged to help you on and off the bus or coach but this does not mean they have to physically lift you. If accessibility is a problem, discuss how best to resolve it directly with the bus or coach provider.

Travelling by taxi
In some areas including larger cities, taxis must be accessible to wheelchair users. Unless they have an exemption certificate they are required to carry your assistance dog if you have one but your dog should wear its harness and identifying jacket.

Travelling by car
If you have a 'Blue Badge' that allows you to park in otherwise restricted areas, you can now use it in the EU. If you are hiring a car, make sure the insurance you are offered it adequate and appropriate to cover your disability.

Whatever mode of transport you use for your holiday, you are making a contract for the provision of a service. Make sure you know who you are making the contract with and what their responsibilities are to you under the terms of the contract. Please see our 'Holidays' leaflet for more information on your rights.

Travel insurance
Adequate and appropriate travel insurance cover is essential to avoid being out of pocket if you need to cancel your holiday, your baggage is lost or you are faced with an expensive bill for medical treatment. Shop around for the best policy to meet your requirements. As with all insurance policies, you must provide all the information that the insurance provider needs to judge whether to insure you, the level of cover they can provide and the cost of the premium.

Some insurance policies will not insure you for pre-existing medical conditions and the level of cover may be inadequate for any specialist equipment you may use. Ensure you obtain pre-existing medical travel insurance cover, have the right level of cover for your equipment and that emergency treatment/replacement medication cover is in place. You may also want to consider carer cover should your carer become injured or ill whilst accompanying you on holiday.

If you are using another provider's insurance, the tour operator will require written evidence of insurance cover before confirming your booking.

If an insurer refuses to meet your claim and you reach deadlock in your dispute, complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service

Medical Matters
The majority of disabled travellers should not require medical clearance prior to flying, although it is possible that passengers could be asked to provide proof of medical fitness before the airline will allow them to board the aircraft. If you require medical clearance, you and your doctor will need to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF), which is only valid for one trip and for the details shown on the ticket. Disabled travellers with stable medical conditions may be able to obtain a Frequent Travellers' Medical Card (FREMEC)  which gives airlines a record of your requirements and will save you making arrangements every time you fly.

As with all travellers you can obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling within the European Economic Area or Switzerland. You can apply for a EHIC online at www.dh.gov.uk/travellers or by telephoning 0845 606 2030.

Be aware that obtaining medical clearance could be a factor in the travel insurance you obtain.

Useful contacts
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Equality Advisory Support Service, Freepost FPN4431
Tel: 0808 800 0082, textphone: 0808 800 0084

Tourism for All
7A Pixel Mill, 44 Appleby Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6ES
Tel: 0845 124 9971 email: info@tourismforall.org.uk

Disability Rights UK
12 City Forum, 250 City Road, London, EC1V 8AF
Tel: 020 7250 3222, Fax: 020 7250 8765, email: enquiries@disabilityrightsuk.org

Scope
6 Market Road, London, N7 9PW
Tel: 020 7619 7100 or 0808 800 3333, email:  response@scope.org.uk

Dialysis
The Directory of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association lists dialysis centres in Europe and the Mediterranean, where visitors can receive treatment, but this must be arranged in advance through the person's own dialysis centre. Please visit the European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Association website .

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Relevant legislation
Equality Act 2010
Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
EC Regulation EC 1107/2006

 

Last reviewed/updated: April 2013

 

 

 

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This page was last edited on 14/01/13