Getting a great passport photo as a wheelchair user

Travelling abroad with a wheelchair can be challenging. If you or a family member uses a chair either all or most of the time, travel planning can be a complex and time consuming thing. It doesn’t just start when you are thinking about where to go: passport photo booths are not designed with wheelchair users in mind.

Some photographic shops and retailers do offer in-house passport photography, but if the wheelchair user has complex disabilities, it can be difficult to find an outlet where staff have been trained in how to communicate or interact appropriately.

Passport forms do have space to provide details of disabilities which can affect photo standards, but taking a photo in the home environment that is familiar and comfortable can get the best results.

Wheelchairs with headrests do present an issue, particularly if they protrude past a person’s head. Most headrests are black in colour and this does not sit well with passport photo requirements.

We had a great tip from the parent of a disabled child who already had two sets of photos rejected because of her child’s headrest.

Her solution was that in order to reduce background colour, whilst still enabling her child to maintain a good head position, she made sure her child was sat close to a plain coloured wall and affixed a white tablecloth to the wall with tape. She then tucked the edge of it down behind her child’s head, covering the head rest, and consequently snapped the passport photo she needed. As the best passport photos are taken when the camera is 1.5m away from the subject, this meant that the edges of the tablecloth and the wonky tape across the wall didn’t show and the photo was accepted.

The other factors which produce the best passport photos still applied and were easier to achieve. These are:

Light should be placed directly in front of the person to avoid shadows across the face

A neutral facial expression and head turned towards the camera

It’s best to avoid garish clothing – try going for plain colours

Don’t let being in a wheelchair be a barrier to getting your passport. With a passport picture taken in your own home, you can begin your journey in the best way.

Photo: Passport by Tony Webster licensed under Creative commons 2

Recommended Reading