Samantha RenkeActress and disability campaignerTuesday 8 Jan 2019 9:17 am
Imagine every time you went abroad you had to declare how many units of alcohol you would be likely to consume or if you would be taking illegal drugs? Or simply likely to fall asleep in the blistering sun and become sick from sun stroke?
Sounds ridiculous, right?
Well, when you travel abroad with a disability, you have to be prepared to disclose information about your pre-existing medical conditions, including your mental health.
It can sometimes feel like you are being interrogated and something as simple as going on holiday can turn into a very costly ordeal.
Travel insurance should cover things such as accident, injury, stolen and lost goods or flight cancellations but many insurance companies will not insure for medical costs that arise from pre-existing impairments.
If you want to get travel insurance when you have a disability you need to seek a specialist insurer.
Since 1 October 2010, the Equality Act replaced most of the Disability Discrimination Act, making it illegal for insurers to offer less favourable products and services based on someones disability. However, the law allows insurers to apply special conditions or premiums to people with disabilities in a particular set of circumstances.
Being high risk has meant that Ive been refused travel insurance in the past
For example, they can charge a person with disabilities a higher premium if they can show that there is a greater risk in insuring a person with disabilities than a person without.
Ultimately, it all comes down to one simple word in the legislation: reasonable.
As insurance is based on risk, the Equality Act still allows insurers to apply premiums to disabled people as long as they can prove that they are deemed to be fair and justifiable.
As someone with brittle bone condition I guess Im seen as an uber risk!
Being high risk has meant that Ive been refused travel insurance in the past or have been given quotes into the hundreds of pounds, sometimes exceeding the cost of my plane ticket, and I am certainly not alone.
Research done by the leading disability charity, Scope, has shown that 26 per cent of disabled adults feel they have been charged more for insurance or denied cover altogether because of their impairment or condition.
Ive heard similar stories to mine and many people have told me that travel insurance is a no-go when you have an undiagnosed condition.
So what do people end up doing? They either pay through their teeth, stay at home and never travel abroad or they simply dont disclose their disability or long term health condition, leaving them very vulnerable when they do take a trip. Doing this can also mean that their cover is invalidated, leaving them with expensive medical bills.
The irony is that when you live with a disability, everyday is a risk assessment. We know our disability, our bodies and our needs inside out. For those of us who experience chronic pain, we will take every precaution to insure we minimise that, and we know what our limitations are.
Given the fact I have brittle bones, I would never, for example, go on a jet ski, bungee jump, or go white water rafting. I wouldnt ever do anything that put me at risk – not only would that ruin my trip but it would also potentially ruin it for family and friends who were with me. No one wants to go on holiday and end up in A&E in a foreign land.
The reality is, Im no more high risk then someone consuming too much alcohol on holiday and accidentally falling from a balcony, yet disabled travellers are the ones paying premiums for travel insurance.
Sadly I fear things will only get worse once we leave the European Union. Without a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), that little blue and grey thing we dont know where weve put, people with disabilities may need private medical insurance before entering the EU, adding to the already high extra costs that people with disabilities endure which is estimated at £550 per month.
Going on holiday isnt a basic human right. However, travel should be accessible to all – the world is already such a disabling place and disabled people can feel ostracised and alone as a result.
No one knows whats around the corner in life and I am not ignorant to the fact that I could break something when on holiday. Yet anyone can have an accident, become sick from eating bad sea food or being reckless trying to impress friends and drink themselves into oblivion.
Why single out a section of society that is already facing so many barriers including financial ones?
If you feel as though you have been unfairly treated you can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission which has detailed information on its website at equalityhumanrights.com/en