Disability Insurance: Travel Insurance
There are many different types of disabled insurance available for travellers. You will need to decide what kind of cover you require and check thoroughly that the policy you choose suits your needs, and that the insurance covers the essentials.
Choosing a disability insurance 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.
* 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 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 could cut short your holiday.
It's 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. Failing to mention existing or previous conditions can be cause for insurance companies to default.
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.
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.
Specialist disability insurance?
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) 1995 aims to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. Part 3 of the Act relates to 'service providers' which includes insurance and travel companies providing services within the UK.
Companies have a duty to make sure that, as a disabled customer, you are not unjustifiably treated less favourably than other customers for a reason related to your disability.
The DDA states that it is against the law to refuse to provide a service to a disabled person which would be provided to other members of the public.
However, the law allows insurers to differentiate between disabled and non-disabled people. They may charge a higher premium if they can show that it is a greater risk to insure a disabled person than a non-disabled person.
The insurance company must be able to justify this difference by using accurate, relevant and reliable information and 'evidence'.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Even though it is aimed at the insurance industry the 'Insurer's guide to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995' is a useful publication for disabled people.
It is written by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and is dated January 2003.
If you're not happy with your disability 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.