Top 4 things to think about when traveling with a disability

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on April 07, 2017 # Travel

Doctor Barry M. Cohen and his son Terry Scott Cohen are no strangers to the challenges today’s world can present, especially for someone living with a disability. Terry lives with myotonic dystrophy, but that didn’t stop him from literally taking on the world. With his father by his side, Barry and Terry have written a great travel book, packed with tips and stories on their adventures and provided the Reeve Foundation with a few tips to make it possible for anyone to travel!

Be picky about your travel partner

“For first timers, the world can seem pretty intimidating.” Barry explains that bringing along an able bodied travel companion is a must. As expanded upon in his book, Barry notes that the best companions are conscientious people that will put your needs before their own, along with being sensitive, resilient, and physically strong. Just like travelling with anyone in this world, it also matters if they have the same interests as you. Having the right travel companion can make or break your trip.

Traveling with your Chair

It’s always a good idea to travel with a tool kit for your chair, include things such as lube, screwdrivers, pliers, and plastic straps. A sudden change weather or pavement can take a toll on your wheelchair. And what if it breaks while checked in baggage on the plane? “Airlines are fully responsible for getting your wheels to you whole and not broken,” Barry includes. “Just a good thing to know.”

Things to look for when booking a hotel

“Assume nothing”, is the motto Barry and his son Terry travel by. Always call ahead to make sure that a hotel can adequately accommodate your needs. When researching hotels, be very specific in your questioning, for example, asking for dimensions of the shower instead of asking if it is “accessible”. “A lot of times that means nothing to the person you’re on the phone with.” Barry says. He also recommends considering alternative accommodations, like “home trades” with other individuals living with paralysis.” He also notes that newer hotels are more likely to be accessible than an older one.

Calling ahead also applies to aspects of your trip, like to historic sites and parks. For example, you must call ahead to book an elevator for the Statue of Liberty in New York City. If you don’t, you won’t get anywhere and must come back another day to see the green lady.

Barry also suggested that large franchise parks such as Disney World and Six Flags are likely to be accessible due to the nature of the culture and popularity. It’s probable they will be accessible overseas as well.

Keep a positive outlook

As for your attitude, Barry cites Murphy’s Law – the idea that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong if you let it, so his recommendation is to go on your trip ready to laugh instead of cry. Go about your adventures with a positive attitude!

Barry explains that traveling with his son has made them more confident in handling obstacles. He says, “traveling together affords us great travel memories — we learn so much about our tastes, interests, and our tips make great memories, especially some of the ludicrous experiences that happen to us.”

written by Terry and Barry Cohen, was written to inspire and help people living with disabilities to branch out of their comfort zone and give them independence and mobility. The book is available on Amazon, online bookstores, or you can check it out from our Lending Library.

Want to know more? Visit to check out more of their adventures.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.