My name is Srin and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Accomable, a travel platform for disabled people to find accessible holiday properties. I’m also a big time lover of travel and have made it my life’s mission to see as much of the world as possible.
Travelling as a disabled person is always fraught with challenges, albeit ones that can often be overcome. One of those biggest difficulties is organising personal care and travelling with someone to assist you. Due to my disability, I’m a wheelchair user and also require 24/7 live-in care. I always travel with my personal care assistant (PA) and here are something that I’ve learnt over the years to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH A PERSONAL ASSISTANT
1. Spend time finding the right person who you can travel with
Being a PA when at home can be a very different job when on travels. You may not have the ideal assistive equipment (e.g. hoists) available, there be may be more manual lifting involved; and a lot more things going wrong (e.g. taxis not turning up, language barriers etc). As such, finding the right person suitable to travel with may not always be an easy task.
It is really important that a travel PA is pretty easy-going, adaptable, open minded and able to keep calm when things may not being going right. I’ve always been lucky that my usual PAs fit this criteria, so I haven’t had to specifically recruit for someone to help with travel; but I know a lot of people who have had to find someone to help while on travels.
2. The importance of communicating and getting on with a PA
There’s a good chance that while on travels, you and a PA will be spending much more time together compared to when at home. Moreover, much of that time might be in closer proximity in hotel rooms, planes, cars etc; with not a huge amount of personal space. I’m completely aware that what I’m describing might not sound too dissimilar from travelling with a partner or family member! Alas, its an environment that perfect for arguments or disagreements if you and your PA don’t communicate any tensions or difficulties early on. Additionally, the close proximity becomes easier to manage if your PA is someone you can get along with.
Finally, its also helpful to try and organise some slots each day where your PA has some time to themselves; or where they can do their own thing as long they are contactable by phone if needed. Given the close proximity of the working relationship, I find this also as a useful strategy to defuse any tensions or frustrations.
3. Assessing how many PAs you need
I always travel with just one PA, and try to keep arrangements as close to what they normally are when at home. However, this is very much a personal question that can be tricky to answer. On one hand, more PAs can add to costs and logistical complexities, but equally, not having adequate support on a trip can cause more problems; and may overwhelm people already on the trip to support you.
4. Funding a PA’s travel
This is another tricky issue with no best answer and is something that’ll depend on individual circumstances. I basically take the approach of funding flights and accommodation but require PAs to pay for their own food and individual costs. Alternatively, I know of other arrangements where PAs are asked to use some of their salary to subsidise their travel costs and view the trip as a form of working holiday. There are lots of different permutations within these arrangements and it effectively comes down to having a frank conversation with a PA to see what can be worked out and what’s practical within budgets.
5. Negotiate and organise
There’s a good chance that travelling may require timetables with existing PAs to be re-organised, along with salaries, time-off and a whole host of other things. Again, there’s no hard and fast rule with this except to try and sort these things out as much in advance as possible. I manage this situation by organising my PA rotas on a 2 to 3 week on / off schedule, to ensure that I always have one person working with me for a decent amount of time.
6. Setting boundaries
I’ve learnt the hard way to make sure that when travelling that some very clear boundaries and rules are set on things such as alcohol, going out, and things that generally blur the lines of professional working relationships. If your PA is travelling with you and other family members, you may also want to provide some guidance on they how they interact with your family.
Back in 2011, during a trip to Las Vegas, a PA got very drunk and got into a fight with another member of the public and ended up getting arrested! The situation was a total nightmare and since then, I’ve always made it a point that some clear rules and boundaries be set when travelling.
Finally, to wrap up this article, one of the most important things I’ve realised over the years is that organising PAs for travel gets easier the more times you do it. You develop a style, you find people you trust and work out arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.
If you have any queries, as always, feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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