“Special” Vacations — Part 3 of 3: Vacation Options for Special Needs

After covering growth trends in medical tourism and niche getaways to suit your passion, we are wrapping-up our “Special” Vacations Hot Topic series with a look at a burgeoning travel speciality that caters to the 54+million children and adults with special needs.

Travel Options for Special Needs


Disability in America

According to a 2011 Disability in America Infographic by BraunAbility, 19% of the non-institutionalized population suffers from some form of physical or cognitive disability – that’s nearly 1 in every 5 people.  When you stop to consider the number of seniors, wounded veterans and others who have affected mobility alone, and require wheelchair access, the population is staggering.  With a very large aging demographic those numbers are set to climb even higher.

So, what options are available to wheelchair-bound would-be travelers?

As the world’s leading mobility enhancement company, Scootaround, provides scooter, wheelchair rentals and airline-related mobility equipment repair services in over 1,500 locations throughout North America.

The company offers convenient rental service to people that rely on electric scooters and related equipment to remain mobile in everyday life, including:

  • Busy conference attendees who need to navigate a large convention center
  • Cruise goers who want the independence and safety that these devices provide
  • Elderly and those with physical challenges who simply need extra assistance.

For more information, visit www.Scootaround.com.

Another condition that is reaching epidemic proportions is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  It’s reported that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with an ASD today.  Many of these children are prone to meltdowns; have difficulty socializing, communicating and are often intolerant to changes in their environment.

With so many children and adults on the autism spectrum, there are hundreds of thousands of families that never or rarely enjoy a break – much less a vacation.  We talked to Mike Sobbell, owner and founder of Autism on the Seas (AotS), a niche travel company that organizes and staffs cruises and land resort vacations for these families.

autism on the seas

“We are the only niche travel service company in the US that organizes and staffs cruises and land resort vacations for families with special needs.  We work with top-tier cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival, as well as land resort destinations, such as Club Med and Walt Disney World,” says Sobbell.

“Vacations with AotS are nothing less than transformative for both child and family. Families share story after story about how their child has come alive in ways they never dreamed possible – communicating, socializing or even climbing a rock wall!”

When asked about their unique success, Autism on the Seas points to a combination of:

  • Exposure to a new non-therapeutic, unrestrictive and uniquely fun setting
  • Warm, caring and playful staff: AotS’ young energetic staff is comprised of experienced and caring professionals who work with children and adults with ASDs, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other cognitive, intellectual and developmental impairments
  • Respite time for typical siblings and other family members to reconnect – difficult to do with a special needs child at home
  • Parents building relationships and lifelong friendships with other AotS parents with similar special needs lifestyles – creating a valuable support network
  • Normalcy, belonging and dignity – new perspectives and hope for their child

Visit the AotS website to learn about their vacation grant program and regional “I Need a Special Vacation” essay contest.

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