Sailing student with visual impairments touches the boat and its equipment, here a line (sheet) leading to the sail. (Photo source: Sven Jürgensen)
Hiking, exploring cities or letting the sea breeze ruffle your hair on a sailing ship – with advice, good preparation and special travel offers, people with disabilities can overcome barriers while travelling. Accessible holiday destinations, certified hotels and useful aids will be presented at REHACARE, the International Trade Fair for Rehabilitation and Care, which will take place in Düsseldorf from 14 to 17 September 2022.
People with disabilities who like to travel and relax by the water, on city trips, or in the mountains usually cannot just pack their bags and go. Travellers who use a wheelchair after a stroke, for example, need an easily accessible hotel with a sufficiently large bathroom. André Scholz knows the challenges of accessible travel: the geriatric nurse and care advisor founded the association "Reisemaulwurf" (reisemaulwurf.de) and advises people with disabilities who want a relaxing change of scenery. Scholz comments: "As everyone has different requirements, it is not easy to book the right offer at a travel agency or online. With many hotels, you don't know whether they will meet your personal wishes and individual needs in advance”.
Meeting your requirements
Around 7.8 million severely disabled people live in Germany, according to the latest figures from the Federal Statistical Office (end of 2021) - people with dementia or chronic diseases such as Parkinson's, heart failure and kidney disease can also be added to this number. If they want to travel, André Scholz believes that good preparation is key. He advises people to first get a clear picture of their requirements with the help of relatives or friends so as not to be disappointed. You can ask yourself a few questions. For example: How long do I want to be on the road and how far do I want to travel? What worked well last time and what were the problems? What support and which aids did I need? Appropriate offers can be found at REHACARE, the International Trade Fair for Rehabilitation and Care, which will take place in Düsseldorf from 14 to 17 September 2022. This could be, for example, a transportable bathtub for personal hygiene on the road, as offered by Lavaset (Hall 4, Stand A12) or a foldable wheelchair, available from Pro Aktiv (Hall 6, A61).
Scholz: "To ensure that travellers and their companions – children, friends and partners – get as much out of the holidays as possible, the complex vacation planning should be divided into individual steps. Like preparing the ingredients of a salad that you mix together afterwards”. According to the travel consultant, such management is especially challenging for those who have not been affected by a disease or disability from birth –or who are not used to it because, for example, they have only recently suffered a stroke. In order to support people with a disability in search of relaxation, numerous tour operators have special offers as well as medically accompanied trips, group trips or cruises, in their portfolio. Clubs, associations and foundations can help organise holidays.
Certified hotels for accessible holidays
Check how accessible an offer is by looking for a certificate from the project "Reisen für Alle" (Travel for All), which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and is available for all federal states of Germany. Managing Director Rolf Schrader explains: "The trained inspectors who work for us, numbering over 350, look at the height of the beds or the accessible design of the bathrooms in the hotel, for example”. A certification body then evaluates and describes the establishment for people with mobility and sensory impairments. Schrader states: "A trained person must also be responsible for this area within the company”. The certification criteria were developed with the associations for people with disabilities. On the www.reisen-fuer-alle.de homepage, you can choose from hiking trails to wellness spas, and filter according to the federal state and holiday region you want to visit. With the help of filters such as "parking space / WC for people with disabilities", users can find the offers that should suit their needs from the options, which number almost 3,000. This includes the Heidehotel Bad Bevensen (Hall 5, Stand A21), which will be present at REHACARE 2022. Guests there can, for example, relax in the accessible Vitality Centre with bio-sauna, sauna, steam bath, relaxation rooms and gymnastics room.
Accessible destinations throughout Germany
The "Travel for All" certificate is valid for three years, after which the establishment needs to be reevaluated. Schrader says: "We are striving to ensure that there is reliable information for people with impairments everywhere people go to find out about travel”. This goal is also being pursued by TMGS (Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft Sachsen mbH) and its fellow campaigners, who will be presenting tourist destinations throughout Germany at REHACARE 2022 (Hall 5, Stand A29). TMGS provides detailed information on access widths, mobility space, special services and the provision of aids. This allows travellers to assess whether the offer in question meets their requirements. The "Leichter reisen" (Making travel easier) working group (Hall 5, A29) will provide information on accessible vacation destinations and the corresponding leisure activities on-site. This could be, for example, easier access to beaches in East Frisia or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania via long wooden walkways. There are also opportunities to go horseback riding or practice archery on a farm, depending on personal abilities.
Adapting vacation plans to the possibilities
The tourism industry's offers are not yet plentiful compared to the growing number of people with impairments. "That's why it's all the more important to choose wisely in order to experience beautiful moments and regain a positive outlook on life", says nursing consultant Scholz. People who are flexible and ready to adapt their plans to the possibilities increase their chance for a wonderful vacation. And why not go further afield for that? Exhibitors at REHACARE 2022 include the Dutch provider De Egmonden, who will provide information about their wheelchair-friendly apartments in Egmond aan Zee (Hall 5, Stand A23), and Fundació Mallorca Turisme (Hall 5, Booth B30), a non-profit foundation whose goals include promoting accessible tourism in Mallorca.
Sailing – unrestricted sports vacations on the water
From small dinghies to large yachts: sailing boats can be adapted so that people with disabilities can relax on board and also take the helm themselves. The German Sailing Federation (DSV) and the Dutch organization SailWise will be presenting their offers at REHACARE 2022.
Gliding easily over the waves and feeling no restrictions – Elke Paatz knows how much this means to disabled people. She is a consultant with the German Sailing Federation (DSV) and advises everyone who wants to know more about accessible sailing: "On board most boats, we can find solutions for virtually any disability by integrating everyone involved. You can hold on to a bracket above the cockpit to stand securely. There are boats that are steered using pedals by people who only have one arm. Special designs can make it possible to steer a boat using only one foot – or via air blown into or sucked out of hoses”.
Leave limitations on the shore
Around 40 sailing clubs already offer accessible sailing, and their number is growing. "We are constantly expanding our database of providers. As a result, more and more interested people are getting to the clubs”,. says Elke Paatz. Elke Paatz isn’t surprised that sailing is becoming more popular. "Limitations are left on the shore, so to speak, and you are free to make your own decisions”. So that everyone feels safe, careful consideration is given to who needs what support on board or who can take on what task. "For example, if people with intellectual disabilities are on board, the trainer will keep an overview of the situation and if necessary offer support in critical situations”.
If a sailing fan has a visual impairment, he is given the opportunity to feel the boat and its equipment. This allows people to orient themselves on board and know where to find all the important items. "If things feel similar, such as certain clamps, we make them distinguishable with the help of different tapes", explains Elke Paatz. People with visual impairments, she says, are able to steer a boat using the wind. "They feel the pressure of the rudder, and get a sense of the wind direction and intensity. With a dinghy and audible signals, they can be warned of potential obstacles”.
Taster courses on the club boats
In taster courses, beginners can see whether they enjoy accessible sailing. According to the expert, they experience their first successes after a very short period of time, for example when they set the fore sail. "Until you can move safely on board, however, it takes a few months”. The annual fee for members of a sailing club varies, starting at around 50 euros. "For that, you can generally use the boats and their special equipment and take sailing courses", says Elke Paatz. She wants to connect online at REHACARE 2022 to answer visitors' questions. Visitors can also take a look at a converted boat with special seats and test steering it with a joystick on dry land.
Tailored holidays for people with disabilities
If you want to book a sailing holiday and take part in cruises across the Ijsselmeer in the Netherlands tailored for people with disabilities, the Dutch provider SailWise has a selection of offers for your water sports holiday – for example, a trip on board the historic two-masted clipper "Lutgerdina" from 1997. It has been converted for people with disabilities – for example, you can get below deck with a lift.
The German Sailing Federation (DSV) is a co-exhibitor of the North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Rehabilitation and Parasports (BRSNW) in Hall 7a, Stand A01. At the BRSNW Sports Centre, people with disabilities have the chance to take part in sports by trying them out, participating, experiencing and learning together.
SailWise, a provider of water sports activities and holidays for people with disabilities for 45 years, will be presenting in Hall 5, Stand A20.
(Author: Natascha Plankermann, journalist specialising in medicine/health.)
REHACARE Düsseldorf at a glance:
REHACARE is the world’s leading trade fair for rehabilitation and care. Every year in autumn it offers a representative overview of assistive technology and current knowledge for independent living at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre. The trade fair is open from Wednesday to Friday from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm., and on Saturday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
For exhibitor and product information for REHACARE 2022, visit: www.rehacare.com/en/Companies_Products_2022/Exhibitor_product_search