Planning a seamless business trip for people with special needs can be challenging and complicated. Businesses are well advised to have focused travel policies and plans in place that address the unique needs of these travellers.
‘Special needs’ is a broad term. It includes any traveller with a physical or intellectual impairment or disability, or pre-existing and permanent conditions such as heart or lung disease, hearing and visual impairment, diabetes and asthma. But it also includes temporary conditions, such as a broken limb or pregnancy, as well as travellers with reduced mobility and who are wheelchair bound.
‘The scope and detail within a travel policy that specifically focuses on special need travellers is dependent on a number of factors,’ says Sharon Nash, Club Travel Corporate’s Operations Director. ‘Factors ranging from company size and culture, to budget.’ However, the responsibility to accommodate and manage the potential liabilities related to special needs travel is shared. The traveller is responsible for disclosing any condition that requires special plans, and keeping the company’s travel manager informed and up-to-date on all related matters such as the necessary medical certificates, prescriptions, and ‘fit to fly’ declarations or certificates from a medical professional.
‘Although many airlines, airports, local transport companies, and hotels make provisions for special needs travellers, managing the preparation, bookings and management of business travel for special needs travellers needs to be done holistically to ensure a process that is both cost effective and seamless,’ says Sharon. Working with a travel management company with the relevant experience, expertise and qualified database of vendors and suppliers that cater for special needs, will save companies time and money, and most importantly ensure that the special needs travellers are professionally and respectfully catered for.
Knowledge is power. ‘The corporate travel manager who encourages feedback and comments from travellers upon their return builds a powerful reserve of knowledge which should be shared with the travel management company,’ concludes Sharon. ‘By promoting successful travel experiences, the corporate travel manager is highlighting the value of these individuals to the organisation, which is a great incentive for others to do the same.’
Below are some basic considerations for special needs travellers:
- Most airlines restrict travel in late pregnancy. After the 28th week, a letter from a doctor or midwife is required, confirming the expected date of birth and that the pregnancy is normal.
- Travellers should be advised that if they are on specific medication, they should carry a certified copy of the prescription with them during their travel. This will be especially helpful should the medication be lost or run out, or when security checks require proof of purpose.
- In certain countries, the traveller’s prescription may be deemed illegal. In such cases, the country will have an equivalent that is on their safe medicines list. It is always recommended to check the safe medicines lists of all destination countries.
- Airlines also reserve the right to refuse travellers who they believe have a condition that may worsen during the flight. A medical clearance refuting such a possibility is an imperative.
- Some destinations are more conscious of the needs of people with disabilities than others. Dubai is a great example, from personalised services at Dubai airport to specially designed vans and hotel rooms, Dubai cares for its disabled or special needs visitors.
- When travelling to a country that does not speak English, it’s advisable to take a list of requirements translated into the relevant language. Supplies and equipment may be difficult to obtain when travelling.