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Air Travel Tips for Wheelchair or Scooter Users

The key to a safe and comfortable trip is planning

When making airline reservations:
1. Make your reservation as far in advance as possible.

2. Tell the reservations person that you will be traveling with a wheelchair or scooter.

3. Inform them if you need assistance in boarding (an aisle chair to get to your seat)

4. If it is a long flight and you are able to use a standard plane restroom but are unable to walk to the restroom ask that they make an aisle chair available to you during the flight. Some airplanes have a privacy curtain that includes the aisle that would allow a companion to assist you. But keep in mind that airplane restrooms are quite small.

5. On newer and refurbished wide body jets (the ones with two aisles) there is one accessible restroom. It is large enough to fit the aisle chair inside so making it possible to transfer to the toilet. These planes generally carry an aisle chair, but it is a good idea to confirm that one will be on board.

6. Always confirm that they have a record of your requests 48 hours prior to departure.

7. Some of the newer planes have lift up arms on some of the aisles. You can request to be seated there if they are available. It makes transferring easier. Some passengers prefer to request bulkhead seats that have more legroom, but the air rests on these seats do not lift up.

NOTE: An aisle chair is a narrow straight back chair with wheels underneath. It is designed to fit down the aisle of an airplane and is used to assist passengers that cannot walk.

When you get to the airport:
1. Arrive early

2. Always check your chair or scooter at the boarding gate and request it be brought back to you at the gate when you arrive.

3. It is suggested that you use gel or foam filled batteries in your scooter or power chair. They are also known as dry cells. (NOTE: Standard acid filled batteries or wet cells will be removed by ground crew and packed in special containers for transport.)

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

5. Make sure your name and address is on your equipment and that it has a gate delivery tag if it is being stowed below.

6. If you have to change planes request that your own equipment be returned for the layover. This not only assures your independence while in the terminal, it reduces the risk of it getting lost or damaged. Since wheelchair users are last off the plane make sure you allow enough time to make your connection. At least an hour and at big airports at least an hour and a half.

7. DAMAGE CONTROL - Remove seat cushions and any other parts that could easily become separated from the chair. Take these items into the cabin with you. Attach instructions on scooters or power chairs detailing how and where to disconnect the batteries, also instructions for any other disassembly or prep that might be necessary for transport. If you have a large power chair, be aware that on some planes like the MD80's or Super 80's the cargo opening is only 26" high. Therefore some disassembly may be required. You can ask what type of equipment will be used when you make your reservations. Having instructions on your equipment are very important because even if you are available to give the employees instructions, the crew at the other end didn't see how it came apart.

8. 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.

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

10. 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.

11. If you are traveling with a scooter or power chair make sure you arrange for transportation that will be able to accommodate your equipment upon arrival.

If you only need a scooter or wheelchair for distance you may prefer to rent one at your destination for a day or the entire trip. Also many theme parks and other attractions that require a lot of walking have scooters or wheelchairs available for rent or loan.

US Air Carriers are not covered under the ADA. The are covered under the Air Carriers Access Act. To learn about your rights under the Air Carriers Access Act these free publications are available.

A 28-page information booklet that is a wealth of information on the Air Carriers Access Act, what you can expect and what to do if you have a complaint. You can receive a free copy by contacting the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, 75-20 Astoria Boulevard, Jackson Heights, NY 11370-1177. Phone: 718-803-EPVA.

A 40-page booklet "New Horizons, Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability" is put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation and can be obtained by calling PVA Distribution Center at: 888-860-7244 (Order No. 2100-16)


No part of Travel Tips may be reprinted or reproduced in any medium.
Copyright 2000, Access-Able Travel Source, LLC. All rights reserved.

Access-Able Travel Source
P.O. Box 1796, Wheat Ridge, CO 80034
www.access-able.com
Email: access-able@comcast.net
Phone: 303-232-2979 Fax: 303-239-8486.

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