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Travel insurance for people with disabilities

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 cover for things like 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 advisable to take out travel insurance even if you are travelling within the UK. This is especially important if:

  • you have a wheelchair
  • you're taking special equipment
  • you’re likely to need medical attention, which may cut short your holiday

Medical information

It's important to declare your disability or illness when arranging insurance. This is because 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. For example, you may be asked to sign a form stating that you are not awaiting treatment.

Equipment

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 insurance?

Most insurance companies offer cover which meets the needs of people with disabilities. 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 person with disabilities

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination that many people with disabilities 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 customer with disabilities, they do not treat you less favourably than other customers. Unless they can justify that treatment for a reason related to your disability. For example, they must not unjustifiably refuse to provide a service to a person with a disability that they are prepared to offer other members of the public. Additionally they must not provide the service on worse terms or to a lower standard.

However, the law allows insurers to apply special conditions or premiums to people with disabilities in a particular set of circumstances. 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 disabilities.

The insurance company can only justify this difference of treatment of a person with disabilities 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

If you're not happy with your insurance company

Most complaints are normally handled by the insurance company. The duties of the DDA require them to take reasonable steps to make this accessible for people with disabilities 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.

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