Making Work Travel with Cerebral Palsy a Reality

Living with cerebral palsy has its challenges. As a lifelong condition that impacts motor abilities, muscles, and movement, adults with cerebral palsy have varying degrees of physical limitations. Many things that the most workers don’t have to worry about present regular challenges, like traveling. Accommodations in the office can be extended to work travel. Individuals can take steps to make work travel with cerebral palsy easier and to advocate for themselves in the workplace. There are even travel companies and services that aim to make traveling more accessible to all working adults.

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Work travel with Cerebral Palsy and its Challenges

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by brain damage that usually occurs in the womb or during childbirth. It is not progressive, but it also does not have a cure. Individuals with cerebral palsy may have a variety of symptoms and disabilities related to the condition, ranging from mild to severe. Many of the symptoms are physical, including stiff, spastic muscles, uncontrollable movements, difficulty walking or inability to walk, poor coordination and balance, and tremors.

There are many other possible symptoms and associated conditions, such as difficulty speaking, cognitive impairment, vision or hearing impairment, seizures, skin conditions, digestive issues, and many more. Many adults with cerebral palsy have no cognitive impairments and are able to work; but physical disabilities can present challenges and require accommodations. For instance, an employee who needs a wheelchair to get around may need a ramp and more space around her desk.

Workplace Accommodations for Cerebral Palsy

 Those kinds of accommodations for employees with cerebral palsy must be provided by employers. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers must provide reasonable accommodations. For someone with cerebral palsy that may mean access to an elevator or ramp, being able to have an assistance dog in the workplace, or restructuring work hours to accommodate physical therapy or other medical appointments.

 Accommodations Extend to Work Travel

 If someone with physical disabilities caused by cerebral palsy has a job that requires regular trips, the employer must also provide accommodations to allow that worker to travel. If travel only comes up occasionally; a reasonable accommodation may be to restructure the job or reassign duties; so that the worker does not need to make a trip. Some examples of travel accommodations include providing a seat in first class, paying for an assistant to travel with the worker, or to provide an assistant at the destination.

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Catch of the Day: Photo on Flickr by USFWS – Pacific Region / CC BY-NC 2.0

How to Make Travel Easier

For a worker with cerebral palsy, work travel may be necessary; but an employer may not fully understand what accommodations are needed. The employee can advocate for herself by explaining what is needed and by taking steps to make traveling easier. For instance, traveling with a disability is easier with advanced planning. Contacting airlines and airports to ensure assistance getting on and off the plane, getting around the airport or getting a shuttle to rental cars may be necessary.

Planning ahead for travel also extends to rental car companies, hotels, restaurants, and other locations that the worker will need to visit. By calling or researching in advance, a person can be sure that there will be accessibility in all the locations it is needed; such as a wheelchair accessible hotel room, or a driver that can assist someone with a disability.

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Companies Specializing in Disabled Travel

 While a worker’s employer has a significant responsibility in making accommodations related to travel; there are also travel companies that can help. Several companies exist that can assist with travel for someone with special needs, including those that gather information about accessibility. These kinds of websites help travelers do advanced research and plan a trip that will be easier. Some of these sites are general, while others are devoted to specific locations or countries.

Some companies are providing accommodation, tours and attractions with disabled travelers in mind. For instance, there are websites that list rental spaces and room shares that are accessible to various degrees and open to disabled travelers. Others specifically provide assistance at airports or with road travel and rental cars, offering accessible vehicles and drivers.

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At the beach

Advocating for Better Travel

 An employee with cerebral palsy or other disabilities is entitled to accommodations at work; and that includes the ability to travel if it is an important part of the job. A person with disabilities has certain rights and may need to self-advocate to be sure they are met.

For some however, self-advocating is not enough. More severe cases of spastic cerebral palsy, often a result of medical negligence, can result in lifelong debilitation and extreme emotional distress. In circumstances like this it’s important to find a reputable and knowledgeable cerebral palsy lawyer that can help. If in the event you’re a victim of work discrimination; an expert legal professional can provide the same type of guidance.

If you find yourself in either position, it is important to ask as many questions as possible.

Traveling with cerebral palsy can be possible; and physical disabilities don’t need to hold anyone back either for leisure travel or work travel. It is crucial to plan ahead, to take advantage of services that assist travelers with disabilities, to be an advocate, to ask for and demand reasonable accommodations, taking all necessary steps if they are not made.

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