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Accessible Travel Tips
what to know before you go


wheelchair travel
Our Accessible Travel Tips section is where
we share accessible travel tips and information about accessibility and traveling in a wheelchair.

Over our 18 years in business we've gathered a lot wheelchair travel resources for people with disabilities.

If you have a travel problem and can't find your answer here, contact us. We have a large archive of accessible travel tips and resources.

If you have a travel tip to share, let us
know. We will share your tip with our
visitors and give you all the credit.

wheelchair travel help

Traveling With Your Wheelchair or Scooter

If you travel by wheelchair or travel by scooter, make sure your wheelchair or scooter is in good working order before you leave home. If your chair has not been serviced recently, send it to a repair shop for a general check over. This extra effort can save the heartache of suffering a breakdown overseas; save the time wasted trying to locate a repair shop and save the time wasted waiting for the repair.

For domestic travel, place your name and address on your wheelchair and on all removable parts before leaving home. A return address, sticky mailing label covered by a piece of clear tape works well for this task. However for international travel during times of heightened security, consider using a label that displays only your name

If your wheelchair is equipped with pneumatic tires, bring along a small repair kit containing the items necessary to change a flat. Bicycle repair shops have all types of nifty, compact, repair kits you can bring along. Access in Europe and other parts of the globe is not only different than access in your home town - it's also farther away from your local resources. For this reason, make sure your equipment is in top working order before leaving home.

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Cruise Travel: Tender vs. Docking
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To "see" tender photographs click HERE

To "tender" is to disembark the ship by a small boat that is used to ferry passengers to shore from a ship at anchor. During a tender operation the ship is not at a pier and can be as far as 1/2 mile from shore. Disembarking by tender is handled differently by every cruise line but most provide plenty of hearty physical assistance to carry your wheelchair onto the tender. Passenger disembarkation by tender is always under the final control of the ship Captain. Weather, sea and tidal conditions, or mechanical failure can prohibit some or all of the passengers from disembarking the ship by tender.

Disembarking at a pier can involve three forms of assistance. If you are mobile, you can walk down the gangway with assistance. If you are a mandatory wheelchair traveler, the crew can gently carry you down the gangway in your wheelchair (if you don't mind), or the crew will use what we call "the creepy crawler" to mechanically take you and your wheelchair down the gangway. The "creepy crawler" mounts under your wheelchair and actually "walks" your wheelchair down the stairs of the gangway while you remain seated in your wheelchair. Some folks like the "creepy crawler" while others like the personal attention of being carried down the gangway by hearty men.

If you bring a scooter or an electric wheelchair on your cruise, you can not expect the crew to carry you off the ship while you are seated in your electric wheelchair or scooter. There's too much weight, too much bulk and the center of gravity is too high to attempt a seated transfer. To safely disembark in an electric wheelchair or scooter at a pier, or by tender, you should transfer into a manual wheelchair and be portered down the gangway separate from your scooter or electric wheelchair. At the bottom of the gangway the crew will reunite you with your chariot...and off you go.

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Travel By Airplane
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With more and more wheelchair travelers taking to the skies you would think that airlines would make improvements that keep pace with the changing demographics of their passengers. Sad to say, when it comes to handling wheelchairs and scooters, not all airlines are taking the extra efforts to see that these vital elements of our passengers' lives are making it to their destination unharmed.

We can not recommend a favorite airline because in any given situation any airline can be a villain or a saint to the wheelchair traveler. Last year we had two separate groups of clients flying on the same airline at different times of the day. Each met connecting flights at the same connecting airport. The first group praised the airline for giving them the best assistance they had ever experienced. Surprisingly, every member of the second group cursed the same airline for their poor performance stating "they were the worst." The bottom line of your airlines' performance depends on the airport staff, the airline staff, and the airline crew on duty at the time you check into the airport and board your aircraft.

Reconfirm your airline flights with your airline 24-48 hours before any departure. Flight times and flight numbers are subject to change. Take painstaking steps to notify your airlines that you are traveling by wheelchair. Inform them if you are traveling with a manual wheelchair, an electric wheelchair, or a scooter. When reconfirming your flight, ask the airline for "maximum assistance" at all airport terminals. Reconfirm your request for "maximum assistance" when you arrive at the airline ticket counter.

At the airport, ask the ticket personnel to "gate check" your wheelchair and obtain a luggage claim receipt for your wheelchair. When you "gate check" your wheelchair it allows you to roll your wheelchair directly to the fuselage of the plane where you will either walk to your seat or transfer into an "aisle chair" for assistance to your seat. Before handing your wheelchair over to the airline staff, remove your leg supports and portable seat cushions and carry these into the plane....these do not travel well when attached to your wheelchair and are likely to be lost. We recommend a small, nylon sports bag large enough to hold the leg supports that is also light enough to fold into your carry on luggage when not in use. This light weight sports bag keeps your leg supports in one place and hopefully prevents them from falling out of the overhead luggage bin onto someone's head. If your wheelchair folds, collapse the wheelchair together and use a small strap or a piece of "duct tape" to hold the sides together. This process makes for a compact wheelchair that is less likely to be damaged with airport handling.

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By Airplane: Scooters & Electric wheelchairs
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Travelers who travel by scooters and electric wheelchairs should follow all of the appropriate measures above in addition to other precautions.

It is strongly recommend that your electric wheelchair or scooter be equipped with "gel cell" or "dry cell" batteries. "Wet cell" batteries, like the one used in automobiles, are strongly discouraged since airlines must separate these from your scooter or wheelchair and store them in a leak proof container.

Scooters:
Scooter travelers who "gate check" their scooter should assume that some member of the airline staff will be appointed to drive your scooter into the belly of the plane. To protect your scooter, other passengers and other airline staff we recommend the following steps. Before handing your scooter over to the airline staff, place a piece of removable tape on top of the throttle control and secure the throttle control in the slowest position. This tape should read "Do Not Remove." Make sure your key, or power pin, is well secured to the scooter. Use a strong, durable cord to attach your key or control pin. Do not use a rubber band or an elastic strap to secure your key to the scooter. To secure your key or power pin to your scooter, we suggest using a 12 or 14 inch "60 or 80 pound steel leader" obtained from a fishing supply store. And last, remove any removable baskets and portable seat cushions and carry these into the plane....these do not travel well when attached to your scooter and are likely to be lost.

Electric Wheelchairs:
Electric wheelchair travelers who "gate check" their electric wheelchair should assume that some member of the airline staff will attempt to drive your scooter into the belly of the plane. We suggest making several extra efforts to prevent anyone from actually driving your precious and expensive wheelchair. Switch your chairs' transmission into "neutral" so it can be easily pushed. Unplug the battery connection between your chair and the battery and place a short piece of electrical tape over both connector ends. Better yet, if the power cord is easily removed take it with you in your carry on bag.

If the entire "joystick control" can be easily removed...remove it! It not, try loosening the knob that positions the joystick control and point the joystick downward, towards the ground. Or last, unscrew the "joystick knob" from the control base and carry it with you into the plane. In any event, try to prevent damage to the joystick! An unprotected joystick is an accident waiting to happen.

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Aisle Chairs
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For wheelchair travelers who can not walk, the aisle chair is a familiar friend. The aisle chair is a skinny, narrow, seat on wheels used to usher passengers down the aircraft aisle to their seat.

Most airline seating configurations include seats with "knock down" or "fold down" arm rests throughout the inside of the aircraft. . Most airlines have twenty or more requests for each "bulk head seat." Part of the long list of travelers bidding for these seats and unaccompanied children, premier fliers, seven-foot tall basketball players, older passengers with small bladders, and wheelchair travelers. "Knock down" armrests help ease the requests for bulkhead seating. The amount and distribution of these seats have made it possible for airlines to accommodate the noticeable increase of wheelchair travelers taking to the skies and to increase the options for wheelchair travelers.

You can not always expect your airlines to store your wheelchair in the aircraft cabin. Every airline is required by law to store your wheelchair in the aircraft cabin (providing space is available). But, what happens when two, three, four, or even five wheelchair travelers are flying the same flight? When we travel with five or six wheelchair travelers in our groups, onboard the same flights, we can't make a choice between whose wheelchair remains in the cabin and whose wheelchair travels in the belly of the plane. The answer is simple - everyone gate checks their wheelchair and everyone's wheelchair rides in the belly of the plane.

Traveling with your wheelchair on an aircraft is a cooperative event. You can not expect any airline to handle your wheelchair with extreme care, or to perform every task correctly. The job of the airline is the safe transport of passengers. The job of the wheelchair passenger is to properly prepare their wheelchair for flight. Hopefully, by following our simple suggestions your wheelchair will arrive safely too.

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