Friday, October 2, 2009

Tips to make Travel by Place Accessible & Easier!

Dear Friends,
This one is from by Kim Donahue written for Disaboom which I thought would provide good reading for travellers experiencing disabiliites and those advocating the same.
Travel by Plane: Tips to Make it Easier (Click here to read from source: Disaboom)
Air travel is becoming more accessible as the airline industry is becoming more aware of the viable market people with disabilities represent. We as consumers with disabilities can make the most of every opportunity to educate the businesses that provide us with the goods and services when we tell them what we need.
Travelers with disabilities are encouraged to identify themselves to airline personnel and specify their needs. The more we let our needs be known, the more likely it is that our needs will be met. And that is good for everyone. We have listed below some tips we have discovered in our travels and a few we obtained from friends and colleagues who are independent travelers as well.

The greatest challenges for people with visual impairments when traveling by air are finding their seats, locating the washroom and identifying their luggage once they arrive at their destination. To make this process a bit easier, consider these pointers from travel experts:

- Before you start to travel be sure your itinerary is written out in large print.
- At the time you are making flight reservations let the airlines know about your visual impairment. Talk to an agent or review the airline’s website for information about traveling with a cane or service animal.
- When you check in at the airport identify yourself to an agent while pre-boarding. Staff will be there to help and will escort you directly to your seat.
- Once on board, count the number of seats there are to reach the washroom and the nearest emergency exit.
- Visually impaired travelers should know the exact size and color of their luggage to identify it in case it gets lost. A large colorful decal or logo on the outside of your bag can help to easily identify it at the baggage carousel.
- For wheelchair and scooter users planning is the key to have a safe and comfortable trip when traveling by air.

Plan Ahead

1. Reservations should be made as far in advance as possible, but be sure to confirm your reservation and any special request 48 hours prior to departure.

2. Identify yourself as a person with a disability and inform the reservation person that you will be traveling with a wheelchair or scooter.

3. Also request, if you will need them: a seat with movable armrests; an aisle chair for boarding; an accessible restroom; a bulkhead seat; or an aisle seat.

4. If you use a fold up manual wheelchair, you can request that it be stowed in the on-board coat closet. There is only room for one wheelchair and the service is available on a first come first service basis, so you should arrive early to make your request. Plus not all planes have a coat closet.

Wheelchair Damage Control
It would be a good idea to travel with your old, back-up wheelchair. Remove seat cushion and any other parts that could easily become separated from the chair. Take these items into the cabin with you. Or you can put the disassembled parts in the cardboard box and use bubble wrap to protect them from damage. Attach instructions on scooters or power chairs details how and where to disconnect the batteries, also instructions for any disassembly that may be required.

Airport Security
1. When going through security let the screener know your level of ability (e.g., whether you can stand or perform an arm lift).

2. Don’t hesitate to ask security personnel for assistance either to put your items on the X-ray belt, to monitor your items when you are in the X-ray inspection, or to reunite you with them once the screening process is completed.
3. Inform the screener about any special adaptive equipment or assistive devices that you are using and can’t be removed from your body so that alternative security procedures can be applied if needed.

Boarding and Deplaning
1. If you need assistance transferring to the plane seat, take responsibility for yourself and tell the staff how to help you or pick you up, etc. Yes, they should be trained, but you are always safer not assuming anything.

2. Before landing remind the flight attendant that you need your equipment brought to the gate so they can radio ahead to make the arrangements. This can help speed things up.

3. If you have any problems or damage ask to speak to the “Complaint Resolution Officer” (CRO). Each air carrier is required to have a CRO available by phone or in person at all times. This person is specially trained in dealing with problems that travelers with disabilities may encounter.