Travel by itself can be stressful, but if you’re a wheelchair traveler, you have even more to consider for your safety and comfort. The following tips should help make travel what it should be: fun and exciting.
Traveling by Air
Most airlines accommodate wheelchair travelers, but a few really stand out for providing extra consideration and services that make traveling with a wheelchair much less of a hassle. A good first step would be to familiarize yourself with your rights under the law as defined by the Air Carrier Access Act. This will help you know what to expect on your flight. You may want to consider carrying a printed copy of the ACAA to help inform airport personnel and flight crews, should you run into any misunderstandings.
You’ll also want to consider requesting a seat with a flip-up armrest. Though some airlines do reserve bulkhead seats for wheelchair users, it isn’t an ACAA requirement and so one might not be available when you board. When you’re booking a flight, do so by phone so you can let the booking agent know what type of assistive device you’ll be traveling with. If you’re booking a flight with a layover, you’ll want to consider opting for longer connection times; that will make the transfer that much easier. True, it may mean a slightly longer wait, but it should also guarantee that you’ll be able to make your connecting flight without having to rush.
Traveling by Bus, Van, or Train
Public transit systems must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities and their assistive devices, as is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Note that you may have to follow some guidelines yourself: your wheelchair must have at least three wheels and its dimensions can’t be more than 30” wide or 48” high, to ensure the wheelchair doesn’t block the aisle of a bus, van, or train, or interfere with other safety regulations.
In general, the total weight of the wheelchair and its user can’t exceed 600 pounds—though transportation operators are required to transport a wheelchair and its occupant if the vehicle and the vehicle’s lift can accommodate them.
These are just a handful of tips that will help make traveling with a wheelchair easier. When in doubt, contact the booking agents of every form of transportation you intend to take and speak to them about your needs and mobility issues. While it is useful to know your rights under the law, most transportation companies will be more than happy to accommodate you and make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
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