Book Review: Barrier-Free Travel

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

As a traveler with disabilities, I am well-aware of the challenges of traveling - and the great rewards! There are many more things to think of as a traveler with disabilities - access, transportation, cultural views of disability, and more. I am always learning the hard way, it seems, about both written and unspoken rules of disability travel, 22 years after my accident! Therefore, I was MORE THAN PLEASED to find a new book by Candy Harrington, entitled Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers - 3rd Edition. FILLED with gems of information, this book has changed my view of travel, from that of a chore to that of an adventure!


Contents of this book include Air Travel, Ground Travel, Bus Travel, Train Travel, Rooms, Traveling with Kids, Cruise Travel and Shore Excursions, When Things Go Wrong, International Travel, The Travel Agent, Internet Resources, Accessible Recreation, Budget Travel, and a GREAT list of on and off-line resources. Even after traveling with disabilities for so long, I still learned a great deal about laws, my rights, the ways to approach requesting assistance, and more. TRULY a travel bible for travelers with disabilities, I am so happy to share this with our readers!

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Candy Harrington about her new book. Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington has covered this niche exclusively for the past 15 years. She’s the founding editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of several accessible travel titles, including the classic, Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers.

Harrington’s second book, There Is Room at the Inn: Inns and B&Bs for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, is the first guidebook devoted entirely to accessible inns and B&Bs; while her third title 101 Accessible Vacations: Travel ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, is billed as an accessible vacation idea book.

Candy is also a contributing author to Kids On Wheels, a resource guide for wheelchair-using kids and their parents.

Candy’s work can be found in disability-related magazines including New Mobility, PN, Ability, Momentum, SCI Life, Kids on Wheels, Active Living, Abilities and Arthritis Today; as well as mainstream publications from the Dallas Morning News to Transitions Abroad and niche titles such as Wheelin’ Sportsman and Stroke Smart.

She’s the resident expert on accessible travel for TravelAge West and provides regular content for websites such as Disaboom, BootsnAll and Move Over MS. Harrington also pens consumer-focused accessible travel columns for Special Living, Chloe, and

Tape measure in hand, Candy hits the road often, in search of new accessible travel options. She also blogs regularly about accessible travel news, resources and industry updates on her Barrier Free Travels blog at

Candy talked with us about her book, issues about traveling with disabilities, intercultural differences while traveling, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about your book, Barrier-Free Travel...

CH: It's designed to help travelers with mobility disabilities (from slow walkers to wheelchair-users) plan their travels, by plane, train, bus, ship or car. It gives folks details about the logistics of planning accessible travel, and includes resources and tips about what to do when things go wrong. It also features chapters about taking the kids, finding a travel agent, using oxygen, booking travel on the internet and accessible recreation.

This is the third edition of the book, and this new edition contains updates of all the access laws (many of which were recently changed) plus a new chapter about planning accessible shore excursions (with 45 companies that are able to provide this service), and a worldwide list of accessible van rental companies. It also includes lots of tips and tricks from travelers and some of my own words of wisdom as well. It's a very comprehensive resource.



WE: What was the impetus for writing this book?

CH: Well, I've been covering accessible travel for some 16 years, and over the years I've gotten a lot of questions and feedback from Emerging Horizons' readers. To be honest I got tired of answering the same questions time after time, and I realized a one-stop authoritative resource was needed. There was (and is) a lot of mis-information circulating around out there, so it's very important for travelers to be educated. I'm very big on people actually understanding access laws; because you can't really tell if something is going wrong, if you don?t even  know what right is. Let's just say I recognized the need for a little consumer education in the area.



WE: What are some of the biggest issues that travelers with mobility issues/disabilities experience?

CH: One issue (that is getting better and may change with the updated ADAAG which will be released in September) is that there's nothing in our law that says hotels have to actually hold an accessible room for a disabled traveler. So some folks reserve one and then arrive to find it has been given to someone else. You should always ask the hotel if they will block (not guarantee) the accessible room for you upon reservation. If they say no, or even hem and haw a bit about it, then go somewhere else.

Another roadblock is that accessible taxis are not available in all cities; however there are a lot more around than there were 10 years ago. On the plus side, accessibility in public transportation is improving.

All in all I'd say things are improving, and changing for the better as far as accessibility is concerned. But that's just because more disabled people are getting out there and traveling.



WE: What are the ranges of challenges that travelers with mobility issues/disabilities face, globally?

CH: Globally there are problems with accessible transportation, especially in third world countries. Also, in Australia, Africa and Asia, wheelchair-users have had problems with domestic carriers denying them boarding, simply because of their disability. There's really not much you can do about this, except to be aware of the situation.

Terminology is also confusing on a global level. For example you can't just ask for an accessible room and expect to get one just like at home. You really have to describe the features you need. Actually, you should do this no matter where you travel, but it's especially important outside of the US.  For example, in Continental Europe an 'accessible' room is one with wide doorways, while an 'adapted' room has bathroom adaptations.  So if you need a roll-in shower you need to ask for an adapted (not an accessible) room.



WE: What suggestions do you have for disabled travelers to prepare for

CH: My top suggestion is to learn the law, so you know what to expect. This especially applies to travel outside of North America.

My second suggestion is to play a healthy game of 'what if' before you travel, just to be prepared for emergencies. The truth is, chances are good that there will be a little hiccup along the way, and if you are prepared, things will go smoother. So for example, find a wheelchair-repair facility at your destination, before you leave home. That way, if anything happens to your equipment, while you are on vacation, you'll have a resource close at hand, and won't waste time looking around. Being prepared for accessible travel is essential!



WE: What are some cultural reactions to disability that readers should be aware of?

CH: Well, in some third world countries, when someone says something is accessible that may mean that they can carry you up those 12 steps to the entrance. In most places where physical access is lacking, the locals are more than willing to provide personal assistance. It's just part of the culture to 'help' disabled people. If you are a person who doesn't like to be touched or lifted, this might not be a good travel choice for you.

Also in the Far East, in many cases it's considered rude to answer a question (any question) with a 'no'. So, don't ask yes or no questions, like 'Do you have an accessible room?'  Instead it's better to ask the clerk to describe the features of the accessible room. 



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

CH: There's a great big wide world out there, and access is improving every day. So, get out and enjoy it - but get my book first!

WE: Thanks so very much, Candy! Your book is a TREASURE. I am so glad you've written it!

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