Transport and travel

Getting out and about with a spinal cord injury can require planning. Knowing your options is key, but knowing what assistance you can access is also crucial. Fortunately, much of this information is available online so you are now able to plan each journey in advance, and understand what assistance you are eligible for without too much hassle. We keep abreast of travel and transport as much as we can and can assist when required, and we have pulled together a list to get you started.

Public transport

To find timetables and information about accessibility visit:

  • Transport for New South Wales for timetables and other public transport information. To view the location of accessible stations and wharves download SCIA’s Google Earth overlay (Zipped .kmz file for use with Google Earth).
  • Victoria includes accessible public transport information for Melbourne and across Victoria.
  • Queensland includes accessible public transport information for the state and cities in Queensland.
  • Western Australia includes accessible public transport information for Perth, major cities and across regional Western Australia.
  • South Australia includes accessible public transport information for South Australia.
  • Northern Territory includes accessible public transport information for Northern Territory.
  • Tasmania includes accessible public transport information for Tasmania.
Community transport

Community transport provides transport for people with disabilities to assist them with shopping, appointments and social activities. They are generally operated by community service groups such as Rotary, Apex, Returned Soldiers Leagues Clubs and other charitable organisations. To find providers of community transport in your state visit:

Other Transport and Driving Services
  • The Roden and Lady Cutler Foundation provides a free transport service all over Sydney for the seriously ill, elderly, needy and disabled to and from medical appointments.
  • Carers that Drive is a service based in Sydney run by experienced carers with excellent driving records and police checks to enable people to remain independent by helping them go out. All ages can use the service and it can be in your car or the carers.
  • Caring Approach is a care agency providing driving services to and from appointments or social activities. Coverage is currently Sydney, Canberra and Goulburn NSW.
  • Alliance Health is a care agency based in Sydney and provides driving services.
  • Accommodation & Care Solutions operates in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Queensland and provides driving services.
Assistance with transport costs

There are a number of benefits you can claim to help with transport costs. We suggest you check out this information first. If you can’t find what you are looking for, give us a call on 1800 819 775.

Driving and vehicle modifications

Read about how and where to go to get your vehicle modified and what is involved in getting your licence to drive a modified vehicle. As drivers’ licenses are managed by each state or territory you will need to check the state where you currently live for this information. Vehicle modifications can be covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) so it is worth speaking to your NDIS plan manager to ensure you include this in your NDIS Plan.

Parking in Australia and overseas

Did you know that your disability parking registration is valid in a number of countries outside Australia? That’s right, you can use your parking pass in countries including England, New Zealand and others.

If you are travelling to the United States requirements for disabled parking permits for visiting overseas motorists will vary from state to state. Many of the websites of individual state Departments of Motor Vehicles provide information and/or application forms for a disabled parking permit. You may also check with your car hire company or contact a state travel/tourism office.

If you are travelling overseas to other countries and are planning to use a motor vehicle we advise you to investigate requirements and eligibility for each country that you will be visiting. If you are having trouble finding this information, our Customer Connect team will be very happy to assist you with your plans.

You can also use your pass across states when travelling within Australia. Links to state and territory disability parking schemes in Australia are available here.

Hiring an accessible vehicle
  • AAB – Access All Bus Rentals Accessible bus rental. Vehicle can be configured for up to six wheelchair seated passengers. The bus can be delivered anywhere in Australia.
  • Disability Hire Vehicles Based in Sydney, the vehicles are available for hire anywhere in Australia.
  • Europcar have a Kia Grand Carnival wheelchair accessible vehicle for hire. Call Europcar to find out the details or complete the online booking form.
  • GoGet is Australia’s first and largest carshare provider have an accessible car for hire at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The vehicle, an eight-seater, Kia Carnival, is equipped with a single wheelchair rear entry with hydraulic floor and can accommodate a wide range of wheelchairs.
  • Freedom Motors Australia have a pick up and return centre at St Marys (40km from Sydney CBD), NSW.
  • Hertz have ten wheelchair accessible vehicles available for hire from Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast. The five door vehicles provide access for people using mobility aids via the rear door and seats five other ambulant passengers.
  • Hire Mobility are based in Western Australia and have a range of options available.
  • Integrity Car Sales and Rentals have locations in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
  • Les Brazier Special Vehicles Edinburgh North, South Australia.
  • Uber are currently assessing a wheelchair accessible trial that is under way in Newcastle, NSW. To opt in download the Uber app, create a free Uber account and enter the code AUSWAV in the payment section of the menu.
  • Wheelaway Wheelaway Vehicles are available for hire anywhere in Australia.
  • Wheelies Van Rentals have wheelchair accessible car hire – Locations in Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart.
Hiring cars with hand controls
  • Avis and Budget both have hand controls that can be fitted to cars. Advanced bookings are required and bookings can be made via regular booking services. The process is to ring the reservation line and request a hand control fitted car. The reservation line will then organise with their fleet manager for a car to be available.
  • Disability Hire Vehicles also have hand controls that can be fitted to cars.
Accessible travel accommodation

It is always a good idea to contact the venue prior to booking and speak to someone who knows the features of the accessible accommodation and other facilities such as the reception area, restaurant, parking so that you can be sure your needs will be met. Ask for photos of rooms and facilities within the hotel.

  • RollAwayz – SCIA’s database of more than 1,800 properties around Australia.  You can search by location or browse the map. SCIA has verified that the properties have at least one room that is wheelchair accessible meaning that there are no steps to get to and into the room and that its bathroom has a stepless shower stall but we always advise to check the details for yourself before booking. What suits one person might not be right for another so it’s essential to ask detailed questions.
  • Airbnb – accessible homes. Airbnb acquired Accomable in Nov 2017 and now has over 1000 accessible listings. To search for accessible accommodation enter the suburb or town in the main search box, then select Homes. Then see More filters – click on that and you will see Accessibility. Click on “choose home features” and it will show you all the features categorised under accessibility.
  • Can Go Everywhere Has listings of accessible accommodation, destinations, services and activities across Australia.
  • Trivago Search for location then click on Extra filters to filter your search results to display accessible accommodation.
  • Accessible Europe A pool of European travel agents expert in accessible tourism services for people with special needs.
  • Brettapproved US based website aiming to be a comprehensive resource for travelers with disabilities.
  • CareCure Forums US based forum – See discussion on Recreation, Sports, Travel, & Hobbies.
  • LonelyPlanet Travellers with disabilities forum.
  • Matching Houses Holiday house exchange where people with disabilities swap houses with other people who have the same accessibility needs.
  • Yes4Access wheelchair accessible accommodation – mainly United Kingdom with a few listings from France, Spain, Greece and Switzerland.
Specialist travel agents and tour operators

To help you plan your holiday here are some travel agents and tour operators specialising in disability travel.

Australia

Time Fly’s Travel, Sydney have extensive experience in assisting people with physical disability. Watch Trudy Rice talk about Time Fly’s Travel and disability travel issues at SCIA’s Independence Expo held in March 2012.

Travel Managers Personal Travel Manager Fiona Donaldson. Fiona has over 20 years experience in the travel industry has travelled extensively and is a wheelchair user so has personal experience of what is involved in travelling with a disability.

New Zealand

Ability Adventures. Offering a range of accessible holiday options from tailored multi-day guided tours, tailored self drive holidays, scheduled group tours, and also easy access shore excursions from Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

South Africa

Epic Enabled are a tour operator who specialise in accessible travel throughout South Africa.

Flying and airline assistance

Airlines provide information on what services and assistance they give to people travelling with a disability:

Also visit the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for information on what air travellers with a disability can do to ensure safety and comfort.

Travel insurance

There are insurance companies that provide travel insurance when traveling with a spinal cord injury. Visit our Financial benefits and Legal assistance page for details.

Managing continence

Managing continence on plane travel poses a number of issues. Cabin crew are not permitted to assist with personal care functions like emptying legbags and urinals. Also, they are not permitted to assist with transfers to/from the toilet. Airlines require that people who cannot care for themselves travel with a companion who can perform these and other necessary functions.

Before flying:

  • If you have an ‘every-other-day’ bowel regime, plan ahead to make sure you won’t have to ‘go’ on the plane. On a long trip that might mean that you have to schedule a stopover rather than take a direct flight with extended airport transfer time.
  • Although it is generally important to maintain adequate hydration you might plan to reduce your fluid consumption before boarding so that you need fewer bathroom visits or legbag emptying. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are diuretics that can lead to dehydration.
  • Empty your legbag or self-cath immediately before boarding.

If you do need to use the aircraft restroom:

  • Accessible restrooms are available only on some wide body jets. On smaller aircraft, privacy is provided by a curtain in the adjacent aisle.
  • Aisle chairs are available on most aircraft and are brought on request by cabin crew who also provide assistance to/from the door of the aircraft restroom.
  • Although you might not usually wear one, an indwelling catheter may be a more convenient option during the flight.

If you know you will not use the restroom:

  • Use a large capacity leg bag for the flight.
  • Take enough spare disposable drainage bags or receptacles. These might be specialist equipment or drink containers, zip-lock bags etc.
  • At check-in, ask whether an empty seat can be allocated next to you so that you will have as much privacy as possible when tending to your personal care.
  • We have heard of a person who asked his neighbour to look out the window while he self-cathed!

For advice specific to your needs contact:

  • SCIA has a partnership with Coloplast who supply continence products, like catheters, urine sheets and leg bags. Coloplast have a team of care advisors who can guide and support people with a continence need or who want to know more about continence products and different alternatives or just have questions on how to cope. Coloplast can be contacted on 03 9541 1187 or email aucare@coloplast.com.
  • your local community continence health adviser
  • the ParaQuad spinal nurse 02 8741 5674
  • Continence Foundation of Australia 1800 33 00 66.
Further reading and information

SCIA collects stories of people’s experiences traveling to accessible destinations – read them here and get inspired.

For further information on this or any other topic please call SCIA by phone on 1800 819 775 or email info@scia.org.au.