Tips for Accessible Travel

Millions of American travelers aren’t letting a disability keep them from exploring the world.

In fact, a 2015 study by the Chicago-based nonprofit Open Doors Organization reported that in the previous two years, more than 26 million adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure and/or business, taking 73 million trips.

While the Open Doors report notes that obstacles remain, in many areas — including airlines and airports, hotels and restaurants — they’ve decreased significantly.

If you’re a disabled traveler, or if you are traveling with someone who has a condition requiring extra assistance, your Travel Leaders Network travel advisor can help you make the best choices for transportation, lodging, sightseeing and cruises. Just try to be specific when describing what you can and can’t do. The more information your travel advisor has, the better he or she can assist you in creating the perfect vacation.

Here are some other things to keep in mind.

While it’s always a good idea to plan ahead, booking accommodations as soon as possible is especially important for travelers with disabilities, since hotels and cruise ships have a limited number of accessible rooms. To make sure that you’ll be comfortable, try to replicate what you have at home as closely as possible. If you use a roll-in shower, a bench or grab bars in your bathroom, let your travel advisor know that you’ll need those in your room. Other adaptive devices that you may want to request include a visual alarm and notification devices to let you know when someone is at the door or on the phone.

The Transportation Security Administration has procedures in place for flyers who need assistance going through airport security. You can help the process go smoothly by bringing a notification card for individuals with disabilities and medical conditions, which you can find on the TSA website, tsa.gov. Give the card to the security screener along with medical documentation describing your condition. The card also contains useful information, such as your right to an alternate, private screening, a number to call if there’s a problem and the procedure for requesting in advance a Passenger Support Specialist at the checkpoint.

Whether it’s at the check-in kiosk, at the gate or on the plane, don’t hesitate to ask airline personnel for help. Federal law requires airlines to provide many types of assistance to passengers with disabilities, including help with boarding, deplaning and making connections. Remember that collapsible wheelchairs and other assistive devices have priority for in-cabin storage. And they don’t count against limits on carry-on baggage.

If you’re planning a trip outside the United States, the State Department’s travel website, travel.state.gov, has a section with information for travelers with disabilities. It covers a wide range of topics, from the pros and cons of manual versus motorized wheelchairs, to purchasing supplemental medical insurance and researching the requirements for taking a service animal abroad.

For help in planning a trip for those with disabilities, contact Lynn Clark, our expert in accessible travel.

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