Hanna Ursin; ©beta-web/ Stöter
Traveling is not only about getting to know new places but also about getting in contact with new people and sharing experiences. However, people with disability often have trouble with this. We visited BSK-Reisen GmbH at REHACARE 2015 for an interview about traveling with disabilities.
Would you rather like a typical summer holiday at the beach, a tour or a wheelchair-compatible trip? CEO Hanna Ursin talks about the services of BSK Reisen and explains the requirements for travel-assistants in the interview.
Mrs. Ursin, which places are good destinations for accessible holiday, which are not?
Hanna Ursin: To answer this, you need to have a clear definition of the word "accessible" first. In Germany the definition of the term is regulated by the national DIN standard. In other countries the terms are simply different. That is a big problem for our work because in Germany for example a door in an accessible hotel room has to be 90 centimeters wide. This is settled. You can hardly find this information about rooms in other countries.
So there is no international standard for accessibility?
Ursin: No, but even in Germany it is not easy to answer what is said by certain standards. Indeed there is the DIN standard for accessibility, but at the same time other terms like "wheelchair-compatible" or "senior-focused" are used even though they are not well-defined. It is obviously confusing, if these terms are used without detailed explanation.
The most places that are described as accessible for people with physical disabilities are available in Europe, Scandinavia and the U.S. However, if you want to travel to countries where the infrastructure is not as good - for example to Africa or Eastern Europe - it can be different. A lot of research work is necessary here before the trip begins.
What requirements or wishes do your customers most frequently have?
Ursin: Our customers are mostly wheelchair users or older persons with rollators or other walking aids. Of course it is particularly important for them that all areas at the destination are accessible via ramps and lifts. Also very important is the layout of the bathroom. It needs grab bars at the toilet and the shower and walk-in showers. Electric care beds are increasingly requested now. And of course, the accessible transportation from the airport to the hotel is important.
What was the most extraordinary journey you have booked so far?
Ursin: There was an older couple once who wanted to make a trip to South Africa on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary. Both were already far older than eighty years and wheelchair users. When they contacted us, there were only three more weeks until their desired travel date. We contacted our partners in South Africa and planned a customized itinerary with an appropriate hotel in a very short time.
Your company offers workshops to become a travel assistant for people with disability as well. What skills do you need for the job?
Ursin: You have to be older than 18 years and physically fit to work as a travel assistant for our company. Furthermore, the person should be equipped with a certain degree of empathy and generally be suitable, as regards his character, for the care of disabled people.
What exactly do participants in these workshops learn?
Ursin: During the one-week workshop, the cooperation of people with and without disabilities is practiced, as well as typical situations that may occur on such trips. Quite fundamentally different types of disabilities are presented and the participants learn what is important in the care of people with various disabilities. Also, the safe handling of the various aids such as wheelchairs and hospital beds will be explained. The contact to blind people is a particular topic at one of the workshop days. The subject of closeness and distance in the care is especially important to us. An assistant and a person with disability of course assume a certain bond but the assistant should always be professional. After one week we are able to tell if someone is qualified for the work as travel assistant in most cases.
The next workshop "Travel assistant for people with disability" by BSK Reisen is from November 9, 2015 till November 15, 2015 in Krautheim, Germany. For more information visit the homepage of BSK-Reisen GmbH or come visit BSK Reisen directly at the REHACARE 2015 in hall 5, stand 5A23.
© B. Frommann
The interview was conducted by Timo Roth and translated from German by Killian Spelleken.