Travel Insurance for the disabled
There are many different types of travel insurance available. You will need to decide what type of cover you require and check thoroughly that the policy you choose suits your needs.
Choosing a policy
As well as the 'usual' types of cover, for example, flight delays and theft of belongings, there are other things to check when choosing an insurance policy. These include:
* Cover for any medical costs that arise from your impairment - as many policies do not cover claims arising from 'pre-existing medical conditions'
* Cover if an airline is unable to carry you for any reason, for example, a change of plane type to one that is not accessible
It is often advisable to take out travel insurance even if you are travelling within the UK.
This is especially important if you are taking special equipment such as wheelchairs or if you're likely to need medical attention, which may cut short your holiday.
It is important to declare your disability or illness when arranging insurance, even though standard travel insurance doesn't cover any illness or health problem that existed or was diagnosed before your holiday began.
The insurance company may ask for specific details, or your doctor may need to complete a form stating that you are fit to travel. You may be asked to sign a form stating that you are not awaiting treatment, for example.
If you need to take expensive disability equipment with you, make sure that it is insured for loss or damage.
Mobility aids - including wheelchairs and scooters - are unlikely to be covered by standard travel insurance policies. You may have to pay an extra premium. Sometimes your household insurance may provide cover for these items.
Most insurance companies offer cover to disabled people that meets their needs.
However, some insurers do not cover people who have a severe medical condition or a history of mental illness. You may need to arrange cover with a specialist insurer.
A specialist insurer may be right for you if you are travelling outside the UK for a long period of time.
Your rights as a disabled person
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. Part 3 of the Act places duties on service providers, which includes insurance and travel companies providing services within the UK.
Companies have a duty to ensure that, as a disabled customer, they do not treat you less favourably than other customers, for a reason related to your disability, unless they can justify that treatment.
So for example, they must not unjustifiably refuse to provide a service to a disabled person that they are prepared to offer other members of the public, nor must they provide the service on worse terms or to a worse standard.
However, the law allows insurers to apply special conditions or premiums to disabled people in a particular set of circumstances. For example they can charge a disabled person a higher premium if they can show that there is a greater risk in insuring a disabled person than a non-disabled person.
The insurance company can only justify this difference of treatment of a disabled person if:
* The decision is based on information which is relevant to the assessment of the risk being insured
* The information (such as statistical data, or a medical report) is from a source on which it is reasonable to rely
* The less favourable treatment is reasonable when this information and all other relevant factors are taken into account
The special rules on insurance are explained in Chapter 9 of the Code of Practice - Rights of Access document published by the Disability Rights Commission. The commission closed on 28 September 2007, but the website is still available. The document can be downloaded from the Disability Rights Commission's website in various formats.
If you're not happy with your insurance company
Most complaints are normally handled by the insurance company. If they have a customer complaints service, the duties of the DDA require them to take reasonable steps to make this accessible for disabled people to use.
The Association of British Insurers has consumer information relating to all types of insurance - including travel and what to do if things go wrong.
If you can't resolve matters with your insurance company, the Financial Ombudsman Service can provide you with a free, independent service for resolving disputes with financial companies. They provide information in various formats including Braille and audiotape.
Finding Insurance specifically for the disabled is difficult, if you have had any experiences, or any recommendations in this area, please let us know!