Our Communications and Marketing Specialist, Daphne Hendsbee, recently experienced what it is like to travel with accessibility needs. Here's her story and advice.
Photo courtesy of Simon Gray, freeimages.
An unexpected twist
When I injured my ankle in a rock climbing accident, I never thought it would still be plaguing me a month later on a trip to Las Vegas. Travelling with mobility assistance was an eye-opening experience in accessibility, planning, and patience.
Travelling with temporary injuries
En route, I found myself stranded on an accessibility bus at the Los Angeles airport, unable to walk to security and nervously counting down the minutes until my connecting flight left without me.
Although I cut it very close, I didn't miss my connection. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was met at the gate with a wheelchair and escorted to the accessibility bus to switch terminals. Everything went smoothly until we reached the next terminal. After a 40 minute wait with no word on the availability of a wheelchair, mobility assistance staff arrived with a wheelchair and we were whisked through security with just minutes to spare. I was frustrated by the delay and the lack of communication, but with additional planning, my trip may have been smoother.
I could walk short distances but I wasn't able to walk through the airport or up the busy Las Vegas strip. Thanks to the foresight of my travel companions who arranged a wheelchair rental, I was able to enjoy a relatively barrier-free weekend in Sin City. At $15 a day, the rental was a small price to pay for the mobility to see the Strip, Fremont Street, casinos, shops, and shows in a way I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
Las Vegas surprised me with its accessibility. Despite being known for its vices, elevators and ramps were abundant and convenient. In four days, I only came across one broken elevator. Restaurants, casinos, theatres, and taxis easily accommodated the wheelchair and the staff was adept at catering to my mobility needs.
I was lucky that my destination was so accessible. Unfortunately, many locations around the world are not as accessible due to lack of infrastructure like elevators and ramps, local perceptions of disability, and lack of enforcement of accessibility laws where regulations exist.
Planning, planning, planning
Accessible travel required significantly more planning than I was used to. Most of my frustrations resulted from not planning for my accessibility needs far enough in advance and not anticipating how much assistance I might require.
Call both the airport and airline at least 48 hours before your flight to flag your reservation and request mobility assistance. My itinerary was complicated as I flew on a codeshare booked through a discount travel website, which included connections at one of the busiest airports in the world.
Be aware that mobility assistance is managed differently at each airport: it may be coordinated by the airline or by a separate mobility assistance company. If you use social media, contacting your airline via Twitter or Facebook can be a quick way to ask questions and resolve issues. For my return flights, I arranged a wheelchair via Twitter.
Research your destination and identify attractions that suit your level of mobility. Before you leave, call your hotel or accommodation to discuss the availability of mobility assistance equipment and arrange a rental. If possible, travel with a buddy. This is helpful if your travel companions are mobile and can help find airline or airport staff if an issue arises.
If this seems overwhelming, don't worry. Start by researching accessible travel: IAMAT's Resources page is a good place to start. With a little planning, an injury doesn't have to keep you from travelling!
Daphne hiking at Gnejna Bay in Malta.
Here's an introduction to Daphne.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and raised in Ottawa, Canada.
Where did you go to school:
I studied Global Development at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada.
What are some of your most memorable travel experiences?
I travelled extensively through Europe and eastern Canada, sampling as much local cuisine as possible along the way. I have lived abroad twice: as a student in East Sussex, United Kingdom and as an intern at the World Food Programme in Rome, Italy.
My most interesting travel experience was backpacking through Spain during the 2010 Iceland volcano eruption. When my flight from Barcelona to London was cancelled on account of ash clouds, a friend and I spent the next two days hopping trains, ferries, buses, subways, and taxis from Barcelona to our university in East Sussex. To date, I have visited 20 countries and hope to drag my backpack through many more.
Fun fact about Daphne:
I studied French, Spanish, Arabic, German, and Italian, although I only speak French fluently. In the future, I would like to become fluent in Spanish and take an extended trip through Central and South America.
What are some of your hobbies:
I am intrigued by all aspects of food, from field to fork. I have been active in Canadian and international food security organizations focused on building sustainable food systems. As a traveller, I'm fascinated by the cultural significance of food as by its flavours.
I am also a recreational cyclist, geocacher, and amateur photographer.
Join Daphne on Twitter and Facebook Facebook for the latest conversations on travel health.
It's your turn to tell us how we can serve you better!
We are conducting a short focus group survey about the international travel habits of people aged 18-35. We would love to hear how you find information when planning trips, how you stay healthy on the road, and what types of activities you participate in.
The survey should take about 5 minutes and consists of check boxes and Yes/No questions, with the option to provide more information if you would like. The survey is anonymous and the aggregated results will be used to guide IAMAT's communications strategy.
Please feel free to pass this survey along to family, friends, or colleagues. The survey is open until November 1, 2014. We sincerely appreciate your feedback!
Participate in the IAMAT Young Traveller Survey today!
Not a young traveller?
The 2015 IAMAT member survey is coming soon! We strive to provide up-to-date, high-quality travel health information for all travellers. We will be conducting a survey for all IAMAT members in early 2015. This survey is your opportunity to provide feedback on your experience with IAMAT and suggestions for what you would like to see in the future. We always welcome questions and inquiries - please contact us!
Image courtesy of Kevin Rohr.
Meet Fredrick Kinama of Nairobi, Kenya, our latest travel medicine scholar.
Dr. Kinama received the inaugural 2014 IAMAT Violet Williams Travel Medicine Scholarship to attend a travel medicine certification course sponsored by the South African Society of Travel Medicine in May. Here are 8 interesting facts about Dr. Kinama and what he learned during his training in Johannesburg.
1. Is 32 years old. Speaks English and Swahili, and is well versed in Taita, a Bantu language spoken in the Taita Hills on the south eastern border with Tanzania. Graduated from the University of Nairobi Medical School in 2008 and is certified in health management systems. Among his previous positions, he worked in El Wak on the border with Somalia providing medical care to employees working for international humanitarian organizations.
|Image courtesy of F. Kinama|
3. At his clinic, he sees mostly Kenyans travelling abroad, including Congolese, Rwandan, South Sudanese patients. He also cares for travellers from all over the world going on safaris and Chinese expats working on infrastructure projects in his country.
4. Is passionate about travel medicine and wants to expand its practice in Kenya. He plans to reach out to as many people as possible by partnering with local hospitals and clinics, including travel companies, universities who send students abroad, and businesses with expat employees. Dr. Kinama says that as more Kenyans travel abroad they need to be reminded of possible travel-related health risks.
5. Learned that travel health goes beyond the administration of vaccines. "It's patient-dependent and needs to consider the duration and itinerary of the trip. It's important to get more information on the destination and potential risks," he says. It's detail-oriented, encompasses many medical disciplines, and knowledge geography is a must! Highlights of the training course for Dr. Kinama were travel and mental health; expat health; malaria prevention and consequences of a delayed diagnosis; Hajj travel, medical evacuation, and sub-optimal care in resource limited or remote areas.
6. Other travel medicine considerations that are of particular interest to him: Decompression illnesses, mainly on how to adjust from high altitude to diving situations. Dr. Kinama notes that the main travel health concerns in Kenya are sun safety, Malaria, Dengue, and Schistosomiasis. In rural areas, the priority health concerns affecting locals are maternal and child health.
7. Thanks to the scholarship, Dr. Kinama can now confidently carry out a comprehensive pre-travel consultation and can provide a post-travel assessment for travellers who come back with an illness. The scholarship course inspired him to be a travel medicine pioneer in Kenya and to further his studies. He plans to apply for a Master's of Science in International Health at Jomo Kenyatta University.
8. Likes to travel, make new friends, and read non-fiction specifically about science, technology and health. Dr. Kinama volunteers in orphanages providing medical care to children as well as families in low income settlements.
A scholarship in honour of Violet Williams
Violet Turnbull Williams was born on February 14, 1922 in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in the village of Ormesby. She was one of three remarkable children born to Fred and Em (née Gower) Turnbull.
Because of her reputation at the one-room school in the village and her love of reading, Vi, as she was known, was given the run of the library in the Squire's manor house. She was the first student in that little school to be granted a scholarship to extend her education. She was all set to continue to university, but World War II interrupted that. Though she never received an official degree, her love of learning persisted throughout her life.
Vi moved to London as a young woman and became a mental health counsellor. There she reconnected with a childhood friend, Griffin Williams. The two eventually married and moved to Hamilton, Canada, where Griff found work at the steel mills. Griff, as well as Vi's father and brothers, worked at the Cargo Fleet Steel Company in Middlesboro, and so the move to Hamilton was natural enough.
Meanwhile, Vi's brother Fred went from Cargo Fleet to Jessops Steel Company in Calcutta, India. He wrote fascinating letters back to the family during the four years he lived there, before he was tragically killed in an uprising at Jessops in 1949.
Her other sibling, Arthur, became an engineer, building paper mills all over the world. While Arthur, who was dyslexic, did not leave the legacy of letters Fred did, he did leave his considerable fortune to Vi when he died in the 1990s. Vi used Arthur's money to support art and culture in the Hamilton area. She was a generous donor to the Hamilton Poetry Centre, the Bach Elgar Choir, the Bruce Trail Association, the John Laing Singers, IAMAT, and many others.
But perhaps the most touching monument she left was to publish Fred's letters. They were published by West Meadow Press in 1996 under the title of Remember Me to Everybody: Letters from India, 1944 to 1949 by Frederick Gower Turnbull.
Vi died on February 3, 2012 and her ashes were scattered along the Bruce Trail.
- With thanks to Marc Castle.
You too, can sponsor an IAMAT scholar. Donate to the IAMAT Travel Medicine Scholarship Fund to provide scholars like Fredrick an opportunity to study and train in travel medicine or consider leaving a Legacy Gift like Violet Williams. Contact us for more information.
Are you planning to travel to a malaria endemic country? Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute want to hear from you!
Below is a description of the study:
La version française suit le texte anglais
|Image courtesy of Craig Parylo|
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, in collaboration with Health Canada, is conducting a study to evaluate the best way to prepare travelers for the decision about which malaria pills to take. If this research is of interest to you, you may be eligible to participate in this study.
* You have contacted a travel clinic
* You are an adult aged 18 years or older
* You will travel for 1 year or less
* You will travel to a malaria endemic country
Please be aware that your eligibility can only be determined by the investigators of this study. Even if you are eligible, your participation in this research study is completely voluntary. There will be no consequences to you whatsoever if you choose not to participate, and your regular medical care will not be affected by that choice.
If you are interested and are eligible, your participation will involve filling out 3 questionnaires; one before your travel appointment, one after your appointment and another upon return from your trip.
To see if you are eligible or to obtain more information about the study, please visit the study website: https://decisionaid.ohri.ca/malaria
Projet d'aide à la prise de décision du paludisme d'Ottawa
L'Institut de recherche de l'Hôpital d'Ottawa, en collaboration avec Santé Canada, mène une étude pour évaluer la meilleure façon de préparer les voyageurs qui ont à prendre une décision sur quelles pilules prendre contre le paludisme. Si cette recherche vous intéresse, vous êtes peut-être admissible à y participer.
* Vous avez communiqué avec une clinique de voyage
* Vous êtes un adulte âgé de 18 ans ou plus
* Votre voyage durera d'un an ou moins
* Vous voyagez dans un pays à risque de paludisme
Notez bien que votre admissibilité doit être déterminée par les investigateurs de l'étude. Même si vous êtes admissible, votre participation dans cette recherche demeure complètement volontaire. Il n'y aura aucune conséquence si vous choisissez de ne pas y participer et votre décision n'influera nullement sur votre traitement médical.
Si vous souhaitez y prendre part et que vous êtes jugé admissible, votre participation comportera 3 questionnaires à remplir; un avant votre rendez-vous à la clinique de voyage, un après le rendez-vous et un dernier au retour de votre voyage.
Pour voir si vous êtes admissible ou pour plus d'information, veuillez visitez le site internet : https://decisionaid.ohri.ca/malaria
Thank you / Merci,
Chardé Morgan, MScPH
Clinical Research Assistant / Assistante de recherche clinique
Division of Infectious Diseases / Division des maladies infectieuses
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute / L'Institut de recherche de l'Hôpital d'Ottawa
Tel: (613) 737-8899 ext. 72424
Fax: (613) 737-8164
Did you know that our new Guide to Travel Health Insurance is out?
Hot off the presses, this guide seeks to answer one of the most frequently asked questions we get from travellers: "Where can I find travel health insurance and what should I look for?"
IAMAT members told us that they are looking for guidance on how to navigate the world of travel health insurance.
Photo courtesy of Soumyendu Bag, Kolkata, India. Two girls venerating Lord Krishna and Radha.
We did the research for you and wrote a comprehensive primer to help you find the best coverage for your needs. Travel insurance insiders Bruce Cappon of First Rate Insurance and Damian Tysdal of Travel Insurance Review also share their tips on how to buy wisely.
We do not name any companies in the guide. Instead, we offer assistance on where to find travel health insurance and what to look for to ensure you make an informed decision before buying. There are many articles with travel insurance tips out there, but we haven't come across a definitive primer written by an impartial observer. We hope that this guide will give you a better understanding of how travel health insurance works and how to find the right coverage for you.
Don't miss out on this member exclusive!
Go to Member Services using your member number and postal code to download your guide today.
Not yet a member? Sign up here.
Don't forget to tell us what you think. Your feedback is important to us.
Wishing you a healthy and joyful holiday season!
Meet Vinay Vaidya from Nepal and Ali Raza from Pakistan. If you get sick away from home, you can count on them to help you.
Vinay and Ali are both doctors who trained at Hainan Medical University for three months with the 2013 IAMAT-HAINAN Travel Medicine Scholarship. This was made possible thanks to the generous support from our members.
Dr. Ali Raza
Ali's goal is to one day practice travel medicine back home in Pakistan, specifically in the Khagan Valley, a beautiful mountainous area that attracts many tourists. He became interested in travel medicine during a trip to Lanzhou, located in the semi-arid region of northwestern China. After coming down with a rash and dry skin, he realized how climate and geography affected his health.
Dr. Ali Raza, left, and Dr. Vinay Vaidya, right, at the Hainan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Interested in community medicine, Ali sees the similarities with travel medicine which incorporates different disciplines including epidemiology, immunology, and geography. As a recent grad, Ali graduated with top marks from Hainan Medical University and was recommended for the scholarship by his professors. As part of the training, he got the opportunity to learn about the health challenges facing travellers, including the effects of poor sanitation, how to diagnose and treat infectious diseases, as well as visiting local travel health centres, emergency departments, and the Hainan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Vinay Vaidya
Vinay's interest in travel medicine stems from where he lives. Nepal's economy is highly dependent on tourism and he sees the challenges that travellers face in his country. A place renowned for its trekking and mountaineering, Nepal lacks the medical resources in remote areas to deal with travellers who need emergency care.
Says Vinay, "These places can cause trekkers to experience AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and failing to descend may lead to further complications like cerebral edema and pulmonary edema. Treacherous mountain trails make it impossible for immediate attention so they have to be flown back to the capital for treatment." Vinay, who trained as a dermatologist, also sees travellers who get extreme frostbite and he's often confronted with making decisions to save or amputate limbs.
He also sees the need to help people who travel to the Terai Region, flatlands located in the south and Nepal's source of agricultural production. Travellers going to this area are at risk of getting malaria and kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis). "Travellers need to be counselled against these infectious diseases. Travellers' Diarrhea is another problem that almost all of them experience, so we need to tell them about safety measures," he adds.
Thanks to members like you, the IAMAT-HAINAN scholarship gave Vinay the opportunity to hone his skills in travel medicine. If you are sick in Nepal and end up at IAMAT's affiliated clinic, Nepal International Clinic, in Kathmandu, be sure to ask for him!
Are you confused about all the travel health advice out there and don't know if the information is credible? You're not alone.
You may come across inconsistent advice or don't know if you can trust the source. Travel health advice can vary from country to country and even between different public health and travel medicine professional organizations. According to travel medicine practitioners Alan Magill and David Shlim,"Some of the reasons why guidelines differ include availability of products in different countries, a different cultural perception or risk, lack of evidence (or differing interpretations of the same evidence), and sometimes just honest difference in opinion among experts."
Another issue we encounter in our work is the lack of monitoring or under reporting of health risks. In some instances, we are aware of health risks that are not officially reported but evidence provided by our doctors or public health partners on the ground show that there is risk for travellers and local citizens.
More and more, we're also seeing how climate change is influencing the spread of mosquitoes carrying Dengue and ticks responsible for Lyme Disease, for example, in more northern climates and at higher altitudes. Migration and international travel both also play a major role in the spread of infectious diseases.
As a traveller there's a lot of information to take in and potential risks to consider. If you're going on a last-minute trip, for example, there's no way you have time to make sense of it all. To make it easier for you, we've compiled all our materials in our eLibrary for quick access. You can also access information through our destination country index or via our health risk index for quick tips or more detailed information, depending on your needs.
One of our most popular quick guides is the IAMAT Guide to Healthy Travel. This handy passport-sized booklet tells you how to prevent and treat common travel related ailments. It's a single source of advice for traditional travellers and adventure travellers, including all the contents you'll need to assemble your travel medicine kit and a pre-trip planning countdown timeline. The guide, written by Dr. Elaine C. Jong and Family Nurse Practitioner Anne Terry, is now available in print or as a PDF download.
Why is the guide $15, you may ask? It's a fundraising project for our non-profit organization where all the proceeds go towards our travel medicine scholarships. This unique program is the only one of its kind supporting doctors and nurses from low income areas – typically popular tourism destinations – to study and train in travel medicine abroad.
Alan McGill and David Shlim are quoted in CDC Health Information for International Travel, The Yellow Book (2014); p23.
Cover photo by Amitava Chandra.
How do you stay healthy during your trip if you have food allergies?
Our guest blogger, Robert Haru Fisher,* explains what he brings along on his travels to prevent an adverse reaction and tells us about his experiences along the way.
I've had allergies to certain foods all my life, and yet I have visited over 100 countries in my more than 50 years as a travel writer, mostly for the Fodor and Frommer guidebooks. At first, my only weapons were my wits, which taught me to speak English slowly if I did not know the native language and always to speak to whomever prepared the food. Fewer people outside English-speaking countries spoke English back then. (In the Mideast, the second language was often French or German, for instance.
Now, however, you can arm yourself with better weapons. I always carry three items with me whenever I plan to eat out, even in the USA or other English-speaking countries. They are (1) printed
Photo by Lin Kwan courtesy of stock.xchng.
If I am in a North American city or foreign destination where IAMAT has no listings, I research the place and write down a note with the name of the nearest hospital to the restaurant I intend to visit, and put that note in my shirt pocket, where I also place the Allergy Warning cards. (Your hotel front desk may be the easiest place to learn about hospitals where English is spoken, or where the foreign community goes.)
Sometimes, you may want to phone ahead to the restaurant and warn them about your allergy, but I usually just advise the waiter immediately on sitting down, then handing him or her my Allergy Warning card in both English and the appropriate foreign language, and ask the waitstaff to show the cards to the chef and report back to me if what I order was safe to eat. If the answer came back, "No, what you ordered is not safe," then I would ask the chef to recommend something that was OK to eat.
My cards read: "Allergy Warning! I can be killed by eating PEANUTS, PEANUT OIL, GREEN PEAS. Please be sure the food I order does not contain any of those products. Thank you! Robert Haru Fisher."(This is not hyperbole, as my throat can swell up and stop my breathing if I don't get help immediately.)
I print my own cards in English on my computer. For correct foreign-language cards, contact Select Wisely, where I have been able to buy laminated cards in most languages. Some years back, when the company did not have the appropriate language, I would go on the Web and search, in one case finding a woman in Prague who translated short items into Czech just for pleasure, not charging anything.
I have had dozens of wait staff tell me, when I hand them the card, that they appreciate such printed advice, it being very helpful to them. (And I have sat next to, on more than one occasion, someone who will tell a waiter, verbally, that he or she was allergic to five or six different things, expecting the waiter to remember the items. I once counted a fellow diner mentioning nine different allergies!)
My allergies have grown more severe as I grew older, and I have been incorrectly advised food was safe several times, resulting in brief hospitalizations, most of them in the USA, where occasionally a few people don't understand allergies, one fellow in Key West telling me, for instance, that "allergies are all in your head." My scariest experience was eating from a buffet in Kunming (China), then boarding a bus for Stone Mountain, about an hour's ride away. By the time I arrived, I could barely talk or breathe, but I found a First Aid station there, and after preliminary treatment which included using my own Epi-Pen, I was transported by ambulance back to Kunming to the Red Cross Hospital.
My best experience illustrating the usefulness of IAMAT membership was in Beijing, where a chef lied to me and my interpreter about the safety of our food, even after reading my Chinese-language (Mandarin) warning card. Back in my hotel room after a short nap, I felt my tongue and throat swelling, grabbed my IAMAT directory, took it to the front desk, and, unable to speak, pointed to the name and address of what I took to be the nearest member hospital, the Peking Union Medical College Hospital (Foreigners' Clinic). The hotel manager sent a bellhop with me to get a cab and accompany me to the hospital where he waited until he saw that I was in good hands. I was there two days, sharing a room with an Australian prisoner handcuffed to his bed (drug smuggling) in a "special" section of the hospital. I have been a believer in IAMAT for the past 40 years, but never more so than that time!
We'd like to hear your thoughts... Tell us and other travellers what you do to prevent food allergies abroad.
* Robert Haru Fisher is also Vice-President of IAMAT's Board of Directors.
We are very pleased to include more doctors providing trusted medical care abroad to serve you better. IAMAT members now have new or additional coverage in the following cities:
Photo by Kurhan courtesy of stock.xchng.com.
- They speak English fluently. You won't have to go through a medical translator to communicate your health concerns.
- They are vetted by our organization and clinics are inspected to ensure they meet international health standards.
- They volunteer to be part of our network because they are committed to helping travellers; they do not pay a membership fee to join, allowing us to maintain strict ethical standards.
Here's what long time travellers Gene and Jean B, of Edmonton told us, "We have travelled quite a lot and have used your valuable information several times. We have also made use of the Doctors' handbook to locate English speaking doctors. We have used IAMAT several times over the years in Greece, Malaysia, Morocco, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. It is very reassuring to have IAMAT's list of doctors with us when we travel as we are usually away for a long time". See other travellers recommending our work.
Next time you travel, consider accessing the services of an IAMAT doctor that you can trust. Our role is to help relieve some of your stress and to provide moral support from afar so you don't have to worry about the care you receive abroad.
Wishing you a great summer from all of us at IAMAT!