Air Travel Tips for Wheelers and Slow Walkers
Mobility-travel expert and author Candy B. Harrington’s handy pre-flight checklist for folks who use wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility aids.
Injury or decreased mobility can clip the wings of even the most avid adventurers. For these folks, travel often just isn’t fun anymore. But, with proper planning, travel can promote independence and foster a positive self-image. Overcome the angst from fear of the unknown and self-doubt. Share these air travel tips with clients to help boost their confidence and prepare them for that first flight.
- Educate yourself on the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the US law that governs aircraft accessibility. That way you will know what to expect once you get to the airport.
- If bulkhead seating is important to you, make sure you travel on an airline that reserves these seats for less-abled passengers. Bulkhead seating for wheelchair-users is not mandated under the ACAA.
- For an easier transfer to the airplane seat, request an aisle seat with a moveable armrest.
- Consider your toilet options and plan ahead. Most accessible airline lavatories are quite small, and you need to be able to walk a few steps to use them.
- Carry your wheelchair repair tools in your checked baggage, as they may be problematic at security checkpoints. If you have any security concerns, contact the TSA Cares Hotline at (855) 787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to departure.
- Advise the gate agent you would like to preboard the aircraft, as this will give you more time to get settled in – and first crack at the overhead storage space
- Gate-check your wheelchair: have it brought directly to you at your arrival gate.
- Attach clear assembly and disassembly instructions (in Spanish and English) to your wheelchair or scooter.
- Remove any loose or protruding parts from your wheelchair or scooter; be sure to protect your joystick.
- For additional information about disability-related air service problems, contact the US Department of Transportation’s aviation consumer disability hotline at (866) 266-1368.
Finally, if you encounter any problems along the way, ask to speak to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO), an airline employee trained to resolve access problems. All US airlines are required to have a CRO available during airport operating hours.
Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of several accessible travel books, including Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide For Wheelers and Slow Walkers. Visit her blog at http://www.barrierfreetravels.com for news, resources and industry updates.