the Places You'll Go!
driving across the state or flying to another state or country,
travel is always an adventure and gives you a great feeling of independence.
travel agencies now specialize in travel for people with disabilities.
You can rent accessible cars, vans, and RV's; and there are accessible
cruise lines. Also, many travel companies offer discount rates for
those with a disability. Often Amtrak and Greyhound, for example,
will quote a discount rate for people with disabilities and for
seniors. You can go anywhere with a little planning and creativity.
While traveling, like other day to day circumstances, you have to
be assertive and advocate for what you need.
planning, think ahead:
you need special accommodations at any point in your trip (seeing-eye
dog arrangements, special seating, car rentals, special meals,
time and schedule so you will not become overtired.
what special assistance you can expect and will need from the
transportation company, hotel, tour group, etc.
you may need more assistance than usual because of the nature of
airline travel, you are a paying customer and deserve the same respect
and consideration as any other passenger, according to the law.
your travel agent know any anticipated needs so they can be recorded
along with your reservation. Here are some things you may want to
tell your agent before you arrive at the airport:
you have a disability that requires extra assistance.
you will need assistance on and off the plane. If you have difficulty
walking, they usually use an aisle chair to push you down the
narrow plane aisles. This is typically called a "carry-on" or
you are changing planes, let the agent know if you would like
assistance between your connecting flights.
you are unable to get to the restroom on a long flight or international
flight, make sure to request an on-board aisle chair. If you need
to go to the bathroom in the middle of a flight, a flight attendant
can bring you an aisle chair and push you to the bathroom. Newer
planes now have restrooms that are larger, but it is still a tight
squeeze. If mobility is difficult, plan for how you will use the
bathroom on a long flight.
you use a power wheelchair, make sure to tell the agent whether
the battery is a wet or dry cell battery.
you require oxygen, there are other requirements depending on
the airline, such as a doctor's letter, advance notice, and extra
charges. For more about traveling with oxygen, call the American
Lung Association (800-586-4872) or The Oxygen Traveler (937-433-6007).
bulkhead seat gives the most room to transfer; an aisle seat is
often easier to get into. Some aircraft have lift-up arms to make
transferring easier. If you don't get the seat you want when you
make the reservation, the gate agent can usually switch seats
is the key
When traveling, Susanna Bourgeois and Kim Calabretta of the NC Department
of Health and Human Services always make a point of letting the
train conductor or flight attendant know they are deaf in case there
are announcements about schedule changes or safety. "We also realize
that there are times when the conductor/flight attendant may forget
to inform us, so we use the survival technique of using the passenger
sitting next to us to fill us in, in case we miss out on valuable
information. That is probably our biggest concern, as many of the
announcements of change of stations/times/transportation tend to
be on a loudspeaker," said Calabretta. "I have once or twice been
caught in places I did not originally plan on going to!"Susanna
added, "We always carry a paper and pen, so if worse comes to worst
and we can't lip-read them well enough, we'll communicate by writing
the information down."
survival technique for travelers is to give yourself plenty of time.
When you check your baggage, review your needs with the ticket agent
to make sure everything is clear and there will be no surprises
when you reach the gate. If you use a wheelchair or scooter, you
can take your wheelchair or scooter to the gate and "gate check"
it so you receive it at the gate when the plane lands.
Again, check in with the gate agent and make sure to review your
needs in as much detail as you can:
is often easier when you are the first on the plane. Ask to pre-board.
any assistance you will need. Tell them if you need assistance
transferring to the aisle chair so they have sufficient staff
you have a folding manual wheelchair, you can ask that it be stored
in the closet on-board the airplane. Some planes do not have a
closet and availability is on a first-come-first-served basis.
you have any assistive device that won't fit in a closet or overhead
bin on the airplane, make sure you get a "gate check" tag and
sure your name and contact information are on all equipment.
off the plane
Before the plane lands, make sure the flight attendant knows if
you need help getting off the plane. Be patient; it is likely that
you will be the last one off if you need any assistance or an aisle
you plan to use public transportation, always call the transit authority
well in advance to determine its services. If public transportation
is not accessible, you can use the para-transit system. Keep in
mind that use of the para-transit system may require eligibility
and advance application.
are always an option if you don't need a wheelchair lift. Most taxi
drivers will put a manual wheelchair into a trunk but offer little
other assistance. A few taxi companies offer accessible taxis.
and Vehicle Rentals
When a person who is hard of hearing or deaf wants to participate
in a tour, he/she must ask in advance if there are any accommodations,
either in the form of interpreters or assistive listening devices
(ALD). Making the request ahead of time gives the tour agency time
to secure an interpreter or get the ALD ready for the person in
need of accommodation.
you will be renting a car or van and require hand controls or a
lift, find out where there are available vehicles before leaving
home. Most major car rental companies now offer hand controls on
their vehicles. Keep these things in mind to avoid hassles.
companies require 48 hours notice to put hand controls on a rental
car. In many cases they automatically put them in a full-size
two-door car unless you specify otherwise.
you make reservations through an 800 number, get the phone number
for the local office where you will pick up the car. Call that
office at least 24 hours in advance to make sure they will have
what you need when you arrive.
you fly into an airport, few rental car companies have accessible
transportation from the terminal to the place where you pick up
your car. If you are unable to get into a bus, the rental company
should come and pick you up in a car. Insist on this.
a handicapped placard, if needed, to display in the vehicle. Find
out how to get a temporary placard for states or countries of
your destination before your travels begin.
you need a van with a lift, Wheelchair Getaways has an extensive
network of vans for rent. For reservations, call 800-642-2042.
There are many other accessible van rental companies; for a list
check out this website: http://www.blvd.com/Travel_and_Recreation/Accessible_Van_Rentals/.
You can also call the local independent living center in the city
you are traveling to for assistance with public transportation
or van rental.
you will be staying in a hotel or motel, accessibility is a key
issue to make your stay a pleasant one. An accessible room in one
hotel may be very different in another hotel. The following are
tips for booking a room:
the hotel directly. Central reservations don't have information
about room accessibility. In many cases, they can only request
an accessible room.
specific questions about accessibility based on your needs. Ask
about door width, roll-in shower or tub, sink access, dog accommodations,
etc. Ask them to go measure or give you specifics if they don't
know the answer. (Most hotels and motels will have a shower or
tub bench that you can request.)
to see if the hotel has the Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance
Kit that will include a TTY, volume control phone, fire alarm
and wake-up alarm as well as a door knocker that is devised for
Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers. TVs should be equipped with
closed captioning capabilities.
you are at all concerned, ask to see the room before you agree
to sign anything.
problems arise during your trip, go to customer service. According
to Kim Calabretta, "It becomes our responsibility to be assertive
in making sure we have the information we need, and that it is accurate
information." If you plan ahead and do your homework, traveling
can be a wonderful experience. If you experience a lack of access
at some point during your trip, be prepared to know your rights
and to speak up.
Lauren Howard, Consultant, NC Office on Disability and Health]
complain about a lack of access for travelers with disabilities:
- Air travel
U.S. Department of Transportation, 202-366-2220 or use the web form at: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/escomplaint/es.cfm.
- For hotels/facilities
U.S. Justice Department, 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD)
Accessible travel options. Email email@example.com
Access to National Parks: The Sierra Club Guide for People with
by Wendy Roth and Michael Tompane, May 1992.
Great American Vacations for Travelers with Disabilities (2nd Ed)
by Donna Cornacchio and Anto Howard, November 1996.
Access Disabled Travel Network
Guided Tour Inc.
Outings for persons with developmental and physical challenges.
7900 Old York Road, Suite 114-B
Elkins Park, PA 19027-2339
Travel outings for people of various abilities. 96 East 19th Street
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1320. 800-686-1013 www.tripsinc.com/
See also ...
for That Perfect Vacation in North Carolina
Offers Many Accessible Sites